Matthew Kirk

If Leon Tsoukernik Really Did Stiff Matthew Kirk, He Needs to GTFO

I went to a sports bar last weekend with my brother and his female friend to watch some football (or hand egg to you non-Americans) and, it being lunchtime, we ordered a meal. We split loaded cheese fries, I had what was called the MOAB* and a soda, while my brother and his friend split…a Swedish meatball entree. I know that sounds strange at a sports bar, but they said it was quite good. Rather than going about all the math and splitting the check according to what we ate – particularly because there was sharing involved – my brother suggested I just pay with my credit card and he’d give me $20 cash. I agreed and the payments were made. Easy! Unfortunately, for King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik, simple monetary exchange agreements such as this don’t seem to be so simple and it’s casting a bit of a shadow on what should otherwise be a fun week in the poker world.

The issue at hand is Tsoukernik allegedly stiffing poker pro Matthew Kirk out of $2 million in loans. If it is all true, it is fucking bizarre and pretty god damn bold of Tsoukernik. As Haley Hintze briefly explained the other day, the two men were at a poker table together in May when Kirk passed Tsoukernik $3 million in chips. Security footage shows that at least two other people witnessed the exchange. In addition to oral confirmation, Tsoukernik acknowledged the receipt of the chips in the following text message exchange over the course of 72 minutes in the early morning hours of May 27th:

Kirk: Gave you 500k
Kirk: Gave you 1million
Tsoukernik: OK
Kirk: (paraphrased, as we don’t know the exact message) Sent 3 million total
Tsoukernik: OK

Now, I suppose that the above could somehow be considered less than definitive proof that the two men agreed that the chip exchange was a loan, but come on, it was a loan. Poker players engage in these sorts of transactions all the time – though not necessarily right there at the table and for that much money  – and besides, why would Kirk just gift the guy $3 million? Plus, there were witnesses and the exchanges are on camera, complete with a final handshake.

Twelve minutes after the final “OK,” Tsoukernik reversed course and wrote, “Not valid,” followed by, “0 now.”

What the fuck?

Did this dude, the owner of the casino where the World Series of Poker Europe is currently taking place, take $3 million from Matthew Kirk, agree that he was loaned the money, then immediately say, “Ha ha, fuck you, I don’t owe you shit?”

That takes some gigantic balls and a severe lack of scruples. It is downright Trumpian, frankly.

I guess this is all “alleged” so far, as nothing has been settled in court yet, but if it’s true, fuck this guy, seriously. If Leon Tsoukernik really did take $3 million from Kirk under the pretense that it was a loan (and he repaid $1 million of it, which would seem to indicate – to me at least – that he definitely knew it was a loan) and then immediately turn heel and refuse to pay it back because he knew gambling debts couldn’t be enforced in Nevada, then this dick should be ostracized from the poker community immediately. If he did what is alleged, he flat-out stole millions from Kirk.

As Hintze mentioned, Tsoukernik also allegedly owes a substantial sum to poker pro Elton Tsang.

What makes it all so much worse is that Tsoukernik was in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker so that he could promote his casino and its hosting of WSOP Europe. Caesars even setup a special high stakes area at the Rio called the King’s Cash Game Lounge to help him market his venue. And then the guy turns around and takes advantage of a poker pro.

On top of all that, the act of making the loan on the gaming floor at the Aria is against the law in Nevada, so Tsoukernik’s position as a VIP of sorts of Las Vegas this summer could very well get that casino in trouble.

Other people have been shunned in the poker community to one extent or another for failing to make good on poker debts or just flat out screwing poker players out of their money. We are all familiar with the likes of Chino Rheem, Erick Lindgren, Howard Lederer, and Chris Ferguson. While nothing can be done about letting them participate in poker games, their reputations – at the very least – have been severely damaged and most in the poker community want little to do with them (Lindgren may be a bit different in this case, as he did seek treatment for a gambling addiction).

Tsoukernik, if Kirk’s claims are correct, would hold a special place in the halls of poker assholery. This is a guy who worked a multi-year deal with Caesars to host the WSOP Europe and will be reaping the rewards, pulling in rake and all the other tangential revenue associated with hosting such a celebrated poker festival. He took advantage of his stature to bilk a player out of money, lots of money. If he wasn’t Leon Tsoukernik, it is unlikely Kirk would have dealt with him. If Caesars wasn’t helping him promote his casino, he might not have been in Las Vegas in May.

Any normal person would never think to do what Tsoukernik has allegedly done. He literally accepted a $3 million loan and minutes later told Kirk to fuck off! What, did he have his fingers crossed behind his back? What kind of asshole does this sort of thing?

If it is all true – again, I have to throw that “alleged” word in here – I sincerely hope Caesars has an out clause in its contract with King’s Casino for “behavior unbecoming” or something, because Tsoukernik should be persona non grata in the poker world from here on out.

*Before Donald Trump reads this and gets flushed, that’s Mother of All Burgers, not Mother of All Bombs.

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