Leon Tsoukernik ‘Taken Advantage Of’ and Files Counterclaim Against Matt Kirk and Aria Casino

3 years ago
Leon Tsoukernik ‘Taken Advantage Of’ and Files Counterclaim Against Matt Kirk and Aria Casino
09 Nov

Kings Casino boss Leon Tsoukernik hit back against his detractors by launching a counter-claim against Australian poker player Matt Kirk and the Aria Casino, stating that: “I was taken advantage of and can no longer remain silent” with Kirk being portrayed as a house shill and the Aria purposely plying Tsoukernik with alcohol and basically preventing him from leaving the Ivey Room.

Leon, the multi-millionaire owner of the casino in the Czech Republic which is currently hosting the WSOP Europe, was taken to court by Kirk earlier this year amid hotly-disputed claims that he reneged on a $3million loan during a high-stakes heads-up match.

However, recently the majority of Kirk’s claims were thrown out of court and Leon has gone on the offensive, unhappy at having to endure “a significant amount of criticism from the poker community over the past several months” and now placing his trust in the US judicial system once more, in which he has “great confidence”.

During the heads-up battle back in May, Kirk loaned Tsoukernik $3million in chips during their late-night match, $1million of which the casino boss returned shortly afterwards, and his court filing today sheds some light on his reason for not paying back the other $2million.

In a statement today, Tsoukernik says:

“Before any legal pleading was filed, I chose to resolve this matter amicably, with the help of several of the most respected members of the poker community. But, as a result of the behaviour of Matthew Kirk and the third-party defendant, I was taken advantage of and can no longer remain silent.”

What happened at the Aria?

Exactly what happened during the match according to Leon makes for gripping reading in the court documents filed yesterday in the Clark County District Court of Nevada.

Tsoukernik claims he was plied with alcohol by Aria staff, to the point where he required help from both Kirk and the dealer to count his chips and was unable to even read his hand on many occasions, ‘rendering the game unfair, dishonest and non-competitive’.

He also alleges that Kirk, unknown to Tsoukernik at the time, ‘did not have the financial wherewithal to play at the levels at which he was playing’ and was instead being ‘funded and backed by others’.

What happened next, the court filing states, involves one of the most-respected poker operators in the world.

Rob Yong, the founder and owner of Dusk ‘Til Dawn Casino, a mutual acquaintance of both Kirk and Tsoukernik, brokered a settlement deal between the players - a deal initiated by Kirk himself - Yong telling Leon that the Australian was willing to settle for a discount on the $3million.

The court filing states:

“That afternoon of May 27 [the match had finished in the early hours of May 27th] Yong, Kirk and Tsoukernik met at the Liquid Pool at the Aria, where Kirk and Tsoukernik confirmed the discount, and Kirk shook hands with Tsoukernik confirming the settlement, in Yong’s presence.”

What transpired after this is one of the murkiest parts of the tale, with Kirk apparently returning 15 minutes or so later to say the deal was off and asking Yong to speak with an ‘unnamed person’ on the phone, but the line went dead as soon as the Dusk Til Dawn supremo took the phone.

Kirk vows to destroy Leon publicly?

One week later, on June 3rd, Kirk and Tsoukernik met at the Aria once again, allegedly agreeing to settle for $1million – Rob Yong being phoned to act as witness, although he felt Kirk ought to have been paid more – and $1million exchanging hands between the players, the deal being shook on.

However, about 2 hours after this new deal, the court filing claims that Kirk phoned Yong, and said that he ‘was going to destroy Tsoukernik’, telling Yong that he would ‘use the $1million he had been paid to sue Tsoukernik, telling Yong that ‘he would put this in every poker magazine and website in the world’.

Tsoukernik’s court claims detail that this threat was carried out by Kirk, naming the 2+2 poker forum and Daniel Negreanu as two of the major factors in the ensuing bid to destroy his reputation.

The Aria was backing Kirk?

Some of the most shocking claims described in the court filing yesterday concern the behaviour of the Aria Casino, individuals from which Tsoukernik alleges was backing Kirk financially - and also prevented friends of Tsoukernik from being allowed to persuade Leon to leave the Ivey Room.

Kirk, it is claimed, was basically a shill for the house, the court documents describing how the Aria or individuals connected to the casino, ‘financed Kirk with Aria poker chips and other considerations and may have shared in any winnings of Kirk in poker games in the Ivey Room’.

The shocking filing also alleges:

"Several individuals in the Ivey Room recognised Tsoukernik’s intoxication and attempted to help him leave the Ivey Room, but Aria and/or its agents, employees or representatives prohibited these individuals from assisting Tsoukernik."

Leon’s statement

Tsoukernik added to his statement by saying:

“As a casino operator, I feel it is my obligation to never allow a patron to be treated as I was and to alert the poker community of the risks they take in situations like mine. I believe that my response shines light on some of the unethical practices that target poker players. It would be easy to remain silent and make a business decision but too much has been said and too much damage has been done for me to keep quiet.”

He finished by stating:

“I have great confidence in the United States judicial system. I will allow the legal process to speak for me from this point forward.”

If Tsoukernik’s counterclaims are held up by the court, it could become one of the biggest stories of casino manipulation in the modern history of the game, and PokerTube will follow the story as more information becomes available, including Kirk and the Aria Casino’s response to the claims.

Articles 2002

Andrew from Edinburgh, Scotland, is a professional journalist, international-titled chess master, and avid poker player.Read more


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