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True Tales From A Hollywood Poker Hustler: The Night I Lost A Million Dollars To Rick Salomon

Card Player Columnist Houston Curtis Reveals Fact From Fiction In Molly's Game

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Ever since the release of Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game, I get asked one question more than any other. ‘Did Harland Eustice really lose a million dollars in one night at the poker table?’

Of course, I would be the one to ask, seeing as how Eustice, played by actor Bill Camp (pictured below), is based on myself and my time in the game alongside Tobey Maguire (Michael Cera) and Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain).

I would like to share every detail of that fateful night, peeled directly from my book Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist allowing you to judge for yourself.

I pick up the story of my “bad night” several pages in. If you want to know what happened prior, (like how Tobey was stuck $750,000 and miraculously got even) it’s all in the book. Needless to say, this was just the beginning of a very painful time in my life.


The Night I Lost A Million Dollars To Rick Salomon

Rick Salomon was no sucker. He had more than just a big dick and a grade-A drug habit. He was a dangerous gambler, but I also knew he was my best and only shot of getting even for the night.

Bob Safai was leaving and Andrew Sassoon was sitting tight on a long-overdue profit. I went to Molly and told her to give me another $500k, which would put me in the game for a million dollars. Her face dropped and I could almost feel her heart sink as I asked for it. She asked me if I was sure and reminded me about Bonnie’s birthday party.

I looked her right in the eye and said: “Five hundred grand or a million, what the fuck is the difference at this point?”

Jessica Chastain As Molly BloomReluctantly, she handed me the chips. Truth is, she didn’t actually have a choice. Whatever she may have thought, Molly had no authority not to extend credit to anyone in the game. The main players assumed all of the risk — all she did was set up the room, call the guys on our list, and then sit back and make a fortune off the back of it all. The only thing Molly ever risked was a few bags under her eyes from the late nights and the possibility of someone losing so bad they might stiff her on her tips for the night… and that never happened. Hell, even that time she refused to bark like a seal for Tobey, he still ended up giving her a thousand bucks.

Rick sat down, got a ton of chips, and then immediately asked if we could take a ten-minute break before we got started. I said sure, why not? Then he turned to Molly and asked her if Tobey had left the hotel yet, and Molly assured him he had.

Next thing I know Rick’s got a big silver platter from somewhere and has chopped out several massive lines of cocaine on it. And we’re not talking sissy, little, party-girl lines either. These were fat Hollywood rails. Then, with a grin and a wink, he lowered his head and proceeded to snort every fucking one of them by himself.

Rick Salomon didn’t fuck around when it came to going off the deep end. The reason he had asked if Tobey had left was that he knew better than to try and pull that shit in front of Spider Man. Rick was supposed to be sober. Tobey kicked him out of his house once just for walking in with a damn beer. Molly was similar. Even though she wouldn’t do blow in front of me or Tobey, everybody knew she was matching Rick line for line from the bathroom. The game had just gotten seriously dark.

I declined the offer to join them, splashed some water on my face, stared at my reflection in the mirror, and resolved to play the best damn poker of my life. I was tired as hell, but I was determined to bust Rick for everything he had.

Rick and I had known each other for a while at this point and had played a lot of big pots together. I had even done some business with him. Nothing involving naked hotel heiresses unfortunately; instead, I went in with him on a project to send a crew to Thailand to shoot extreme Thai prison fights. Typically, of course, when I got the footage back it was 300 hours of complete vacation footage including Rick partying with Thai girls, watching them drink wine and eat bugs. Whatever else he may have been, Rick knew how to enjoy himself, that’s for sure.

How hard could Rick Salomon party? Try this. One night I got a random text from him telling me he was having a “going away” party and that I should come over right away.

I got there and walked into the shadiest Hollywood scene I’d ever encountered. The place was crammed with all kinds of party girls and trust fund kids doing drugs and having sex all over Rick’s house. As I made my way upstairs to find him, I even ran into a bunch of people who worked for me on a TV series I was producing at the time.

