Phil Ivey suffered a major loss in court on Tuesday, as a London judge ruled that his use of edge sorting techniques to win at baccarat constituted cheating. The case involved whether Ivey, who sought to force Crockfords Casino to pay him the Â£7.7 million ($12.4 million) he won there in August 2012, was considered “cheating,” or merely advantage play.
Neither Ivey nor the casino disputed the events that led to the court battle. Ivey and an associate played high-stakes baccarat at a private table, and managed to have the casino agree to use a brand of playing cards that they knew to have a defect, one that made it possible to distinguish one border from the other when the cards were face down.
Ivey then had the dealer turn high cards in the deck 180 degrees. That allowed him to recognize which cards were high and which were low while they were still face down, giving him a large edge over the casino.
Judge John Mitting of the High Court found that such actions did amount to cheating, even if Ivey himself legitimately felt he was rightfully taking advantage of faulty casino procedures.
“He gave himself an advantage which the game precludes,” said Judge Mitting, who pointed out that Ivey essentially turned the dealer into an “innocent agent” of his scheme. “This is in my view cheating.”
While Ivey appreciated that Judge Mitting found him to be honest in his testimony, he expressed disappointment in the ruling.
“It is not in my nature to cheat,” Ivey said through a spokesperson. “I believe what we did was nothing more than exploit Crockford’s failures. Clearly the judge did not agree.”
Crockfords, on the other hand, saw the decision as a vindication of its procedures.
“Crockfords is pleased with the judgment of the High Court today supporting its defense of a claim by Mr. Ivey,” a spokesperson for the casino said. “It is our policy not to discuss our clients’ affairs in public and we very much regret that proceedings were brought against us. We attach the greatest importance to our exemplary reputation for fair, honest and professional conduct and today’s ruling vindicates the steps we have taken in this matter.”
After four sessions of play over two days, Crockfords had told Ivey that they would wire him his winnings. But the casino ultimately decided not to do so, returning only the Â£1 million ($1.6 million) he had initially begun play with. The two sides attempted to negotiate a settlement, but were unable to, ultimately leading to legal action from Ivey.
Ivey was denied an immediate request for an appeal, but will have the opportunity to apply directly with the Court of Appeals going forward.
This is one of two cases involving Ivey and his attempts to use edge sorting to score big wins at baccarat. He is also embroiled in an ongoing dispute with the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, where the poker pro won over $9.6 million playing baccarat during several visits in 2012. In that case, the casino did pay Ivey his winnings, but is now suing to recover that money, saying that edge sorting is against New Jersey casino gambling regulations. That case is expected to be heard sometime in 2015.