A UK high court has ruled that Crockford’s does not have to pay US poker pro Phil Ivey the £7.7 million he won while playing baccarat, and edge sorting, at the London casino. The judge’s ruling in the case will not only hurt Ivey’s wallet, it could have a huge impact on UK law.

The case has its origins in a marathon baccarat session Ivey and a female companion had at Crockford’s back in August of 2012. At that time, the poker prodigy used an advanced form of advantage play called edge sorting to learn what cards would be dealt during the game. (Ivey insisted that the croupier use the same dcck of cards both nights he played.)

Ivey’s technique was successful, he won £7.7 million, but was it legal and honest? That’s where the UK courts come into the story.

When officials at Crockford’s figures out what Ivey and his companion were up to, they refused to pay out his winnings. In their view, and in their legal defense, they said that while edge sorting wasn’t necessarily illegal, Ivey should have known that it was considered a form of cheating.  That, it turns out, is a big deal for UK law.

Since 1982, UK juries have had to consider both whether a defendant’s conduct was dishonest by ordinary standards and whether or not the defendant knew their actions would be seen as dishonest by ordinary people. The Ivey ruling walks that concept back and suggests that the standard actually helps people who knowingly act in an aberrant manner.

“What Mr Ivey did was to stage a carefully planned and executed sting. That it was clever and skillful, and must have involved remarkably sharp eyes, cannot alter that truth,” the judge said. That means that Ivey both knew that Crockford’s would think edge sorting was cheating; and went ahead and did it anyways.

From a legal standpoint, Ivey seems out of options for collecting his cash from Crockford’s. Fortunately for Ivey, he’s got another shot at collecting edge sorting cash from a nearly identical case involving edge sorting at the Borgata in Atlantic City.


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