Getting a read on someone is a critical poker skill to have. Having had the chance to meet and interview Molly Bloom at the 2018 Unibet Open Bucharest, my read on her is this: she’s an extremely bright, shrewd, and intelligent woman.
By now, poker fans around the world have heard of – and likely watched – the movie Molly’s Game. It tells a fascinating story, to be sure, but there’s simply nothing like having the opportunity to hear from and meet the real-life inspiration for the movie. Here’s a brief clip from the press conference prior to my interview with her, with an example of Molly’s dogged determination.
Lots of interesting questions, and even-more-interesting answers from a very special, fascinating woman. pic.twitter.com/Zw4S0ji4Fo
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) August 2, 2018
Our conversation was a brief one, but an enlightening one, in which I learned a lot about Molly’s character and how she dealt with incredible levels of stress for extended periods of time. However dire her situation became, she ended up deciding not to be a victim, rather taking her life into her own hands and finding a way to turn her life around via writing the book and working hard to ensure her story got made into a motion picture. It goes without saying that this inner strength makes her a great role model – for women in particular.
We discussed the dramatic changes in her life over the past few years and even touched upon the state of her involvement with poker these days, along with how she sees her immediate future unfolding.
Our video interview can be viewed below, with a full transcript included as well, for your convenience.
Hey everybody, Robbie Strazynski here for Cardplayer Lifestyle. We are at the Unibet Open in Bucharest, Romania, and I am with the “Poker Princess,” Molly Bloom. Do you like that nickname?
I’ll never get rid of that nickname.
We’re just with Molly Bloom, whatever her nickname is or isn’t. It’s nice to meet you.
Nice to meet you.
Thank you for agreeing to this; I appreciate it.
Alright, so, to the best of my knowledge, this is your first appearance at a mainstream poker event. It’s a public festival at the Unibet Open, rather than the private games you used to run. What’s your experience been like so far?
I’m just, I’m taken with how civilized it is. I am used to there being a lot more temper tantruming in the poker room.
Interesting. OK. This is your first trip to Bucharest, right?
It is, yes.
So, you’ve been here for two days, something like that?
Yeah, two days.
So, what’s it been like so far in the city, and here in the Marriott?
It’s really magical. I got an incredible welcome at the airport, starting at the airport. They put me in the Presidential Suite.
Yeah. I got to see Parliament today, and eat at a fantastic restaurant last night. And the city’s beautiful, the architecture’s beautiful. There’s a lot of history here, and it’s a really cool experience.
So you’re going to put a good review on Yelp, for the city.
Yeah, I’m going to give Bucharest a great Yelp review.
So, obviously we’re going to talk about the movie Molly’s Game. First there was the book and then there was the movie. Could you sort of clue us in as to how that happened? How did the book become a movie?
After I wrote the book, I realized that I needed more firepower. I needed a rebranding, if you will. I was a convicted felon, you know; I had just pled guilty to a felony. I was broke, and millions of dollars in debt, and the tabloids had been telling my story. And so I needed a really sort of scalable rebranding campaign, and I felt like a movie would be a good way to do that.
So then I decided that I would try to learn what I could about the movie industry and how to make something that’s pretty statistically improbable more probable, so I started running numbers on screenwriters, and I kind of landed on Aaron Sorkin and went around to Hollywood to see if they could get me a meeting with him.
Just like, knocked on doors?
Kind of, yeah.
Wow. That takes a lot of guts.
Well, survival mode is a whole different beast, you know?
For sure. To what extent were you present and did you have a say during the making of the film? How often were you in contact or in touch with Aaron while he was making the movie?
I worked with Aaron every day for eight months. It was like being interrogated by a genius, you know?
Did you have some sort of veto rights, like if he wanted to do something and you were like “It wasn’t like that in real life”?
No, Aaron said to me, if we do this movie, you’re not going to have any creative control. And I said, well, I agree, but, just so you know, I’m your only research material. So, I mean, I did have a bit of a say.
Got it. Back in January, I interviewed a gentleman named Josh Leichner. He was the poker consultant for the movie. So, he was very involved in showing how the poker was. Do you feel as though the poker as portrayed in the movie was accurately reflecting what actually happened in real life?
The storylines? Or the hands?
Well, yeah. I mean, when you see the poker — I mean, the hands were somewhat dramatized, it’s a movie. But generally, the storylines, what happened at the table.
The storylines were all true, based on actual events. There was no creative license there. Of course, he had to make the hands work, you know, and also I wouldn’t have remembered.
