Rob Yong, founder of UK card room Dusk Till Dawn, went on the record to reveal some behind-the-scenes details of the immediate aftermath of the now legendary late night high-stakes heads-up match between “Aussie” Matt Kirk and King’s Casino owner Leon Tsoukernik which has led to, now, the filing of multiple million-dollar lawsuits.
In summary, on May 27, 2017 Matt Kirk and Leon Tsoukernik played multiple hours of high stakes heads-up poker in which, by match’s end, Tsoukernik had been loaned and lost back $3 million to Kirk. After receiving $1 million of the sum, Kirk filed a lawsuit to claim he was still owed the remaining $2 million. Although he received a partial dismissal of the case, Tsoukernik is still technically on the hook for the alleged debt having to defend himself against the claims of “unjust enrichment” and “fraudulent inducement.”
With litigation escalating and after being named in new court documents, Yong took to his own blog to discuss everything he can recount about what went down between Kirk and Tsoukernik. According to Yong, the day after Kirk and Tsoukernik played, Yong was approached by Kirk and told about the match against Tsoukernik. Kirk expressed nervousness about not getting paid supposedly telling Yong that the game had gotten “out of hand” with Tsoukernik becoming very drunk and taking then losing back the $3 million loan. Yong goes on to state that Kirk claimed that even though he knew Tsoukernik was drunk, he didn’t quit Tsoukernik because he didn’t want to ‘hit and run’ and continued to play out of pressure from Tsoukernik himself.
Yong, having been in that situation with Tsoukernik himself, advised Kirk to give Tsoukernik “a small discount as a goodwill gesture” if he felt bad about the situation. The pair then settled on a proposed sum of $2 million in cash with $1 million of debt as a purse for a future heads-up match. Kirk asked Yong to mediate and Yong agreed.
Yong then states that upon meeting with Tsoukernik, the King’s Casino owner made assurances he would pay “whatever I lost” and when the original deal was offered Tsoukernik said something to the effect of “fine, whatever Matty wants.” Kirk and Tsoukernik then “hugged and shook hands” on the deal.
Less than a half hour later, Kirk called the deal off. Kirk was on the phone with someone, who apparently had the authority to call off the deal and did just that. Yong had to break the news to Tsoukernik, who was left exasperated. Left at that, after the Super High Roller Bowl, Yong returned home to the UK.
Days later both Kirk and Tsoukernik called Yong, together, stating that they came to a mutual understanding and that Kirk was willing to accept $1 million as a final payment to the whole ordeal. Yong said, “Eh, one million? Are you serious?!” but insisted that Kirk replied that it was all good and that he simply wanted to move on.
Another reversal occurred when Yong says Kirk called him via Skype later that same night, furious at Tsoukernik for lecturing him like ‘a kid’ about the perils of loaning drunk people money. Kirk reportedly said he only took the $1 million deal because he was so mad at how Tsoukernik spoke to him and that he, allegedly, vowed to use the $1,000,000 Tsoukernik paid him to “ruin Leon’s reputation around the poker world.”
Yong recounted his role in the affair to clear the air about his involvement and, in the end, stated that he would be happy to tell his tale under oath in a Nevada court on behalf of either party.
With that, the story takes it’s latest turn. On November 8, Tsoukernik filed a counterclaim against Kirk for $10,000,000 in damages asserting that Kirk did indeed ruin his reputation, among other charges including that Kirk played Tsoukernik despite it being open and obvious that he was visibly intoxicated to the point where Tsoukernik needed assistance in counting his chips, he was misreading his hands and was induced to play large sums for a longer period of time and in a manner that he wouldn’t have done if sober.
Additionally, Tsoukernik has filed to include the Aria Resort & Casino as a defendant in his counterclaim for, among other allegations, providing Tsoukernik with the alcohol to lead him to play in the manner he did, preventing the game from being an honest competition as well as claiming that there were individuals who attempted to help him leave Aria’s high stakes Ivey Room, but agents of the Aria stopped them from entering or removing him from the situation.
In addition to filing the counterclaim Tsoukernik released a statement about his latest actions:
“I have endured a significant amount of criticism from the poker community over the past several months. Today we filed a counterclaim against Matthew Kirk and a third-party complaint against the Aria. I have been advised to allow this matter to be resolved in court and I will. However, it is important to state my reasoning in pursuing this matter. Before any legal pleading was filed, I chose to resolve this matter amicably, with the help of several of the most respected members of the poker community. But, as a result of the behavior of Matthew Kirk and the third party defendant, I was taken advantage of and can no longer remain silent.
As a casino operator, I feel it is my obligation to never allow a patron to be treated as I was and to alert the poker community of the risks they take in situations like mine. I believe that my response shines light on some of the unethical practices that target poker players. It would be easy to remain silent and make a business decision but too much has been said and too much damage has been done for me to keep quiet.
I have great confidence in the United States judicial system. I will allow the legal process to speak for me from this point forward.”