Mike Postle, Stones Gambling Hall, Justin Kuraitis Sued by Players

  • $10 million lawsuit involves racketeering and conspiracy claim against Postle and and Stones Gambling Hall-employed collaborators
  • Probable cheating activity stretched 14 months, from July 2018 to September 2019
  • Statistical analysis of Postle's suspicious streamed performances to play a role in civil case
Stones Gambling Hall
Suburban Sacramento’s Stones Gambling Hall is one of the defendants in a $10 million fraud and conspiracy lawsuit. [Image: Stones Gambling Hall – Facebook]

25 poker players join initial filing

Mike Postle, Justin Kuraitis, and King’s Casino LLC, the parent company of California’s Stones Gambling Hall, have been sued today by 25 players who believe they were defrauded by Postle’s alleged cheating play during dozens of episodes of Stones Live poker cash games. Kuraitis was the director of the streamed program during the period in which the alleged cheating occurred.

The lawsuit asks for $10 million in damages resulting from a lengthy list of civil torts, including conspiracy, fraud, and — in the instance of one of the plaintiffs, Veronica Brill — libel. Brill first brought the cheating story to public attention, although her claims, according to a tweet posted on Stones’ social accounts, were “completely fabricated”.

The RICO claim also allows for possible trebled punitive damages, pushing the maximum award to $30 million. The lawsuit seeks a trial by jury and features lawyer and poker player Maurice “Mac” Verstandig as lead attorney. Verstandig will appear pro hac vice in this case, with California counsel Julian K. Bach officially filing the action. Attorney/poker pro Kelly Minkin and Pennsylvania lawyer William Pillsbury will also work on the plaintiff’s behalf.

“John Doe” defendants added

The lawsuit also names John Does 1-10 and Jane Does 1-10 as defendants. This inclusion allows other Stones employees and members of the Stones Live production team to be added to the lawsuit at a later date.

The case’s initial plaintiffs are Brill, Kasey Lyn Mills, Marc Goone, Kavroop Shergill, Jason Scott, Azaan Nagra, Eli James, Phuong Phan, Jeffrey Sluzinski, Harlan Karnofski, Nathan Pelkey, Matt Holtzclaw, Jon Turovitz, Robert Young, Blake Alexander Kraft, Jaman Yonn Burton, Michael Rojas, Hawnlay Swen, Thomas Morris III, Paul Lopez, Rolando Cao, Benjamin Jackson, Hung Sam, Corey Caspers, and Adam Duong.

The sessions spanned the period from July 2018 to September 2019

Each of these plaintiffs played in one or more of the 68 live-streamed sessions featuring Postle, in which cheating allegedly occurred. The sessions spanned the period from July 2018 to September 2019.

Postle played in a few streamed sessions between late May and late July 2019 that are not part of the cheating claims; extensive research and allegations published elsewhere suggest Kuraitis was not present at Stones during those excluded sessions. However, the claim does not specify Kuraitis as one of Postle’s cheating partners.

Conspiracy, fraud top claims list

The 34-page filing details nine separate claims of action filed against Stones Gambling Hall, Postle, and Kuraitis, either collectively or as singular allegations. Those claims and the specified defendants are as follows:

  • RICO Violation (Conspiracy) – against Mike Postle, plus John and Jane Doe defendants
  • Fraud – Postle, John and Jane Doe defendants
  • Negligent Misrepresentation – Postle, Stones Gambling Hall, Justin Kuraitis, John and Jane Doe defendants
  • Negligence Per Se – Postle, John and Jane Doe defendants
  • Unjust Enrichment – Postle
  • Negligence – Stones Gambling Hall, Kuraitis
  • Constructive Fraud – Stones Gambling Hall
  • Fraud – Stones Gambling Hall, Kuraitis
  • Libel – Stones Gambling Hall

The libel count on behalf of Brill over the “fabricated claims” seeks only a nominal $1,000 in damages plus allowable punitive awards.

All told, any damages won by the plaintiffs will be distributed on a pro rata basis among the plaintiffs. Each plaintiff would be awarded a share based on the number of minutes they spent at the table during the 68 streamed sessions where cheating allegedly occurred. Lead attorney Verstandig himself participated in one of the streamed games but is barred from being one of the plaintiffs under state and federal law. Nonetheless, he brings first-hand knowledge of the streamed games to the proceedings.

Lawsuit points to probable cheating methods

While thousands of poker observers’ internet comments have proposed innumerable schemes for how Postle’s alleged cheating occurred, the lawsuit hones in on the likeliest methods. According to the complaint, the cheating activity “involved Mr Postle’s cellular telephone being grasped by his left hand while concealed under the poker table and/or Mr Postle’s baseball cap being imbedded with a communications device creating an artificial bulge in its lining (that is notably absent in photographs of the same baseball cap on Mr Postle when he is not playing on Stones Live Poker).”

Postle’s phone, according to consensus, was used to receive either the RFID (card-identifying) data itself, a hijacked live stream, or text messages from collaborator(s) inside the Stones Live production team. Likewise, the alleged concealed listening device, possibly a bone-conducting headset, could have received direct voice communications from a collaborator monitoring each player’s hole cards in real time. A less likely scenario involves a text-to-voice conversion app running through Postle’s phone.

The lawsuit also accuses Stones of providing inadequate security for the entire streaming enterprise, thus creating the opportunity for Postle and any collaborators to cheat.

Suit will advance analytical conclusions

Dozens of individual hands showing suspicious betting patterns by Postle have already been preserved and analyzed. These hands will play an important role as the case moves forward. However, the fraud claims will also lean heavily on deeper statistical analyses showing Postle’s win rates to be far beyond the skills of even the elite professional players.

Verstandig wrote: “[The] Plaintiffs make their allegation of Mr Postle systematically, habitually and regularly cheating at Stones Live Poker games based not on a hunch or suspicion correlative to any one specific cheating device but, rather, based on a statistical analysis of his results and analytical review of the manner in which he played.” Numerous elite poker pros have offered third-party analyses of the situation, and some of these players could be called as expert witnesses.

Such a winning percentage… is not known to have been achieved by any other poker player

For example, the action notes that Postle posted a profit (usually of several thousand dollars) in over 94% of the cash games streamed from July 18, 2018 onward. “Such a winning percentage,” the claim notes, “under these confined circumstances in a streamed environment, is not known to have been achieved by any other poker player — professional or amateur — over such a significant period of time.”

The lawsuit also notes Postle’s customary practice of leaving the table immediately after the live stream ended. This further infers that Postle’s profits were due to being fed illicit information, since the purportedly juicy games usually continued on once the streaming ended.

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