Get ready for a weird story. My wife isn’t generally interested in poker news, but I had to tell her about this one and even she thought it was bizarrely fascinating. As you might know, the World Series of Poker Europe is currently underway at the King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic. The owner of that casino is Leon Tsoukernik, who himself also likes to play poker and for very high stakes. And it is his activity at the high stakes poker tables that has gotten Tsoukernik into legal trouble.
In June, poker pro Matthew Kirk filed a lawsuit against Tsoukernik for refusing to pay $3 million in loans he accepted from Kirk at a poker table on May 27th at the Aria casino in Las Vegas (he later paid $1 million of it after a big tournament win).
According to case filings by Kirk’s attorneys, there were two other players at the table who witnessed the monetary exchange and security cameras show the transfer of chips from Kirk to Tsoukernik along with a final handshake. The kicker, though, is the exchange of text messages between the two during the process, seemingly done on purpose to document the transactions.
At 4:34am, Kirk texted Tsoukernik, “Gave you 500k.”
About 30 minutes later, he texted, “Gave you 1million,” to which Tsoukernik replied, “OK.”
At 5:46am, Kirk sent a final text, confirming the total transfer of $3 million and again Tsoukernik replied in the affirmative.
But just a short time later, Tsoukernik texted, “Not valid,” and then, “0 now.”
It appears that Leon Tsoukernik accepted $3 million in loans from Kirk and then immediately said that he didn’t owe him anything because reasons? And this is literally one day after Kirk repaid Tsoukernik a $1.5 million loan.
Kirk took Tsoukernik to court, but last Tuesday, Judge Linda Marie Bell dismissed eight of the claims because gambling debts are not enforceable in Nevada (personally, I feel like if someone is loaning money so that someone can gamble, that shouldn’t really be a gambling debt, but I am not a lawyer, nor have I even read the law, so my opinion holds no validity). But Judge Bell did allow two of the claims to stand: fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment. No decision has been made – the case still needs to go to trial – but if Kirk’s legal team can separate those two claims out and categorize the loan as not a gambling debt, they might have something.
As Kirk’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit, “The defendant has committed a fraud upon the plaintiff. Those text messages indicate that defendant never intended to pay his loans.”
It will be interesting to see where this goes and what impact it may have, if any, on Tsoukernik and the King’s Casino’s relationship with the World Series of Poker. Caesars can’t be happy that its WSOP Europe partner is an alleged loan stiffer.
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