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Inside Star Poker in Hollywood

VANITY FAIR STAR POKER 600X301

Poker Princess, Molly Bloom, in an adaptation from her new memoir, details how she went from a 26-year-old cocktail waitress to the hostess of Hollywood,s most exclusive high-stakes poker game in the July issue of Vanity Fair.

Luring A-list names (‘Tobey,’ ‘Leo,’ ‘Ben’) and taking home upwards of $50,000 in one night, Bloom writes that the biggest winners could be the most difficult. “You can tell a lot about a man’s character by watching him win or lose money,” she writes. “Money is the great equalizer.”

Bloom writes that one of the game’s regular fixtures, “Tobey’the best player, and the absolute worst loser, refused to play without his $17,000 Shuffle Master, a machine that is supposed to deliver a fair, random shuffle every time and increases the speed of each game.” During one visit Bloom makes to Tobey’s home, to return the machine and deliver his winnings, Tobey tells her he wants to begin charging rent for the machine’s use during games: “I looked past him to the expansive foyer of his mansion in the hills. You could see straight through to the ocean. I laughed. Surely he was joking. He couldn’t possibly be serious about charging rent for a machine he insisted that we use, from the guys whose money he was taking every week. But he was as serious as death, and I quickly stopped laughing. “O.K.,” I squeaked. “Um, how much? “Two hundred dollars.” I smiled to conceal my surprise. “I’m sure that will be fine. No problem,” I said.

Recalling a big game she organized for ‘Ben’ at Bungalow No. 1 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Bloom writes that with more than $2 million on the table early in the evening, she quickly had ‘a humongous poker game’ going. Still, upon arrival, Ben requested only $50K in chips (the game’s minimum buy-in). ‘By now I had learned something about the psychology behind the way a guy asks for chips,’ writes Bloom. ‘Wanting to be overstocked or short-stacked at a table is a clear indication of playing style and ego. Whereas some guys want the tallest piles they can manage, the better to bully the table and scare people, Ben’s buy-in choice told me that he was a smart player who liked to limit his downside, especially at a table with a bunch of guys he wasn’t used to playing with.’

The game, Bloom writes, was one of those perfect nights where the conversation was lively, the action was fast and furious, and each one of my usually impossible-to-please players had a look on his face that said he would rather be here, at this table, than anywhere in the world. That feeling of contentment, however, was issued a rude awakening when Tobey, in for $250K and down to his last $50K, pulled out a close win over a World Series of Poker champion named Jamie. “I had to worry about my job security if he lost,” Bloom writes. Tobey went on to humiliate Bloom in front of the remaining players, loudly offering her a thousand-dollar chip if she did something to earn these thousand dollars. “. . . Bark like a seal who wants a fish.” Bloom writes that she tried to laugh it off, but Tobey continued: “I’m not kidding. What’s wrong? You’re too rich now” You won’t bark for a thousand dollars? Wowwww. . . you must be really rich. . . . C’mon, he said, holding the chip above my head. ‘BARK.’ ‘No,’ I said quietly. ‘No?’ he asked. ‘Tobey,’ I said, ‘I’m not going to bark like a seal. Keep your chip.’

Bloom was incensed: “My face was on fire. I knew he would be angry, especially because he had now engaged the whole audience, and I wasn’t playing his game. I was embarrassed, but I was also angry. After all I had done to accommodate this guy, I was also shocked. I had made sure I ran every detail of every game by him, changed the stakes for him, structured tournaments around him, memorized every ingredient in every vegan dish in town for him. He had won millions and millions of dollars at my table, and I had catered to his every need along the way, and now he seemed to want to humiliate me. . . . He gave me an icy look, dropped the chip on the table, and tried to laugh it off, but he was visibly angry. When he left, the room was buzzing.’

The night wasn’t entirely ruined for Bloom, though: ‘My tips that night reflected the enormous success of the game. I think I walked away with close to $50,000.’

Bloom writes that not long after the tipping incident, she began to realize that the game could come to an end. Tobey began bringing up how much I was making even more frequently, not even trying to hide his dissatisfaction. ‘I think the game needs restructuring,’ he said one night. ‘How so?’ ‘Well, you make too much and it takes too long to get paid.’ I raised my eyebrows. In what other universe do you show up, play a game, win a million dollars, and get the check within a week? The only reason this game was still running was that I had searched far and wide to recruit new blood and maintain relationships so that Tobey could take their money. Now he had the balls to suggest that I figure out a way to cap my own salary.”

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY DARROW

The July issue of Vanity Fair will be available in New York and Los Angeles, as well as on the iPhone, iPad, and Kindle, on June 12. The magazine will be on national newsstands and available in an audio edition on June 17.

You can read more at the following link:
www.vanity fair.com

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