The Ivey League, Phil Ivey’s Poker Training Site, Plans to Close on May 1

The Ivey League, Phil Ivey’s Poker Training Site, Plans to Close on May 1
Phil Ivey's commitment to the Ivey League website was questioned by some in the gaming media.

The Ivey League, Phil Ivey’s poker training website, announced it would close on May 1, 2017. The Ivey League’s clossure ends a business venture that began in 2012.

In 2012, Phil Ivey bought Leggopoker, an online poker training website that already had a community of trainees. The plan to was to make the Ivey League into a successful training video site like CardRunners.

Ambitions as an Online Poker Site

Eventually, Phil Ivey wanted the site to become an online poker site in the vein of PokerStars. At the time, the US Justice Department had approved online poker, so the hope was dozens of US states would legalize iPoker.

The Ivey League tried a variety of guerilla marketing campaigns in the 4+ years of its operation. Despite that, Phil Ivey only posted 30 videos on the site since 2012. Not all of those videos featured poker training, either, so it was no suprise that the Ivey League never gained widespread popularity, despite Phil Ivey’s fame in the card playing world.

Other Celebrity Poker Training Sites

Phil Hellmuth, Mike Matusow, and Phil Galfond all have tried their hand at online poker training websites. These have had a range of success, but none have taken off like one might have expected. Name recognition is great, but like any business, focus and hard work pay off. A site like CardRunners posts dozens of videos a week, so unless a poker pro devotes either a lot of time or a lot of money to the enterprise, someone else is likely to produce a better video seminar.

Among those who’ve tried their hand at online poker training, Phil Ivey’s name recognition was greatest. Over the years, Ivey at various times has been considered the number one poker professional in the world. Ivey was named All-In Magazine’s Poker Player of the Year for 2005 and 2009.

Ivey was one of the big stars during the Poker Boom and his name recognition remains significant to this day. He’s won 9 World Series of Poker bracelets and made the final table at 9 World Poker Tour events. His cash game winnings are less well known, but considered significant.

Phil Ivey’s Edge-Sorting Lawsuits

Over the past couple of years, Phil Ivey received more attention from casino litigation than anything. He sued London’s Crockford’s Casino for over 7 million British pounds, after Crockford’s refused to pay his baccarat winnings.

In the resulting trial, Crockford’s accused Ivey and a baccarat partner of edge-sorting. Using his high roller status, he called for conditions like a Chinese translator, $50,000-a-hand baccarat hands, and purple Gemaco cards. It turned out the cards were faulty, so the edge-sorting let Phil Ivey and his accomplice to stack the deck in their favor.

Borgata Edge-Sorting Case

The Crockford’s case tipped off Borgata that the same sort of edge-sorting happened in their casino. The Atlantic City casino sued Phil Ivey for $9.6 million in winnings from baccarat in 2012, the same year the Crockford’s sessions took place. Eventually, Borgata won a $10+ million dollar case. The Crockford’s case is being appealed to the UK’s High Court, but Ivey lost in the British court system, too.

Thus, Phil Ivey has lost roughly $18 million or $19 million in lawsuits over the last few years. The legal fees likely put the hit at around $20 million for the two cases. Of course, Phil Ivey is a high stakes poker player, so he is used to large swings in fortune. He and some of his poker buddies once were shown on a WSOP broadcast on ESPN betting large amounts of money on golf — and none of the golfers seemed that skilled.

FullTilt Poker Scandal

The Ivey League is not Phil Ivey’s first foray into poker site investment. Ivey was one of a group of poker professionals vested in FullTilt Poker, at time one of PokerStars’ leading competitors. When the Black Friday scandal occurred on April 15, 2011, FullTilt Poker came under particular scrutiny, because it did not segregate operating funds from player funds the way a business should.

Eventually, the Department of Justice accused FullTilt Poker’s executives of running a Ponzi scheme. Top executives like Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson faced criticism and even some legal jeopardy. Though a member of the FTP team, Phil Ivey did not have the same level of interest or decision making at FullTilt Poker. In fact, in May 2011, Ivey filed a $150 million lawsuit against FullTilt Poker, claiming damages and asking to be released from his contract.

On June 30th of that same year, Phil Ivey voluntarily withdrew his lawsuit. One authority website suggested he won $18.66 million playing on FullTilt Poker between 2007 and 2010.

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