PokerStars finds itself in hot water yet again this week as a professional poker player has filed a lawsuit against the online poker operator’s parent, Amaya Services Ltd, for fraud, copyright infringement and other accusations stemming from the company’s alleged theft of the International Poker Rules.
Marcel Luske, aka the ‘Flying Dutchman‘, is widely considered to be one of the world’s best international poker players. Although he has no major titles under his belt, he’s been named Player of the Year twice (2001, 2004) by European Poker Awards, finished 1st in over 30 tournaments across Europe, scraping up $4.4 million in cashes dating back to 1999.
Over the course of his illustrious career, Luske created the Federation International de Poker Association (FIDPA) in 2007 as part of his commitment to the ongoing development of the game. Then in 2008, he scripted the International Poker Rules, copyrighted under the FIDPA.
Need for Uniform Tournament Rules
Luske said he created the International Poker Rules as a means of structuring events that catered to the players, rather than the casinos that hosted them. The poker pro said his rules were developed to “ensure credibility, fairness, transparency and consistency throughout the poker industry globally.”
Up until then, the standard tournament rules in use were those scripted by the Tournament Directors Association, which Luske described as being “geared toward the tournament directors and organizers of the tournaments, not towards players.”
Those rules were entirely too lax, though, explained Luske. He claims that casinos, card rooms and poker leagues would merely amend the standard rules to suit their own needs, with no regard for the
players who were competing in the tournaments.
“The ‘rules’ would change at any time unfairly to players, in favor of the casino and to make the poker events done as fast as possible so players would spend money in other parts of the casino,” said Luske.
It was blatantly obvious that the professional poker realm needed new, uniform guidelines for poker tournaments. Thus, at the behest of many fellow professionals, Marcel Luske created the International Poker Rules.
That same year, the Bellagio in Las Vegas became the first casino to adopt the International Poker Rules, which Luske described as the new “standard for fairness and consistency towards players in an industry that started out very favorable to the casinos, not the players.”
Along Came PokerStars
Also in 2008, with Luske’s fame growing exponentially throughout the live poker community, he became an ambassador for the world’s largest online poker brand, PokerStars. But it wasn’t until 2011, when accusations of fraud began circulating during a PokerStars sponsored event in Madrid, Spain – allegations that led to the firing of PokerStars Events Director Thomas Kremser – that the company approached Luske with a deal to implement his favorable International Poker Rules.
Luske said he gave permission to PokerStars to use his International Poker Rules when the online poker operator agreed to pay him an annual $25,000 licensing fee and display the FIDPA logo on their website. He was particularly “thrilled” by the amount of exposure it would give the FIDPA.
While there’s no official contract stating the terms of their agreement – it was a handshake deal – there were plenty of pro poker players around to witness the commitment, and numerous emails between the them as evidence to the fact.
Luske Files Lawsuit Against PokerStars
That evidence will surely be presented to the Nevada’s Clark County District Court, where Marcel Luske has filed a lawsuit against PokerStars for allegedly stealing his International Poker Rules.
The poker pro claims that he was “suddenly informed out of the blue that [PokerStars] would not implement the International Poker Rules”, electing instead to update their own tournament rules, which they tagged “PSLive” rules.
An official with PokerStars said he produced the new PSLive rules himself, but Luske contests that claim. He says the updated rules were derived from “exact proportions” of the International Poker Rules.
“Every single PSLive rule is an exact copy and/or derivative of language from the International Poker Rules,” said Luske, who alleges PokerStars “proceeded to publish, advertise and use the PSLive rules throughout the poker community.”
Luske asserts that PokerStars “strung” him along, just long enough for their official to copy and partially reword his original rule set, and that they never intended to pay him the $25k licensing fee. When he was informed that the PSLive rules would supersede his own, he said PokerStars also severed his contract as a brand ambassador.
To make matters worse, Marcel Luske had been approached in 2013 by Global Poker Index, which wanted to acquire his FIDPA. Believing his impending deal with PokerStars was solid, and would greatly increase its recognition and value, he declined the offer.
According to CDC Gaming Reports, Marcel Luske’s lawsuit against the online poker giant, which currently accounts for an estimated 70% of the global online poker player base, is seeking “general and special damages, plus interest, for fraud, interference with prospective economic advantage, bad faith and breach of contract.”