$12 Million Casino Dispute: Did Phil Ivey Cheat Punto Banco? Poker Star Sues For Money As British Crockfords Cries Foul [VIDEO & REPORT]

By Staff Reporter May 13, 2013 1:34 PM EDT
A $12 million casino dispute has pitted poker star Phil Ivey against British casino Crockfords. (Photo: Reuters)
A $12 million casino dispute has pitted poker star Phil Ivey against British casino Crockfords. (Photo: Reuters)

A $12 million casino dispute has world-famous professional poker player Phil Ivey suing a British casino for allegedly withholding earnings.

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The poker star won $12 million in August at British casino Crockfords while playing punto banco, a version of baccarat. But Crockfords has refused to pay out the $12 million, accusing Ivey of cheating the house through his knowledge of tiny flaws in the playing cards.

Punto banco is designed to be completely unpredictable, a pure game of chance. Each player draws two or three cards in hopes of achieving a sum total that is closer to nine than the dealer.

But Crockfords is certain that Ivey exploited flaws in the cards' designs. Check out the Daily Mail's diagram of how the game may have been scammed.

The $12 million casino dispute began when Ivey and an unidentified woman sat down to play "heads-up" against the dealer. Ivey started his bets at $77,000 per hand, and ultimately raised the stakes as high as $230,000.

Ivey continued to gamble on the game over a period of three nights, at one point falling as far as $770,000 into the red before making a comeback to scoop up $12 million in winnings.

But Crockford disputes the $12 million winnings, believing that Ivey was able to spot tiny imperfections in the game's cards and use them to identify cards of value as they circled into play.

Playing cards are designed to be marked identically to prevent this sort of con. Casinos usually replace playing cards at the end of each night; however, as Yahoo Sports reports, Ivey was somehow able to convince the casino to use the same set of cards throughout his three-day run.

Will the $12 million casino dispute go in favor of the house, or the popular poker player? (Photo: Creative Commons)
Will the $12 million casino dispute go in favor of the house, or the popular poker player? (Photo: Creative Commons)

Crockfords has refused to pay Ivey anything other than his initial $1 million buy-in. But Ivey insists the $12 million in winnings is rightfully his.

"I was given a receipt for my winnings," Ivey said in a statement, "But Crockfords has withheld payment. I have no alternative but to take legal action."

The $12 million casino dispute has caused a stir in the poker world, where Ivey, who has won nine World Series of Poker bracelets throughout his career, enjoys an immaculate reputation among his peers.

Watch Phil Ivey discuss his gambling strategies in the clip below:

Ivey's honorable character was lauded last fall by poker pundit Lance Bradley, who spoke to ABC News. "There's nothing in his past that would hint at his being a cheater or unethical in any way. People say he's arguably the best poker player in the world; but, really, there's no argument: He's number one. He's known both for his skill and for his love of high-stakes games. He loves anything where there's some sexiness at stake."

But the $12 million casino dispute is unlikely to be resolved with glowing character testimonies from the poker world. Crockfords has vowed to defend its decision, and is currently having tapes of Ivey's punto banco spree examined by fraud prevention specialists.

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