Posts Tagged ‘Decision’

Heartland Poker Tour Stop at Westgate Courts Controversy Over Alleged Buy-In Decision

 Heartland Poker Tour Stop at Westgate Courts Controversy Over Alleged Buy In Decision

The Heartland Poker Tour has a history as one of the most highly respected “mid-major” tournament circuits in the poker industry. It’s recent stop at the Westgate Las Vegas, however, has become mired in controversy over a decision regarding the buy-in for the tournament and the guarantee that was set.

Making its first return to Las Vegas since 2014, the Heartland Poker Tour was looking to make a big mark on the tournament poker scene with their $ 1650 buy in Main Event. That tournament featured three Day Ones that looked to build a prize pool that would eclipse the $ 500,000 guaranteed prize pool that was put on the event. With those numbers in mind, 334 entries had to be registered for that guarantee to be met.

The issues began late on Saturday afternoon at the Westgate. In a tweet from Jeremy Smith, the tournament director for the Heartland Poker Tour, it became known that there were only 300 or so players on the tournament clock counter with late registration running out (opened until 7:30PM Pacific Time). That meant that, with slightly more than an hour left in late registration, the Westgate and the Heartland Poker Tour were looking at about a $ 70,000 overlay.

The next move, allegedly by the Westgate, is what has set the controversy off. While the players were on dinner break – and late registration was technically still open until the players returned from that break – it is alleged that the Westgate offered to allow players to buy into the tournament for slightly more than half the original price ($ 850 instead of $ 1650). The resulting turmoil drew in several names in the poker community debating the issue and, additionally, Tweets on the subject that were alleged to have been deleted by people with a stake in the game.

Noted poker curmudgeon Allen Kessler brought the subject up on his Facebook page, bringing up the alleged deleted Tweets and the discounted tournament. Surprisingly World Series of Poker bracelet winner and runner-up to Greg Raymer in the Championship Event of 2004 David Williams backed whomever made the decision to offer the discount, saying “If the prize pool is accounted for, who f*****g cares?”

Other members of the poker community didn’t agree on who to lay the blame for the “discounted” entry. At first many were dismissive of the Heartland Poker Tour but, as more info came out, it shifted over to the Westgate. It was alleged that the Westgate made the decision to offer the reduced buy-in to reduce the overlay that they would have been on the hook for.

So why the hubbub over the alleged issue? There apparently were over 300 players who had to pay the whole entry fee – $ 1650 – to enter the event and have a shot at the $ 500,000 guaranteed prize pool. Then along comes a smaller group – let’s say there were enough that the guarantee was met, 30-35 players or so – who only paid $ 850 to have the same shot at the $ 500,000 guarantee. That seems to be the crux of what much of the complaints have been about.

One thing that poker players tend to forget – and tournament poker players also – is that the host casino can pretty much change the rules at any time when it comes to their operations. House rules can deviate greatly from poker room to poker room and, when it comes to tournaments, many events have a sweeping “cover” for its actions. Normally it in small print near the bottom of a flyer – “casino retains the rights to change and/or cancel events as they see fit.” This little clause is what allows many casinos the right to make massive adjustments to their tournaments – such as offering discounted buy-ins to meet a guarantee – or cancel those events outright if there aren’t enough people entering the tournament.

As of press time neither the Heartland Poker Tour nor the Westgate Las Vegas has returned overtures from Poker News Daily regarding the situation. There also has been no contact with the public over their respective Twitter or Facebook feeds to offer an explanation. Poker News Daily will continue to watch the situation and, if a communique is received from either entity, update accordingly.

UPDATE:  Approximately 3PM (Pacific Time) on Sunday afternoon Smith, the tournament director for the HPT, issued a quasi-statement over Twitter in reply to several people who asked him about the decision to allow players to buy in for less than the stated amount. “This has never happened before (in the history of the HPT),” Smith stated to one person. In replying to World Poker Tour Executive Tour Director Matt Savage, Smith expressly stated that, “I had no say in this…it was a Westgate decision.”

