Big Money Classic Takes Another Hit

A Federal Court in Louisiana has dismissed a lawsuit the tournament organizer filed alleging breach of contract

By Ryan French

The long and winding road of the Big Money Classic has taken another turn with the dismissal of a lawsuit. 

As Fire Pit Collective reported in the spring, Dustin Manning, an owner of the Big Money Brands LLC, which put on the Big Money Classic, and failed to pay some players, sued StakeKings, a poker staking company, for breach of contract, alleging among other things that StakeKings did not honor a contract to become a title sponsor of BMC events or give the company an equity share in its business. The lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice on Aug. 19 in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Louisiana by Judge Barry Ashe. “Without Prejudice”  means the case can be refiled, and Manning and his lawyer have indicated they will. 

An independent lawyer who read the dismissal stated “The plaintiff admitted there wasn’t a written contract..they didn’t meet the burden (of proving a verbal agreement) so the court dismissed. If they file again they would have to provide evidence.” 

David Gernhauser, the attorney representing Manning, said he would “beef up” the lawsuit with emails and other evidence. He hopes to refile within 30 days. 

A.J. Roberts, an attorney for StakeKings, cited a Golf Digest article and a podcast Manning did with me as reasons for the dismissal. In his filing, Roberts noted that Manning had taken responsibility for the situation.

Separate from the StakeKings issue, Big Money Events LLC also had a dispute with the credit card processing company Square. According to Manning, the money Square was holding was released, but “it was far less than we anticipated.” At the time of the original article, I confirmed through emails Manning shared that Square was holding more than $254,000. 

Manning told the players who were owed in his men’s event he would pay them 10 percent per year over a 10-year period. Numerous players confirmed that the first payments, ranging from $280 to $8,000, were sent out in April. Those payments totaled around $41,000. When asked where the rest of the money was being held, Manning said it was in an account he wasn’t running.  He then reiterated his goal of paying players what they were due, even if it took 10 years. Manning said that although his company might join a class action suit against Square, he has no pending legal action with Square, despite his claims of missing money. 

In April, Manning messaged the players in a scheduled women’s event who had paid their entry fee that he would refund one player per month in the order they registered. According to the women I talked with, only one had been reimbursed. That player disputed the charge on her credit card and won. Manning said “we are behind” on paying the women; he added he was “doing everything in his power to get back on schedule.”

The full court documents of the original lawsuit filed by Big Money Events LLC and the dismissal are below. 

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