It wasn't long ago since we learned that Aussie poker pro Matthew Kirk had filed a lawsuit for over $3 million in unpaid loans made to King's Casino owner and EPT winner Leon Tsoukernik in a heads-up poker game at the Aria Resort and Casino (Las Vegas) in May (click here to read the full story).
In a recent interview with Calvinayre, another high stakes poker pro decided to speak out about Tsoukernik not paying back money owed. Elton Tsang, perhaps best known for his win of last year's One Drop tournament for $11 million, claims that Tsoukernik refuses to pay him around €2 million of the €3 million he won in one of Tsoukernik's private high stakes games during 2016 EPT Barcelona.
Large amounts of money changed owner in these private games, which were played with credits instead of cash. Despite the fact that several well-known pros particpated, it seems like Tsang's chances are small of getting his alleged winnings from Tsoukernik.
"He [Tsoukernik] was negotiating with me. He is the owner of a casino. He knows the gambling laws very well. He knows gambling debts are not enforceable in Europe. After a few weeks, Eddy Scharf [a German poker pro] contacts me to negotiate on his behalf. He told me to take the €1.2m because gambling debts are not enforceable in Europe and I am lucky he is offering me the €1.2m. I contacted some lawyers, and to be honest, they told me the same thing. Gambling debts aren't enforceable. The game that he hosted is not even legal even though we were inside the casino. It was a credit game, so I can't sue him for it," said Tsang.
Not even Tony G could help him solve the problem...
"Eventually, Tony G stepped in as the middle man - same result. Tony G sounded like he was on my side. I have played with him before. He said I know you didn't cheat. Leon will eventually realise he made a mistake, but it's probably in your best interest to take the €1.2m and then let the rest go".
Phil Ivey then convinced Tsang to take the €1.2 offered by Tsoukernik.
"I spoke to Phil Ivey and asked him what he would do. He said to take the €1.2m and ask for the rest after. I took the €1.2m. After that, Leon would send me texts asking me if I wanted to play in the game. He would invite me to the casino, wanting me to shake hands, and have a photo.
He was contacting me as if nothing had happened. Then the Matt Kirk thing happened. I thought about speaking up to the media before, but I was too busy with my life. When the Matt Kirk thing happened, I knew it was the time to speak up because it wasn't the first time he had done it.
To be honest, I'm not expecting him to pay me back. I think he is stubborn and strong in that sense. He has told me that he doesn't care if I tell the public. I believe he does. I think he wants the fame, to be cool, to be in the media. I have heard from others that he has done this to other people. I am afraid of what he will do back to me as well, right?"
Calvinayre contacted Tsoukernik for a comment following the interview with Tsang. Tsoukernik sent them the following statement:
I am both a casino owner and poker player. Both fields require skill and integrity. Also in both, I have been fortunate to yield significant results. King's Casino is the biggest poker room in Europe and this year we have the honour of hosting the WSOP Europe. I am not a professional poker player, but I love to play mainly high stakes cash game poker. That said, in tournaments, I placed 4th in this year's Super High Roller Bowl in Vegas and won the final EPT Super High Roller in Prague.
As much as I would like to specifically address the completely erroneous statements made by Elton I cannot due to the fact that I am involved in pending litigation. I will say this, Elton's account of the events is fiction and it fails to address the specific facts which lead to an extremely revealing and embarrassing situation for him. I will be more than happy to give a full and accurate account of his actions when it is appropriate.
I am not ashamed of what decades of hard work has earned me - it has afforded me the time and resources to play poker. As a poker player and individual, I believe in personal responsibility and accountability.
Unfortunately, I have come to learn that some people take advantage of knowing me and target me when I play poker cash games. I have thus experienced a variety of practices in the game which corrupt the sport of the game. For example, poker collusion, marked cards, and hired professionals. I have many stories to tell, but I prefer to fight it my own way with the support of the courts of justice and other poker entrepreneurs instead of fighting rumours and lies over the internet.
I believe in justice. People carrying out these actions know that the only way they can affect me is spreading their lies and stirring negative PR. I am not afraid of this. I have already won a court case concerning the ownership of the domain tsoukernik.com, which was purposely purchased by an Asian individual to share lies and blackmail me. The court, after getting all the evidence, confirmed without doubt my rights and the domain had to be transferred to my ownership.
For all the casino or poker entrepreneurs, what has happened to me in the past is very harmful behaviour that damages the industry and poker as a game. I will fight all the groups or individuals who use these practices to take unfair advantage of honest poker players. I have been approached by other successful businessmen who have faced similar situations and perhaps been targeted. Maybe all of them cannot, or do not want to fight. The fact that I have now been involved in two public scandals is solely because of my willingness to fight back.
I can't promise that there won't by another issue in the future because If I am wronged I refuse to accept injustice and quietly go away. For me, I hate to get cheated personally but also see it as a duty to stick up for other players that have and may in the future find themselves in a similar situation.