poker books

“Molly’s Game” – A Movie Review


 I watched Molly’s Game, the movie a couple of days back, and believe me now, all I ever want to do is be Dolly, the Indian version of Molly Bloom, the woman who took the world of poker by storm.

Molly’s Game is the true story of Molly Bloom, former world class skier and ‘Poker Princess’.  Jessica Chasten of the Zero Dark Thirty fame is the actor that plays her, brilliantly, in this biopic. The film is based on the novel by the same name, written by Molly Bloom, herself.


When an accident destroys Molly’s sports career, she moves to LA to recuperate for a year before she starts law school.
She gets a waitressing job at a high end club where she meets her future boss, the obnoxious, “I don’t eat bagels from BlueBell because they are poor people bagels”, Dean (played by Jeremy Strong).

Dean introduces Molly to the poker world and has her set up a poker game which has a 10000 dollar buy in. The guest list of that game includes Hollywood stars, directors, business tycoons, politicians and the who’s who of America.

By the time the evening ends, Molly, the ever sharp, astute observer has learnt more than just the basics of the poker life, has earned a 3000 dollar tip and has hobnobbed with LA’s poshest glitterati. Molly is hooked.

She slowly builds a rapport with one Hollywood star at these games called Player X played by Michael Cera ( it is said that it is depiction of Toby Mcguire). He is a skilled poker player. Molly continues being Dean’s assistant till he kicks her out. But she only moves on to set a higher stake game where she is now the house, with the support of Player X.

Her games have a rolling of millions of dollars. (Yours truly, Dolly, would be happy with a few lakhs and SRK.) 

The movie takes you to the kinds of players there are, the kinds of hands there are and the kinds of drugs there are. There is enough poker vocabulary to keep the poker enthusiasts well entertained –nuts, fourth street, tilt, flop, full boat, etc…. As the movie unfolds, she becomes the Poker Princess and moves from LA to NYC where she holds the highest stake games in the world. 

She does this for 12 years, earns millions of dollars without playing herself, till the FBI arrests and indicts her for conducting illegal gambling. She is defended by the dishy hunk Idris Elba (of the Luther fame) who plays her lawyer Charlie Jaffey.  The portrayal of the case left a lot to be desired. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay could have been fine tuned to include some entertaining courtroom scenes that this script so demands. What makes up for it though, are the scenes between Jessica and Elba, where you get a peek into her inherent decency and his deepening respect for her. 

Aaron Sorkin does good justification to the poker hands and on his hands is a good directorial debut. It is a must watch for poker enthusiasts if only to realize how much it is a game of skill and not so much a game of luck. Of course Dolly’s main take away was, don’t let your epitaph say you died trying to recover. Watch it to know why! 

It’s not yet out on Netflix or Amazon Prime or Google Play but here’s the IMDB link. It has a 7.6 rating.


King of a Small World - A Poker Lover’s Take

King of a small world.jpg

King of a Small World is poker player Rick Bennett’s debut novel, written specifically for  a small audience of poker enthusiasts. That being said, the novel masterfully sucks you right in, at the very first page, into its world. It doesn’t matter then, if the only thing you know about Poker is it begins with a ‘P’.

Set in southern Maryland-Washington, D.C., an area known for its love of Poker, King of A Small World is an unsentimental evocation of the enigma that is the world of professional poker.

It is a smart and gritty, coming-of-age-novel about self assured narrator and ace card- player, Joe Moore. In his mid twenties, Joe is easily the best stud poker pro in Maryland and is content about remaining the best in the small world of Maryland. He also frowns upon friends and colleagues who are salaried and are ‘ tied to their jobs like slaves’.

He is forced to rethink his destiny and values that shaped his outlook all these years when he is offered a very high paying  job as a casino boss, begins a brand new love affair and discovers simultaneously, that he is going to be a father, by way of an old girlfriend. The novel follows his trajectory of trying to juggle between change of responsibilities, family, love, money and his zeal to create the perfect environment for his new non traditional family, all the while trying to stay true to himself and the things he enjoys doing.

There are several instances where Joe draws parallels between poker  and ‘the other games people play, away from the tables’. There are times where Joe also espouses poker themes commentaries about human behaviour and the ever shifting landscape of personal identity and existence.
For example, when Joe makes a trip to Vegas, drowning in the waves of WSOP fever, he shares his impression of the urgency and the unceasing drama of being human being played out all around him in the casinos.
There is a quote he makes that captures the essence of what it means to be a poker player.
"This is how gambling works — it fills the senses," Joe explains. "Close your eyes and listen. In a casino, you'll hear the sounds of jingling, clinking, clanging, clicking. Open your eyes and you'll see the myriad colors of lighting and carpeting and walls and uniforms, shining and bright. Taste? Free drinks and meals to any decent-sized bettor. Free drinks and cheap meals to everyone. Touch, too, is thought of. Plush carpeting, brass rails, leather chairs, polished wood. And maybe in the air, with the smoke, is sweat.
But it is the sixth sense that casinos most seek to arouse,"
Joe continues. "The sense of life itself. Of drama. Of story. Of passion. Of love and fear. Of power and sex. Of a moment frozen, of existence beyond the mundane, of escape from all other problems because right now your attention is focused on the money you have on the line. If time is money and life is time, then money is life. And you're gambling for it."

Such detail brings about a certain kind of  immediacy in response to the scene, especially so for readers who've been inside such places. 

Bennett is a poker player, so it doesn’t come as a surprise when the game fuels both the plot of the book and contributes heavily to its various themes, with Bennet drawing connections between the game and Joey's complicated life full of conflicts and relationships.

Rick Bennett’s easy knowledge of poker customs and the values that shape the poker player’s environment and psyche, make for an engaging narrative which climaxes with brisk bits of domestic and professional melodrama. An extremely enjoyable read, we at 9stacks urge you to pick up this exciting page turner, right now!

Have you read the book? Let’s begin a discussion in the comments below!


Team 9stacks