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Poker pro Phil Ivey takes final shot in £7.7 million edge sorting court case

Thursday, 13 July 2017 22:16
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High stakes poker pro and 10-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Ivey is trying his luck one last time as he battles Genting’s Crockfords casino in the UK Supreme Court this week over £7.7 million he won playing Punto Banco in 2012.

The matter at hand is whether Ivey’s use of a technique called “edge sorting” – in which he identified tiny imperfections in the printed patterns on the back of certain cards to gain an advantage – amounted to cheating.

Ivey and playing partner Cheung Yin Sun won £7.7 million during a series of sessions in August 2012 but Crockfords refused to pay and the parties have been engaged in a legal battle ever since.

In a case closely followed by operators the world over, both the High Court in 2014 and the Court of Appeal in 2016 previously ruled in Crockfords favor, finding that Ivey’s use of edge sorting gave him an unfair advantage and therefore amounted to cheating. A nearly identical case involving US$10 million Ivey and Sun won at the Borgata in Atlantic City around the same time was also ruled in the property’s favor.

However, the ongoing saga has attracted widespread media attention not only due to Ivey’s poker fame but also because it has so strongly divided opinion on the use of advantage play on casino floors.

In this instance, Ivey and Sun requested the use of a specific type of Gemaco playing cards they had identified as flawed, then asked the dealer to rotate certain cards 180 degrees for “superstitious” reasons. As a result they were able to identify these cards in the deck and adjust their bets accordingly.

In the initial 2014 High Court case, Judge John Mitting described Ivey’s actions as giving “himself an advantage which the game precludes … this is in my view is cheating.” 

Conversely, Ivey replied, “It’s not in my nature to cheat and I would never do anything to risk my reputation.

“What we did was a legitimate strategy – we did nothing more than exploit Crockfords’ failures to take proper steps to protect themselves against a player of my ability.”

In a statement ahead of the start of proceedings on Thursday, Ivey said, "I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will reverse the decision against me and that I will finally receive my winnings which I consider to be the just and proper outcome to this dispute.”

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