Ten-time World Series of Poker Champion Phil Ivey made headlines August 12, 2012, when he won $9.5 million playing high-stakes Punto Banco, a popular variation of baccarat, at Crockfords Casino in Mayfair.
Ivey and fellow player Cheng Yin Sun were quickly accused by the casino of edge sorting, a gambling technique whereby a player studies the backs of cards for small and unintentional defects to determine whether a card is likely to be high or low. The player may then compel a croupier to cooperate in the technique by unwittingly sorting cards into high and low. The practice has been deemed by UK courts to be cheating according to civil law. As a result, a casino is permitted to refuse payment in suspected cases of edge sorting. The ruling in such a case can be deemed void if the player simply took advantage of subtle defects on the backs of cards without involving the table’s dealer.
Following Ivey’s alleged edge sorting, courts sided with Crockfords and upheld the right to refuse payment in a decision last November, to which Ivey responded, “Last November’s Court Of Appeal ruling made no sense to me.” Now, the UK Supreme Court has granted Ivey permission to appeal the lower court’s ruling and attempt to secure his winnings.
Crockfords admitted that Ivey never touched cards while playing at the casino table, reinforcing Ivey’s claim that he is entitled to the winnings. He continued by expanding on his frustration with the decision, “The original trial judge ruled that I was not dishonest and none of the three Court Of Appeal judges disagreed and yet the decision went against me by a majority of two to one. I am so pleased that the Supreme Court has granted me permission to fight for what I genuinely believe is the right thing to do in my circumstances and for the entire gaming industry. I look forward to the Supreme Court reversing the decision against me.” Ivey has employed the services of Thirty Nine Essex Chambers’ lawyer Richard Spearman in addition to Wilberforce Chambers’ Max Mallin and Archerfield Partners’ Matthew Dowd for the court proceedings. The group is hopeful the appeal will be settled by summer of 2017.
Ivey’s attorney Matthew Dowd released a statement earlier this week detailing on the matter, “Phil [Ivey] and his legal team are delighted that the Supreme Court judges have decided that the Court Of Appeal’s decision should be reviewed. 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.” The Section 42 of the Gambling Act pertains specifically to “miscellaneous offences” under UK gambling law, Section 42 being the section providing clear definitions for cheating.
A Running Theme of Edge Sorting
A similar case emerged in December of last year in which judge Noel Hillman of the United States District Court Of New Jersey ruled in favor of MGM Resorts International’s attempt to recoup roughly $10.1 million paid to Ivey in a separate 2012 spate of high-stakes baccarat gaming. The session in question took place at MGM’s Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, where accusations of employing “edge sorting” techniques were also levied upon Ivey. This court case is now headed to the Third Circuit Court of appeals. This signals the final opportunity for Ivey to avoid paying $10.1 million in damages to the Borgata Casino and Spa.
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