It’s Phil Ivey versus Crockfords Casino, Round One. The long-awaited lawsuit brought by Phil Ivey against Crockfords got underway on Friday in the High Court in London. Ivey is suing the upmarket casino after it withheld Â£7.7 million ($12.3 million) in winnings, following an edge-sorting winning spree at the punto banco tables in 2012.
Ivey believes that the practice of edge-sorting is fair, a technique in which the gambler is able to muscle the odds in his favor by identify tiny the flaws in the patterns on the back of cards. Crockfords, meanwhile, maintains that it’s cheating.
Ivey was in London to address the court, eloquently arguing the legitimacy of his technique. “I consider that I would not be doing my job very well if I did not seek to use to my benefit weaknesses that I identify in the way that casinos set up or offer particular casino games,” he said. “I use a variety of strategies while playing in casinos. No system is fail-safe and each time I play I risk failing to execute the strategy properly. Some of these [strategies] are very complex or difficult to execute, which usually results in me losing a lot of money.
“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,”he added.
The court heard how Ivey, along with accomplice Chen Yin Sun, played four sessions of punto banco in August 2012, arriving from Barcelona, in a private jet sent by the casino for special high-rollers.
Christopher Pymont QC, representing Crockfords, detailed how Ivey created an “air of superstition” by wearing a lucky hat and demanding a specific “lucky” brand of cards, which would allow him and Sun to edge sort. High-rolling baccarat players are an enormously superstitious group, and Ivey and Sun exploited this by demanding that the best cards, sevens, eights and nines, be rotated 180 degrees. In fact, this simply allowed them to get a better view of the inconsistencies on the backs of cards.
In this manner, argued Pymont, the casino was “stitched-up” [hustled] by Ivey whose actions were “highly immoral and dishonest.”
However, Ivey’s legal team are arguing that Crockfords is merely a victim of its own lack of diligence and that the casino could have stopped the game at any time and changed the deck or tightened security.
“Putting it bluntly, he played, he won and they ought to pay up,” said Richard Spearman QC, representing Ivey.
The case is expected to last a week. Meanwhile, Ivey is due to appear on 60 Minutes Sports on October 7, discussing the Crockfords and Borgata lawsuits. The Borgata is attempting to sue Ivey for a similar edge-sorting incident surrounding baccarat play that also occurred in 2012.