Texas Hold ‘em has become a massively successful sport that has constantly battled the impression that it is a game of chance, not that of skill. “Molly’s Game” delves into high-stakes poker in the way that “The Big Short” examined subprime loans and credit default swaps. Only it’s quicker, sexier and a bit easier to understand.

“Molly’s Game” is based on the autobiography by the same name, and tells the story of Molly Bloom, a competitive skier from Colorado, with an Olympic medal in her sights before a tragic fall forced her to reevaluate her future. After moving to Los Angeles as a gap-year before law school, she used her feminine wiles to find work as a cocktail server, which led to introductions to some of the Hollywood elite; actors, athletes, businessmen, even royalty.

Using her newfound connections, she began running an elite weekly poker game (she was dubbed the “princess of poker” by some tabloids) which led to tales of mounds of cash, drugs, FBI investigations, Russian Mob exchanges and enough stories to fill a successful autobiography, as well as a feature-length film. What’s left out, however, are the specific names of the high-life players, and that integrity in spite of external pressure seems to be the cornerstone of her character.

Aaron Sorkin (“West Wing,” “Moneyball,” “The Social Network”) is a silver-tongued master of sharp dialogue. With a script that is equal parts “Moneyball” and “The Wolf of Wall Street,” we get a peek behind the curtain of how the one percent lives, and the criminal line that is so blurred by the fog of money, fame, sex and drugs. Sorkin does a truly remarkable job in his directorial debut, and his pen is clearly all over the dialogue, but the story stands on its own just as well.

Jessica Chastain is an absolute knock-out as Molly. There is a cunning wolf-in-sheep’s clothing aspect to her character; she found what she called a “target-rich environment,” in Los Angeles, learned the ropes of the game, but more importantly, developed ways to manipulate dozens of men and leave everyone satisfied at the end of the night.

One of the intriguing aspects of the story is the pervading question of who might these celebrities actually be? There are stories that Player X, portrayed by Michael Cera in the film, was actually Tobey Maguire. Ben Affleck, Leo DiCaprio, Alex Rodriguez, the Olson twins, Rick Salomon and several billionaire businessmen are alleged to have been participants in the book, but their identities are obscured in anonymity for a lack of prosecutable evidence. While watching the film though, you can’t help wonder what the composition of those games might have actually been, and what kinds of conversations and dollar amounts must have been floating around.

Kevin Costner gives what might be his best performance in decades as Molly’s father, Larry. He’s a successful psychologist who has used his occupation to push his daughter and two sons to succeed in both academics and athletics. The volatile relationship on the screen between Molly and Larry is captivating, particularly in a pivotal scene that has them sharing a sharply written heart-to-heart talk.

Idris Elba is the anchor piece of the ensemble. His character is the fictitious defense attorney, Charlie Jaffey. Sorkin uses the character to explain elements of the story to viewers that might otherwise not be so clearly understood. Elba also very successfully serves as a vehicle to uncover the layers of Bloom’s motivation, moral compass and character. It’s a fantastic role by a terrific actor, and is the perfect fictional addition to the otherwise true story.

“Molly’s Game” received a pair of Golden Globe nominations, for Chastain’s acting and Sorkin’s writing. I would expect the Academy to reward these two with nominations next month as well. The film is quite long at two hours and 20 minutes, but Sorkin is able to keep the audience engaged from start to finish. This is a great film without a very clear message. Molly is an inspiring character, but you never quite know whether to root for her or not. Either way, it’s a fun film worth the price of admission.