Phil Ivey takes his $10 million baccarat winnings dispute to UK Supreme Court

  • Pro poker player accused of using ‘unfair’ technique
  • Appeals court ruled for casino, but top court will hear case

Professional poker player Phil Ivey is taking his legal dispute with London-based Genting Casinos to the highest court in the UK, following a ruling against him in the Court of Appeal.

All the way to the top: Phil Ivey is taking his baccarat winnings case to the UK's highest court.
All the way to the top: Phil Ivey is taking his baccarat winnings case to the UK’s highest court.

The World Series winner admits to using ‘edge counting’ at the baccarat table to net himself a cool £7.7 million ($9.9 million) in winnings. While clearly gaining an advantage over the house, the technique is not strictly prohibited – and Ivey maintains that his payout is therefore due to him.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, reports PA, on the basis that Ivey did not actually breach any laws and that he played the game fairly.

Genting maintains that the manner used to win was “not legitimate”. They have withheld the player’s winnings, though Ivey’s stake of £1 million was returned to him.

What is edge counting?

The technique used by Ivey involved identifying cards which had slight faults in the patterns on the back, so that when turned they could be more easily counted and identified. The player did not interact with the cards himself, but asked the dealer to turn them for ‘superstitious reasons’. The compliant dealer unknowingly helped Ivey stack the deck in his favor – allowing him to pick up the large return on his £1 million play.

Legal questions for all gamblers who count on an advantage

Edge counting, like card counting, is not strictly prohibited. However, it is not approved of by casinos or by most other players, and is certainly a form of advantage play. Ivey told reporters that: “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.”

Despite receiving sympathetic responses from the Appeal Court judges, the previous verdict ruled in Genting’s favor.

Now the highest court in the UK must determine whether Ivey is eligible for his winnings and whether he did indeed play the game fairly. If the court decides in the player’s favor, this will set a clear precedent to be carried forward in other advantage play disputes in the UK.

Players who use sorting and counting techniques could be given a clear indication that their methods are legal – which might spell bad news for casinos that have easily exploited weaknesses.

Ivey maintains that he merely took advantage of the Genting’s failure to check their cards: perhaps anti-cheating mechanisms will need to get a whole lot tougher in the future.

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