Las Vegas, Nevada District Judge Linda Bell has rejected a counterclaim made by Leon Tsoukernik in his dispute with fellow high-stakes poker player Matthew Kirk. The counterclaim included the Aria Hotel and Casino which Tsoukernik claimed had conspired with Kirk to effectively cheat him out of millions of dollars.
Leon Tsoukernik is a famous personality in the poker world. He owns the Kings Casino in the Czech Republic and has turned it into a major poker destination, hosting events organized by major names such as partypoker, WSOP, and the World Poker Tour (WPT).
This level of poker is a completely different world from the average home game. During a heads up match played at the Aria last May, Tsoukernik lost more than $3 million to Kirk while playing drunk.
Rob Yong eyewitness account
In a statement on his blog, UK Dusk Till Dawn Casino owner Rob Yong gave his account of what happened that evening.
“Matty told me the game got ‘out of hand’ when Leon became very drunk, loaning in total $3M in Aria chips from Matty which he then lost back to Matty heads-up. I asked Matty why he didn’t stop playing if Leon was that drunk or just refuse to loan him any more money. Matty said he didn’t want to hit and run Leon and was heavily pressured by Leon to continue. Matty told me the game finally broke with Leon owing $2M, but they talked at the Aria lift on the way to their room and went back to Ivey’s Room to continue playing with Leon borrowing a further $1M which he lost to Matty.”
Tsoukernik paid Kirk $1 million but refused to pay the additional $2 million that Kirk is claiming.
Tsoukernik was playing for millions of dollars while drunk
Attorney Lesley Miller, acting for Tsoukernik and quoted in the Las Vegas Review Journal, said;
“He [Kirk] fraudulently conspired with Aria representatives to place Mr. Tsoukernik in that vulnerable situation. It was how the game itself was executed, not the simple request of participating in the game.”
Tsoukernik argued that the Aria bore responsibility for allowing him to play while intoxicated, and funded Kirk’s match against him. Tsoukernik did not claim that he was deliberately intoxicated by Kirk or the Aria, accepting that he ordered his drinks himself.
Judge Bell rejected Tsoukernik’s arguments and ordered him to pay legal costs for Kirk’s lawyers. She also dismissed the claims against the Aria stating that they should be resolved by the Gambling Control Board.
Late last year, the court ruled against Kirk’s attempts to reclaim the $2 million after determining that the money was “an unenforceable gambling debt.”
Kirk has been left with the possibility of bringing further legal action to recover the cash and punitive damages on the grounds of “fraudulent inducement” and “unjust enrichment.”
The numbers in this case may be huge, but the lessons apply to everyone who wants to play poker; don’t play drunk and don’t bet money you can’t afford to lose!