Former PokerStars Team Pro, Marcel Luske, is taking his former employer to court after alleging they agreed to use his International Poker Rules, reneged on the agreement, and duplicated them for their PSLive product.
Poker is a game where you breed long-term success by making fewer mistakes than your opponent, and Marcel Luske should know this better than most.
You don’t leave a conversation with Luske without discussing tournament rules. The Flying Dutchman’s blood platelets look like poker chips. He has been playing the game longer than most of the young wizards have been alive. Throughout that time he has been a staunch supporter for a universal set of rules.
As the Dutchman travelled around the globe, he recognised that rules were different everywhere he went, and more often than not, those rules were biased towards the hosts. There was a need for professionalism, a governing body, and a set of rules that were more player-centric.
In 2002, Luske created the International Poker Federation and started to promote the need for a central set of standards and governance throughout the whole of poker. Five years later, Luske teamed up with poker pro-Michelle Lau to create The Federation Internationale de Poker Association, and the pair produced a standardised rule book known as The International Poker Rules (IP Rules).
With over $4.4m in live tournament earnings, Luske is the #1 All Time Live Tournament Money Earner in The Netherlands. His position and advocacy for poker in the region attracted the attention of PokerStars who he represented for many years as a member of Team Pro.
The Gentleman’s Agreement
According to an article in CDCGamingReports, Luske said that during his time with PokerStars, the pair agreed in principle for them to use the IFP Rules for an annual fee of $25,000.
Luske told CDCGamingReports that the ‘deal was sealed with a handshake’ and that the Dutchman said that his position as a Team Pro ‘made him comfortable enough not to demand a formal contract.’ CDC later updated this description of the agreement to one of an oral nature and not a handshake. The article did state that Luske has email evidence about the agreement.
The poker world runs on handshakes, and wink, wink, nudge, nudge, my word is my oath type of wheeling and dealing. And people get burned. It’s a business where the sole purpose is to take other people’s money, whether you are a player or an online poker room.
A Happy Man
A $25k per annum deal was like gravy for Luske. The EPT Festival is the greatest live tournament series outside of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) and is growing bigger each year. PokerStars, the power behind the EPT, are the world’s largest online poker room with no signs that anyone will knock them down a peg or two any day soon.
It was money for old rope.
Luske and PokerStars Part Ways & The Creation of PSLive
Then, in Sep, 2014, after six years as the figurehead of PokerStars in The Netherlands, the contract of Marcel Luske was not renewed. It was a period of great upheaval within the Team Pro ranks with upwards of seven other members of the team including Joe Cada and Humberto Brenes also leaving.
Without a patch on his arm, what would happen to the gentleman’s agreement to use IFP rules at EPT events?
PokerStars carried on their mission to take over the world. They created an entity called PSLive (trading name Global Poker Tours) and started creating strategic agreements with live card rooms in places like Macau, Madrid and London. When Luske asked about the use of his IFP rules, PokerStars stated that they were no longer needed, and this is where the allegations surface that the gentleman’s agreement didn’t turn out to be very gentlemanly after all.
Luske Takes PokerStars to Court
Luske is outraged that PokerStars reneged on the deal and believed they copyrighted his IFP rules for use at PSLive events. He told CDCGamingReports that PokerStars ‘strung’ him along, and he even turned down a deal for the Global Poker Index (GPI) to use the rules because of he believed in the security of his deal with PokerStars.
He recently took legal action against PokerStars, filing a lawsuit in Las Vegas, Nevada, where the law firm Thunder Law will sit in his corner. He is seeking ‘general and special damages, plus interest, for fraud, interference with prospective economic advantage, bad faith and breach of contract.’
And that’s where we stand today.
Marcel Luske is about to take on the world’s largest online poker room with the word ‘trust’ once again rearing its ugly head in the world of poker.