Old Times, Old Memories: Glen Chorny Sues Poker Battle Founder Philippe Rouas

Peppered across a handful of poker-news headlines this week, amid many larger, ongoing news arcs. is a curious item: A lawsuit filed by Canadian poker player Glen Chorny against Philippe Rouas, the entrepreneur behind the Poker World Society and “Poker Battle” concepts that splashed onto the scene back in 2008.

A bit of bacground is in order. Chorny emerged from almost nowhere to capture the 2008 EPT Grand Final, held in Monte Carlo in April of 2008.  This was a big score, for a little over €2 million, or almost US $3.2 million as the exchange rates had it back then.  And for a little while, Chorny was a “name” player, entered in all the biggest events, and a big-name follow on the poker scene.

Philippe Rouas in one of the more modest "Poker Battle" t-shirts.

Philippe Rouas in one of the more modest “Poker Battle” t-shirts.

Yet by the end of 2009 Chorny was virtually gone from the big-event poker scene, and he’s only had a handful of tourney questions since.  So where did Chorny’s millions go?  According to the lawsuit, which was first filed back in May, several of them — 3.77 of them, in millions of US dollars, to be exact — went to Rouas and his Poker Battle dreams.

Let’s allow a couple of excerpts from the lawsuit, in the words and allegations of Chorny’s attorney, to shed some light on what supposedly occurred:

7. In or around 2008, Rouas approached Chorny about a potential investment opportunity involving online poker.

8. Effective May 19, 2008, Chorny entered into a Nondisclosure and Confidentiality Agreement (“Nondisclosure Agreement”) with Indiana corporation Rouas Entertainment, Inc. (“Rouas Entertainment”) which, on information and belief, is owned and operated by Rouas.

9. The purpose of the Nondisclosure Agreement was for Rouas Entertainment to provide confidential information to Chorny for the limited purpose of exploring and maintaining a business and creative relationship between Rouas Entertainment and Chorny.

10. The Nondisclosure Agreement provided that it was to be governed and construed in accordance with Indiana law, and Chorny and Rouas Entertainment consented to the jurisdiction of a court in Marion County, Indiana with regard to any claim arising from or with respect to the Nondisclosure Agreement.

11. After execution of the Nondisclosure Agreement, Rouas convinced Chorny to purchase 10 million units of Poker World in exchange for $3.2 million. Those 10 million units represented 10% of the total units in Poker World.

12. In order to persuade Chomy to make that investment, Rouas represented that Poker World would launch a lifestyle, retail and gaming brand called “Poker Battle.” The primary revenue generator, Rouas said, would be an online Poker site where Poker World could charge players to play poker on its website. Rouas stated that the “sky’s the limit” and that even if they only captured 10% of the market for online gaming, Poker World could net over $1 million a day.

13. In making these representations, Rouas failed to disclose that Poker World did not own the brand Poker Battle that Rouas was proposing Poker World market, but that the trademark for that brand was instead owned by Rouas Entertainment. Rouas also failed to disclose that he had no opinion of counsel that his online gaming proposal was legal.

14. Not knowing these facts, Chorny agreed to make the $3.2 million investment over a 9-month period. In accordance with that agreement, Chorny wired funds to Poker World on the following dates and in the following amounts:

June 9, 2008 $500,000;
July 7, 2008 $500,000;
August 27, 2008 $1 ,000,000;
October 20, 2008 $500,000;
December 10, 2008 $500,000;
March 31, 2009 $200,000.

15. During the course of these payments, on August 5, 2008, Rouas sent Chorny two Poker Battle logos in different colors. He represented that the logo trademark was owned by Poker World, which representation was untrue.

16. In or around October 2008, Rouas provided Chomy with a share certificate dated October 6, 2008 for Poker World, showing Chorny as owning 10 million out of 100 million units.

17. In early 2009, Rouas asked Chorny to invest further in Poker World, this time in the form of loans. Rouas claimed he was in negotiations that would result in significant promotion of the brand Poker Battle. Rouas failed to disclose that, about the same time, an attorney he had hired was still unsure if the online gaming site that Poker Battle was supposed to be launching was legal.

18. Not knowing that fact, Chorny went on not only to make the final payment on his $3.2 million purchase of LLC units in Poker World, but to loan an additional $570,000, as follows:

February 4, 2009  $150,000;
June 30, 2009  $120,000;
August 4, 2009  $300,000.

19. In total, Chorny sent Poker World sent Poker World $3.77 million in the form of equity and debt investments in Poker World and its development of Poker Battle.

20. Throughout the time the investments were being made, Rouas continued to correspond with Chorny regarding what he claimed were promising developments in the operations of Poker World and the launch of the Poker Battle brand. …

It goes on from there, with the continuing tale of how in early 2010, finally cognizant of the legal fact that the real-money “Poker Battle” site was never going to fly in the States, Rouas allegedly switched his marketing target to Europe.

From there, events connected to Rouas and Poker Battle grow spotty, according to Chorny’s lawsuit.  The Nevada business registration for Rouas’s company was revoked in 2011, and Rouas didn’t inform Chorny of that little problem.

In 2013, Rouas sent Chorny a couple of new “Poker Battle” logos — a helluva good return on that $3.77 milly after five years, if you ask me.

In 2015, via phone, Rouas told Chorny that the assets of parent company Poker World were going to be sold to an unnamed “group of Native Americans,” for $2.5 million, and that Chorny would get 10% of that, or $250,000.  Chorny never got that, either, but if the allegations are to be believed, it was all a lie anyway:

31. On information and belief, all of the representations made by Rouas over the last 6 years about activities being pursued on behalf of Poker World have been false. In fact, on information and belief, Poker World ceased all operations in late 2009 or early 2010.

