In a case that’s certain to grab the interest of professionals and amateurs around the world, 10-time World Series of Poker winner Phil Ivey, often considered the greatest poker player in the world, is suing Crockfords in London for £7.7 in winnings from Punto Banco that the casino has denied him. At the same time, The Borgata in Atlantic City is suing him for $9.6 million, money the casino claims Ivey owes in light of cheating allegations.
The cases, quite interestingly, come down not to a question of ‘what Ivey has done’ but rather ‘what constitutes cheating in professional poker’. Ivey freely admits to utilizing various factors to gain an edge in playing games of Punto Banco, arguing that these grey-area tactics are necessary to overcome the inherent house edge and win money.
At both casinos, Phil Ivey requested very specific things for his games: A specific brand of cards, an Asian card dealer, a shuffling machine, and repeat card decks. He utilized an edge-sorting strategy, taking note of certain patterns on the backs of cards to give him insight.
Obviously, edge-sorting is a contentious issue in the world of gambling—one where the definition of ‘cheating’ depends wholly on who is winning and who is losing money on the prospect. As the winner, it’s clear that Ivey feels he’s done nothing wrong. And as the losers, the casinos clearly take issue with the strategy.
The strategy certainly isn’t failproof, as Phil Ivey himself attests. “No system is fail-safe, and each time I play, I risk failing to execute the strategy properly — some of these are very complex or difficult to execute — which usually results in me losing a lot of money.”
He went on to say “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.”
Whether the courts agree with his interpretation of the rules or the casinos’ will certainly be of great interest to card players everywhere.