Phil Ivey has admitted to gaining an advantage while playing punto banco at Crockford's Casino by 'edge-sorting,' but claims he did nothing wrong in so doing.
The world's best all-around poker player took the casino for almost £8 million last year while playing the baccarat variant, but never received his payout. The nine-time WSOP gold bracelet champ filed a lawsuit when Crockford's balked at paying, citing cheating by Ivey as the reason.
The Daily Mail obtained documents from the ongoing litigation where Ivey describes in detail what happened. Over the course of two days in August of 2012, Ivey and an Asian female companion identified as Kelly apparently were able to notice minor flaws on the backs of the cards that sometimes occur during manufacturing.
Ivey does admit to asking that certain decks be changed at the end of various hands and the casino complied. Kelly was then able to notice when design patterns on the back of the cards were asymmetrical, meaning that one side differed from the other. She then asked the dealer to reveal the cards and also requested that cards she labeled as "good" to be rotated in the deck.
The "good" cards were typically seven, eight, and nine, which happen to be the most favorable to the player in punto banco. Having those choice cards face opposite than the other cards according to the asymmetrical patterns on the back meant that the best cards could be easily "read."
With the so-called good and bad cards readily distinguishable according to the design flaw, Ivey was able to bet accordingly as the game progressed, increasing his wagers upon "reading" the backs of the cards. He claims it's not cheating, as casinos tend to cater to the requests of high rollers in order to keep them playing.
Ivey refers to himself as an "advantage player" and was merely using the advantage that the casino allowed him to take by honoring his and Kelly's requests in rotating the cards. He was initially wagering £50,000 per hand, but later requested that stakes of £150,000 be permitted once the card edges had been sorted. Crockford's complied.
Ivey further asserts that casinos know all too well that cards with flaws do occur and that players can and do use it to their advantage. It is up to the casino to check the decks and make sure no flaws exist, he reasons.
The casino does not see it the same way and accuses Ivey of using a "scam" in order to win nearly £8 million. In defending the lawsuit, Crockford's believes the poker star "acted to defeat the essential premise of the game."
It now will be up to a judge to decide, with a trial date likely later this year.
Catering to the requests of high-stakes gamblers occurs in casinos throughout the world on a regular basis. But to actually rotate the cards at the players' desire seems a bit much. How could the dealers not know what Ivey and Kelly were doing?