Phil Ivey’s case against Crockfords returned to the Royal Courts of Justice in London, to be considered by the Court of Appeal this week.
Ivey was initially unsuccessful in his attempt to sue Crockfords, one of the UK’s most exclusive casino clubs, last year. Ivey believes that the casino illegally withheld the £7.8 million ($11 million) he says he won legitimately, employing the practice of edge-sorting, during a stint at the punto banco tables in 2012.
Crockfords successfully argued that Ivey, along with accomplice Cheung Yin Sun, were cheating by edge-sorting the cards, a practice that allows a skilled player to determine the value of certain cards by observing subtle flaws in the pattern on the back, and so muscling the odds in their favor. In the first instance, the judge agreed.
But last November, the judge who permitted granted this week’s appeal said that the case raises some important points of civil law and that Ivey “has a real prospect of success.”
Ivey’s lawyer said this week that he will ask the court to decide upon the legal definition of cheating and what it constitutes.
“For a long, long time cheating has been regarded as involving dishonesty,” said Richard Spearman, Ivey’s lawyer, told the appeal court Wednesday, noting that in the original trial his client had been described by the judge as a truthful witness.
“There are a lot of games in which deception, certainly in the sense of bluffing, is integral to the game,” said Spearman.
“Baccarat is a game of pure chance,” countered Christopher Pymont, lawyer for Genting, which owns Crockfords. “It is not a game of skill, it is not a game of mixed skill and chance. You are not supposed to know what is coming out of the shoe. Those are the rules.”
In the original case, the judge said that Ivey and Sun had had hoodwinked the dealer by asking her to turn certain cards so could get a look at their backs, and that had she known what was going on she would have stopped the game immediately. He ruled that the fact that Ivey genuinely believes he did not cheat was “not determinative of the question of whether it amounts to cheating.”
“I consider all the strategies I use to be lawful and I would never cheat in a casino. It is not in my nature to cheat and nor would I risk my reputation by acting unlawfully in any manner,” Ivey had told the court in the original hearing.
Ivey and Sun are themselves being sued by Borgata in Atlantic City over a similar incident. The Borgata believes it was “cheated” it out of $9.6 million during four sessions of mini-baccarat, which also occurred in 2012.