over baccarat game after owners of London Crockfords Club claimed
edge-sorting technique was illegitimate
Top poker player Phil Ivey has lost his high court
case against the owners of Crockfords Club in London over his £7.7m
The 38-year-old American sued over a version of
baccarat known as Punto Banco that he played at the Mayfair casino over two
days in August 2012. After four sessions, Ivey was told the money would be
wired to him and he left for the US, but it never arrived, although his
£1m stake was returned.
Genting Casinos UK, which owns more than 40 casinos in the UK
including Crockfords, said the technique of edge-sorting Ivey used
which aims to provide the customer with an element of first card
advantage was not a legitimate strategy and the casino had no
liability to pay him.
Its lawyers told Mr Justice Mitting in London
that Iveys conduct defeated the essential premise of the game of baccarat
so there was no gaming contract, or constituted cheating.
for Crockfords said later: Crockfords is pleased with the judgment of the
high court today, supporting its defence of a claim by Ivey.
It is our policy not to discuss our
clients affairs in public and we very much regret that proceedings were
brought against us. We attach the greatest importance to our exemplary
reputation for fair, honest and professional conduct and todays ruling
vindicates the steps we have taken in this matter.
through a spokesman, Ivey said: I am obviously disappointed with this
judges 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.
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
Lawyers for Ivey were refused permission to appeal
although they can renew their application to the court of appeal directly.
Iveys counsel, Richard Spearman QC, told the court that
edge-sorting involved nothing more than using information that was available to
any player simply from viewing the backs of the cards that the casino chose to
use and making requests of the casino which it could accept or refuse
as to the manner in which play was conducted.
counsel, Christopher Pymont QC, said that Ivey, who lives in Las Vegas and is
described on the World Series of Poker website as arguably the best poker
player in the world, was not a well-known advantage player at the time of
his visit but was, in their eyes, an old VIP customer and they trusted him
It argued that edge-sorting was not a widely known or
practised way of playing baccarat in the UK.
Ivey, who was accompanied
at Crockfords by another professional gambler, Cheung Yin Sun, who introduced
him to edge-sorting, said cheating was anathema to advantage players like him.
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 ostracised 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 he was very angry when he
heard the casino would not be paying out his winnings: I was upset as I
had played an honest game and won fairly.
My integrity is
infinitely more important to me than a big win, which is why I have brought
these proceedings to demonstrate that I have been unjustly treated.
In his ruling, the judge said that the case turned on whether there was
cheating: If Mr Ivey cheated, he is not entitled to recover his winnings.
If he did not, he is.
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 realise she had done so and, if she had,
would have immediately stopped play.
The fact that Mr Ivey was
genuinely convinced that he did not cheat and that the practice commanded
considerable support from others was not determinative of the question of
whether it amounted to cheating.
Mr Ivey had gained himself an
advantage and did so by using a croupier as his innocent agent or tool.
It was not simply taking advantage of error on her part or an
anomaly practised by the casino, for which he was not responsible.
He was doing it in circumstances where he knew that she and her
superiors did not know the consequences of what she had done at his
The judge concluded: This is, in my view, cheating
for the purpose of civil law.
Dismissing the case, with costs, he
said it was immaterial that the casino could have protected itself by simple