The Westgate Las Vegas also decided to issue a statement at roughly the same time as Smith. In their Twitter statement, the Westgate stated, “(At the) end of registration for the HPT Main Event, we chose to pay a portion of the entry fee for select VIP. Full $ 1,650 entries accounted for in the $ 500k main event…Westgate is upholding all prize packages & guarantees are being upheld.  Good luck to the participants.”

Finally, the tournament reached 316 full $ 1650 buy ins, falling short of the $ 500,000 guarantee.

The post Heartland Poker Tour Stop at Westgate Courts Controversy Over Alleged Buy-In Decision appeared first on Poker News Daily.

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Judge’s Decision Mixed in Poker Pro’s Lawsuit Against King’s Casino Owner

 Judge’s Decision Mixed in Poker Pro’s Lawsuit Against King’s Casino Owner

A Clark County, Nevada District Court Judge isn’t making it easy for Australian poker pro Matthew Kirk to get $ 2 million back from King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik, but she did leave the window open a crack for Kirk to keep trying. In a decision on Friday, District Judge Linda Marie Bell tossed out all but two of ten claims from a lawsuit Kirk filed against Tsoukernik in July from a disagreement stemming from a chip transaction made at an Aria poker table.

It is very common for poker players to loan each other money and this is often done by simply handing over some poker chips. There is an honor code of sorts among players and if someone doesn’t repay what they borrowed, good luck getting along with anyone in the poker community for a while.

It was a supposed poker chip loan in May that is the center of this controversy. As reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Kirk and Tsoukernik were playing in Ivey’s Room at the Aria and Kirk passed stacks of $ 500,000 and $ 1 million in chips to the King’s Casino owner with at least two other people present. Kirk’s attorneys obtained the security video showing the chips being exchanged and witnesses sitting at the table.

Documenting the transactions for proof, Kirk texted Tsoukernik at 4:34am, “Gave you 500k.”

About half an hour later, he texted, “Gave you 1million.”

Tsoukernik replied after the second text, saying, “Ok.”

At 5:46am, Kirk texted that he had given Tsoukernik a total of $ 3 million, to which Tsoukernik also responded, “Ok.”

So it all seemed pretty cut and dry. While the texts didn’t outright say that the $ 3 million was a loan and needed to be repaid, it is understood. After all, why would Kirk just give the guy millions of dollars?

But then, at 5:58am, Tsoukernik oddly wrote, “Not valid,” following that up with, “0 now.”

“The defendant has committed a fraud upon the plaintiff,” Kirk’s lawyers wrote in the lawsuit. “Those text messages indicate that defendant never intended to pay his loans.”

Somehow, Tsoukernik’s attorneys were able to convince the judge that the $ 3 million (Tsoukernik actually paid $ 1 million of it back) was a gambling debt, rather than a loan. As such, the judge ruled that gambling debts were not enforceable.

The two claims Judge Bell did not throw out were fraudulent inducement and unjust enrichment.

“Tsoukernik entered into the contract intending to use its unenforceability to refuse repayment. If proven, this could place Mr. Tsoukernik at the greatest moral fault in this matter,” she said.

Thus, as the Review-Journal reports, Kirk’s lawyers are going to continue to go after Tsoukernik for the $ 2 million, claiming that he took the money never planning on paying it back, knowing he could fall back on the fact that gambling debts can’t be enforced to just keep it.

An interesting tidbit here is that Tsoukernik’s King’s Casino is hosting the World Series of Poker Europe, which begins Thursday. As high stakes cash game table at the Rio during the WSOP this summer was named for the casino as a way to advertise for WSOP-E.

Cover photo credit: WPT via Flickr

The post Judge’s Decision Mixed in Poker Pro’s Lawsuit Against King’s Casino Owner appeared first on Poker News Daily.

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Split Decision on Phil Ivey/Borgata Lawsuits

 Split Decision on Phil Ivey/Borgata Lawsuits

After hearing evidence from both parties in the complicated case, a judge in U. S. District Court has issued a split decision on the case involving poker professional Phil Ivey and the Borgata in Atlantic City. That split decision has left any final financial decisions completely up in the air as to which party will emerge victorious.

