Leon Tsoukernik/Matt Kirk Battle Ramps Up as Fellow Players Take Sides

 Leon Tsoukernik/Matt Kirk Battle Ramps Up as Fellow Players Take Sides

One thing that a poker player has in the world of gambling is his integrity. The trust of your fellow players – whether it be in financial transactions or in actual play of the game – is integral to being able to operate in the gambling community. Thus, the battle between King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik and high stakes pro Matt Kirk has captured the interest of the poker community, with several top players taking sides.

For those of you who are unaware of the situation, earlier this year Tsoukernik allegedly borrowed $ 3 million from Kirk during a heads-up poker match, which the Czech businessman then reportedly lost back to Kirk in Las Vegas. After trading text messages between each other in an attempt to rectify the situation, the duo was unable to come to terms of repayment and are now trading lawsuits. Kirk filed a lawsuit to get his money back in Clark County Court in Vegas and Tsoukernik responded with his own lawsuit against not only Kirk but also Aria in Sin City to the tune of $ 10 million.

Tsoukernik’s defense is that Aria continually plied him with alcohol to the point that he was “physically and visibly impaired.” Kirk, he says, took advantage of him in that state and kept him at the table by continually loaning him money to continue the game. Additionally, Tsoukernik alleges that Aria blocked anyone from coming to his aid to rescue him from the game.

Normally this wouldn’t have been enough to draw the attention of the poker community, but recent actions by Tsoukernik seem to have irritated many. At this year’s World Series of Poker Europe, WSOP officials announced the return of the “Big One for One Drop,” the million-dollar buy in tournament that features the deepest pocketed pros in the poker world, to Las Vegas for 2018. During the announcement of the return of the event, WSOP officials also announced the first player who had put their deposit down on their seat in the event:  Tsoukernik.

This bit of news seemed to set off several players. On his platform with CardPlayer.com, Gavin Griffin sounded off with his thoughts on the issue. “It has to be clear to the World Series of Poker that this man is untrustworthy when it comes to poker,” Griffin wrote on their virtual pages. “Why, then, would they want to be associated with him in any way? He’s defrauding and scamming their customers on a regular basis and generally making the high stakes games that are frequented by these players much tougher to deal with. After all, in poker, if you can’t trust someone to pay you when you play, how can you play with that person?”

Never one to hold his opinion, Daniel Negreanu also responded on the issue. In a Tweet on his account, Negreanu ripped Tsoukernik in saying, “The ‘I was too drunk’ excuse is such horseshit. Besides, this is the SECOND time this guy stiffed someone (allegedly Tsoukernik had a similar situation with the defending champion of the “Big One,” Elton Tsang, in which he refused to pay him a million Euro debt)!” Poker’s living legend, Doyle Brunson, also backed up Kirk in a Tweet.

It was another frequent High Roller participant, however, who had the best thought on the issue. Bill Perkins, who has paid out untold amounts in poker and prop-betting losses to many in the poker world, offered his thoughts through Twitter. “I’ve lost endless trunks of money tired,” Perkins began. “It hurt paying but paid every time, even when I wasn’t tired.”

There is still plenty to be heard regarding this case. Whether Kirk or Tsoukernik’s lawsuits even have merit (there were no contracts signed other than their verbal communications) has yet to be established and Tsoukernik going after the Aria is probably not a good idea (one casino owner suing another? Not a good look). It also could have ramifications on the usage of the King’s Casino in the future for the WSOP (could they cancel their contract because of Tsoukernik’s actions?). Alas, we will have to wait for 2018 to see how it plays out.

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