This girl who was one of my employees was snorting blow off of some dude’s abs who had his shirt up and a bunch of baby oil all over his body. It was weird as hell. When she saw me she froze for a minute and then started laughing and pointing at me, saying, “Holy fuck, that’s my boss!” I just walked on by and then had someone fire her the next day.

When I got upstairs Rick was sitting on a couch at the top of his balcony wearing this shiny boxer’s robe and not much else. Sitting next to him were two, beautiful, classy-looking women. I say “classy,” but as I got closer I saw one of them was holding a crack pipe up to Rick’s lips while the other was lighting it for him. What the fuck?

Rick SalomonEven for Salomon this was something else. I said to him, “Bro, why in the fuck are you smoking crack?” and he just laughed (his laugh always sounded like a little kid who had just stolen something and gotten away with it).

“I’m smokin’ a bunch of crack tonight,” he giggled, “cos I’m going into fuckin’ rehab tomorrow in Malibu!”

I asked the girls to leave us alone for a minute and sat next to him with the half-assed idea of talking him out of developing a crack habit, on top of everything else. We were interrupted by the most stunning brunette I had ever seen. She walked up to him and said: “Hey Rick, I’m Joy. We don’t know each other but I just wanted to say… nice cock!”

On that note I had lost Rick’s attention, if I ever had it in the first place. I got out of there… and until this night, thought nothing the dude could do would ever surprise me again. I was wrong.

Rick was clearly back on the blow big time again, but this time he had a shitload of money sitting in front of him and I was in desperate need of a huge score to get back to even for the night. This was my chance. I wanted to bust Salomon so bad he would have to add Gambler’s Anonymous to his rehab speed-dial list.

We started playing and it seemed my luck was still fucked. Rick was catching cards left and right. It was sick. The only good thing was that he was so out of his mind he was completely incapable of sustaining a bluff and his tells were telegraphed. As well as all the cocaine, throughout the night I watched him pop an entire bottle of powerful yellow Norco pain pills, crunching them like they were M&Ms. This would be enough drugs to kill a mere mortal, but not Rick Salomon!

Silver linings: He may have been riding the cards, but at least his being so fucked up meant I was losing the absolute minimum every time he had a good hand. I knew it was just a matter of time. If I waited him out, he would eventually bluff into the wrong hand and I’d bust him wide open. Rick is a dangerous player, but nobody can get this fucked up and expect to come out on top.

Hours went by, and the sun was up. By then the massage girls had gone home, and Molly had changed out of her skimpy hostess outfit to her usual after-hours sweats and a tank top with no bra, crashed out on the couch. Manny could barely keep his eyes open to deal, and I was about as tired as I’ve ever been in my life. Rick, of course, was wide awake and loving life. I held on, kept playing, kept praying.

Finally, I picked up the best hand I’d seen in hours. A-Q suited. We had hiked the blinds up to $1,000-$2,000 at this point, so the game had the potential to play huge on any given hand. I popped it to forty grand preflop. Rick looked at his hand. Based on how he had been reacting to his cards all night, I could tell he had absolutely nothing. But he smiled, cackled, and called anyway to see a flop.

The flop came Q-7-2 rainbow. I knew top pair had him absolutely crushed, so I checked to see if he would bluff at it. Sure enough, he bet $50k and I raised it to $100k figuring that would be the end of it. Rick looked at his cards and tossed his chips into the pot. One of his $25k chips went flying across the table and hit Molly in the face. I had him on squadoosh!

Now wide awake, Molly had left the sofa and was watching the hand go down. This could be my moment! The turn came and it was another rag! A four of clubs. There wasn’t even a backdoor flush draw out there. Sure, I would rather have a set, but a winner is a winner and, in that sense, this hand was what I’d been waiting all goddamn night for. I took a deep breath and bet out $120k. Rick took the bait, raised all-in for the rest of his chips, and I snap called him.

“You got me,” he said. Manny dealt a pointless five on the river, and I started to scoop the pot. And that’s when Rick turned over his cards and started laughing.