Per’s John Brennan, U. S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman issued a rather intriguing decision after months of legal wrangling between Ivey and the Borgata. The case dates to 2012 when Ivey, looking to play high stakes baccarat in Atlantic City, was able to get the casino to acquiesce to many of his requests for a game. Some of those requests were to have a singular eight deck shoe of cards (down to the brand, Gemaco Borgata) and a private playing area provided; that a dealer fluent in Mandarin Chinese act as the dealer; that the deck be shuffled after every hand and that Ivey be allowed to have a “companion,” Cheng Yin Sun, join him at the table. In each case, Ivey’s request was granted.

Over four different occasions, Ivey and Sun journeyed to Atlantic City and, while in action, Sun would speak to the dealer in Mandarin Chinese that Ivey would like cards turned in a particular manner, supposedly as a “superstition” of his. Once again, the dealer and the Borgata acquiesced to the request and play continued onward. Over the span of 107 hours of play and betting $ 50,000 per hand, Ivey and Sun racked up winnings of $ 9.6 million against the Borgata.

The problem came with payment. After the Borgata learned that Crockfords in the United Kingdom had also been visited by Ivey and Sun (the difference only being that, in London, Ivey and Sun were playing a baccarat variant, punto banco) and, after almost $ 12 million had been won by the duo, refused to pay out, the Borgata followed suit. This brought about the legal action from Ivey, who claimed to have committed no infraction and won the money legitimately, and a countersuit from the Borgata claiming malfeasance.

In the discovery and interview process, it was determined that Ivey and Sun were utilizing “edge sorting,” or a method of identifying cards because they were miscut at the factory (well explained by my colleague and friend Dan Katz here). In Ivey’s opinion, the usage of such a technique was an “advantage” play, or a shifting of the odds from the casino’s favor to his (much like card counting in blackjack, another legal move that is frowned upon by the casinos). The Borgata countered that Ivey and Sun deceived the casino and its personnel and that, in fact, the usage of edge sorting was illegal.

Judge Hillman saw merit in each side’s arguments and adjudicated them accordingly. As to the Borgata’s contention that Ivey and Sun used an illegal means to win, Hillman said no. “To meet the elements of fraud, the Borgata must show that Ivey and Sun made a material misrepresentation and that the Borgata relied upon that misrepresentation to its detriment,” Hillman wrote. In his opinion the Borgata, through granting the requests that Ivey asked for, “trusted Ivey” and tried to “profit at (his) expense (as Ivey was trying to do against the casino).”

Ivey didn’t escape Judge Hillman’s gaze, however. Hillman determined that the usage of the “edge sorting” technique employed by Ivey and Sun – and the turning of the cards by the dealer so that they could be identified – “led the cards to be ‘marked’ even though neither player ever touched the cards themselves.” Hillman wrote. In stating that Ivey and Sun’s contentions that they weren’t “marking” the cards per se, Hillman determined that Ivey and Sun’s idea of a “marked” card “is too narrow. By using cards they caused to be maneuvered in order to identify their value only to them, Ivey and Sun adjusted the odds of baccarat in their favor. This is in complete contravention of the fundamental purpose of legalized gambling as set forth by the (New Jersey) CCA (Casino Control Act).”

On the Ivey case, Hillman sided with all the claims presented except for breach of contract and, as to the Borgata countersuit, found in favor of the breach of contract claim but tossed all other actions. Hillman also set a firm, 20-day window that the Borgata will submit briefs requesting damages from Ivey and Sun’s breach of contract and, 20 days after that, Ivey and Sun will respond to that submission.

The split decision is perhaps a way for Hillman to force the two parties back to the negotiating table to hammer out a settlement in the case. As it sits now, it is possible that there will be a resolution of all the actions regarding the 2012 Ivey/Borgata case by the end of this year.

