The biggest poker scandal of the last few years has reached something like a conclusion, albeit not a very satisfying one. Roughly two-thirds of the plaintiffs seeking justice for alleged cheating by Mike Postle have agreed to a settlement. What the remaining plaintiffs have planned remains uncertain.
Postle himself has been in the clear, legally speaking, since Judge William B. Shubb dismissed the original case in June. Shubb said that gambling losses cannot be recovered in court under California law, even when one party has cheated.
However, he allowed the plaintiffs to file a new case against Kings Casino, owner of the establishment where the games took place. It is that second suit that has led to the settlement.
60 of 88 will take the money and walk away
There were 88 plaintiffs involved in the case, 60 of whom have agreed to the settlement. The deal was announced in mid-August and finalized this week.
Neither the plaintiffs nor the defendant have disclosed the amount of money they agreed upon, but it likely isn’t very much. The original lawsuit demanded $30 million total, $10 million apiece from Postle himself, Kings Casino, and poker room manager Justin Kuraitis.
However, the only argument Shubb had been willing to hear involved the poker room collecting rake from the players but failing to do enough in return to ensure game integrity. The amount of rake involved was certainly much less than the amounts won by Postle. The amount of the settlement is presumably lower still, and at least one person with inside knowledge has described it as “insignificant” once split between so many plaintiffs.
Among the 28 plaintiffs who did not accept the settlement is the original whistleblower, Veronica Brill. That has resulted in speculation that she may plan to continue the case on her own.
If Brill and the other plaintiffs do continue the case, however, it will be without gambling lawyer Mac VerStandig. He has until now served as council for the plaintiffs. However, he informed the non-settling group that he would be filing a motion to withdraw.
Dwindling options to pursue Postle
The consensus of the poker community on the Postle case is clear and nearly unanimous. The accusations involve a series of games played on live stream at Stones Gambling Hall on the outskirts of Sacramento.
Postle played in 69 such sessions and came out ahead in 62 of them according to the plaintiffs, though Postle’s defenders dispute that count. Along the way, he made so many non-standard but successful bluffs and calls that Brill, who played in some of those games and commented on others, became suspicious.
Numerous poker professionals then analyzed the videos and concluded that it was impossible for him to be playing so well, whether by skill or good luck. The only possible explanation, they said, was that he was receiving real-time information about opponents’ hole cards. Popular belief is that he received that information on his phone, from a partner working on the video stream.
Unfortunately, no matter how clear-cut the case seems to the poker community, there turned out to be little legal recourse. Attempts to pursue Postle for fraud, or charge him under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act all failed.
Brill also tried, and failed, to sue Stones for libel after the company tweeted that she had “fabricated” the story.
Could there be one chapter left to write?
Some of the plaintiffs who failed to agree to the settlement may have simply lost interest in the case. In discussing VerStandig’s intention to withdraw from the case, Shubb pointed out that some of the non-settling plaintiffs have “simply been non-responsive to counsels’ entreaties.”
That is presumably not the case for Brill, but her options to continue will be limited. She may simply find a new lawyer and attempt to wring a few more dollars out of Kings Casino through the original suit. Meanwhile, her feud with Postle has continued outside the courts. Theoretically, it could still find its way back into them. However, it would have to be for reasons unrelated to the original claims since the case was dismissed with prejudice.
More likely, however, she simply does not consider the settlement to be worth keeping her mouth shut in future. The settlement reportedly includes a mutual non-disparagement clause. By not accepting it, Brill reserves her right to continue taking Postle and Stones to task in public forums.
The remaining plaintiffs now have 20 days to file an amended complaint. We should know by early October, then, whether there’s any more of this story left to be written.
VerStandig issues a retraction
Following the settlement, VerStandig issued a statement absolving Kuraitis and Stones Gambling Hall, where the games took place.
After reviewing evidence with the cooperation of Stones, my co-counsel and I have found no evidence supporting the Plaintiffs’ claims against Stones, Stones Live Poker, or Justin Kuraitis. My co-counsel and I have found no forensic evidence that there was cheating at Stones or that Stones, Mr. Kuraitis, the Stones Live team, or any dealers were involved in any cheating scheme. Based on our investigation, we are satisfied that Stones and Mr. Kuraitis were not involved in any cheating that may have occurred.
Although the statement is presumably truthful, it should be read with the understanding that it was required of VerStandig as part of the settlement. It is simply an acknowledgment that VerStandig and the settling plaintiffs determined that they could not prove their accusations.
That hasn’t stopped Kuraitis from treating it as vindicating, however. He immediately lashed out at his critics in a Google document, circulated on his behalf by reputation management firm Digital Strategies. In it, he berated the Postle accusers for having, he claims, cherry-picked the data they used to determine that he had, in their eyes, cheated.
Based on the response on Twitter, it doesn’t appear as if anyone else is convinced. The legal saga may or may not be at an end, but the poker community has a long memory. The settlement and VerStandig’s statement notwithstanding, Postle and Kuraitis will be pariahs within the poker world, probably forever.