the News desk.
|Poker player Phil Ivey loses court battle over
£7.7m winnings from London casino
| American Phil
Ivey sued over baccarat game after owners of Crockfords Club claimed
edge-sorting technique was illegitimate
Play Punto Banco
The poker player Phil Ivey has lost his court bid to
recover £7.7m ( $10.2m) of winnings from a London casino.
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 doesnt guarantee the win, successful application of edge
sorting turns the edge in players favour.
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.
did not personally touch any cards, but persuaded the croupier to rotate the
most valuable cards by intimating that he was superstitious.
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 Iveys 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
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.
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%
For those who don't know their cards, it is hard to
overstate how big a superstar Phil Ivey is in the poker world.
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
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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