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Appeal Against Borgata “Chipgate” Tournament Decision Fails

 Appeal Against Borgata “Chipgate” Tournament Decision Fails

After more than 30 months of wrangling over the case, a court in New Jersey has denied the appeal of a group of players who took part in the “Chipgate,” reaffirming the decision by the casino and state gaming regulators as to how to settle the tournament.

In a hearing in front of the Appeals justices, the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement and the Borgata, the Atlantic City casino where the situation took place, maintained that the final decision they had rendered on the case (more on this in a moment) was the fairest way to handle what was a highly unique situation. Attorneys representing as many as 4000 players maintained that the original decision was flawed and that the DGE and the Borgata should have included the players in making any decision. A previous court had dismissed the case, but the appeal to the three-judge Appellate court was heard and a decision rendered earlier last week.

After hearing these arguments last Monday, that three judge panel consisting of New Jersey Appellate Judges Jack Sabatino, Allison Accurso and Amy O’Connor, ruled that the decision by the New Jersey DGE and the Borgata “reasonably chose to ensure that every entrant possibly affected by Lusardi’s illegal conduct got their entry fee back; that prize winners kept their prizes and that the remaining 27 players shared equally in the remaining funds without unfairly penalizing any,” the justices wrote in their unanimous (per curiam) decision. “Although the plaintiffs’ disappointing experience in this aborted tournament is regrettable, the Division’s response to the situation was fair, and plaintiffs present no legal basis for their claims seeking further enhancement of their recovery,” the panel decided.

For those that might have forgotten, the January 2014 opening event of the Borgata Winter Poker Open was set to be a huge tournament. The $ 560 buy-in event had several starting days in an attempt to best a guaranteed prize pool of $ 2 million. Eventually, the tournament would shatter that mark in building up a $ 2.4 million prize pool. Prior to the start of Day 2 of the tournament, however, Borgata officials halted the tournament (and then eventually canceled it) that had reached the final three tables.

After a couple of days of investigation by the Borgata and New Jersey gaming officials, the problem eventually came to light. A player in the tournament, Christian Lusardi, had introduced approximately 800,000 in fake tournament chips into the proceedings. This was discovered after Lusardi, concerned that he was about to be nabbed for the crime, dumped another 2.7 million in counterfeit chips down the commode of his hotel room at Harrah’s in Atlantic City and clogged the pipes.

Lusardi was quickly apprehended and sentenced to jail for five years in 2015 (not for this crime, however, but for a federal violation of piracy and copyright laws), but the players who were left in the tournament – and those that had taken part in the event – were left in the cold as to how to finish off the tournament.

Soon after the tournament had been officially canceled by the Borgata, a group of players who took part in the event filed a class action lawsuit against the Borgata. The player group charged that the casino had inadequate staff and security for the tournament, that the Borgata ignored player comments regarding the fake chips and that the casino didn’t conduct a chip count on a regular basis, which would have exposed the Lusardi chip scam sooner. The lawsuit looked to have all entry fees refunded and travel and lodging expenses recouped for the players.

The lawsuit gained ground when the Borgata and New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement released their decision on the conclusion of the tournament. In April 2014, it was determined that the Borgata would have to pay roughly 2150 players their $ 560 entry fee; that the remaining 27 players would divvy up the remaining prize pool to the tune of $ 19,323 and that those who had cashed in the event got no additional money.

Attorneys for the players have not indicated at this time whether they will appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court for further adjudication or not.

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Evidence Supports Push from Sheldon Adelson in Nevada AG’s Decision to Support RAWA

 Evidence Supports Push from Sheldon Adelson in Nevada AG’s Decision to Support RAWA

The news two days ago that Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt would be signing a letter from other AG’s in support of the federal ban regarding online gaming and poker came as a stunner. Not only did it surprise the online gaming and poker communities – and the casinos that support online gaming – but it particularly surprised Laxalt’s bosses in the state house and Governor’s quarters in Carson City. Evidence has now come to light that demonstrates that Laxalt may be directly influenced by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his continued drive to ban online gaming and poker.

