Judge Dismisses Casino Owner’s Claim in $3 Million High-Stakes Poker Feud

Posted on: February 28, 2018, 12:00h. 

Last updated on: February 28, 2018, 09:46h.

A Czech casino owner who lost $3 million in a drunken heads-up match to Australian high-stakes poker player Matthew Kirk had his claim thrown out by a Nevada judge on Tuesday.

Leon Tsoukernik case against Jason Kirk dismissed
Leon Tsoukernik believes he was taken advantage of when he lost $3 million playing heads-up to Jason Kirk in May 2017. A judge in Nevada disagreed and dismissed his claim against Kirk and the Aria on Tuesday. (Image: Wikipedia)

Facing a lawsuit from Kirk, Leon Tsoukernik countersued claiming the Aria Las Vegas had conspired with Kirk to ply him with booze and take advantage.

Tsoukernik, who founded the King’s Casino brand of poker rooms in the Czech Republic, also claimed Kirk had not disclosed the source of his money. Tsoukernik borrowed $3 million from Kirk while intoxicated to play the match and lost. Only $1 million of the loan was repaid and Kirk is seeking recovery of the remaining $2 million.

“What does that matter, if [Kirk] is an independent poker player, where he gets his money from?” asked the judge. “That’s not something that any person gambling is required to tell any other person gambling. How can on the face that be fraud?”

Tsoukernik Got Himself Drunk

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which was present at the hearing, Tsoukernik attorney Lesley Miller said that Kirk’s failure to reveal his financial backing was suspicious.

He fraudulently conspired with Aria representatives to place Mr Tsoukernik in that vulnerable situation,” she added. “It was how the game itself was executed, not the simple request of participating in the game.”

Kirk’s attorney Richard Schonfeld noted that Tsoukernik ordered his own drinks. “There’s no factual allegation that Mr Kirk ordered him a drink or anything of that sort,” he said.

The judge also dismissed Tsoukernik’s claim against the Aria, saying the matter should be examined by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Thanks for the Heads-Up

The now notorious heads-up match took place in the early hours of May 27, 2017, a day before the start of the Aria Super High Roller Bowl, in the lead up to the World Series of Poker.

The previous day, Tsoukernik had beaten Kirk for $1.5 million. Now clearly intoxicated, the casino owner had repeatedly insisted on borrowing the money which he vowed would be repaid on conclusion of the game, according to Kirk’s lawsuit.

Late last year, the judge ruled that the transaction amounted to an unenforceable gambling debt and threw out eight of the ten claims that comprised Kirk’s lawsuit.

However, she said the Australian could still pursue the money, as well as possible punitive damages, on the bases of fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment.

Kirk’s lawyers have confirmed they are still seeking the $2 million from Tsoukernik.