weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Las Vegas judge tosses Czech casino owner’s claim in poker lawsuit

Updated February 27, 2018 - 9:16 pm

A judge on Tuesday threw out a Czech casino owner’s claims against Aria and an Australian poker player that centered on a dispute over a high-stakes match.

Leon Tsoukernik, whose King’s Casino hosts a World Series of Poker event starting this week and recently housed WSOP’s Europe Main Event, alleged that he lost $3 million to a professional poker player because the casino conspired with a professional and plied him with booze.

Poker pro Matthew Kirk sued Tsoukernik after he failed to pay $2 million owed from the head-to-head match at Aria in May. Despite the judge’s ruling late last year that the transaction amounted to an unenforceable gambling debt, Kirk’s lawyers have said they’re still pursing $2 million from Tsoukernik.

In tossing out Tsoukernik’s counterclaim, District Judge Linda Bell also ordered his lawyers to pay legal fees for Kirk’s attorneys, Richard Schonfeld and David Chesnoff. But she allowed Tsoukernik’s lawyers, Peter Bernhard and Lesley Miller, to play another legal hand if they could find a new angle.

Tsoukernik argued that Kirk conspired with Aria and did not disclose where he got the cash to play for nosebleed stakes.

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

Miller responded that Kirk’s failure to reveal his financial backing was deceitful.

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

Schonfeld told the judge that no law requires Kirk to expose his source of money, and Tsoukernik ordered his own drinks.

“There’s no factual allegation that Mr. Kirk ordered him a drink or anything of that sort,” Schonfeld said.

Tsoukernik had also named Aria as a defendant, and the judge dismissed that claim as well, saying the issue should be decided by the Gaming Control Board.

Gaming officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Bell threw out eight of 10 claims from Kirk’s initial lawsuit but decided that Kirk could still pursue the money he believes Tsoukernik owes him, along with potential punitive damages, on accusations known as fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment.

Tsoukernik initially repaid Kirk $1 million, but he refused to repay the rest.

Contact David Ferrara at dferrara@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.