Supreme Court Gives Phil Ivey Permission to Appeal

March 15th, 2017

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Supreme Court Gives Phil Ivey Permission to Appeal

The man many consider to be the best poker player in the world, Phil Ivey, will get one final chance to claim the £7.7 million taken from home by London's Crockfords Casino. The complex case has dragged on for almost five years, but Ivey is hoping the Supreme Court will overturn all previous decisions and award him a seven-figure baccarat haul he won back in 2012.

Indeed, like all good poker players, Ivey knows that unless you fold, a hand is never over until the river and that's what he's counting on after he was granted an appeal by the highest court in the UK.

News of Ivey being awarded an appeal in his baccarat case broke at the close of February 2017, but it took any number of trials, twists and turns to get to that point. In fact, because the series of legal battles has taken a number of different directions over the last few years, it's worth running through a brief timeline of events that have led us to this point.

Ivey vs Crockfords: Timeline of Events

  • August 2012: Ivey, along with a partner, won £7.7 million playing Punto Banco, a variant of baccarat, at London's exclusive Crockfords Club, London. After learning that he'd used a technique known as edge sorting, the casino refused to pay Ivey his winnings, although it did return his £1 million stake.
  • May 2013: Ivey starts a legal case against the Crockfords and its owner, Genting Casinos UK Ltd, at London's High Court. The basis of Ivey's case was that he should be entitled to his winnings as he hadn't broken the rules of the game.
  • October 2014: Ivey loses High Court claim and Crockfords is allowed to keep the money he believes he won fairly.
  • January 2015: Ivey is granted permission to appeal the High Court ruling and his legal team set about building a case that will overturn the original decision.
  • April 2016: Ivey's appeal is heard at London's Court of Appeal.
  • November 2016: The Court of Appeal upholds the High Court decision and Ivey decides to make a final move to claim his money.
  • February 2017: Ivey's application to appeal all previous rulings is granted by the Supreme Court.

What is Edge Sorting and Why Does it Matter to Ivey?

Up until this point, the ongoing battle between Ivey and the house has come down to his use of a technique known as edge sorting. In short, edge sorting is a technique that involves reading small imperfections on the backs of playing cards in order to determine their value.

This technique isn't explicitly banned by casinos and isn't considered cheating. In this case, Ivey's partner was able to spot printing imperfections on a certain batch of Gemaco cards. Ivey subsequently used this to his advantage to make a profit.

Back in October 2014, poker pro Ivey lost his case against London's Crockfords Casino. Despite arguing that his technique of reading small printing errors on the backs of certain Gemaco cards wasn't illegal, the UK's High Court ruled in favour of the house.

Continuing the case in April 2016, Ivey's legal team not only reiterated this point, but went on to argue that Ivey's intent during the sessions wasn't to cheat or obtain money through deception. After hearing the evident, the Court of Appeals ultimately ruled against Ivey, but not before offering him a glimmer of hope.

If a Player Doesn't Intend to Cheat, is it Really Cheating?

During the case, all three judges agreed that Ivey's intentions weren't dishonest. However, in spite of this, Lady Justice Arden ruled that a player could still "cheat" under the terms of the UK Gambling Act 2005 without being intentionally deceptive.

"In my judgement, this section provides that a party may cheat within the meaning of this section without dishonesty or intention to deceive: depending on the circumstances it may be enough that he simply interferes with the process of the game."
Lady Justice Arden

Based on this, Arden and Lord Justice Tomlinson dismissed the appeal. However, Lady Justice Sharp did rule in Ivey's favour. Reviewing the previous rulings and the current definition of "cheating" as outlined by the Gambling Act 2005, Sharp suggested that the High Court had interpreted the issue of cheating inappropriately.

Although this wasn't enough to give Ivey the win, it opened the door to one final hearing at the Supreme Court. Although it could take a few months before his case is heard, Ivey's legal team are planning to use the unclear definition of cheating and intent to their advantage. One of Ivey's legal team members, Matthew Dowd of Archerfield Partners LLP., went onto explain:

"The Court of Appeal's ruling left the interpretation of Section 42 of the Gambling Act totally unclear and the decision to grant permission to appeal demonstrates that the Supreme Court agrees with that view."

As well as arguing that the inappropriate interpretation of Section 42 is damaging in this case, the legal experts are also suggesting it could affect the gambling industry as a whole. If the High Court's ruling is left to stand, then it could potentially allow players to be accused of cheating without having any intentions to deceive.

Whichever way the final hearing goes, there's no doubt that Ivey won't be letting go of his £7.7 million haul without a fight. If you think Ivey is primed for a setback and you'd like to be the next poker star to step into the light, start honing your skills at 888poker today!

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