Thanks to GamingToday for two recent columns by The Analyst regarding the controversy over Phil Ivey’s big win while playing high-stakes baccarat at casinos in London and in other Atlantic City. The casino accuses him of cheating on him. How else, they thought, could he win so much money from them – all of it, about $ 20 million?
Ivey has used “edge sorting,” based on the fact that some decks of cards are made with differences in the long edge of their back. An English court ruled Ivey was not cheating – no way! But, nevertheless, they decided he was not entitled to the millions he won.
Confusing thoughts! How do we best explain this decision? According to Wikipedia, cheating is “breaking the rules to gain an unfair advantage in a competitive situation.” But Ivey didn’t break the rules; The casinos visit KingPoker99 agree to the terms it has set to make him play there. Perhaps, without realizing it, they might have given him some slight advantage – an edge. Maybe he tricked them.
The British High Court ruled on the technique, which required the player to “trap the croupier” (the dealer) into a spinning card, was fraudulent in civil law and a casino was justified for refusing to pay a win. I do not agree! The dealer is not required to rotate the card before inserting it into the shuffle machine.
Interestingly, your card counting and yellow card counting are almost the same strategies that increase statistical odds for the players, and are not considered cheating in any way. Casinos increase the number of decks used in blackjack to sharply cut a player’s edge. Still not cheating.
“Unfair advantage?” – Let’s see it from a different point of view. One might argue casinos should cheat when they improve the odds on slots and other forms of competitive gambling. Arranging the opportunities at their own pace certainly gave them a big advantage. That’s how casino owners got rich. But players are aware of this practice and choose, of their own free will, to enter the competition – without twisting arms. So, it looks like the high court has no problem letting the casino have the edge?
Are Ivey’s principles different in principle? The two casinos agreed on the rules and ran the game on it, and Ivey won millions! The court ruled that Ivey was not cheating in the game, but decided he could not accept (keep) his win. That seems like a dichotomy – a serious contradiction.
When I play poker at a casino, I accept the fact that the casino will take a “rake” from each pot. That is a major part of the “cost to play.” In the controversy with Ivey, both casinos accepted his terms to encourage him to play high-stakes baccarat against them. No cheating. The advantages are fair – just like the casino advantage when we play slots and baccarat and other games of chance.
In line with this, this is a situation that often occurs at hold’em tables: A player messes up his hand, but while doing so accidentally comes up with a card. The dealer then displays the wrong card to all the players.
Some may be paying attention, others are “too busy” to notice. Thus, the more observant player has a clear advantage over the others when he then uses that information to help make decisions. Not cheating. Completely legal.
As in Phil Ivey’s case, he deserves to save the chips he won (or save them by avoiding losses) because of that information. I’m with Phil on this one. But, maybe also, my bias is shown.