Phil Ivey’s ongoing baccarat edge sorting saga has taken another twist thanks to a successful application to the UK’s Supreme Court.
Back in October 2014, poker pro Phil Ivey lost his case against London’s Crockfords Casino. Despite arguing that his technique of reading small printing errors on the backs of certain Gemaco cards wasn’t illegal, the UK’s High Court ruled in favor of the house.
With £7.7 million ($9.4 million at today’s conversion rate) in winnings from the 2012 session withheld by Crockfords and the court ruling against him, it looked as though Ivey’s bankroll had taken a seven-figure hit. But just as he’s a tenacious player at the felt, Ivey wasn’t ready to give up.
After he was granted permission to appeal the High Court decision in 2015, he set about putting together a list of reasons why his strategy (known as edge sorting) wasn’t a breach of the rules. When the case was heard in April 2016, three appeal judges ruled against him but not before showing some form of sympathy towards his case.
During the case, Ivey and his legal team were able to convince the three judges that his intentions were neither dishonest nor intended to deceive.
Despite this, Lady Justice Arden determined that a player could still “cheat” under the terms of the UK Gambling Act 2005 without being intentionally deceptive.
“In my judgment, this section provides that a party may cheat within the meaning of this section without dishonesty or intention to deceive: depending on the circumstances it may be enough that he simply interferes with the process of the game,” said Arden.
Using this assumption, Arden and Lord Justice Tomlinson dismissed the appeal. However, Lady Justice Sharp allowed it, suggesting that the High Court’s ruling construed the issue of cheating in an inappropriate way.
With Ivey essentially losing a split decision and the judges at least agreeing in part with his case, he now believes he can win a final appeal. Using the highest appeal court in the UK, the Supreme Court, Ivey will now have his case heard once again.
Although the appeal was granted at the end of February, it’s likely to be a few months before his legal team gets the chance to speak again.
What will be interesting this time around will be the fact his team, Richard Spearman QC, Max Mallin QC and Matthew Dowd of Archerfield Partners LLP, will be arguing that a negative ruling could affect the UK gambling industry as a whole.
By suggesting that a player could be accused of cheating without having any intentions to deceive, it could set a problematic precedent for players in the future.
“The Court of Appeal’s ruling left the interpretation of Section 42 of the Gambling Act totally unclear and the decision to grant permission to appeal demonstrates that the Supreme Court agrees with that view,” explained Dowd.