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Aussie Poker Player Sued for Unpaid Staking Loans
Poker players often enter into staking deals. It provides them the money to play tournaments in return for a portion of their winnings. Sometimes these deals go wrong, as in the case of Aidan Hildebrandt backing James Hopkins. The latter claims he has a known gambling addiction, but the former wants tens of thousands of dollars returned.
Explaining Poker Staking
It is called staking or backing. A person stakes or backs a poker player based on his or her poker history in exchange for a portion of their winnings. This typically happens for poker tournaments, as participation and results can usually be verified. Cash games rely more on trust.
Deals can range in size and scope.
A person may put up a fixed amount of money for the player to enter poker tournaments in exchange for a percentage of their winnings. This often happens for up-and-coming players who have shown some skill or success but don’t yet have the bankroll necessary to play. But it is frequently a way that a player on a downswing can continue playing to rebuild a bankroll.
The backer can provide the entirety of the tournament buy-in for a percentage of the winnings, usually 50% or more.
If a player sells various pieces of himself or herself in tournaments, people can invest for a percentage. For example, a person can buy 10% of a player’s action for a set price that goes toward the buy-in with the understanding that they will receive 10% of any winnings from that tournament.
In some cases, a backed player – sometimes referred to as a horse – must repay the backer in full no matter the outcome of the tournament(s). That repayment amount can also include interest, depending upon the terms of the deal.
Staking Deal Gone Wrong
A staking deal between Aidan Hildebrandt and James Hopkins turned so sour that it is now in the hands of a court, per the Courier Mail.
Hildebrandt of Albany Creek was the backer in this case, and Hopkins of Ormeau was the player.
Hildebrandt joined with his brother Dylan mother Cristina, and his mother’s partner Sarah Newton to sue Hopkins and his gambling company entitled Pocket Punting Pty Ltd. They jointly loaned Hopkins $40,000 to be repaid with $14,000 in interest over the course of three months. There were many more loans over the following year. Hopkins reportedly paid some of the loans but now owes more than $400,000.
In fact, the plaintiffs claim that Hopkins owes $400,450, which includes late fees and interest.
He Said, He Said
Hildebrandt’s version of the story is that the two poker players met several years ago at poker tournaments, and Dylan later met Hopkins via his brother.
In January 2018, Hopkins asked Aidan Hildebrandt if he or Dylan could loan the money to play in a tournament in Melbourne. Aidan loaned him $10K in cash, and Dylan transferred $30K to Hopkins’ bank account under the aforementioned terms.
That was only the start, however, of a series of 12 loans consisting of extra funds, loan variations, and debt consolidations. This happened over a period of one year.
Hopkins disagreed about the amount owed, saying he repaid $98,770. But Hopkins goes further to say that he was not legally able to enter into the loan contracts from the beginning because of his gambling addiction and mental illness, consisting of anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
Even further, Hopkins claims that Hildebrandt knew of Hopkins’ gambling addiction. He said Aidan was with him when he lost $100,000 in one night at Crown Casino in Melbourne.
Courts May Decide
In court documents, Hopkins now denies that he is a semi-professional gambler. He closed his Pocket Punting company in July 2019.
However, his poker results on the Hendon Mob poker database indicate he has played online poker consistently for more than five years and earned more than $800,000. In live poker, he earned less than $48,000 in the past several years. The court is likely to consider these figures when determining the basis for the loans in the first place, considering Hopkins did have poker results on the record.
Backing deals are often verbal agreements, as this one seems to be. This makes it more difficult to enforce contracts and determine their validity.
Moreover, courts are traditionally hesitant to intervene in personal loan cases. Hildebrandt contends that this is a business deal and one for which Hopkins is liable, but the court must agree.
In the end, it could set a precedent for backing and staking deals in the world of poker. Backers want to know if they can count on the courts to enforce their deals, and players will take note of the extent of their liability in the long run.