UK Supreme Court Decides to Hear the Phil Ivey-Crockford’s Edge Sorting Case
The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal in Phil Ivey’s Crockford’s Casino lawsuit. Phil Ivey lost in the UK’s Court of Appeal in November, but he still hopes to collect £7.3 million in winnings from previous baccarat sessions at Crockford’s Casino in London.
Most American gambling enthusiasts are more familiar with the Borgata edge-sorting case involving Phil Ivey. The Crockford’s case is based upon similar edge-sorting issues, and was the impetus for Borgata to sue Phil Ivey and Cheung Yin Sun in the first place.
Phil Ivey vs. Borgata
For more than 2 years, Phil Ivey’s baccarat sessions at the Borgata in Atlantic City were a down deal. He won $9.6 million in a series of high-stakes baccarat sessions from May 2012 to August 2012.
Borgata’s staff never suspected that Phil Ivey and Cheung Yin Sun used edge-sorting with flaw Gemaco playing cards to gain an advantage in those $50k-per-hand and $100k-per-hand sessions. Then he sued Crockford’s for refusing to pay winnings on his high-roller sessions in London, tipping off Borgata to what happened in 2012.
In the upcoming UK Supreme Court case, Phil Ivey has a dream team of lawyers. Ivey’s legal team includes Richard Spearman of Thirty Nine Essex Chambers law firm, Matthew Dowd of Archerfield Partners, and Max Mallin of along with Wilberforce Chambers.
Matthew Dowd on Court of Appeal Decision
Matthew Dowd released a statement expressing Ivey’s satisfaction in having the Court of Appeal decision reviewed. Dowd said, “Phil and his legal team are delighted that the Supreme Court judges have decided that the Court Of Appeal’s decision should be reviewed.
“The Court Of Appeal’s ruling left the interpretation of Section 42 of the Gambling Act totally unclear and the decision to grant permission to appeal demonstrates that the Supreme Court agrees with that view.”
Early reports suggest that the appellate case could be settled by the beginning of summer. Though the Crockford’s case will have no bearing on any appeals of the Borgata decision, it would give Phil Ivey satisfaction to see a major court side with him over the casino, along with providing millions of pounds in cash.
Phil Ivey on the Crockford’s Case
Phil Ivey gave a statement on Tuesday to assorted reporters in New Jersey. He told those assembled, “Last November’s Court Of Appeal ruling made no sense to me. The original trial judge ruled that I was not dishonest and none of the three Court Of Appeal judges disagreed and yet the decision went against me by a majority of two to one.
“I am so pleased that the Supreme Court has granted me permission to fight for what I genuinely believe is the right thing to do in my circumstances and for the entire gaming industry. I look forward to the Supreme Court reversing the decision against me.”
In December 2016, Judge Noel Hillman of the United States District Court for New Jersey found against Phil Ivey in the Borgata edge-sorting case. Judge Hillman ordered Phil Ivey to pay Borgata $10.1 million, which included $9.6 million for the money he collected in winnings, as well as several hundred thousand dollars Ivey and Cheung received in comps from the Borgata. Hillman rejected Borgata request for several million more they had expected him to lose in a fair game.
Edge Sorting in Baccarat
Baccarat is a popular casino table game, but it is normally a game of chance. Punto banco baccarat has no element of skill or strategy, besides betting on the banker over the player (the banker has a lower house edge). When the game is played without edge sorting, a casino can expect to win money off a player, due to the house edge. While probabilitity and variance allows for Phil Ivey to win, the longer the game continues, the more likely the house edge is going to look like the results. Thus, a casino offer comps to high rollers, hoping they’ll keep playing until the casino’s advantage takes effect.
Edge sorting is a way for the player to get the advantage. If the cards are marked in any way, then a person with a sharp eye can sort the cards in a way which allows them to know which cards are most likely to appear. A high roller can make requests of the casino, which is almost certain to accede to those requests, in order to keep the game going. In Phil Ivey’s case, he requested that purple Gemaco playing cards be used, that the Borgata supply a dealer who spoke Chinese fluently, and that Cheung Yin Sun be allowed to sort the cards before play began. Borgata agreed to those stipulations.
Stacking the Deck with Marked Cards
What Phil Ivey and Chueng Yun Sin knew that the Borgata did not know was that the purple Gemaco cards were flawed. The backs of the cards with the numbers 6,7,8 and 9 were slightly off-center, so a person with a sharp eye could sort the cards to put those numbers in their desired locations in the deck. Armed with that information, Phil Ivey and Cheung Yin Sun could play with a high degree of certainty of what the outcome of a hand would be. That amounted to $9.6 million in winnings in Atlantic City and over $8 million in winnings in London.
Edge sorting is considered a violation of New Jersey gaming laws. Judge Hillman ruled that Phil Ivey did not cheat, but he also violated laws which involved fairness in casino games. Because the Borgata did not know they were playing at a disadvantage, the results were voided.
Whether the UK Supreme Court rules the same now will be decided in the summer of 2017. A pair of UK courts have ruled on behalf of Genting Group (Crockford’s ownership group) so far, but that does not mean the Supreme Court will do the same. The mood of the United Kingdom right now seems to be anti-gambling.
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