Poker Pro Ivey Asks U.K. Court to Decide What Is Cheating

  • Ivey accused of cheating to win $11 million in card game
  • Gambler lost lower court ruling on using `edge sorting' to win

Professional poker player Phil Ivey is asking a London appeals court to decide when playing your cards correctly crosses the line into cheating.

Ivey, a 40-year-old American, is trying to overturn a 2014 ruling that his attorney calls “unusual." While the lower court found he cheated to win 7.8 million pounds ($11 million) at a form of Baccarat, Richard Spearman, his attorney, said Ivey didn’t act dishonestly and the judge found him to be truthful.

Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey
Photographer: Nick Ansell/Press Association via AP Images

"For a long, long time cheating has been regarded as involving dishonesty," Richard Spearman, Ivey’s lawyer, said in a London court Wednesday. The gambler’s bid to recoup money a Genting Bhd. casino withheld has taken almost six years.

Ivey, a 10-time victor of the World Series of Poker bracelet, won the money playing Punto Banco at Crockfords casino in London in 2012. He admitted using a technique called “edge sorting,” which involves arranging cards to take advantage of slight design differences or flaws to give a player a better idea of high and low-value cards. He said it was a legitimate tactic to gain an advantage over the casino.

Bluffing or Dishonest?

"There are a lot of games in which deception, certainly in the sense of bluffing, is integral to the game," Spearman said. Ivey "would not act dishonestly." The appeals court will have to decide the legal definition of cheating and what it constitutes.

"Baccarat is a game of pure chance," Christopher Pymont, Genting’s lawyer said in court. "It is not a game of skill, it is not a game of mixed skill and chance."

"You are not supposed to know what is coming out of the shoe," he said. "Those are the rules." The casino denies it knew what "edge sorting" was, and had it known it would’ve taken steps to protect itself.

Ivey, a Las Vegas resident, has career winnings of more than $20 million, according to his spokesman. Ivey and a companion unfairly influenced a croupier to move and deal the cards in certain ways without her knowing what she was doing, Judge John Mitting said in his 2014 ruling.

Innocent Agent

The judge described him as one of the “world’s finest poker players.” Ivey cheated “by using the croupier as his innocent agent or tool,” Mitting said at the time.

Ivey, who was present in court, says he is as an “advantage player,” someone who is highly skilled at trying to tip the odds in his favor.

"It is not in my nature to cheat which is why I was so bitterly disappointed by the judge’s decision," Ivey said through a spokesman in November after he was given permission to appeal.

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