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Real-Life Poker Lessons from the Movie Molly’s Game

Out of all of the great movies that have portrayed gambling on screen - and there are a lot - Molly’s Game starring Jessica Chastain often stands out above the rest in terms of realism. It’s probably because it’s based on a true story of one of the great high-stakes, underground poker games the gambling world has ever known. But it’s not just the story that’s true, the way poker is portrayed in Molly’s Game is also accurate. Therefore, there are some great lessons that can be learned from the movie about how poker works in real life. Let’s look at what we can learn about poker, especially underground poker, from watching Molly’s Game.


Staking and Vouching

In Molly's Game, the concept of staking is explored from various perspectives. Michael Cera’s character, Player X, stakes one of his opponents. Naturally, this creates a potential problem because staking a player sitting across from you can lead to collusion, as Molly herself points out. The film also delves into the dynamics of high-stakes games in which players frequently loan money, which would never happen in a real casino but is sometimes allowed in underground games.


At the same time, players at underground games also vouch for each other. To gain a seat at these exclusive tables, players often need to be vouched for if they aren't already known by someone like Molly who is organizing the game. Likewise, players who don’t have enough money to put down can be extended credit. We saw this in the movie when Molly extended credit to players, only for one player to lose $1.2 million in a single session and then proclaim “I don’t have it.”


We know that this type of thing also happens in real high-stakes games. Many well-known players like Tom Dwan have been accused of falling behind on debt payments. Even experienced pros aren't immune to bad loans. For example, Patrik Antonius loaned $700,000 to a tech entrepreneur and never saw it again. There are countless other stories of professionals who have shared similar stories of finding themselves in payment plans with debtors who may never repay them. 


Is the Game Rigged?

For some people, the game must be rigged if the stakes are high and they don’t win. They’re either overly confident or a little delusional. Nevertheless, there will always be a small group of players who believe the game is rigged against them. In the case of Mike Postle and Stones Gambling Hall, such accusations may have been justified. But more times than not, players just get frustrated and try to rationalize their loss.


In Molly’s Game, this scenario is depicted more than once. Characters lose big hands and go crazy. They can lose their cool and act out. All they want to do is win their money back, but they also release their frustration in other ways and sometimes come to the conclusion that the game must be rigged. While Molly eventually starts taking a rake by pulling money from the pot, she doesn’t rig the poker game against one player or another. In real life, rigged games would never happen at a respectable and regulated casino. However, the possibility is certainly there in back-room games, which is why characters in Molly’s Game who thought the game was rigged against them were somewhat justified in thinking that.


Rules of the Underground

When Molly first starts her underground game in the movie, she actually visits a lawyer to make sure she’s doing so lawfully. The lawyer delivers an unforgettable law, saying: “Don’t break the law when you’re breaking the law.” While Molly is understandably confused by that line, it does hold true. As a result, Molly does her best to make sure her game is legal.


For most of the movie, Molly does maintain a game that would have been legal in real life. She did so by not taking a rake or charging a commission. Rather, her income was exclusively from tips. Likewise, many states have laws about not serving alcohol during poker games or hosting them in a commercial setting. Those are among the basic rules of legally hosting an underground poker game that rang true in Molly’s Game.


Safe Alternative to Underground Poker

Of course, at the time Molly’s Game takes place, high rollers didn’t have many options outside of casinos and back-room games. Today, online poker is a viable option for everyone. Whether you want to wager a little money or a lot of money, playing at the top online poker sites is an excellent option. 


It’s as simple as finding a trustworthy site while taking advantage of the welcome offers and bonus opportunities that site is offering. You can play any time and from anywhere while also avoiding the drama - entertaining as it might be - we saw in Molly’s Game.

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