The casino called his bluff in the legal system and won. The world's greatest poker player, Phil Ivey, must repay $US10.1 million ($A13.8m) in winnings to an Atlantic City casino. The casino said he broke the rules. Ivey says his winnings were all above board -- or boardwalk, as the case may be.
A little back story.
Phil Ivey is a pro gambler. He has a Rolls Royce and lives in a huge house on a golf course in Las Vegas. He grew up in a small town in New Jersey. His grandpa taught him poker, and his first job was at McDonald's. Each weekend, he'd take a bus to Atlantic City and gamble away his paltry McPay.
Usually he'd lose. But eventually he got smarter and started winning. And winning. And winning more.
For the last decade, no one has been more feared at the poker tables than Ivey. You just can't read that face. Ivey also plays other casino games. And ironically, it was a foray back to his old haunt of Atlantic City that started all this trouble.
In 2012, Ivey and a companion player, Cheng Yin Sun, played baccarat at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. Sun had taught herself a controversial gambling tactic called "edge sorting". In essence, you learn to tell which card is which from tiny, almost imperceptible differences in the markings on the back of cards.
The trick effectively enables players to know which cards are coming. In a game like baccarat -- which involves a simple process of betting on the dealer's or player's hand -- the method is invaluable.
Ivey, who staked the funds, and Sun, who provided the edge-sorting know-how, won huge sums from various casinos. They first struck trouble when a London casino withheld their winnings. And then, after they won all that money in the Borgata, the casino challenged their win in the courts.
The courts have now ruled that Ivey and Sun must return more than $10.1 million they won. U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman ruled the duo "did not meet their obligation to follow gambling regulations".
Ivey's legal team saw things the other way.
"What this ruling says is a player is prohibited from combining his skill and intellect and visual acuity to beat the casino at its own game." his lawyer said.
As you'd expect, almost everyone with an interest in gambling is on the side of Ivey.
"I think most poker players and gamblers are on Phil Ivey's side," poker consultant Zach Elwood told The Huffington Post Australia.
"The casinos make extremely large amounts of money offering games that are not beatable long-term. If someone is smart enough to beat the casino in a way that does not violate the rules, I believe the casino should just accept the loss and learn from their mistakes.
"Ivey did not bring in a new deck, he did not mark the deck; he just used the casino's own instruments against it. They even had plenty of time to figure out that something might be wrong, and they didn't correct the situation."
Ivey has announced he will appeal.
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