32. Chorny never has received a return on his investment or a return of his initial investment.

33. Rouas took active steps to prevent Chorny from discovering his fraud, including sending Chorny falsified business records showing that Poker World remained viable and had hundreds of millions of dollars of projected revenues, concealing from Chorny that Poker Battle was illegal, sending Chorny trademarks for Poker Battle that Poker World did not own, continuing to correspond with Chorny using a Poker Battle email address after Rouas knew Poker Battle was illegal and, as late as March, 2015 representing that assets of Poker World had been sold and that Chorny would receive 10% of the sale proceeds because Chorny owned 10% of Poker World.

Well, yeah.  As far as anyone knew, Poker Battle was a crap-ass concept that was dead by sometime in 2009.  And all this, this lawsuit seven years later, is the seeming evidence that Chorny was a big-time mark and he was gutted by Rouas for a good chunk of his net worth.  It’s hard to fathom that Chorny somehow convinced himself for several years after the fact that Poker Battle was still viable, when even a middling level of digging on the net would have shown that things really weren’t what they seemed.

According to a feature some ten days ago in the Indy Star that first publicized the existence of this lawsuit, Rouas, a naturalized French citizen who’s made his home in the US for a couple of decades, was an entreprenurial sort of restaurateur who came out on the other end of a couple of legal scrapes in that industry before turning to the poker world last decade.

The thing is, I had a bit of contact with Rouas at the WSOP last decade, when he and a couple of associates were in Vegas for the WSOP.  (One of them might have been Michael Nahass, who is also mentioned in the Chorny lawsuit, but Rouas is the only one I remember with distinction.)  I was with PN at the time, and I and a couple of others were assigned a couple of various tasks to do in connection with an extended ad deal that PokerBattle had planned with PN.  One of the informal little meetings we had was held in the bird’s nest room that sits above the Tropical Room and looks down upon it through a little window that’s up there.

I was charged with putting together some of the treacly promotional features that unfortunately come with the job.  One of those nasty things ran that August, a month or so after the main part of the WSOP ended, and I don’t remember hearing about Poker Battle or Philippe Rouas much at all after that.

pokerbattlelogoAnd it was one of those little nagging questions that I had in the back of my mind for quite some time, but eventually forgot about.   The next summer, at the ’09 WSOP, I had occasion to drive by Poker Battle’s “official” business location in Las Vegas, a forlorn little storefront over on Dean Martin Drive on the opposite side of I-5 from the Bellagio, not far from where the Panorama Towers now stand.  It was never open that I saw, and it left my curiosity unanswered.

My biggest curiosity of course, was where the fuck-all did Philippe Rouas get the money to launch all this stuff in the first place.  He was a bit “spendy” in how he carried himself that summer, and I could embellish that, but won’t.  Nice enough guy, but definitely on the hustle.  Looking for more Chorny-style marks, is what I’d call it, with seven or eight years’ worth of hindsight.

The modern-day reports don’t really do justice to the splashiness of Poker Battle’s launch.  Armed with a couple of million of Chorny’s dollars, Rouas and Co. signed quite a lineup.  That August, straight from the Poker Battle guy I worked with, I had the complete list: Nenad Medic, Scotty Nguyen, Glen Chorny, Chris Ferguson, David Williams, Noah Schwartz, David “Chino” Rheem, Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi, Rob Mizrachi, Eric Mizrachi, Evelyn Ng, Tiffany Michelle, Nam Le, Steve Song, Patryk Hildebranski, Johnny Chan, Jean Robert Bellande, Wayne and Emeline Boich, John Phan and Alan Smurfit.

There was also this:

Poker Battle has also announced preliminary plans for its own Poker Battle Pro Tour, to begin in Las Vegas in the second quarter of 2009. The high-stakes series will include five events, with the ultimate winner at the Poker Battle championship table slated to receive a hand-crafted platinum-and-precious-stones necklace and a guaranteed winner’s prize of $5 million. More details on this series will be announced at a later date.

Yeah, that never happened either.  Still, seeming legit at first, and splashing money everywhere, they signed a bit of talent from the industry side, too, even sweet-talking veteran TD Charlie Ciresi away from his long-running WSOP gigs for a short while.  Charlie eventually got back in with the WSOP, after the Poker Battle disaster.

poker-battle-logo

Poker Battle’s logo, hokey even by 2008 standards

The thing was, the whole Poker World / Poker Battle concept was one of those propositions that looked like a beached whale from the start, not that I was exactly allowed to air those opinions.  It couldn’t have been hard to find a “poker pro” willing to accept a check for tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for wearing the cheesy and exorbitantly overpriced “Poker Battle” gear, and I don’t think that one player in a hundred even thought the shirts and such were stylish or attractive.

(And yes, it was another failed poker venture that once had Michael Mizrachi as an endorser.  That guy’ll rep anything for a paycheck, it’s always seemed; the “Grinder” seems to have exactly his nickname’s effect on poker-business startups, but that’s a reminiscence for another time.)

Still, the whole Poker Battle thing as a profit-making venture seemed sketchy at best, or at least that’s the way I saw it, way back in 2008.  That left that horrid clothing line as Poker Battle’s only concrete revenue stream, as if tens of thousands of style-deficient poker players were queuing up just to buy it.

It’s sad to see that someone as talented as Chorny may well have his poker career waylaid by his involvement with Poker Battle, if his allegations are indeed true.  And it’s also a story that in poker, the sharks are often everywhere, not just at the table.

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