Australian poker pro James Hopkins is being sued for AU$400,000 by a fellow player after a backing deal turned sour, with Hopkins claiming in defense that he has a gambling problem and should never have been trusted with the money in the first place.
The incredible story came to light this week when the Australian press reported on efforts by Aidan Hildebrandt and family members to recoup $400,450 from Hopkins and his company, Pocket Punting Pty Ltd.
Loans and deals and interest
Hildebrandt, along with his brother Dylan, his mother Cristina and her partner Sarah Newton, launched the legal action after Hopkins was unable or unwilling to repay a series of 12 loans and refinanced deals.
The apparent backing deal dates back to January of 2018 when Hopkins received $40,000 from the Hildebrandt brothers.
Hopkins’ live and online winnings
Though primarily an online player, as we will see, Hopkins finished 42nd in that month’s $10k buy-in Main Event at the Aussie Millions in Melbourne.
He cashed for AU$25,000 (US$20,204) in the event won by England’s Toby Lewis for AU$1,458,198 (US$1,178,513)
Reports in the Daily Mercury and Courier Mail newspapers detail that Hopkins was due to repay $14,000 in interest on the initial loan within 3 months.
Although Hopkins only shows $15,000 or so in live winnings on Hendon Mob in the year following the first loan, his online results were far superior.
In the same 12-month period, Hopkins cashed in 805 online tournaments under his ‘cmon_gasquet’ sobriquet on PokerStars, his total winnings online sitting at $1,074,566, much of which he played while resident in Canada.
The Case for the Defence
According to press reports, Hopkins is claiming that the backing deal should be considered null and void due to him being a ‘problem gambler’.
The Courier Mail reported that Hopkins claimed a $100,000 losing casino session happened while in the company of Aidan Hildebrandt, and that it was therefore known that he had gambling problems.
Hopkins says that he also suffers from depression and ADHD and ‘lacked the capacity’ to understand what the backing deal entailed.
Other backing deals gone wrong
Although the Hopkins case is unusual in its details, there have been plenty of other lawsuits over non-payment of loans in backing or staking deals.
Last summer we reported on the high-profile case of England’s Nick Marchington, whose WSOP Main Event winnings were subject to legal action.
Marchington finished 7th for a lifetime-best cash of $1,525,000, but the money was put on hold after a staking site claimed they were due 10% of the windfall.
The 21-year old Englishman had initially agreed to sell 10% of his action to C Biscuit Poker Staking members David Yee and Colin Hartley. However, when offered a better deal elsewhere, Marchington reneged on the action.
“I am playing the main event but unfortunately your piece is canceled”, he explained in a message, adding: “I know this is bad practice but I have to do what’s best for myself since I lost a lot on the trip.”
The following day he made it through day1B of the Main Event, going on to land a seat at the final table.
The dispute was eventually settled in a Las Vegas court last August, Marchington’s full winnings released, although his lawyer, Mac Verstandig would not comment on whether any settlement had been reached with the staking group.
Ivey’s backers seek a share of his winnings
In a case that is still ongoing, Phil Ivey’s edge-sorting scandal produced a moment of a real surprise last year.
Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates and Ilya Trincher launched a countersuit to the Borgata’s claim on Ivey’s 2019 WSOP winnings.
Lawyers for the Atlantic City casino appeared at the Rio during the WSOP, serving a writ that garnered Ivey’s PPC winnings.
Cates and Trincher, however, claim they had a 50/50 profit-sharing deal with Ivey, filing a countersuit for $87,205 of the $124,410 Ivey won.
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