12/29/2006 1:00AM

Two quests for cash through court spill into 2007


When the clock strikes midnight to begin 2007, most of us have a chance to mentally wipe the slate clean. People try turning over a new leaf from a cluttered 2006 to a pristine hope-springs-eternal new year.

There are two people in Las Vegas, though, hoping the new year brings them newfound riches from unfinished 2006 business: Crispin Leyser and Sandy Murphy.

Leyser is a litigant against 2006 World Series of Poker champion Jamie Gold. Gold, you may recall, earned $12 million for his world series win last August. Leyser is suing for half the money under an alleged verbal agreement to "split the pot," so to speak.

Leyser won an important ruling this week in a Las Vegas courtroom. U.S. District Judge Roger Hunt refused a request by Gold's lawyers to obtain $6 million that is still being held by the Rio Hotel. Gold has already been paid his $6 million share.

Judge Hunt, in his ruling, wrote, "The evidence presented indicates the likelihood to prevail lies with the plaintiff."

Leyser's case is based upon two pieces of evidence. One is a transcript of a national radio show interview in which Gold outlined his deal with Leyser. The other is a voice mail message that Gold left on Leyser's phone the morning of the world series finals. Gold told Leyser, "There's no possible way you're not going to get your half, after taxes."

The Las Vegas poker community is pretty much in agreement on this issue. Your word is supposed to be ironclad. Your handshake as good as a 100-page legal contract.

Murphy just filed a civil suit against the Binion family for proceeds from Ted Binion's $55 million estate. Murphy, who was Binion's live-in girlfriend, alleges she was added to his will two months before his death. The family responds she was cut out of Binion's will the day before he died.

Murphy and her lover, Rick Tabish, were convicted in 2000 of killing casino mogul Binion. The verdict was later overturned in 2004 by the Nevada Supreme Court.

This is a scintillating love triangle-murder mystery case that surely will be a Hollywood movie in the future. At some point, there may have been middle ground to settle this case out of court. But now, the gloves are off, the stakes have been raised, and it appears the case will go to trial.

Binion's 6,000-square-foot home was sold in 2002 for $750,000. Millions of dollars of his antique coin stash and currency remain missing. But there is plenty of cash remaining and Murphy wants her share.

District Attorney David Rogers, who prosecuted the original convictions, summed it up in the Las Vegas Review-Journal by saying: "This case was always about greed and money. It apparently will never end."

And so begins a new year.

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of "Betting on Horse Racing for Dummies."