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“Your tips are going to be good tonight.”When Tobey and Leo walked in, the guys became a little shy and awkward, except for Reardon, who fist-bumped Leo with a gruff “What’s happening, player?” While the guys clustered around Leo, Tobey went over to Diego and handed him his Shuffle Master.We combined our tips and then counted it out: ,000. The follow-up to the games was always the same: Organize the players. On this particular Wednesday, I was scheduled to see Tobey and Phillip. I was getting used to dropping by there: Tobey won every week. I figured this was probably about the hand he had lost to Mark.“No problem,” I repeated, wanting out of there before I promised him my firstborn and my soul.“All righty, talk to you later,” he said, and waved a cheerful good-bye. I thought Reardon would be furious with me, but instead he said, “I’m proud of you. If the guy started winning off the bat once he sat down, he was picked on even more.I drove slowly up the steep drive, buzzed the security bell, and announced myself. ”“Hey,” I said, handing him the heavy and awkward Shuffle Master. He couldn’t possibly be serious about charging rent for a machine he insisted that we use, from the guys whose money he was taking every week. ”“Two hundred dollars.”I smiled to conceal my surprise.“I’m sure that will be fine. If he was losing or playing badly, the guys were much friendlier.How did a 26-year-old cocktail waitress end up running a private weekly poker game for some of Hollywood’s highest rollers, including the likes of Leo, Ben, and Tobey? My boss, Reardon, a real-estate investor, had decided I would be the hostess of a poker game he had organized at Hollywood’s infamous Viper Room.“Molly Bloom, you are wearing the dress of your dreams.In an adaptation from her new memoir, Molly Bloom, who has since gained notoriety as “the Poker Princess,” recalls her lucky break, at the infamous Viper Room; the millions that crossed her table; and the biggest winners—who could also be the worst losers. You are confident and fearless and you will be perfect.” None of this was true, of course, but I wanted it to be.When they were all gone, I sat down in a daze, and with trembling hands I counted ,000.
Reardon came blasting in with his typical “Oh yeah! The rumpled Houston showed up next, followed by Tobey and Leo.
”They settled into their seats, and the air filled with the smooth sounds of my Frank Sinatra playlist, the whirring of the Shuffle Master, the shuffling of chips, and the happy, playful banter of the players. I had no idea what was happening, but I could feel the suspense.“Call! The game picked up again, and I held my breath whenever Reardon was in a hand and now Tobey too. I was immensely appreciative; I felt like it was so much more than I deserved.
I knew Reardon well enough to be certain that the thrill of the game wouldn’t last long if he lost every time. They both came out ahead, but every second leading up to the last hand of the game was so full of anticipation that by the end of the night I was completely emotionally exhausted. The biggest tippers were Phillip, Houston, and Bruce, who gave me especially large sums, but I made sure to thank each of them with the same amount of enthusiasm. You earned it.”Part of the fun each week was to bring in a new face. The new guy always felt awkward at first, and I tried my best to make him more comfortable.
I saw his eyes flick around the room; even he got a little giddy when he saw that Leo was there. Mark was friends with Pete, a tennis legend, who allegedly played high-stakes poker, too.
When he saw me, Phillip let out a low whistle and kissed my hand. ”I tried to add the chips up in my head, but there were so many and they were everywhere.“You got me,” Tobey said, and pushed his cards to Diego. “Nice hand, man.”And then he looked directly at me, his eyes fixed in a hard stare.“Who is this guy?