Judge Tosses Tsoukernik Suit Against Kirk And Aria

Written By Martin Derbyshire on February 28, 2018
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A District Court Judge has tossed out Czech casino owner Leon Tsoukernik‘s $10 million countersuit against ARIA Resort & Casino and Australian poker pro Matthew Kirk claiming they conspired to get him drunk and rip him off in high-stakes poker session.

All sides admitted Kirk and Tsoukernik played the late-night poker session inside ARIA’s Ivey’s Room in May 2017. Tsoukernik had been drinking. Then he got stuck, borrowing in increments of $500,000 twice and $1 million twice in order to stay in the game.

By the time the session wrapped up, Tsoukernik had borrowed a total of $3 million and lost it all back to Kirk. All this has been confirmed by texts between the pair.

In the days following, attempts were made to broker a deal and settle the debt. Kirk recovered $1 million but ultimately sued Tsoukernik to try to get his hands on the rest.

In October, a Clark County District Court Judge threw out all but two of ten claims Kirk filed against Tsoukernik. The judge called it an unenforceable gambling debt. However, Kirk was allowed to continue to pursue the money on claims of fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment.

This meant if Kirk could prove Tsoukernik had no intention of paying, Tsoukernik could be found at moral fault and held responsible for the debt and damages.

The $10 million counterclaim

Kirk’s lawyers continued to pursue the matter on those grounds. In November, Tsoukernik fired back with his $10 million counterclaim.

Tsoukernik’s counterclaim alleged he was taken advantage of by both Kirk and the casino. It claimed he was over-served until visibly intoxicated, induced to play for high stakes. It also claimed Kirk was at least partly responsible for getting him to that point.

Tsoukernik claimed they got him so drunk, he needed help counting his chips and misread his cards. The counterclaim sought $10 million in damages for defamation of character and emotional distress.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, part of Tsoukernik’s argument that Kirk and ARIA conspired together centered around the idea Kirk was hiding where he got the cash to play for such stakes.

High-stakes poker backing has no bearing

However, in throwing out the claim, District Judge Linda Bell said Kirk’s refusal to divulge the source of his backing is hardly fraudulent. Plus, where he got the money to play really has no bearing in the case.

Tsoukernik’s lawyer Lesley Miller argued that Kirk’s failure to reveal the source of his money was deceitful. Miller also suggested Kirk “fraudulently conspired with ARIA representatives” to put Mr. Tsoukernik in a vulnerable situation.

However, Judge Bell appeared to agree with Kirk’s attorney Richard Schonfeld. Schonfeld claimed Kirk never ordered Tsoukernik a drink, and therefore held no responsibility for his level of intoxication.

As far as ARIA’s role in allegedly over-serving Tsoukernik is concerned, Judge Bell suggested that is an issue for the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Judge Bell ordered Tsoukernik to pay Kirk’s legal fees for work on the counterclaim. However, she left the door open for Tsoukernik to refile the claim on different legal grounds.

Tsoukernik has close developed close ties with the World Series of Poker over the past year. His King’s Casino in Rozvadoz, Czech Republic became the new home for World Series of Poker Europe in 2017. Tsoukernik was reportedly the first player to reserve a seat in the $1 million buy-in Big One For One Drop poker tournament to be held at the 2018 WSOP.

Plus, two WSOP Circuit events were held at King’s in 2017, and a third will go off in March 2018.

The WSOP is owned and operated by Caesars Interactive Entertainment. ARIA is an MGM Resorts property.

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Martin Derbyshire Avatar
Written by
Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire is an award-winning journalist, video and film producer with a decade of experience covering the brick and mortar casino, poker and iGaming industries. He has produced content for top media outlets including PokerNews, Bluff Magazine and PokerListings, and has crossed the globe scooping stories and interviewing major players in all corners of the high-stakes gambling world.

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