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Did Phil Ivey cheat?

English: 2009 WSOP Seat 3 - Phil Ivey - 9,765,000
English: 2009 WSOP Seat 3 – Phil Ivey – 9,765,000 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Barry Carter looks at the legal battle between Phil Ivey and Crockfords Casino and asks whether what he did could be considered cheating, as they have alleged.

Despite being universally considered the best player in the world as well as being a key figure in the story of the Full Tiltscandal, Phil Ivey has garnered perhaps the most mainstream media attention for a non poker related story.

That is his alleged cheating at Crockfords Casino in London playing Punto Banco. Ivey had his £7.5 million winnings confiscated and is now taking the casino to court to reclaim them.

More than likely this will get settled out of court. Money aside, both parties stand to lose a lot in the form of bad publicity for their future endeavors if this gets dragged through the legal process.

But either way, was what Ivey did cheating?

Edge sorting

The argument being made is that the cards being used had small design flaws, which made it possible to identify what card it was from the pattern on the back. Ivey is alleged to have brought an associate who was adept at spotting these design flaws, which gave him an edge.

Ivey and his associate would then request the decks be changed, until a deck with design flaws on the back was used, which he then requested would remain in play.


Casino error
The casino has argued that Ivey “acted to defeat the essential premise of the game” but Phil himself has said that it was the casino’s error and he was an advantage player, who played within the rules of the game.

This technique is much the same as card counting in Blackjack, which, although it will get you banned from a casino, is not technically a form of cheating. Although Ivey did influence the decks that were in play, he never influenced the way in which the cards were dealt. He simply observed and made decisions based on his observations.

The casino was well within their rights to change the deck at any time, but they wanted to keep Phil happy and playing.

edge

The big question is how can a casino, which is prepared to host high stakes games as big as these, make such a fundamental mistake of using a deck of cards with design flaws on the back?

One would argue this was incompetence. If I were a cynic I might suggest that it was because they are fully aware of these design flaws and would want to use them to their own advantage.

So was it cheating? I don’t think it was, not even close.

Ivey didn’t influence the outcome of the cards one bit and was privy to the same information the casino was. I’m not saying it wasn’t calculated or even a little bit shady on Phil’s part, but any blame has to go to the casino for allowing such a vulnerability in the first place.

For me, Ivey acted within the rules of the game and Crockfords had ample opportunity to influence the action that took place to ensure Phil did not have an edge. It is sour grapes and incompetence on their part, and they should…..

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