Poker Ace Loses UK Supreme Court Appeal

Crockfords prevails in edge sorting case

US poker ace Phil Ivey has lost his GBP 7.7 million case against Crockfords in a last-ditch appeal to the UK Supreme Court, closing a chapter that started back in 2012 when he was accused of edge sorting in high stakes baccarat games at the Mayfair casino in London.

The Supreme Court appeal was the latest court action on the issue which Ivey has lost.

Handing down judgement, to which a panel of five justices agreed, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Hughes said that Ivey had “staged a carefully planned and executed sting” which counted as cheating. He said that the integrity of Punto Banco baccarat depends on the cards being dealt at random without gamblers knowing their face value.

“What Mr. Ivey did was to stage a carefully planned and executed sting,” he said, finding that Ivey and an accomplice took “positive steps to fix the deck” by tricking the croupier. He said that “is inevitably cheating.”

Ivey claimed that his Crockford winnings were honestly obtained.

“At the time I played at Crockfords, I believed that edge-sorting was a legitimate Advantage Play technique and I believe that more passionately than ever today,” he said after the ruling. “As a professional gambler, my integrity is everything to me.”

The finding was the first to be made under section 42 of the Gambling Act since it was enforced, with the court deciding that dishonesty was not an integral part of cheating, and that Ivey was not entitled to the money.

Legal observers reacted to the ruling, describing it as a significant landmark for the gambling industry.

Audrey Ferrie, legal director at Pinsent Masons said: “Today’s judgment has shown that there is no such thing as ‘honest cheating’. From now on professional gamblers will need to be mindful of whether the skill and knowledge they use to beat the house could be construed as dishonest interference with the process of the game.”

Stephen Parkinson, head of criminal litigation at Kingsley Napley LLP, said:

“This is one of the most significant decisions in criminal law in a generation. The concept of dishonesty is central to a whole range of offences, including fraud.

“For 35 years juries have been told that defendants will only be guilty if the conduct complained of was dishonest by the standards of ordinary reasonable and honest people and also that they must have realised that ordinary honest people would regard their behaviour as dishonest. The Supreme Court has now said that this second limb of the test does not represent the law and that directions based upon it ought no longer to be given by the courts.”