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"Tiger Woods Of Poker" Loses Landmark Lawsuit For Cheating In Mayfair Casino

The American poker player, Phil Ivey, ten-time World Series Poker winner, lost his UK Supreme Court case to recover 7.7 million pounds ($10.2 million dollars) of winnings from Crockfords, a casino in London’s prime Mayfair district. Afterwards Ivey – known as the “Tiger Woods of poker” with $23 million of career winnings – complained that British judges have “no experience or understanding” of casinos. Crockfords accused Ivey of cheating, using a method called “edge sorting”.

Wiki explains edge sorting as follows.

Edge sorting is a technique used in advantage gambling where a player determines whether a face-down playing card is likely to be low or high at casino table games by observing and exploiting subtle unintentional differences on the backs of some types of card, after persuading a croupier to cooperate by unwittingly sorting the cards into low and high…(the technique) requires the player to trick the croupier into rotating cards. Many packs of cards produced by manufacturers have unintentional edge irregularities. Typically all the backs of the cards in such a pack are identical, but the two long edges of each card are consistently distinguishable: the pattern is not symmetrical to a 180° rotation (half a full turn).

The FT reports that the case is a landmark judgment in the UK, overhauling how fraud cases are presented and potentially making it easier for prosecutors to secure fraud convictions, according to legal experts.

Mr Ivey won the £7.7m playing a version of the card game Baccarat known as Punto Banco at Crockfords Club in Mayfair in 2012. Genting, the casino’s owner, refused to pay out, arguing that the 40-year old American had used an unfair technique called “edge-sorting” that allows a sharp-eyed player to exploit design irregularities in the cards. The five-judge Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously upheld an earlier majority decision of the Court of Appeal, and dismissed the case on the grounds that Mr Ivey and a fellow gambler, Cheung Yin Sun, had cheated by interfering with the game. More broadly, the judgment has far-reaching implications for fraud cases, where disputes often centre on whether a defendant was dishonest.

Wednesday’s decision found that part of the go-to test of dishonesty, dubbed the “Ghosh test” after a famous 1982 case, should no longer be applied. The two-step test asks whether a defendant knew his actions would be deemed dishonest by a reasonable person, but went ahead and committed them anyway. After Wednesday’s decision, a prosecutor no longer has to prove that a defendant held this particular belief.” The decision represents a “fundamental change to one of the basic facets of criminal fraud law”, said David Corker, a lawyer at Corker Binning who specialises in white-collar cases. “A prosecutor need only place before the court facts about what the accused did and thought and invite the court to hold that he was dishonest. This is a huge shift towards an objective test of dishonesty.

Ivey argued that he exploited the casino’s failure to defend itself again a professional gambler, as the FT explains...

The court judgment said that Mr Ivey and Ms Sun used the pretext that they were superstitious to get the croupier to arrange the cards with the edges of high-value ones all lined up in the same direction. Mr Ivey said the practice was “legitimate gamesmanship”, and he had simply made use of Crockfords’ failure to protect itself against a professional gambler. One of the judges, Lord Hughes, said that Mr Ivey had staged a “carefully planned and well executed sting”. He said Mr Ivey’s actions were “positive steps to fix the deck and therefore constituted cheating”.

 

He added: “If he had secretly gained access to the shoe of cards and personally rearranged them that would be considered cheating. He accomplished the same results by directing the actions of the croupier and tricking her into thinking that what she did was irrelevant.”

When it comes to lawsuits for edge sorting, and losing them, Ivey has “form”.

Mr Ivey said after the judgment:

“It is very frustrating that the UK judges have no experience or understanding of casinos…or the ongoing battle between casinos and professional gamblers attempting to level the playing field.”

Paul Willcock, president and chief operating officer of Genting UK, said:

“We are delighted that the High Court, the Court of Appeal and now the supreme court have all found in Genting’s favour, confirming that we acted fairly and properly at all times and that Mr Ivey’s conduct did indeed amount to cheating.”

He said the judgment “entirely vindicates Genting’s decision not to pay Mr Ivey, a decision that was not taken lightly”. Mr Ivey lost a similar case in the US last year where a district judge ruled that the gambler had breached his contract with a casino in Atlantic City by deploying edge-sorting.