Poker pro Phil Ivey has lost his latest legal bid to force London’s Crockfords Casino to return the £7.7m he won ‘edge sorting’ at baccarat.
On Thursday, the UK Court of Appeal voted 2-1 to reject Ivey’s appeal of a 2014 lower court ruling that said Ivey and his female accomplice had cheated the casino by unlawfully influencing a Crockfords croupier into manipulating the cards to Ivey’s advantage.
Ivey and his partner Cheung Yin Sun – aka the ‘Queen of Sorts – won their seven-figure sum over two days of baccarat play at the Genting-owned Crockfords in August 2012, but the casino smelled a rat and decided to keep Ivey’s winnings while refunding his original £1m stake.
Casinos are known to indulge the whims of their high-rollers, so when Ivey asked to use a specific deck of cards at Crockfords, the casino said okay. But Ivey and Cheung were using the asymmetrical patterns on the backs of irregularly cut cards to identify high-value cards, then asking the dealer to reorient these cards before feeding them back into the card shoe.
Court of Appeal Justice Mary Arden noted that the UK Gambling Act 2005 allowed for the fact that a gambler can cheat “without dishonesty or intention to deceive … it may be enough that he simply interferes with the process of the game.” Arden said it was up to the court to determine “whether the interference was of such a quality to constitute cheating. In my judgment it had that quality.”
Following Thursday’s ruling, Ivey issued a statement saying he would ask the Supreme Court to hear his appeal because the decision “makes no sense.” Ivey noted that “the trial judge said that I was not dishonest and the three appeal judges agreed but somehow the decision has gone against me. Can someone tell me how you can have honest cheating?”
This really hasn’t been Ivey’s year. Last month, a New Jersey court ruled that Ivey and Cheung had improperly edge-sorted $9.6m from Atlantic City’s Borgata casino in April and October 2012. Ivey will learn later this month how much of his ill-gotten Borgata gains he’ll have to repay.
Ivey’s partner in (alleged) crime has also had a rough ride of late. Cheung and two acquaintances sued Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort Casino in 2014 to recoup $1.15m in winnings the casino withheld based on their view that Cheung had cheated. The case was dismissed in June 2015 and a federal appeals court upheld that dismissal last month because the casino’s tribal owners have sovereign immunity from such suits.