Last Monday, High Stakes Poker Player Alex Foxen publicly accused fellow High Stakes Player Ali Imsirovic of cheating. The allegations range from looking at an opponent’s hole cards to chip dumping and using RTA (Real-Time Assistance). There is also a push to gets these players put on a Poker Blacklist which would effectively ban them from playing poker around the world. I am a recreational player myself meaning I sometimes play in tournaments with pros. However, I am an amateur (I once won a ticket to the World Series of Poker Main Event). This article will cover the legal implications of those allegations.
Alex Foxen alleged last Monday on Twitter to noticing Ali’s eyes were wondering.
If you watch the video in the thread, it does appear Ali’s eyes wander towards his opponent’s hole cards. That being said, I cannot say for certain that was his intent nor am I alleging that. However, the allegations do not end there. Mr. Foxen goes on to show a video from the next day of play where Mr. Imsirovic is now wearing sunglasses (Foxen claims he has never seen Ali wear sunglasses when he plays). Wearing sunglasses allows a poker player to mask any potential tells the player may do with his or her eyes. Mr. Foxen also goes on to allege that Mr. Imsirovic is banned from GGPoker for chip dumping to horses and using RTA (Real-Time Assistance). Chip dumping to horses is intentionally losing chips to a player. Often times the player who is “chip-dumping” may have bought a piece of the player he is chip dumping chips to. Thus, Player A is losing chips like crazy and does not believe a rebound is likely. However, Player A bought 25% of Player B. If 1st prize is $1,000,000 and Player B wins, Player A gets 25% or $250,000 since he bought a piece. Player A chip dumps to Player B by betting high amounts of chips on hands where he suspects Player B is much stronger and thus more likely to win. Thus, if Player A knows he can’t win but thinks Player B might, Player A will find a way to ensure his chips end up in Player B’s stack. Also, Player B might have an agreement with Player A to do the same thing. It works both ways.
RTA (Real-Time Assistance) is using software to basically guess the range of hands their opponent has and how their own hand would fair. Example: Player A has the 10 of spades and the J of spades as his hole cards. His opponent Player C just bet 3x the big blind of 1000 chips (Thus, betting 3,000 chips). Player A only has 10,000 chips in front of him. Player A cannot simply call the 3,000 and leave himself with under 7BBs (Big Blinds). He must either fold his hand or shove all his chips into the middle. Before Player A decides, he runs a simulation of hands that Player C probably has and realizes that if his opponent just 3-bet with an Ace of Hearts and a 7 of hearts, he has a roughly 43% chance of winning the hand based on 10,000 simulated hands. That is a strong likelihood of success for being behind with the starting hand and knowing that Player C likely figures himself to be ahead. Player A shoves his chips and Player C calls. Player A wins the hand because a Jack comes up on the flop and Player C’s hand never improves. Now that we understand what is being alleged, let’s discuss the legal ramifications.
One potential cause of action would obviously be Defamation. There are two types: Libel and Slander. Libel is written. Slander is spoken. These allegations were made on Twitter and as such likely be found to be written. Thus, libel.
To prove Defamation in Nevada, you must establish four elements:
That the defendant made false statements of fact about you. (Ali cheating was found to be false)
That the defendant made an unprivileged publication of the statement(s) to a third party. (Told his 12,000 followers on Twitter)
That the defendant acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally; and (Likely point of contention. If statements found to be true, highly unlikely this element is met).
That as a result of the statements, your reputation was damaged. (Likely has been)
Finally, a consideration is whether Ali is a public figure. Since he is a celebrity, a strong argument can be made that he is a public figure. If Ali were to sue Alex for defamation, Ali would have to prove these elements above. Alex’s defense would merely be truth. That means if Alex can prove Ali is in fact a cheater, Alex is immune from civil liability. Remember poker is a lot like golf in the sense that players made a good bit of money off endorsements. That is because poker is televised and what a player wears on his or her shirt/outwear is prime advertising space. Some players have Poker companies (GGPoker, PokerStars, 888Poker etc.) and others have everyday companies. Someone of Mr. Imsirovic’s talent and success would have the pick of any endorsement he would want. That is because potential companies are very confident that he will routinely have eyes on him because he seems to be always playing deep into tournaments. Since he plays in High Roller events around the world, Mr. Imsirovic has Worldwide appeal.
These allegations put a real dent in his reputation. Before Monday, Mr. Imsirovic was widely considered one of the most talent poker players in the World. Now the poker community doesn’t know what to think about him. Are the allegations true? I honestly do not know. Do I think Mr. Imsirovic sues? Likely yes if he knows the allegations to be false. However, Mr. Foxen’s witness list would undoubtedly include executives from GGPoker where Mr. Imsirovic is allegedly banned from. The first question during a deposition would be, “Is Mr. Imsirovic banned from GGPoker?” If the answer is yes, the follow up would be, “Why is Mr. Imsirovic banned from GGPoker?” If the answer is for chip dumping and using RTA then Mr. Foxen would be immune from civil liability on those particular allegations.
UPDATE: Bryn Kenny who is #1 on the All-Time Money List has also been accused of cheating.
Matthew F. Tympanick is the Founder/Principal of Tympanick Law, P.A., located in Sarasota, Florida, where he focuses his practice on Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Law. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts School of Law where he served as a Public Interest Fellow and as a Staff Editor on the UMass Law Review. He was previously a felony prosecutor for over three years and civil attorney for nearly two years in Sarasota, Florida. As a prosecutor, he tried nearly forty jury and non-jury trials and prosecuted thousands more. You can follow him on Twitter @TympanickLaw. Arrested or Injured? Don’t Panic…Call Tympanick (1-888-NOPANIC). www.tympanicklaw.com