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Poker player Phil Ivey loses court battle over £7.7m winnings from London casino 25/10/17
Editor
• American Phil Ivey sued over baccarat game after owners of Crockfords Club claimed ‘edge-sorting’ technique was illegitimate

How to Play Punto Banco
Edge Sorting Technique

The poker player Phil Ivey has lost his court bid to recover £7.7m ( $10.2m) of winnings from a London casino.

The 40-year-old, a former winner of the World Series of Poker, had arranged to play a private game of punto banco - a form of baccarat - at the casino in Mayfair, along with a fellow gambler, Cheung Yin Sun, during a visit to London in 2012.

After successfully playing a version of baccarat known as Punto Banco there in 2012, Ivey was told the money would be wired to him and he left for his Las Vegas home, but it never arrived - although his stake money of £1 million was returned.

The hearing at the supreme court considered whether dishonesty was a necessary element of the offence of cheating.

Ivey had challenged a 2016 majority decision in the court of appeal dismissing his case against Genting Casinos UK, which owns Crockfords. Genting said a technique he used, called edge-sorting, was not a legitimate strategy, while Ivey maintained that he won fairly.

Edge sorting is a skill of recognizing small defects on the backs of the cards, allowing the player to distinguish favourable from unfavourable cards in the game of baccarat. Although it doesn’t guarantee the win, successful application of edge sorting turns the edge in player’s favour.

Five justices unanimously upheld the majority decision of the court of appeal, which dismissed his case on the basis that being knowingly dishonest was not a necessary element of “cheating”.

Genting said the technique of edge-sorting used by Ivey, which involves identifying small differences in the pattern on the reverse of playing cards and exploiting that information to increase the chances of winning, was not a legitimate strategy.

Ivey did not personally touch any cards, but persuaded the croupier to rotate the most valuable cards by intimating that he was superstitious.

In the court of appeal, Lady Justice Arden said the Gambling Act 2005 provided that someone may cheat “without dishonesty or intention to deceive: depending on the circumstances it may be enough that he simply interferes with the process of the game”.

There was no doubt, she added, that the actions of Ivey and another gambler, Cheung Yin Sun, interfered with the process by which Crockfords played the game of Punto Banco with Ivey.

But in the Supreme court one of the judges, Lord Hughes, said that Mr Ivey had staged a “carefully planned and well executed sting”. He said Mr Ivey’s actions were “positive steps to fix the deck and therefore constituted cheating”. He added: “If he had secretly gained access to the shoe of cards and personally rearranged them that would be considered cheating. He accomplished the same results by directing the actions of the croupier and tricking her into thinking that what she did was irrelevant.”

Editor : The judge, Lord Hughes, failed to understand that no rearranging of the deck occurred. Edge Sorting relies on identifying whether the top card is a nine or eight and the sequence of cards after is not known or interferred with. Plus much other information has not been made public. Casino staff on the nights in question were clearly complicit with the players requests. Did someone else take the decision to not pay? Was there always the intention not to pay? Is it possible for casino staff to be ignorant of the reasons for edge-sorting?
 
Stephen Parkinson, head of criminal litigation at Kingsley Napley, the law firm that represented Crockfords, said: “This is one of the most significant decisions in criminal law in a generation. The concept of dishonesty is central to a whole range of offences, including fraud.

“For 35 years, juries have been told that defendants will only be guilty if the conduct complained of was dishonest by the standards of ordinary, reasonable and honest people, and also that they must have realised that ordinary, honest people would regard their behaviour as dishonest.

“The supreme court has now said that this second limb of the test does not represent the law and that directions based upon it ought no longer to be given by the courts.”

Crockford's claimed that Ivey and Sun covered up their strategy by disguising their requests as being down to superstition and referring to their 'lucky deck' and 'lucky Crockford's hat'.

If you know the Player's first card is a Nine then Player has a 21.5% advantage. Eight gives 17.3% and Seven then its 7.4%. Also if the first is a Ten or Ace then the Bank will have a 5.5% advantage.

For those who don't know their cards, it is hard to overstate how big a superstar Phil Ivey is in the poker world.

Dubbed the "Tiger Woods of poker", he has raked in tens of millions of pounds from a game that he mastered as a teenager - and coined in many more millions from sponsorship and by exploiting his carefully-built personal image. His mass appeal is such that he became the face of a Chrysler cars ad campaign.

For nearly two decades, Ivey has perfectly played the part of a cool, calm, calculating card-player with steely nerves and ice in his blood. Casinos fly him around the world as his presence can attract thousands of other punters.

But will Ivey be as big a draw after going "all-in" against the British legal system and losing? It is helpful for him that the case was not about poker - and that some of the gamblers he competes with will empathise with his explanation that he was merely being the best punter he could be, in using his savvy to try to beat a casino.

It was noticeable that this year Ivey skipped the main event in the World Series of Poker - the equivalent of Roger Federer taking a fortnight off during Wimbledon - and also mothballed his slick Ivey League poker school website.

Whether that marks the start of a general wind-down with more days to spend his millions and fewer days spent "grinding" for 12 hours at a poker table remains to be seen.
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