Ivey’s lawyers weren’t convincing enough when they argued that losing GBP7.7 million in just a few days was the casino’s “mistake”.
The court denied Phil Ivey his GBP7.7 million winnings, remained unpaid after a casino accused him of cheating to get the money. The professional poker player admitted he used a technique called “edge sorting” to win at the baccarat table, but claimed casino employees were negligent which means losing all that money was the company’s “mistake”.
After London’s Crockfords Club realized that Ivey had taken advantage of a flaw in the playing cards, the casino refused to pay out. Ivey sued the company to get his prize, but the latest gambling news announced he lost the case.
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The 38-year-old American poker pro won the money in august 2012, by playing Punto Banco, a version of baccarat. After four sessions where he won GBP7.7 million, the Mayfair casino returned his GBP1 million stake and said it would wire him the rest of the money. Phil Ivey returned to the US only to find that his money never arrived.
The Crockfords Club is owned by Genting Casinos UK, a gambling operator which has more than 40 casinos across the country. Company representatives said the technique used by Ivey was not a legitimate strategy, which is why they had no liability to him. Edge-sorting is used to give the player a “first card advantage”.
The lawyers who defended the casino said Ivey’s conduct defeated the essential premise of baccarat. Therefore, they argued, there was no gaming contract or cheating.
“Crockfords is pleased with the judgement of the High Court today supporting its defense of a claim by Mr Ivey,” a spokesman for the casino told reporters. “It is our policy not to discuss our clients’ affairs in public and we very much regret that proceedings were brought against us.”
Ivey said through a spokesman: “I am obviously disappointed with this judge’s decision. As I said in court, it is not my nature to cheat and I would never do anything to risk my reputation. I am pleased that the judge acknowledged in court that I was a truthful witness.”
The poker player’s lawyers were refused permission to appeal the decision. However, they can renew their application to the Court of Appeal directly.
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Phil Ivey, who is known for his excellent poker results, said he would never jeopardize his reputation by cheating at a casino.
“We observe the unwritten doctrine: how do I find a legal way to beat the house? Any method that could amount to cheating would breach the doctrine and cause you to be ostracized by your fellow players – we are all very careful to stay the right side of the line and we discuss advantage play strategies at length,” he said.
“I believe that what we did was a legitimate strategy and we did nothing more than exploit Crockfords’ failures to take proper steps to protect themselves against a player of my ability. Clearly today the judge did not agree,” Ivey added.
His counsel Richard Spearman explained to the court that edge-sorting meant using information found on the backs of the cards and making certain requests during the game, in order to gain an advantage. Besides, the cards were chosen by the casino and staff could have refused Ivey’s requests at any time. The poker pro said his integrity was “infinitely more important than a big win”, and added that he sued the casino to prove that he was “unjustly treated”.
On the other hand, Christopher Pymont, who represented the casino, argued that the casino did not regard Ivey as an advantage player at that time. Instead, they thought of him as an old VIP customer who they could trust.
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The judge mentioned in his ruling that the case turned on whether Ivey cheated or not, adding that the poker player was not entitled to his winnings if the obtained them in an unfair manner.
“What Mr Ivey and Ms Sun did was to persuade the croupier to turn some of the cards in the dealing shoe to permit them to know that they were or were very likely to be sevens, eights or nines, and in circumstances where she did not realize she had done so – and, if she had, would have immediately stopped play,” the court ruling said.
The judge said Ivey did not just take advantage of a simple error, but did it by using the dealer “as his innocent agent or tool”. Furthermore, the judge added, the poker player was aware that neither the croupier, not her superiors knew what the consequences of her actions would be when she turned the cards around, as per his request.
“This is, in my view, cheating for the purpose of civil law,” the judge concluded before dismissing the case.