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Molly’s Game, a 2017 film by award-winning director Aaron Sorkin, depicts the true story of a young American woman who founded “…the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World.” Sorkin adapted the screenplay from a book by the same title, written by the woman herself – Molly Bloom.
In its heyday, Bloom’s poker game served some of the biggest names in Hollywood and New York, as well as business tycoons and the Russian mob. The tables frequently turned over hundreds of millions of dollars in a single night.
However, a few years after Bloom’s underground game took off, she was served with an IRS levy of $116,133 for failing to pay appropriate taxes. A few years later, Bloom found herself as one of 34 accused participants in a $100 million money laundering and illegal sports gambling scandal.
Facing a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and already deeply in debt, Bloom had a choice to make: Expose the activities of her customers in exchange for clemency, or risk facing the maximum penalty.
In May of 2014, Bloom pled guilty to the charges against her. However, the judge who heard the case deemed prison “too harsh” of a punishment given the nature of Bloom’s crimes. He instead ordered the “poker princess” to pay a fine and complete 200 hours of community service.
When asked why she chose to protect her clients, Bloom responded, “When the prosecutors put this deal on the table – ‘we’ll give you all your money back [the poker proceeds she had forfeited] and we’ll give you immunity’ – I knew that the only shot for me to have a second chance was to continue to act with integrity… I wasn’t protective of those guys, I was protective of this thing I had reclaimed… dignity.”
It was during her trial that Bloom became convinced that her story, as told in her soon-to-be-released book, was her only remaining asset. Not long after receiving her sentence, she marched into Aaron Sorkin’s office and pitched her story to him.
“Never have I met someone so down on their luck and so full of themselves,” the Oscar-winning screenwriter said in response.
Sorkin made the film his directorial debut, and Molly’s Game went on to receive a 2018 Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. “It took me three and a half years to go from being sentenced in federal court to going to the Oscars,” said Bloom.
Bloom’s rise from the depths offers plenty of lessons in determination, self-awareness, “owning it” and learning from past mistakes.
Quotes from Molly Bloom about her learnings so far…
“I did a little soul searching to explore where I had gone wrong, why I made the decisions I did, how my definitions of success and ambition were off. I love a great new pair of shoes – I love to look at my bank account and see zeroes – but what is it attached to?”
“I saw someone lose $100 million in one night. When you watch that, as an owner-operator of a game, you realize that these numbers are incredibly unsustainable, incredibly unhealthy. So, I was not happy about this loss. It brought me no joy or adrenaline.”
“I have been hugely successful at times in my life, and I have also been in ruins. But the lessons I learned on the way up were just as valuable on the way down.”
“I know for sure that you have to re-define power as power that comes from within. Success needs to be more comprehensive and attached to something with meaning.”
“I’ve been rich; I’ve been poor. I’ve been successful; I’ve been decimated. And the way I felt inside didn’t change dramatically. It’s less stressful to have money, that’s for sure. But that doesn’t mean I felt fulfilled. So I’ve learned to live in the smaller moments of life.”
“I’ve always been very ambitious and very determined and very compassionate at the same time.”
“Well I certainly didn’t start out life formidable, I don’t really think anyone does…”
“I’ve made so many mistakes and I’ve failed at so many things, but I just always leveraged this thing inside of me that I think everybody has, which is “I’m not going to quit, I’m just gonna keep coming back at it.”
“Just because there’s all this fear, doesn’t mean [you] can’t do it anyway.”
“Fear is the greatest thief of dreams and of a fulfilling life.”
“There is no amount of money, there is no amount of freedom and there is no situation that I can enjoy if I don’t like who I am and the choices that I’m making and don’t feel like I’m acting with dignity and courage and integrity.”
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