Phil Ivey, British casino in dispute over winnings

Phil Ivey, British casino in dispute over winnings

May 13, 2013 9:07 AM
by

Poker player Phil IveyPhil Ivey is recognized as the best poker player in the world and his talents apparently extend to baccarat. But a British casino is disputing whether Ivey’s huge win of around $11.9 million was done legitimately.

Crockfords’ casino in Mayfair, London is charging that Ivey was able to recognize cards and use that knowledge to give the house a severe thrashing. As a result, the casino is refusing to pay, and Ivey has filed suit to receive his withheld winnings.

The incident occurred last August when Ivey and an unidentified woman were playing punto banco, a form of baccarat. The idea in punto banco is for the player to draw two or three cards with a sum total closer to 9 than the dealer.

The two were playing alone against the dealer, in full view of 10 casino cameras. Ivey started his betting at about $77,000 per hand and later raised that with the casino’s blessing, to about $230,000.

As in blackjack, punto banco hands can be over in less than a minute. It’s a game that’s supposed to be entirely based on the luck of the draw. Over the course of three nights, Ivey and his companion dipped as low as $770,000) in the red, but ended up with a substantial sum. 

The casino theorized that Ivey had spotted tiny imperfections in the cards’ designs, and used that knowledge to help identify when certain cards would be on the table, even when face-down.

Cards are supposed to be marked symmetrically, but a possible manufacturing defect may have left the cards asymmetrical and, thus, identifiable from the back. In addition, the cards should be disposed of after each day’s play, but Ivey apparently managed to convince the casino to keep the cards in play. A player in such a case could know in advance that the cards were defects, or could notice it in the course of play.

“I was given a receipt for my winnings, but Crockfords has withheld payment,” Ivey said in a statement. “I have no alternative but to take legal action.” Shortly after completing play, the casino held Ivey’s winnings, returning only his initial £1 million stake.

Lance Bradley of Bluff Magazine told ABC News last fall that Ivey has a sterling reputation. 

“There’s nothing in his past that would hint at his being a cheater or unethical in any way,” Bradley said. “People say he’s arguably the best poker player in the world; but, really, there’s no argument: He’s number one. He’s known both for his skill and for his love of high-stakes games. He loves anything where there’s some sexiness at stake.”

Crockfords, meanwhile, has pledged to defend its decision. The casino is now having tapes of the night scrutinized by specialists in fraud prevention.

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