Professional poker player Phil Ivey, commonly regarded as one of the best players of all time – has lost a court ruling over unpaid winnings, meaning he will miss out on the £7.7m he proposed that he won legitimately. Ivey received his £1m stake back, but the court in question agreed that Ivey had cheated his way to his winnings. So how did Ivey do this? And was this a fair outcome? Read on to see the details of the case and make a decision for yourself.
The incident in question took place back in 2012 in London, England. Ivey was playing a variant of Baccarat – Punto Blanco. After staking £1m throughout the night, he secured winnings of £7.7m. As one of the top poker players in the world, there didn’t seem much amiss at first. Professional poker players commonly play at stakes where million-pound bets aren’t unheard of. Ivey however wasn’t wired the £7.7m in winnings, leading to a chain of events that has finally ended here today with a final ruling.
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So what did Ivey do wrong? And did he cheat? The owners of the Crockfords Casino in Mayfair, where Ivey won, accused the 40-year old of ‘edge-sorting’ – a technique that is deemed illegal in casinos. It requires immense concentration and takes considerable time to learn – the technique involves using tiny differences in the pattern of playing cards to increase the chances of winning. Ivey persuaded the croupier to rotate valuable cards – by claiming he was ‘superstitious’, according to the casino. These two areas combined tilted the odds in the favour of Ivey, leading to his mass winnings.
Ivey argued however that he had secured his winnings in a legitimate manner. He suggested the casino had failed to apply the necessary safeguards to protect itself from a player of his ability. Ivey also noted how he didn’t have access to the cards, but the casino successfully argued that by swaying the croupier’s actions, that it emulated having access to the cards. Ivey lost an original case in the High Court in 2014, before an appeal was quashed in 2016. Finally, this led us to the supreme court, where Ivey has finally lost.
Taking a look at the tournament winnings that Ivey has accumulated suggests that this ruling won’t affect his balance too much, but the result will come as a disappointment to the multiple-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner. As for the casino, they were ruled to have correctly withheld the funds from Ivey. Many suggest this is an unfair ruling, and that Ivey should be commended for winning. In conclusion, this case just shows the first rule of gambling still holds value – ‘The House Always Wins’.