Just when you might have thought the long saga centered on alleged poker cheater Mike Postle had reached its conclusion, it turns out a whole new chapter is being written. Last week, in something of a surprise development, Postle filed a defamation lawsuit against numerous defendants, all of whom accused Postle of cheating via very public podiums.
The list of those being sued by Postle is interesting. The lawsuit lists 12 named individuals and/or entities, along with “John Does 1 to 1000,” which technically gives leave for Postle and his attorneys to add virtually anyone in the poker world to the lawsuit, should they so choose. Here are the named defendants:
- Veronica Brill
- ESPN, Inc.
- Joey Ingram
- Haralabos Voulgaris
- Daniel Negreanu
- Upswing Poker
- PokerNews (iBus Media, Ltd.)
- Crush Live Poker (Seat Open LLC)
- Jonathan Little Holdings (“Poker Coaching”)
- Solve for Why Academy LLC
- Todd Witteles (“Poker Fraud Alert” forums)
- Run It Once, Inc. (owned by Phil Galfond)
Brill, the former player and announcer in the “Stones Live!” streamed cash games often featuring Postle, was virtually a mandatory starting point for any such suit of this nature. It was Brill who took her allegations against Postle public, thus launching the poker world’s interest in the entire Postle situation.
Brill’s inclusion also makes it just a touch harder to simply characterize and write off this lawsuit as a “SLAPP” (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) action, since all the defendants have joined in the discussion very publicly anyway. They’ve been incentivized more by the lawsuit to keep on pushing, which will be interesting to see. Yet had the suit lacked Brill, it would have been seen as such a ridiculous and blatant money grab it would’ve been laughed out of the courts. It still might go that way, of course.
Besides Brill, however, the lawsuit smacks of deep-pockets targeting. From the mega-billions-corporation ESPN on down — with the possible exception of Witteles and his tiny PokerFraudAlert.com forum, the defendants represent some of the very deepest-pocketed folks around who have offered thoughts on the entire Postle situation.
We’ve uploaded the entire complaint (below) so you can examine the many claims in detail, while the rest of this author’s commentary is more about the what and the why of the whole action. The action asks for a whopping $330 million in damages and injunctive relief from the collective defendants, while claiming seven different causes for action:
- Defamation – Libel Per Se
- Defamation – Slander Per Se
- Trade Libel
- False Light
- PokerNews (iBus Media, Ltd.)
- Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage
- Unfair Competition (under CA code)
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
The gist of the lawsuit is that Postle is no longer able to ply his trade as a professional cash-game player due to the claims and the overwhelming negative press thrown his way. The lawsuit had been promised by Postle’s counsel to be filed at the state level, in Sacramento Superior Court, though that court system is not as timely in updating its online system as the federal PACER portal, so it’s unclear as to when — and technically, even if — it’s been officially filed. We’ll presume, though, that it has.
Who Postle’s attorneys are is one of the curiosities here. The lawsuit was filed by a pricey, upscale lawfirm, Lowe & Associates, P.C., of Beverly Hills, CA. If you’ve ever driven on Wilshire Boulevard in that area, which I have, you’ve driven through a miles-long chain of mini-highrise office complexes stuffed full of elite business services. Upscale law firms populate that road by the dozens, if not the hundreds.
However, it seems implausible that a freelance cash-game player like Postle has the resources to retain a boutique law firm such as Lowe and Associates, which certainly bills at several hundreds of dollars per hour. Don’t forget that Postle represented himself in the lawsuit in California (he did have representation in Nevada), even if he was receiving unofficial help from a well-known Sacramento criminal attorney.
It’s also not very likely (though somewhat more likely than Postle funding this action up front), that Lowe & Associates took on this case on a contingency basis. Yes, the lawsuit asks for an extremely high damages amount, but other than ESPN, the other deep-pocket defendants aren’t that deep-pocketed. The asked-for damages are also offset by the reality that this lawsuit, in my opinion, is extremely unlikely to succeed on its merits. Winning a defamation/libel/slander lawsuit generally requires passing a three-prong test, one of which is whether the alleged defamers genuinely believed the claims being made — here, that Postle was cheating during those games.
Winning a defamation lawsuit generally requires proving that the defendants lied, and not only lied, but knew that they were doing so, with malicious intent. I just don’t see that. Though I think some of the anti-Postle vids were little more than cheap clickbait and weren’t exceptionally rigorous — Ingram’s come to mind — I see know evidence that they were intentionally fabricated. Still, we shall see.
In any event, this lawsuit might serve as a good reminder of the subtleties of language. I often sprinkle “alleged” in the pieces I write about the lawsuits and crimes and such that I cover, because until proven or adjudged guilty or whatever, the claimed wrongdoers are still just alleged to have done those misdeeds.
There’s also a subtle difference between writing or saying on a podcast, “He cheated,” as opposed to saying, “I believe that he cheated.” One avers a fact, the other offers an opinion, however strongly. Now, I believe that Postle cheated, and that hasn’t changed. Yet I allow this: When a true, full evaluation of all hands he played in those games ever emerges, we’ll all know the truth as far as statistical evaluation can reasonably determine. Both Postle and Run It Once owner Phil Galfond claim to be working on such data projects. I for one can’t wait to see the results.
Let’s jump back to that law firm represented Postle, though…. Assuming Postle can’t front the legal fees and that the firm didn’t take the case on contingency, the question then becomes, “Who’s footing the legal bill?” Really, in the greater view, there’s only one likely answer to that, and that’s the owners and parent entities behind Sacramento’s Stones Gambling Hall, where Postle’s alleged cheating occurred. The scandal killed off the “Stones Live” streamed games; the entire set was dismantled months ago. The scandal also had a negative effect on the room’s traffic.
Yet Stones corporate parent Kings Casino and the third defendant in the original California lawsuit, Justin Kuraitis, already reached a smallish settlement with roughly 70% of that case’s original plaintiffs. Having settled that action, it’d be difficult to go back and sue any of those players, with the exception of Brill, who declined to participate in the settlement.
Postle was excused from that earlier case on a technicality involving California’s gambling laws. Still, he alone could’ve sued all those other players, and yet — at least for now — he’d chosen not to. That’s curious. Instead, this lawsuit (and just possiblymaybeperhaps the money that might be behind it) goes after the larger poker outlets who offered pointed commentary on the situation.
One other possibility, brought to my attention after I first published this piece, is that the lawsuit is being financed by the same group that is reportedly constructing a documentary on the Postle saga as seen from Postle’s point of view and claims of innocence. Postle announced that documentary via social media couple of weeks ago, and those rumors (h/t to John Mehaffey) do have more of a Los Angeles connection: Producer Dave Broome and his 25/7 Productions firm are most famed for creating “The Biggest Loser” way back in 2004, and this could be the latest in a long string of (sur)reality projects, especially if Broome and others aren’t only filming the Postle story, but now possibly funding it as well.
Curious. That’s the word of the piece, curious.
There’s another theme running through the list of plaintiffs: There’s a focus on video commentary about Postle and the alleged cheating. Defendant by defendant, the torts claimed detail commentary offered by people on podcasts, video streams and the like, up to and including the comments made by ESPN Sportscenter host Scott Van Pelt in a brief segment some months back.
I’ve seen a few of the video pieces mentioned in the lawsuit, but not all of them; I’m more of a written-word person than a video watcher, by way of explanation. Here’s the entire Postle lawsuit. Unpack and digest at your leisure: