The Secret World of Hollywood Poker

11:27 AM PST 09/28/2011 by Kim Masters, Daniel Miller
Page 5

Four-star hotels, food from Matsuhisa, masseuses -- the high-stakes game frequented by Tobey Maguire, A-Rod and A-list actors welcomed an unknown player in 2006 who now has brought them the kind of press no publicist wants.

The insider interviewed by THR is upset by the suggestion in court papers and press reports that the games in question were illegal and even unsavory. "They're trying to find something sinister about it," he says. "All of this stuff has been going on for a long, long time, whether it's this group or another group. This is just a bunch of guys who like to hang out together, spend time together and happen to enjoy playing poker."

He also denies that Bloom was paid to arrange and perform other duties in connection with the games. "This game never had that," he says. "We'll never have that." He says that Bloom was only paid in large tips.

But legal documents show that from May 2007 to November 2008, Ruderman transferred a total of $473,200 to Bloom. In court filings, bankruptcy trustee Ehrenberg has argued that the money was used at least in part to pay Bloom for her services. He is suing Bloom to recover the money. In a June court filing, Bloom's attorneys denied that she ran a controlled poker game but acknowledged that she received money from Ruderman "in good faith in exchange for her services." A trial has been set for May 29. Bloom was initially represented in the bankruptcy litigation by Richards, the same attorney who represents Cassavetes and other players. Richards tells THR that Bloom is no longer a client. Her current lawyer, Sara Chenetz of Blank Rome Llp., declined to comment.

Ehrenberg has taken Bloom's deposition, which has not been made public. But in it, according to a report in Star magazine, she reportedly acknowledged regularly hiring masseuses to tend to the tired players.

Bloom remains an intriguing and shadowy character in the poker drama. She is no stranger to scrapes with the law. She grew up in Loveland, Colo., a conservative midsize city with a sizable evangelical population. Raised by parents Larry, a clinical psychologist, and Charlene, a ski and fly-fishing instructor, Bloom and her two younger brothers were avid skiers. In 1997, she was sentenced to 30 days in jail after pleading guilty to speeding. And in 1999 and 2001, she would plead guilty to speeding and driving with expired license plates.

After moving to Hollywood in 2003, Bloom worked as an assistant to Darin Feinstein, a part-owner of the Viper Room who played in the big game, according to sources. A few years later, in November 2007, she started Molly Bloom Inc., an event-planning business with an address in a West Hollywood residential building. (It is no longer an active corporation.)

It is unclear when Bloom began making arrangements for the high-stakes poker game, but obviously she won the trust of the players and reportedly said in her deposition that she had a "social relationship with most of [them]." Court filings show that Ruderman made his first payment to her -- $10,500 -- in May 2007.

Girls Gone Wild creator Francis, who played in the big games from 2003 to 2007, says Bloom has fallen out of favor with the players. "Look, I've talked to all of the boys who played in the game," he says. "I know all those guys hate her now." Francis says he played at games at which Bloom was in attendance and her duties ranged from handling collections to mixing cocktails. Francis, who is not named in the bankruptcy filings, also insists that the games were legal and says Bloom only received tips from players, including regular $5,000 handouts from him.

Certainly, things seem to have gone sour for Bloom since those days. Sometime in 2009 -- apparently before Ruderman turned himself in -- Bloom relocated to New York. It is unclear what precipitated her move. The New York Post reported that Bloom started a poker game in Manhattan, arranging for sessions at the Astor Place and Plaza hotels and recruiting women from nightclubs to attend. But a lack of New York connections made it tough for Bloom, and she moved her game -- which featured a buy-in of roughly $10,000 -- to Long Island.

In July 2010, Bloom was served with a $116,133 lien for not paying taxes on her income in New York. The Star also reported in June that after she had moved to Manhattan in 2009, Bloom had received a beating at the hands of "two Eastern European thugs." Her attorney at the time confirmed the attack and discounted suggestions that the incident was related to poker. Bloom is said to have moved again in June, this time to Malibu.

According to the insider, scandal and litigation have taken a toll on the game. While the players used to meet every week, they're lucky now if they get together twice a month. Yes, the recession is partly to blame; it forced some players to be more judicious with their money. But more than anything, the fallout from Ruderman has caused at least some of the players to take a step back.

The legal issues have proved taxing for some. The insider says the Ruderman matter has caused the group to circle the wagons and handle the game more cautiously. Though he remains a staunch defender of it, he finds he is playing less often. "These kinds of things take the wind out of your sails," he says. "Even when you win, you lose."

Email: Kim.Masters@THR.com; Daniel.Miller@THR.com

Twitter: @KimMasters@DanielNMiller

 

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