US professional poker player Phil Ivey (39) suffered another legal setback this week when he lost his appeal against London’s Crockfords Club for winnings of GBP 7.7 million which were withheld on allegations that he and a companion indulged in “edge-sorting” tactics to cheat the casino.
Ivey’s appeal this week dates back to a 2014 High Court decision to dismiss his case against Genting Casinos UK, which owns Crockfords. The case revolved around Punto Banco baccarat action and Ivey’s winnings in 2012, which the casino pledged to wire to him as he returned to the States.
However, instead of doing so the casino returned his GBP 1 million deposit, claiming that edge sorting was not a legitimate gaming strategy and the casino had no liability to him.
Presiding over the appeal case, Lady Justice Arden said the contract between player and casino included an implication that there would be no cheating, and she turned to the 2005 Gambling Act for the definition of cheating. She concluded that the Act provides that a party may cheat within the meaning of the Act without dishonesty or intention to deceive.
“Depending on the circumstances it may be enough that he simply interferes with the process of the game,” Justice Arden said. “On that basis, the fact that the appellant did not regard himself as cheating is not determinative.”
However, Justice Arden found that the actions of Ivey and his companion, Cheung Yin Sun, interfered with the process by which Crockfords played the game, saying: “It is for the court to determine whether the interference was of such a quality as to constitute cheating.
“In my judgment it had that quality,” she said, adding that Ivey’s actions had a substantial effect on the odds of the game, which Crockfords was not aware of at the time.
“In these circumstances, no lower standard applied in this case because Mr Ivey was an advantage player who was in an adversarial position with the casino,” Justice Arden noted.
The judging panel was divided on the issue; Arden and Lord Justice Tomlinson dismissed the appeal but the third member, Lady Justice Sharp, allowed it, saying that the trial judge, Mr Justice Mitting, was wrong to construe the issue of “cheat” in the way that he did.
Genting UK president and chief operating officer, Paul Willcock, said the company was “obviously very happy with the decision”.