Most young people in their 20’s who go to Hollywood are looking for fame and fortune. After growing up as a competitive skier in Colorado, Molly Bloom just wanted some sun. What she found instead was the shadowy world of high-stakes poker and a path that would lead to her arrest by the FBI and the IRS demanding thousands in unpaid taxes.
Many people are already familiar with Bloom who wrote a memoir about her experience as the “Poker Princess,” and her book, “Molly’s Game,” was later adapted into a movie of the same name, starring Jessica Chastain.
For those who don’t know, in 2001, Bloom took a job as a cocktail waitress in LA’s Viper Room, where she helped run poker games. Players included actors like Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Ben Affleck. She discovered she had a talent for running the games, and in a single year, Bloom made over $4 million in tops.
In the beginning Bloom kept her operation legal by paying taxes on her income, but things became shady in 2009 when Bloom relocated and started her own underground games in New York. To help players keep playing Bloom began extending credit. But after getting stiffed $250,000, Bloom began taking a percentage of the pot, which is illegal. The IRS of course, doesn’t care how one earns their money. Legal or not, you have to pay taxes on that money.
In 2011, the government came knocking – or, more accurately, 17 FBI agents armed with automatic weapons crashed through her door.
The government seized all of Bloom’s money, and the IRS demanded she cough up nearly $1,000,000 she owed in back taxes. Bloom’s mother had to sell her home in order to get her daughter out of jail and pay the legal fees. Charged with a federal crime, Bloom could have spent years in federal prison. However, though she pled guilty, the judge determined she was just a minor player in the gambling ring. In 2014, Bloom was sentenced to one year of probation, 200 hours of community service, and a fine of $1,000.
Although Bloom got a Hollywood ending, she’s aware of how lucky she is. Gifted with a second chance, Bloom is negotiating with the IRS to figure out a payment plan for her restitution and has launched a service to help women succeed in their own business ventures.