the News desk.
|Phil Ivey loses appeal against London casino Crockfords
over £7.7m winnings
Iveys edge-sorting technique to predict cards was deemed to
break the gaming contract with Mayfair casino
A professional US poker player has lost his appeal against a
London casino over winnings of £7.7m due to his use of
edge-sorting, a gambling technique that involves exploiting design
irregularities on the backs of cards.
Phil Ivey, 39, had challenged a
2014 high court decision to dismiss his case against Genting Casinos UK, which
owns Crockfords Club in Mayfair. After successfully playing a version of
baccarat known as Punto
Banco at the casino two years earlier, Ivey was told his winnings would be
wired to him and he left for home in Las Vegas, but it never arrived. Instead,
his stake money of £1m was returned to him.
Genting, which owns
more than 40 casinos in the UK, said edge-sorting, which Ivey used to gain a
competitive advantage, was not a legitimate strategy and the casino had no
liability to him.
|The tactic allows
players to predict whether a card may be high or low and therefore
beneficial to their hand by finding tiny irregularities in the back of
The manufacturing process in some decks of cards causes tiny
differences on the edges of playing cards. Some cards printed for the Genting
Group have this characteristic, as the machine that cuts them leaves a pattern
a white circle broken by two curved lines that is more pronounced
on some cards than others.
Genting claimed that Iveys
exploitation of the printing differences defeated the essential premise of the
game of baccarat, thereby invalidating the gaming contract at best, or cheating
The casinos chosen manufacturer, Angel Co Ltd, says
this is not a defect and is within a contractually specified tolerance of up to
On Thursday in the court of appeal, Lady Justice Arden said it
was common ground that there was an implied term in the contract not to cheat
and the meaning of cheating for that purpose was to be determined in accordance
with the Gambling Act 2005.
In my judgment, this section provides
that a party may cheat within the meaning of this section without dishonesty or
intention to deceive: depending on the circumstances it may be enough that he
simply interferes with the process of the game, Arden said. On that
basis, the fact that the appellant did not regard himself as cheating is not
There was no doubt, Arden added, that the actions
of Ivey and another gambler, Cheung Yin Sun, interfered with the process by
which Crockfords played the game. It is for the court to determine
whether the interference was of such a quality as to constitute cheating. In my
judgment it had that quality.
In particular the actions which Mr
Ivey took or caused to be taken had a substantial effect on the odds in the
game and Crockfords were not aware of this at the relevant time. In these
circumstances, no lower standard applied in this case because Mr Ivey was an
advantage player who was in an adversarial position with the casino.
Ivey has maintained that he did nothing more than exploit
Crockfords failure to protect themselves against a player of his ability.
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, he said.
and Lord Justice Tomlinson dismissed the appeal but the third member of the
panel, Lady Justice Sharp, allowed it, saying that the trial judge, Mr Justice
Mitting, was wrong to construe the issue of cheat in the way that
Mitting had said the fact that Ivey was genuinely convinced he
did not cheat and the practice commanded considerable support from others was
not determinative of whether it amounted to cheating. He added that Ivey had
gained himself an advantage and did so by using a croupier as his innocent
agent or tool.
In the judges view, this was cheating for
the purpose of civil law.
After the ruling, the Genting UK
president and chief operating officer, Paul Willcock, said the company was
obviously very happy with the decision.
But Ivey said the
decision made no sense to him. The trial judge said that I was not
dishonest and the three appeal judges agreed, but somehow the decision has gone
against me. Can someone tell me how you can have honest cheating? he
The poker players lawyer, Matthew Dowd, said: The
court of appeals decision leaves the law totally unclear as to what
constitutes cheating at gambling.
Four judges have looked at this
issue now and none of them have been able to agree on the correct
interpretation of section 42 of the Gambling Act.
It is essential
that the law is clarified and, in light of todays decision, we are
seeking permission to appeal to the supreme court.
Ivey has also
been embroiled in a legal battle over edge-sorting with an Atlantic City
casino. Last month, a US district judge ruled that while Ivey and Sun
didnt cheat, they were liable for breach of contract when they used the
technique to win $9.6m.