Mike Postle Drops Defamation Lawsuit In Face Of Anti-SLAPP Motion, Now On The Hook For Legal Fees

This is a breaking story and may be updated.

After being missing in action for many months, accused poker cheater Mike Postle has dropped his defamation lawsuit against Veronica Brill and others.

Voluntarily backing out of the case won’t save Postle from the anti-SLAPP motion filed against him. In fact, it guarantees that he will lose it and be on the hook for the defendants’ legal fees.

It was Brill who initially called attention to Postle’s alleged cheating. This took place over the course of many live streamed poker sessions at Stones Gambling Hall in Citrus Heights, California.

Postle performed uncommonly well over the course of these sessions, pulling off many unorthodox bluffs and hero calls in the process. Numerous poker pros have opined that it would be impossible to make such plays correctly as reliably as Postle did without knowledge of opponents’ hole cards.

Live streams are on a delay for reasons of game integrity. However, one or more people must be in a sealed booth to manage the stream. Because Postle looked at his phone each time he made one of these improbable plays, many suspect he was receiving information from someone in the booth.

Guilty in the court of public opinion, but not of law

Cheating at gambling is incredibly difficult to prove, legally speaking. In most cases, it’s addressed by the gambling establishments themselves. Casinos reserve the right to ban customers and/or withhold winnings if they determine that it has occurred, without involving the courts.

In Postle’s case, however, it was never likely that Stones would intervene. If he was indeed cheating, it would almost certainly have to have been with the help of a Stones’ employee.

Stones therefore elected to defend Postle instead. This caused Brill to lead a class action lawsuit against Postle, Stones parent company Kings Casino, and its poker room manager Justin Kuraitis.

Pursuing Postle himself proved impossible, as gambling losses are unrecoverable under California law. Judge William B. Shubb dismissed that portion of the case last June.

The case continued against Kings Casino, however. The plaintiffs argued that it had failed to provide adequate security in return for the fees paid to it by the players.

That portion of the case ended in a token settlement, which 60 of 88 plaintiffs accepted. The terms of the settlement included a mutual non-disparagement clause, however. Brill refused the settlement for that reason, as it would have meant she could no longer accuse Postle in public.

Postle, for his part, remains persona non grata in the poker world. Though the allegations against him were never proven it court, it’s hard to find a poker player who believes him to be innocent.

The defamation case didn’t go as planned

Although Brill reserved the right to continue pursuing Postle, she doesn’t seem to have found a viable way to do so. She continue to speak about him publicly, however.

Eventually, he attempted to turn the tables. He filed a defamation suit against her and 11 other people and entities who’d investigated and discussed the allegations. One of those defendants is Todd Witteles, who runs Poker Fraud Alert. He responded to Postle’s suit with an anti-SLAPP motion.

Anti-SLAPP laws are designed to discourage lawsuits aimed at intimidating people who are exercising their First Amendment rights. If the judge had agreed with Witteles that the case involved protected speech, the case would be struck down and Postle would be forced to pay the full legal fees of the defendants.

Instead, he packed up and ran. By December, his attorneys had filed to remove themselves from the case, as he’d ceased communicating with them.

The poker community has been hoping in vain for an update on the Mike Postle case since then. There’s sure to be rejoicing now that he’s waving the white flag.

No escape for Postle

Dropping a case after an anti-SLAPP motion has been filed doesn’t get the plaintiff off the hook. In fact, it guarantees that they’ll remain on it. By backing out of the case voluntarily, Postle has effectively admitted that it was frivolous to begin with, and will now be forced to pay all those legal fees.

Whether he can pay is another matter. He took a huge risk in naming organizations like PokerNews and ESPN among the defendants. The number of lawyers involved on the defendants’ side is presumably quite large, and their bills as well.

Despite the fact that Postle won more than $250,000 in the games at Stones, rumor had it at the time of his disappearance that he was effectively broke. If that’s the case, then the next chapter of the story may be a bankruptcy filing.

The money may be incidental to Brill and the others at this point, however. It is no doubt a source of extreme frustration that they were unable to pursue him effectively in the courts. For him to slink away in disgrace after abandoning his defamation suit will have to count as the next best thing.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for OnlinePokerReport, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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