Phil Ivey: Cheat or Victim?

phil-ivey-cheat-or-victimAs more details emerge in the Phil Ivey v Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa lawsuit, Lee Davy ponders the question: is Phil Ivey a cheat or is he about to become a victim of the might of the casino?

Is Phil Ivey a cheat, or is he about to become a very expensive victim of the might of the casino?

The integrity of the man, whom can seemingly do no wrong in the eyes of the world of poker, is under severe scrutiny after further details have emerged from the $9.262m lawsuit from the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa.

In that lawsuit the complainant states that Ivey ‘misrepresented his motive, intention and purpose’ to ‘surreptitiously manipulate what he knew to be a defect in the playing cards in order to gain an unfair advantage over the Borgata.’

The complainant proceeded to explain how Ivey had approached the casino to ask for a series of special arrangements to be made for him so he could play High Stakes Baccarat.

These arrangements included that he was provided with his own pit, they supplied a dealer who spoke Mandarin Chinese, he was allowed to have a guest sitting at the table with him, and one eight-deck of purple Gemaco Borgata playing cards would be used for the entirety of the play with the use of an automatic shuffler.


The lawsuit goes to on to explain that these conditions were granted under the pretext that Ivey was superstitious.

When the story first broke you could be forgiven for thinking that Ivey had sat down at the table, saw that the cards had imperfections on the back of them, and then used ‘edge sorting’ tactics to gain his edge.

But now?

It’s important to remember that we haven’t heard Ivey’s side of the story yet, but when you realize that he was ‘edge sorting’ and then take into consideration that Ivey effectively set up this situation (albeit with the casinos permission), it makes this matter very borderline for me.

It’s unequivocal that Ivey knew about this edge and exploiting it to his advantage – but is he a cheat?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary a cheat is someone who ‘acts dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage,’ or to, ‘gain an advantage over or deprive of something by using unfair or deceitful methods.’

So according to the Oxford Dictionary Ivey is a cheat. The casino on the other hand is not a cheat because you walk into the game knowing that they have an unfair advantage and therefore it’s not dishonest. The Borgata were not aware that Ivey had an advantage.

However, what we are talking about here is more ethical than law breaking. Your listening to a man whose only knowledge of the law was when I was arrested for urinating in a public place, so I am no expert, but I can’t see how Ivey broke any of the casino rules – after all they laid out the red carpet for the man and would have taken every penny he owned.

So he’s not a cheat again…

The folks on 2+2 have created a poll to ask if Phil Ivey can be trusted? 66.16% of people who were polled said he could no longer be trusted. This could be quite damaging for IveyPoker and the IveyLeague, until you realize that it’s not very wise to trust anybody who gambles for a living.

The main bone of contention in the thread seems to be how far Ivey would take his edge at the poker table? If he is willing to take a Mandarin speaking Baccarat eagle eye to the table, arrange to have a Mandarin speaking dealer, ask for a specific type of playing card to be used, and ask for his own pit…then what would he do if he could see the ace of spades was marked in a deck of 52 whilst in his role of the ‘Tiger Woods of Poker?’

The folks at 2+2 asked the wrong question. The poll shouldn’t be one of trust, but on the question of whether or not the poker community believes he cheated.

I don’t think that poll will even be close.

If David Beckham was known as Golden Balls then Phil Ivey is the Scaramanga of the wedding tackle department as far as his legions of poker fans are concerned.

Ivey is being sued for breach of contract, racketeering, fraud, conversion, unjust enrichment and civil conspiracy; and lest we not forget he is also actively involved in a lawsuit with Crockford’s Casino in Mayfair where Ivey has sued them for around £7.8m after they refused to hand over winnings he accrued whilst playing Punto Banco in August 2012.

So is Phil Ivey a cheat?

I guess the answer to that question now rests in the hands of some very expensive legal teams.