Time stopped. I stared at the board for what seemed like forever. The maniac had called preflop with absolutely nothing — 6-3 offsuit. On the flop he found a two and on the turn he picked up a four, somehow setting him up for a miraculous fucking gut shot straight draw… and then the lucky bastard hit it on the river. I wanted to fucking kill him.

Finally I stammered, “Rick… what were you thinking?” and with that famous Rick Salomon laugh he said, “I was gonna bluff you on the turn, but then I picked up a gut shot and decided I wanted to see the river, so I shoved to give myself some equity if you called me!”

I was shell-shocked. I had just made one of the best reads of my life to have it all blow up in my face. I looked down at my phone and saw a whole series of texts from Bonnie asking me when I would be home. By this time, she was already at the Polo Lounge with Tobey’s wife, Jen, and was looking forward to whatever plans I had made for that evening. Blood started rushing to my head.

I had just lost a million dollars.

I walked out of the Four Seasons in a daze, somehow made it into my car, and drove home on autopilot. I was so disoriented, so numbed, that its a wonder I ever made it back at all.

On the drive home Tobey called me and said, “I heard what happened and I just wanted to make sure you haven’t driven off a cliff!” I knew in some small way he shared my pain.

Tobey Maguire At WSOPJust a few minutes after I got home, Bonnie arrived with the girls. Callie was asleep, but Chloe came running into my arms, screaming, “Daddy, Daddy!” I held her tight and finally, uncontrollably, broke down in tears.

I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had been reinvesting most of my money into my business, with the rest barely covering the mortgage on my $3 million house that was now worth only a million due to the market crash, the car payments, and paying off about fifty grand a month on my wife’s credit card bill. My business was fucked, Las Vegas hadn’t been kind to me, even the neighbors’ damn tree was against me… and now this.

A million bucks in a single night. My entire liquid bankroll wiped out, just like that. I was completely fucked, and there was only one person on Earth who I could turn to that would understand what had just happened to me.

I needed Spider Man!

So instead of celebrating with the love of my life like I should have been doing, I dried my eyes, steadied my breathing, put on my most positive voice, and called Tobey. He told me to head on over and we could discuss the mess I was in.


And that was just the beginning of a very difficult time in my life. It’s been a long climb out of the gutter, and I’m not talking about winning the million back. That was easy.

The events that happened next seem almost too crazy to be true, but I can assure you, they are. So if you’ve recently suffered a few bad beats, and are feeling down on your luck, pick up a copy of Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist. When you are finished reading it, you’ll be able to say, “Well, at least I’m not that guy!”

Check out this video where we’ll take a look at the scene from Molly’s Game and I’ll reveal the truth behind the hand that was shown in the film! The video will not only contain a play-by-play but will straighten out some facts the film got wrong, and might surprise you when you find out the true details vs the big screen depiction.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, this is Houston Curtis saying, stay sharp… stay Kardsharp!

Houston Curtis Houston Curtis, founder of KardSharp.com and author of Billion Dollar Hollywood Heist has lived a successful double life as both a producer and card mechanic for nearly 30 years. His credits include executive producing gambling related TV shows such as The Ultimate Blackjack Tour on CBS, The Aruba Poker Classic on GSN and pioneering the poker instructional DVD genre with titles featuring poker champion Phil Hellmuth.

Barred for life from Las Vegas Golden Nugget for “excessive winning” at blackjack, Houston is one of the world’s most successful card mechanics and sleight-of-hand artists of the modern era. Curtis, who rarely plays in tournaments, won a 2004 Legends of Poker no-limit hold’em championship event besting Scotty Nguyen heads-up at the final table before going on to co-found the elite Hollywood poker ring that inspired Aaron Sorkin’s Academy Award-nominated film Molly’s Game.

Curtis resides in Phoenix, Arizona where in addition to running a production company and independent record label, he is also a private gaming/casino protection consultant to clients across the globe seeking insight into master level card cheating tactics via advanced sleight-of-hand technique. To reach Houston for a speaking engagement, consulting or production services send email to stacked@Kardsharp.com.

All views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Card Player.