Crockfords Calls Ivey a Cheat
As FlushDraw reported last week, Phil is suing the casino for non-payment of his winnings from a mammoth two-day session last August. The Daily Mail reports that the Malaysian owners of Crockfords will contend that he won the money by “reading the backs of the cards.”
If the allegation is not disproved, the Phil Ivey legend will be in tatters. Since Phil is bringing the case, it is up to him to prove that he is entitled to the money; all the casino needs to do is show that there is enough doubt for a judge to reject the claim. This case was always going to be about big money, but now it looks like the bigger risk could be to reputations, either Ivey’s or Crockfords’.
According to the Mail’s “official sources”, the casino will argue that the deck of cards used during each session was faulty, so that the pattern on the back of the cards was not symmetrical. This means that cards returned to the deck upside down can be distinguished by a sharp-eyed player.
Punto banco is the most common version of baccarat where the “Bank” and the “Player” are each dealt two cards and then, depending on their hands, can then choose to draw more cards. The aim is to get a hand with a value as close to nine as possible. Tens and face cards score zero.
It will be immediately apparent to FlushDraw readers that 8’s and 9’s are the most valuable cards in the deck. The allegation would be that Phil Ivey, who did not in any way physically interfere with the cards, spotted the design flaw, and exploited it to beat the casino.
Theoretically there is no skill involved in the game once the basic strategy is applied. The ability to tell whether the next card will be an eight or nine would give a player a statistical edge on the house. In this case that edge amounted to winnings of £2.3m the first night, and £5.5m the second.
The Daily Mail reports that Phil’s unnamed female Chinese companion may also have been aware of this method of cheating, which is known as “Playing the Turn.” Further, that he asked the dealer to expose cards before they were mucked so he could identify their values. His companion is then said to have told the dealer to rotate those cards through 180 degrees so that they were returned to the shoe upside down, allowing this system of cheating to be executed. Allegedly she rationalized the request on the basis that Ivey was “superstitious” and the dealer saw no reason not to comply.
In contravention of normal casino procedures, which are to destroy used decks of cards at the end of every session, the Mail reports that the casino agreed to allow Ivey to use the same deck of cards the following day.
What is perhaps surprising is the attitude of Gentings, the owners of Crockfords. Although they refused to pay the winnings, they did return Ivey’s original £1m stake money. If they had good evidence that Ivey had cheated, why did they not attempt a prosecution following their initial investigation? His celebrity status would be no deterrent to a multi billion dollar multinational company in an industry which has a widespread policy of prosecuting cheats.
Perhaps the evidence just isn’t there. The idea of Ivey cheating is almost unimaginable to his fans. He has often been referred to as the Tiger Woods of poker, but until now no one would have expected him to fall from grace as suddenly as did the golfing icon. This is another one of those stories which poker players will hope is not true–but we have been disappointed before.