CARDS IN THE COURTROOM: Defamation Attorney Helps Analyze Postle Cardroom Controversy Lawsuit

October 6, 2020
CARDS IN THE COURTROOM: Defamation Attorney Helps Analyze Postle Cardroom Controversy Lawsuit

The Mike Postle cardroom controversy seemed to be over after the recent dismissal of a lawsuit seeking reimbursement for losses by players involved. However, Postle has now filed a defamation lawsuit against several poker players, publications, and other entities.

Poker player Veronica Brill first voiced concerns about alleged cheating on the Stones Gambling Hall “Stones Live” cash game stream in September 2019. Several players then took to social media breaking down the video and accusing Postle of cheating.

Postle has now filed a $330 million lawsuit against defendants ranging from Brill, Daniel Negreanu, and Joey Ingram to ESPN and PokerNews. USPoker spoke with a legal expert about the validity of the lawsuit and Postle’s chances of winning.

Attorney Paul Sternberg is based in Houston, Texas, and specializes in these types of suits. He’s also the author of The Guide to Internet Defamation and Website Removal and believes Postle faces an uphill battle. He believes Postle faces numerous obstacles to win the case.

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Analyzing the Postle lawsuit

The suit comes after a California judge dismissed a suit against Stones Gambling Hall. The dismissal arose after ruling that players can’t sue in California to recoup gambling losses.

USPoker obtained a copy of the lawsuit, with Postle arguing he’s been the victim of “false cheating allegations.” 

After Brill’s concerns, numerous players examined Postle’s playing style in the Stones streams. Many noted that he played and won with extremely marginal hands.

Critics also noted that Postle tended to look into his lap at his phone when involved in big hands. The wording of the suit addresses some of these issues.

“In terms of style, plaintiff is considered to be a ‘loose player’ in games on and off the live-streamed table: one who drinks and socializes at times, while remaining quiet and focused at others,” the suit notes. “Plaintiff is known to take marginal hands all the way to the river card.”

As for placing the phone in his lap or between his legs during play? The lawsuit notes that he began doing that when he started receiving “inappropriate messages or pictures from women he was frequenting with at the time.”

The suit notes that the defendants created a “false narrative” of cheating and that he’d profited $250,000 to $400,000. The suit argues that the defendants said Postle “100% cheated as fact.” Postle’s attorneys also note that Stones found no evidence of cheating in two separate investigations.

Postle’s personal and professional reputation was damaged, according to the lawsuit, as well as business arrangements with a few casinos.

The suit alleges he isn’t able to make a living now playing poker and unable to provide for his young daughter.

Not backing down from the fight

The suit has rocked the poker world with so many big names as defendants. In total, Postle has sued:

  • poker players Negreanu, Brill, Ingram, Haralabos Voulgaris, and Todd Witteles
  • training sites Upswing Poker, Crush Live Poker, Solve for Why, and Run it Once
  • poker player and coach Jonathan Little
  • ESPN and PokerNews

Some of those named were quick to voice their intentions. Witteles noted on Twitter that the “suit is obviously frivolous and I will fight it.”

Brill has no second thoughts about raising her cheating allegations. Those concerns led to players like Ingram breaking down hand after hand on YouTube and other platforms. Brill believes the suit’s aim is a chilling effect on those who speak up.

“I feel as though this is an aggressive scare tactic,” she tells USPoker. “If we all succumb to running away scared then we will allow a precedence to be set within our community and people who want to call out cheating when it happens will be too scared to do so. We will set a standard in our community of people being in fear of speaking up for what’s right.”

Many players have expressed support and Brill has set up a GoFundMe account to cover her legal expenses. As of Tuesday morning, more than $26,000 had been raised.

For Brill, the issue remains about game integrity and doing the right thing. She’s even considering her own legal recourse.

“I am grateful that most of the poker community is of strong ethical and moral standards and don’t want the integrity of the game compromised,” she says. “I’m currently exploring all of my legal options.”

Negreanu was surprised by the lawsuit and believed those analyzing Postle’s play used sound judgement.

“It’s hard to take this guy seriously,” Negreanu says. “He has cojones, I’ll give him that much! Imagine 100 top scientists looking at data and all coming to the same conclusion. We accept their findings.

“In this case, all the  top poker experts in the field of poker, unanimously agree, with no room for any doubt whatsoever.”

What are the lawsuit’s prospects?

Successfully achieving a judgement in a libel or defamation case certainly isn’t easy. While Sternberg didn’t know the specifics of the case, he outlined some key ideas to remember regarding libel and defamation.

First, facts are never defamatory and opinions aren’t necessarily either. The allegation that another person is a felon can be proven or disproven easily. A plaintiff may be awarded damages in a case like this.

Calling another a philanderer may face a lower legal hurdle in avoiding a judgement as that could be considered opinion. A plaintiff’s past or actions can play a role in a defendant’s ability to win the case.

If that defendant can show there might be a reasonable assumption as to an opinion, that could be protected speech.

There are also other considerations. Because Postle played frequently on the Internet, he could be considered a public figure. This brings another legal hurdle.

“You’d have to prove malicious intent,” Sternberg says.

That means even if Postle didn’t cheat, he’d have to prove the defendants acted maliciously in accusing him. Sternberg believes any credible evidence against Postle will play a role.

Sternberg also believes it will be difficult for Postle to prove malicious intent. A plaintiff would have to also prove that he was damaged precisely because of the defendants’ actions. 

“That’s a very big hurdle,” says Sternberg, who specializes in defamation cases involving social media. “It’s very hard to get monetary damages.”

Added scrutiny may come with lawsuit

Along with facing a challenge in winning his defamation suit, Sternberg says Postle might be in for more scrutiny. A lawsuit opens him up to depositions that could possibly reveal additional information

A suit like this can actually keep the issue in the public eye, Sternberg says, which is known as the “Streisand Effect.” The term was coined in regard to Barbara Streisand’s efforts in 2003 to suppress media photos of her Malibu home.

In the process, the photos were published even more and received even more publicity. Streisand also lost her case to suppress the photos.

“In this case, the guy suing [Postle] brought it up again,” Sternberg says. “If he thinks he was really wronged, he could [sue]. I wouldn’t encourage him to do that, but you know how lawyers are. If you pay them an hourly rate, they’re going to take it.”

Sternberg says in the age of social media, efforts at defamation suits are becoming more frequent. The difficulty is winning a case but also having a defendant who can pay any real damages.

Most plaintiffs just want the defaming comment removed or retracted. Sternberg says 95% of the time, plaintiffs are happy with a cease and desist letter sent to the other party to retract a statement. 

“In the end, it’s going to be really hard for him to jump that hurdle, and very expensive,” Sternberg says. “I truly wouldn’t do it.”

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