Judge’s Decision Mixed in Poker Pro’s Lawsuit Against King’s Casino Owner



A Clark County, Nevada District Court Judge isn’t making it easy for Australian poker pro Matthew Kirk to get $2 million back from King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik, but she did leave the window open a crack for Kirk to keep trying. In a decision on Friday, District Judge Linda Marie Bell tossed out all but two of ten claims from a lawsuit Kirk filed against Tsoukernik in July from a disagreement stemming from a chip transaction made at an Aria poker table.

It is very common for poker players to loan each other money and this is often done by simply handing over some poker chips. There is an honor code of sorts among players and if someone doesn’t repay what they borrowed, good luck getting along with anyone in the poker community for a while.

It was a supposed poker chip loan in May that is the center of this controversy. As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Kirk and Tsoukernik were playing in Ivey’s Room at the Aria and Kirk passed stacks of $500,000 and $1 million in chips to the King’s Casino owner with at least two other people present. Kirk’s attorneys obtained the security video showing the chips being exchanged and witnesses sitting at the table.

Documenting the transactions for proof, Kirk texted Tsoukernik at 4:34am, “Gave you 500k.”

About half an hour later, he texted, “Gave you 1million.”

Tsoukernik replied after the second text, saying, “Ok.”

At 5:46am, Kirk texted that he had given Tsoukernik a total of $3 million, to which Tsoukernik also responded, “Ok.”

So it all seemed pretty cut and dry. While the texts didn’t outright say that the $3 million was a loan and needed to be repaid, it is understood. After all, why would Kirk just give the guy millions of dollars?

But then, at 5:58am, Tsoukernik oddly wrote, “Not valid,” following that up with, “0 now.”

“The defendant has committed a fraud upon the plaintiff,” Kirk’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. “Those text messages indicate that defendant never intended to pay his loans.”

Somehow, Tsoukernik’s attorneys were able to convince the judge that the $3 million (Tsoukernik actually paid $1 million of it back) was a gambling debt, rather than a loan. As such, the judge ruled that gambling debts were not enforceable.

The two claims Judge Bell did not throw out were fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment.

“Tsoukernik entered into the contract intending to use its unenforceability to refuse repayment. If proven, this could place Mr. Tsoukernik at the greatest moral fault in this matter,” she said.

Thus, as the Review-Journal reports, Kirk’s lawyers are going to continue to go after Tsoukernik for the $2 million, claiming that he took the money never planning on paying it back, knowing he could fall back on the fact that gambling debts can’t be enforced to just keep it.

An interesting tidbit here is that Tsoukernik’s King’s Casino is hosting the World Series of Poker Europe, which begins Thursday. As high stakes cash game table at the Rio during the WSOP this summer was named for the casino as a way to advertise for WSOP-E.

Cover photo credit: WPT via Flickr

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