Poker player loses appeal against London casino
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Wouldn’t it be great if you could enjoy a night of poker at a first-class casino and beat the bank? Well, a couple of years back professional US poker player Phil Ivey did just that, walking away from a London casino with a pot of almost $10 million (£7.7 million).
However, Ivey never got to count his winnings, after the Mayfair club accused him of employing a technique known as ‘edge-sorting’ – a technique which involves noting design irregularities on the backs of playing cards – while playing a game of Punto Banco to gain a competitive advantage. His £1 million stake was returned.
The devil is in the detail
While most of us wouldn’t be able to distinguish one playing card from another in any given set, the manufacturing process in some decks results in minute differences on the cards’ edges. Some of the cards printed for the casino in question acquire this tiny flaw during the machine cutting process, which, according to supplier Angel Co Ltd, falls within the specified tolerance.
The casino claimed that Ivey’s exploitation of the defect was in direct contravention of the fundamental premise of the game of baccarat, at best invalidating the gaming contract and, at worst, cheating.
High court decision
The case went to the British High Court which found in favour of the casino. Ivey subsequently challenged the decision through the appeals process but was unsuccessful.
Presiding judge Lady Justice Arden determined that the actions of Ivey and another gambler, Cheung Yin Sun, interfered with the process by which the casino played the game and that it did constitute cheating as it had a substantial effect on the game’s odds. She added, ‘the fact that the appellant did not regard himself as cheating is not determinative’.
Playing the odds
Ivey has maintained that he did nothing more than exploit the casino’s failure to take action to protect themselves against a player of his ability. ‘I was upset as I had played an honest game and won fairly. My integrity is infinitely more important to me than a big win,’ he said.
Ivey has also been involved in a legal battle over edge-sorting with an Atlantic City casino. Last month, a US district judge ruled that while Ivey and Sun didn’t cheat, they were liable for breach of contract when they used the technique to win $9.6m.
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