Molly’s new game combats COVID isolation through worldwide online community

Molly Bloom, Devin Effinger create interactive podcast One World Group

Randy Wyrick
Vail Daily

Molly Bloom and her husband Devin Effinger have lived through meteoric successes, spectacular crashes, and built better lives from the wreckage.

And now they’ve launched One World Group, a hybrid podcast featuring celebrities and experts that lets you ask questions.

Among their speakers so far is a Harvard cardiothoracic surgeon, fashion icon Bobbi Brown, actress Jessica Chastain, a nutritionist and naturopathic doctor, Bloom’s attorney, Jim Walden, from her battle against the IRS and FBI, a personal trainer, federal judge Rosemarie Aquilina, and a psychic astrologer.

“The point is to bring some of the community aspects into a format that would allow people to connect with each other,” Bloom and Effinger said in a phone interview.

Connection is key

COVID quarantines forced us away from each other.

“We’re seeing the whole world plunge into isolation,” Bloom said.

Bloom and Effinger launched One World Group a couple weeks ago, promoting it on social media and encouraging people to join them. Hundreds do every day, becoming friends, supporting each other, forming a community that supports and inspires.

“It’s an unprecedented time when everyone’s life is disrupted. If there ever was a time when this could impact lives, it would be now,” Effinger said.

Bloom lived around Hollywood heavyweights for a decade and a half, running high stakes poker games in Los Angeles and New York City. Like all of us, she sees lots of online entertainment being created, and that’s fine, but bringing people together is more important, she said.

“Right now people need community,” Bloom said. “We think this is what a social network should be.”

“It’s a great way to be of service,” Effinger said. “The coronavirus is a great equalizer. We’re all in the same place and position. People share on a vulnerable and human level. That creates connections that are not typical. People are sharing their victories and stumbles.”

People join from around the world: U.S., Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, Romania, Ireland, London, and other far-flung places.

“If this was scaled up it could help humanity. It could spread like a good virus,” Effinger said.

Molly’s Game, Molly’s gain

Bloom and Effinger found each other a couple of years ago. They married last September at Piney Lake, located 11 miles from Vail, high in the Colorado Rockies.

Bloom’s life is literally the stuff of Hollywood. She let the world see it in her book and then the movie, “Molly’s Game,” directed by Aaron Sorkin.

“The visibility of the movie is a way to reach people who we might not necessarily have access to,” Bloom said.

She was a standout mogul skier, graduated the University of Colorado, and then put off Harvard law school to chase rainbows around Hollywood where she discovered money and power.

“I made those things my gods and chased them into hell. I blew up my life and I still didn’t find what I was looking for. I found loneliness and darkness,” Bloom said.

She made millions and lost millions more running those high stakes poker games. To cover debts that losing players stiffed her with, she started taking a “rake,” a piece of the action. That’s illegal and it attracted the FBI’s attention; agents with automatic weapons came calling at her New York City home.

To help cope with all that she fell into alcohol and drugs. A New York federal judge sentenced her to a year of probation, a $1,000 fine and 200 hours of community service, a slap on the wrist compared to what she could have faced. She wrote a book about it all, “Molly’s Game,” which led to the movie directed by Sorkin. Chastain played Molly in the movie. These days Bloom is about the business of helping as many people as she can.

Devin’s death and life

Effinger’s rollercoaster life equals Bloom’s for rises and falls and rises. He overcame serious childhood trauma, then he had to overcome a heroin addiction that left him broken and near death.

“I never would have thought I’d have a passion for anything at that point in my life. I didn’t know how I could survive being anything other than a day-to-day drug addict. Being clean and sober is all rooted in the dream of being able to help people,” Effinger said.

Turns out he brought his addiction with him when he moved from Atlanta to the Vail Valley. The scenery changed, but he hadn’t yet and the same sort of trouble found him. He decided he’d had enough and, with the help of some friends he pulled himself out of his abyss. He worked closely with the Eagle County jail staff and helped launch Survive, a program to help inmates transition from life behind bars to life. As part of that, he took over Gypsum’s Rittenhouse restaurant, placing some former inmates among the staff to help them learn employable skills.

Effinger is a systematic thinker. While thinking about his life he kept circling back to his early-life trauma, how it sent him into a sewer, and what it took to overcome it.

“What happens to someone’s brain that sends them down that road?” Effinger asked.

He went back to school because he wanted answers. He gravitated toward classes in social work and running nonprofits because that’s what he knew. They were great, he said, but did not answer his most pressing question, “What happens to someone’s brain … ?”

Then he took a neuroscience class that pointed him toward the answers he sought.

He finished his undergrad degree and earned a two-year fellowship at the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Maryland.

He just started his Ph.D. studies in neuroscience at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The program is five and a half years, a long road.

“I’ve been down longer roads. This one is much, much nicer,” Effinger said.

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