Phil Ivey Loses £7.7M Supreme Court Appeal in London Edge Sorting Case
Phil Ivey was back in the news Wednesday regarding the court case in which Ivey admitted to detecting small irregularities on the backs of cards for his advantage during a £7.7 million win playing Punto Banco (similar to Baccarat) at Crockfords Club in Mayfair, central London, in 2012, along with fellow gambler Cheung Yin Sun.
Once again, Ivey landed on the losing side of the case, with the Supreme Court upholding the 2014 Court of Appeal's ruling that the edge sorting technique gave Ivey an unfair advantage that falls under the definition of cheating, and the casino did not have an obligation to pay him his winnings from the session.
While Ivey admitted to using the edge-sorting technique during his visit, he felt that his win should be upheld as he was merely exploiting the casino’s failure to protect itself against a gambler of his caliber. Crockfords Club disagreed, and they withheld the £7.7 million he felt he was owed.
Ivey explained his decision to take the case to the courts in a statement back in May of 2013. “At the time, I was given a receipt for my winnings but Crockfords subsequently withheld payment. I, therefore, feel I have no alternative but to take legal action.”
The case was dismissed by the High Court in 2014, but Ivey took it to the Court of Appeal.
Court of Appeals Decision
On Nov. 2, 2016 the Court of Appeal upheld the previous ruling, saying that on the basis of the Gambling Act of 2005, edge-sorting fits in the definition of “cheating,” even if Ivey did not have deceitful intentions.
Lady Justice Arden explained of the ruling:
"Can someone tell me how you can have honest cheating?” — Phil Ivey
"In my judgment, this section provides that a party may cheat within the meaning of this section without dishonesty or intention to deceive: depending on the circumstances it may be enough that he simply interferes with the process of the game.”
She added, "On that basis, the fact that the appellant did not regard himself as cheating is not determinative."
According to Arden, Ivey and Sun interfered with the process of the game, and therefore, were not entitled to the winnings that came as a result.
Ivey spoke with the Telegraph.co.uk after the decision:
"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.”
But Ivey said the decision makes no sense. “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?” he asked.
The decisions in both the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court both indicate that deceit or dishonesty is not the determining factor when it comes to deciding whether an act should be deemed "cheating" or not in the gambling arena.
Supreme Court Decision
After losing the battle in the Court of Appeal, Ivey challenged the decision, taking his case to the Supreme Court. The five Supreme Court justices unanimously upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision, meaning that Crockfords would not be required to give Ivey the money he believed he was owed.
According to BBC, Lord Hughes explained the Supreme Court decision with the importance that Punto Banco remain a game of pure chance with neither the player nor the casino being able to beat the randomness of cards being dealt.
"This has been a landmark case in how the courts approach cheating in the modern day."
Hughes also said, "What Mr. Ivey did was to stage a carefully planned and executed sting," which further suggests opposing ideas of what constitutes “cheating” in the minds of the parties involved.
While a loss for Ivey, the decision represents a big win for casinos, particularly Crockfords Club, owned by Genting Casinos UK.
President and COO of Genting UK Paul Willcock said of the case, "This has been a landmark case in how the courts approach cheating in the modern day."
He added, "This entirely vindicates Genting's decision not to pay Mr. Ivey, a decision that was not taken lightly."
What's Next for Ivey?
This decision comes less than a year after U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman ordered Ivey and Sun to return $10.1 million to Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City for similar allegations of edge-sorting to win big in Baccarat across four sessions back in 2012. That case was brought to courts by Borgata in 2014.
In the middle of all that, the ten-time WSOP bracelet winner was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in July, but ironically he was absent from the WSOP this year.
While in Beijing to promote a Chinese app earlier this month, Ivey told a representative from somuchpoker.com on camera that he has mostly been playing in cash games in Macau and Manila of late, but plans to play more in the live circuit next year after taking some time off for personal reasons.
"I'm still interested in live tournaments. I love tournaments. I'll always play tournaments."
Fans will undoubtedly be looking out for Phil Ivey-sightings in the coming year, and PokerNews will be on hand to bring you the latest on legal and other news as it relates to the legendary Poker Hall of Famer.
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