Poker Star Ivey Asks British Court to Define Cheating


Cheating is mostly a black and white concept, unless you start diving into the realm of sports and gaming. While there’s usually a clear line that is crossed when it comes to breaking the rules, we’ve come to find out that sometimes those lines can be grayed – especially with incidents like the National Football League and Tom Brady’s footballs. The same is true in gaming, and professional poker player Phil Ivey is hoping to help define some of those lines.

Ivey has asked a London appeals court to make a ruling on what is defined as cheating and what is defined as playing your cards correctly. It all stems back to an incident where Ivey originally won 7.8 million pounds in a game of Baccarat, but was then was labeled as a “cheater” and saw his prize withheld.

Ivey, who has won at the World Series of Poker 10 times, won the big sum of money when playing at Punto Banco at Crockfords casino in London, England in 2012. When the case was first brought to a lower court, he admitted to using a technique called “edge sorting”, which is a specific way of arranging your cards in Baccarat. The idea is to take advantage of some minor differences or flaws in the game to give the player a better idea of high and low-value cards. He viewed it as a legitimate tactic of winning whereas the casino viewed it as cheating. Now the two sides are set for their second wave of court battles.

In the lower court, Ivey lost his case because the judge deemed his actions to be cheating. At the same time, the judge found that Ivey didn’t act dishonestly and found him to be truthful. That’s what has opened the door for an appeal. Usually, cheating is an act of dishonesty, so that’s where some of the lines are getting grayed. Beyond that, Ivey comes from poker where bluffing – or deception – is an integral part of the game. In this particular case, Ivey was being honest about his tactic, so is he really cheating?

That will be up to the appeals court as they’ll have to come to some legal definition of cheating as well as what it constitutes. Poker is a game of skill and therefore the bluffing is viewed as part of the skill. The house has argued that Baccarat is not a game of skill and that it is merely a game of chance, which is why they aren’t happy with the fact that Ivey found an edge. And beyond that, the house is supposed to always be one step ahead of the player, but in this case, it looks like the casino wasn’t even aware that “edge sorting” was a possible strategy.

So which is it? Is Ivey within the rules and just tipping the advantage in his favor? Or is he crossing the line and cheating? The same can be said for counting cards and deflating footballs. At this point, it will be up to the appeals court in London to decide what’s black and what’s white.