Failed Australian Poker Backing Deal Results in Lawsuit Against James Hopkins
Another poker story emanating from Australia in recent days is a failed backing deal in which a related team of backers is suing an Aussie online pro (who in recent years has played from Canada) over lost investments. Australian poker player Aidan Hildebrandt, his brother Dylan, his mother Cristina Hildebrandt, and her partner Sarah Newton, are collectively suing online pro James Hopkins and Hopkins’ business entity, Pocket Punting Pty Ltd., for over $400,000 in a case likely to test whether backing deals can be enforced under Australian law.
Hopkins (at right), who has listed Brisbane, Australia as an official address, reportedly received an initial $40,000 from Aidan and Dylan Hildebrandt in January of 2018 to play poker events in Melbourne. Aussie news reports do not specify which events or series for which Hopkins received funding, but online records show Hopkins has cashed in numerous tourneys at Melbourne’s Crown Casino, home of the prominent Aussie Millions series. Indeed, Hopkins’ largest live cash of AUD $25,000 ($20,204 US) came in the 2018 Aussie Millions Main Event in late January of 2008.
The deep score may have provided hope to all involved that Hopkins was due to log other major poker scores. However, Hopkins has had little significant live success other than that cash, while continuously seeking further loans and deal refinancing from Hildebrandt and his family members. Local reports, including one from Australia’s Courier, do not detail all of the arrangements’ specifics, but they do raise the possibility of some hefty backing fees as part of the deal.
For instance, the reports assert that under the initial $40,000 backing deal, Hopkins was required to pay $14,000 in interest just three months later. Though this reporter is not up to speed on the finer points of Australian finance law, such extreme “effective” interest rates are often challenged in other developed countries as a form of usury.
According to the Aussie reports, the Hildebrandt family ended up making a series of 12 loans and refinancing arrangements with Hopkins through 2018 and 2019. Though Hopkins was able to make some partial payments against the debt, he fell further behind, which resulted in the Hildebrandts filing a claim for $400,450, including late fees and interest.
Hopkins has already begun an aggressive defense against the claims, claiming that he isn’t a semipro gambler, and that he has several psychological conditions that should nullify the deal. Claiming that he was an addicted gambler also suffering from ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and depression, Hopkins is claiming that he lacked the capacity to enter such a backing deal.
According to the Courier, Hopkins has even claimed in his defense that Hildebrandt was with him one evening at Crown when he dropped $100,000 at the casino. Such an episode, Hopkins asserts, proves that he’s a problem gambler who can’t be held accountable for his gambling debts.
That claim, ludicrous as it might seem, might work better than the argument that Hopkins wasn’t at least a online pro or semipro player. Hendon Mob results for James Hopkins show him with over $800,000 in online earnings amassed, spread over nearly 1,200 online cashes. Pocket Fives has the totals even higher, showing Hopkins with $1,074,566 in online winnings in 1,410 known cashes. According to P5s, Hopkins has played at length online on at least four sites, using his “cmon_gasquet” (PokerStars, GGPoker, ACR) and “scumgang” (PartyPoker) handles, in a career dating back to at least 2013.
Hopkins also had an account on Twitter (@pocket_punter) which has been deleted in the past 48 hours as news of the lawsuit became public.