U.S. poker star Phil Ivey has filed suit against Crockfords, claiming that Britain's oldest casino withheld close to $12 million in winnings from him, but the gambling house insists he cheated by reading the cards.
After a spectacular run playing punto banco, a baccarat game, last August at the Crockfords casino in Mayfair, London, Ivey racked up £7.6 million (U.S. $11.9 million). But the casino refused to pay, arguing that Ivey cheated.
"I was given a receipt for my winnings, but Crockfords has withheld payment," Ivey said in a statement. "I have no alternative but to take legal action."
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In punto banco, similar to blackjack, the idea is for a player to draw two or three cards with a sum total closer to nine than the dealer
. At the August game in question, Ivey and an unidentified Chinese woman were playing alone against the dealer, in full view of 10 casino cameras. Ivey started his betting at £50,000 (about $77,000) per hand, and later raised that, with the casino's blessing, to £150,000 (about $230,000) per hand.
At one point, Ivey and the woman were as much as £500,000 ($770,000) in the red, but still somehow managed to come back to win millions. Ivey also persuaded the dealer to keep recycling the cards, instead of disposing of them after each hand, as per policy.
Crockfords is convinced Ivey was able to "read the cards" by spotting tiny imperfections on the backs, enabling him to identify when certain cards would be on the table.
The scam is similar to the one Warren Beatty used in the 1966 film "Kaleidoscope," where he starred as a playboy who breaks into a card manufacturer to mark the cards and then beat the bank at every European casino.
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Ivey's companion is said to be banned from at least two casinos around the world after she reportedly won more than $1 million through a similar scheme in the U.S. in 2011. That casino also withheld the winnings in that case, a decision later upheld by the gaming commission.
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