By Ana Downes
Molly’s Game is a fascinating story. It is the autobiography of Molly Bloom, a woman whose story is incredible and inspiring. It details her life throughout the course of her astounding career running underground high-stakes poker games. Born into a family of competitive over-achievers with very high expectations, Molly and her siblings have been incredibly ambitious since childhood. Their father was a clinical psychologist and University professor, and their mother owned a company. Of three children, Molly’s younger brothers are a Harvard-educated cardiothoracic surgeon and Olympic World Champion, respectively. Molly, on their other hand, has a much less… conventional rise to success.
Molly’s writing style throughout this memoir is gripping. She draws the readers into her story by expressing her emotions and thoughts in detail. The story is told through a series of events, personal comprehensive recollections, and detailed interactions. Throughout each occurrence, Molly focuses on conveying what she was thinking and feeling during the specific moment, using bold adjectives, first person point of view, and elaborate descriptions. This helps create a sense of ‘emotional investment’ while reading the memoir. The prologue is written in the present tense to grab attention and incite interest, whereas the rest of the novel is written in past tense while Molly details memories from her past.
Having grown up in such a competitive and high-standard environment, Molly often felt inadequate compared to the athletic and academic success of her brothers. These feelings drove her to “almost obsessively” feel the need to prove her worth. She trained throughout her childhood to become an Olympic skier, but met extreme misfortune after developing scoliosis at the age of 12, requiring surgery to correct the potentially devastating condition.
After the surgery, doctors were doubtful that she would ever be able to continue skiing. This was simply unacceptable to Molly, who defied orders and went on to compete even more with her surgically fused spine. She eventually placed third in the United States for freestyle (mogul) skiing. She participated in the Olympics, but things took a turn for the worse when she had a catastrophic crash on her qualifying run. This proved to be the end of her Olympic athletic career.
While telling her story, Molly proves that a consistent pattern in her life is determination. However, this determination comes at a cost for her as she illustrates her willingness to go to any length to succeed and prove herself, getting pulled into some very serious and dangerous situations.
After the accident, Molly studied political science, intent on being an attorney. She decided to go a different route, which her father did not approve of, cutting her off from his monetary assistance. Eventually, she ended up staying with a friend and working as a cocktail waitress while she sorted out her financial situation. One day, after being nearly struck by a Mercedes outside of her work, she met the man who would eventually lead her on a path to building her empire.
Throughout the novel, Molly introduces readers to the world of poker, displaying the game as a metaphor for her life, as well as using a large amount of poker vocabulary and terms, both literally and symbolically.
In very little time, Molly transformed from a struggling waitress to her role as the proclaimed “Poker Princess”, racking up millions of dollars in tips, watching people quite literally destroy their lives gambling (the most she ever watched someone lose in one night was an unbelievable $100 million), fighting a drug addiction, witnessing a Ponzi scheme, getting tangled up in the Russian Mob, and eventually being indicted by the FBI.
On top of this, Molly personally knows the darkest secrets of A-list celebrities, Hollywood moguls, sports stars, Wall Street Billionaires and Silicon Valley Tycoons. The information and scandals she has learned about over the course of her poker empire could destroy the careers and lives of some of the most powerful individuals in society. Because of her integrity, the only interactions that she writes about and provides real names to are about individuals that have already been exposed from the very public trial that she later faces in the novel. Some of the recognizable names include Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alex Rodriguez, and Ben Affleck.
This story of resilience, perseverance, determination and getting swept up by overambition is both wildly exciting and eye-opening. There is so much that goes on ‘behind closed doors’, so to speak. This memoir introduces readers to the world of high-stakes gambling, the ups and downs to luxury living, the secrets of some of the world’s most powerful people, and the extent that these individuals will go to for those secrets to be kept unknown. It is also eye-opening to the limits of human greed, the extent to which power can ‘change’ a person and the tenacity needed to overcome some of the most unheard-of obstacles.
Molly talks about her lessons on gambling, love, and life – all illustrated through the thrilling roller-coaster of her past. Using nothing but her wit, courage, and dedication, she built an empire from the ground up. It is inspiring to see someone who, despite her life being completely altered, continues to keep the same moral principles of integrity. This story is also fascinating because it proves how much you can accomplish despite the cards that life may deal you (pun intended).
I would recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for an exciting and highly enthralling biographical read. In addition, there is a film that was made about Molly’s life based on this book – it is also named “Molly’s Game” and stars Jessica Chastain. The film is fantastic. I would recommend reading the memoir before watching the film, as there are elements that slightly differ between the two.
Rating – 5 / 5