By Ron Dicker,
Poker champ Phil Ivey recently played a different card game and won $11.7 million. But did he play Crockfords casino for a sucker?
The ritzy London gambling joint is withholding the money Ivey earned there in August in a Baccarat variation called Punto Banco.
Unlike poker, Punto Banco is considered a no-skill game in which the outcome is determined strictly by the deal of the cards. And that’s perhaps why suspicions have been raised. Ivey had a “remarkable” lucky streak.
Crockfords, owned by Malaysia-based Genting, probably wasn’t complaining when Ivey quickly lost $800,000. But then he and an unidentified companion, whom Crockfords learned had her membership revoked by another casino, launched an impressive run over two nights.
Ivey and his companion never touched the cards. The only other people present during the streak were the croupier and an inspector. Investigators interviewed employees who worked that night and pored over surveillance video.
They also checked out the cards and the shoe from which they were dealt.
Lawyers for both sides are in a “tense standoff,” according to sources. And it remains unclear if Ivey is being accused of an impropriety.
The casino originally agreed to deposit his winnings in a bank account, but has only returned his initial $1.6 million bankroll.
Ivey, 35, has won eight World Series of Poker bracelets and is “arguably the best poker player in the world,” according to WSOP.com.
He also has a reputation as a high roller away from his profession. He recently accepted an undisclosed settlement of a $900,000 debt reportedly owed him by fellow pro Ram Vaswani on a golf bet.
Vaswani originally refused to pay because he felt Ivey underplayed his skills but acknowledged they had reached an “arrangement.”