Specifically, you said you were there for eight months. What was it like seeing your story with your own eyes being made into a motion picture, watching Jessica Chastain and her character portrayal of you?
Well, to clarify, I worked with Aaron for eight months basically in his office, with his team, on the screenplay. I wasn’t on set, ever. And the first time I saw the movie was at the Toronto Film Festival with 2,000 people and my family.
What was that like, then, seeing the finished product for the first time?
I’m usually good at describing my feelings or certain scenarios, but that one I’m still trying to wrap my head around. It was a pretty crazy moment.
My goodness. And Jessica’s portrayal of you?
I loved Jessica’s portrayal. I really hope that I make being me look half as good as she did.
You’ve played you very well so far, I’d say.
You already achieved some fame; like you said, you needed more firepower with the film. When the book was published, people started to know who Molly Bloom was. Now everyone knows your name. Describe how anything has or hasn’t changed in your life over the last couple of years in terms of “now people know you.” What’s that experience been like?
You know, the biggest change is that, I think, when the tabloids sort of monopolized telling the story, people’s perspective on me and what I did, was a certain way, and was more along the lines of like a Heidi Fleiss type story, right?
The madam, right.
Yeah. And then, after the book and the movie, I think people started to see it more as, I was a 23-year-old girl who was trying to build a business. And I certainly made mistakes along the way, but it humanized it, the story. And it also gave light to that this was an entrepreneurial venture and less of “let me just be the madam of something.” I was more of a CEO.
Do you personally have a poker-playing background? Do you ever play in home games, or have you ever played poker?
I’ve literally never played in my life.
Not a single hand!
Wow! So how’d you get into poker in the first place?
I had just retired from the U.S. ski team. And I was finishing school and headed to Law school. I just took a year off and I was a waitress, and I was asked to be a cocktail waitress at a poker game. I walked in and it was this game, you know, with the A-list movie stars and the heads of banks and I just had this life-altering moment like, wow, this is an incredible way to build a network. And then I saw these people, who were so much more than their money, so obsessed with this game, and I just realized that I could probably build a business out of it.
Well, you’re here at the Unibet Poker Open Bucharest, you’re going to be opening the Queen’s Rules ladies event. Without naming names obviously, were there any ladies who participated in the high-stakes game you used to run?
Not a single woman?!
Not even once?!
Wow! I mean, in a sense, that sort of reflects a little bit poker events. You have about five percent – at most – participation in live events. One school of thought is that if there were more prominent women in poker, that could encourage more women to come into the game. Is there anything in particular that you think would be a catalyst for women to start coming and playing poker?
Well, I just also want to clarify, if I would have allowed pros in my cash game, I think that women would have played. I think that women were averse to playing for millions of dollars recreationally. In terms of more women playing poker professionally, or recreationally?
No, just women, like, coming out to the casino, having a good time for $100 or something.
More exposure, more, seeing more women involved, listening to the sort of, “why it’s a good game to play and how it kind of trains the mind and it’s about psychology and math.” I think it’s a very appealing game.
Do you foresee yourself perhaps becoming more of a public figure within the poker industry or making more appearances at events in the future?
I don’t know. It’s hard for me to plan the future; it’s been so unpredictable for so long.
I get it. Last question. This is something last-minute, I noticed your Twitter bio. It says, I gotta quote it here so I get it accurate: “I built playgrounds for powerful men. Now I’m opening a club for women with the grit and drive to make their mark.” And your website, ImMollyBloom.com says, “I’m opening doors for ambitious women so that we can connect, grow and succeed together.” I was hoping you might be able to elaborate a little bit on that. What is this club, where, what’s it all about?
Well, like I said, I realized that I have a certain skill set. I was able to create these transformational experiences for men to help them feel more like James Bond. But what essentially happened, the only thing that it did was make me money. There was no purpose to it, right? Which was fine, I was in my 20s, and I wanted to live this big life, whatever.
But now knowing that I have that skill set and knowing what I really care about and that I need to at this point in my life have my pursuits be attached to purpose, I’m looking at ways to create these transformational experiences for women, to help them thrive, to help them support each other, and I’m a learner. And I’m in this new world now, so the first part of that is writing another book. The second is speaking to people. And the third will be a way to scale it. And so that’s what I am in the process of figuring out right now.
Well, good luck to you, and again Molly, I really appreciate that you’ve taken the time to speak with us today.
Thanks, Robbie. Of course. Nice meeting you, too.