Backer Sues Poker Pro Hawkins
Once upon a time in poker, players used an informal system of staking and backing. One would “buy” a percentage of a player for tournament play – sometimes in cash games as well – in exchange for a percentage of that person’s winnings. Most often, the deals were verbal and binding based on an unspoken code that players honor their word.
As staking and backing became more prominent in the past decade, players often took to social media and forums to sell action in tournaments. With a larger pool of people participating in such deals, some players chose to require money up front or even put their agreements in writing. Most, however, still adhered to the poker players’ code.
The few who breached an agreement, verbal or otherwise, knew there would be consequences, such as a reputation that would prohibit such arrangements in the future. In extreme cases in which a significant debt was unpaid, a player could be called out on social media and/or poker forums, thereby spreading the word that the player was untruthful or untrustworthy. That kind of reputation can be a career ender in the poker world.
Things seem to be changing. Only last month, a high-stakes poker pro filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the owner of a prominent European casino and WSOP sponsor over an unpaid debt incurred in the middle of a heads-up poker game in Las Vegas. And now, a poker fan and casual player who sponsored an established pro is suing said pro over a backing deal gone bad.
A One-Sided Story
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is Hal Lewis, and he has been the person pushing his side of the story to the media, even posting his personal account of the backing deal on the Two Plus Two forum. The poker pro, Maurice Hawkins, responded briefly to one article but has yet to go into any detail in response.
According to said article on the Florida Politics website and Lewis’ forum post, he is a “poker aficionado” and attorney in Tallahassee, Florida. He met Hawkins at a Florida casino in early 2016, where the two casually chatted at the poker tables. Lewis claimed Hawkins approached him about staking in tournaments because “he knew I am (sic) wealthy and immediately tried to engage me and talk with me.” After seeing Hawkins’ tournament results, he agreed to a 50/50 staking deal. He wired “various large sums of money” to Hawkins’ wife’s bank account.
As Hawkins began winning money in tournaments during the 2016 World Series of Poker, “he had excuse after excuse as to why he couldn’t pay me. He then said he just wasn’t feeling it and wanted to end the arrangement.” Lewis claims he demanded his $22,000+ sum of money back, but Hawkins balked because he was broke, reportedly due to betting on non-poker games like blackjack.
The Florida Politics reporter reached Hawkins by phone, who briefly said he disputed the account shared by Lewis, owed him nothing, and asserted that “the truth will come out” on the court date.
Success makes people get caught in emotions. I will keep winning and eventually, your tongue will expose you. For what you are.#HawksView
— EatingOnAllStages (@mauricehawkins) July 18, 2017
There is a fine line between outing a dishonest poker player and disparaging his name in the poker community where the accuser has little at stake, so to speak.
Lewis claims he posted in the poker forum “to let the poker community know how much of a scumbag Maurice Hawkins is.” Lewis named the thread, “I am suing scamming scumbag Maurice Hawkins for over $22,000 that he owes me.”
After relating his version of the story, he wrote about Hawkins, “He is a piece of **** and just an awful awful (sic) human being. As I researched him further, I have heard stories about him that would make me puke. He has cheated so many people out of so much money and he dos it in the poker community. That’s why I’m suing him.”
In the Florida Politics article, he admitted that staking poker players was a “roller coaster” and “you hope that your player eventually wins .” Since the incident with Hawkins, however, he is “very soured” on staking. “I still like playing, but I guess of all the people you shouldn’t trust, it’s probably those who lie, or bluff, for a living.”
There is also a fine line between the word of a lawyer with little knowledge of or reputation in the poker community versus that of a player in the game for more than a decade who has been disparaged by several members of the poker world. Hawkins has yet to reveal his side of the story or respond at any length to those who say he is not a trustworthy player.
Meanwhile, the lawsuit filed in Leon County will eventually determine the winner of the backing battle.