Laxalt came out on Tuesday supporting the federal bill regarding the banishment of online gaming and poker, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) of 2016, putting out some flimsy arguments as to why he was taking the action. “Congress spoke on this issue (online gaming) and has an existing Wire Act,” Laxalt stated toJon Ralston on his show Ralston Live. Laxalt would then go on to state that further reasoning for his support was the factor that “it was an overreach by the executive branch” into the issue.

All of this is despite the current stance of the state of Nevada regarding the subject. One of three states to have passed online gaming regulations (albeit only for online poker), Nevada’s governor Brian Sandoval wasn’t pleased with his AG stepping outside the lines as he did. As reported earlier this week here at Poker News Daily, Sandoval stated that he was “very concerned that anyone representing the state’s legal interests would speak out against current state law in our leading industry.” Sandoval also stated he disagreed with Laxalt’s vision of state’s rights versus federal legislation.

Looking a bit further into the issue, however, there is evidence to state where Laxalt’s decision came from. According to campaign contributions for Laxalt’s 2014 run for Attorney General, Adelson and his wife each are listed as donating the most possible for an individual donation ($ 10,000) and the Venetian Casino Resort and the Las Vegas Sands Corporation – properties owned by Adelson – also donated $ 10,000 each (in fair disclosure, Boyd Gaming, the Bellagio, MGM Resorts International and poker professional Cary Katz also donated the maximum to his campaign). This doesn’t include any contributions from political action committees (PACs) such as NV Jobs PAC and the New Nevada PAC, which received almost $ 500,000 from Adelson.

Laxalt also has a personal connection to Adelson’s operations. According to reports from’s Haley Hintze, one of the major lobbying firms behind Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) is j3 Strategies. Millions of dollars have been pushed through this organization to lobby against potential laws in California and Pennsylvania (j3 Strategies lists the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and the CSIG as their first two clients). The lobbying group was behind mailings to Pennsylvania residents against current plans in the state to regulate online gaming and poker and a jerry-rigged opinion poll against online poker. They were also critical in getting Laxalt elected to the Attorney General’s office in 2014.

The founder and president of j3 Strategies is Robert Uithoven, who just happens to be a sitting board member on the CSIG. Uithoven, according to Hintze, actually testified on behalf of the CSIG during hearings in California earlier this year regarding online poker regulation. But what is astounding – and makes Laxalt’s denials of ties to Adelson hard to believe – is a statement from Laxalt himself and the identity of one of the members of j3 Strategies.

According to the j3 Strategies website (in blue at the bottom of the page), there are two “testimonials” as to the work of j3 Strategies. One is from Andy Abboud, who says the Las Vegas Sands Corporation has “relied on the counsel” of Uithoven in their “political and public policy initiatives.” The second is from Laxalt himself, which states, “We pulled off one of the most monumental victories in Nevada’s political history and it was done through the development of a thoughtful political plan, focused determination, and steady guidance every step along the way. I was proud to have Robert Uithoven by side through it all, helping build and lead my campaign team and oversee the execution of our campaign. He was always accessible and his daily counsel helped us secure a campaign victory that no political pundit in Nevada dared predict.”

Then there is one person that is employed by j3 Strategies. Listed as one of the members of the organization (of four, with the other three serving legal or promotional purposes) is Tessa Laxalt, who is by definition the only person listed as a registered “lobbyist” for j3 Strategies and who is the sister of Adam Laxalt (technically half-sister, but that’s not important here; let’s just say the family history is convoluted). j3 Strategies state that the female Laxalt has worked with the Las Vegas Sands Corporation as a lobbyist, but only after completing her internship with the Nevada Legislative Session earlier this year.

Laxalt denies any ties to Adelson or his CSIG, but it is difficult to believe him after the evidence is presented. It becomes even more difficult when he seems to be following a key piece of Adelson’s federal legislative efforts despite what his own state – and his fellow Republican governor – has decided as a course of action. These instances show that the effects of “crony capitalism” stretch down to the actions in the state legislatures, not just the halls of federal government.

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