This week, Phil Ivey will make an appearance in a UK appeals court to see if he can recoup over $11 million in winnings denied him by Crockfords Club in 2012.
In January of this year, Phil Ivey was given the go-ahead by Court of Appeal Judge Lord Justice Lewison to appeal a 2014 High Court ruling that pitted Ivey against Genting Casinos. Ivey sued Genting (Crockfords Club specifically) in May of 2013 for withholding £7.8 million in winnings he won during a baccarat session in August of 2012.
Upon granting the appeal request, Lord Justice Lewison stated that his grounds for granting appeal “raise an important question of law and have a real prospect of success.”
“This wording from the Court of Appeal, that the grounds of our appeal raise an important question of law and have real prospects of success is quite simply the best news I’ve had since I won the £7.8m at Crockfords three and a half years ago in August 2012,” Ivey said in a statement at the time the appeal was granted.
Ivey’s appeal will be heard on April 13, and he’ll be represented by Archerfield Partners LLP and Richard Spearman QC from Thirty Nine Essex Street Chambers.
Not the only edge-sorting lawsuit Ivey is facing
Ivey is also being sued by the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City for using the same tactic, with the same accomplice, to win almost $10 million over the course of multiple sessions at the New Jersey casino that took place from April to October of 2012.
While the cases are similar, unlike the situation at Crockfords, the Borgata paid Ivey his winnings. So instead of Ivey suing the casino for his winnings, the casino is suing Ivey to recoup the money he won. Furthermore, the two cases are playing out in different countries under different rules of law.
Is edge sorting cheating?
The reason Crockfords withheld Ivey’s winnings (they did return his £1 million in stake money) was because Ivey had used a tactic known as edge-sorting.
Edge-sorting, in a nutshell, is where the player takes advantage of slight, nearly imperceptible, flaws in the design on the card back. In Ivey’s case he claimed to be highly superstitious and asked for certain cards to be rotated in certain ways, and the deck to be shuffled in a specific way, allowing an associate of his to identify them based on the flaw.
For a deeper dive into edge-sorting I recommend this column.
The case will likely be decided on a single point: Is edge-sorting cheating, or is it simply a player gaining a perfectly fair advantage over the casino?
Right now we don’t know, and these cases will likely set the precedent going forward.
In addition to the previous ruling in favor of Crockfords, in June of 2015, Ivey’s accomplice lost a case she filed against Foxwoods in an effort to receive some $3 million in winnings that casino withheld because they deemed her to be edge-sorting.
Experts have also weighed in, but quite frankly, we are far away from a clear consensus.
Ivey has never denied the edge-sorting charges. Instead he has emphatically claimed all along that the tactic is not cheating and built his case around that principle.
“As I said at the time of the London verdict in October 2014, it is not in my nature to cheat,” Ivey said in a statement after his appeal request was granted. “[This] is why I was so bitterly disappointed by the judge’s decision, even though he said that I was a truthful witness and that he was sure that I didn’t believe that what I was doing was cheating.”
It would appear Lord Justice Lewison agrees with poker legend. The question is, will the appeals court?
The bottom line is this: Ivey could have a $20 million bankroll swing depending on how these two cases shake out. The good news for Phil is that he’s still drawing live in both situations.