Britain’s oldest casino is investigating a $10 million win by the world’s top rated poker player – and is refusing to pay him a single penny. However, they have returned his $1m stake.
Crockfords, the exclusive Mayfair gaming club, also known to be one of the most prestigious casinos in the UK and also has a reputation for attracting ‘whalers’, has informed the Gambling Commission that it is withholding Phil Ivey’s payout. We believe that this situation is unprecedented and a detailed investigation is underway to determine whether a major fraud has taken place.
Insider sources say that Mr.Ivey, who was accompanied by a ‘beautiful Oriental woman’, was playing Punto Banco, which is a skill-free variant of baccarat, when he struck a remarkable winning streak. Punto Banco is the sister game of Chemin de Fer, the high-stakes card game favoured by James Bond who will be appearing this November in his new film Sky Fall.
The aim is to hold cards with a count of nine or closest to nine. You bet that either the hand held by the player (punto) or banker (banco) will win and place bets on the appropriate area on the table. You can also make a ‘tie’ bet. Tens and picture cards and multiples of ten count as zero: for example, 7 + 3 = 0; 10 + 4 = 4; king + 10 = 0.Its appeal rests on how the advantage can switch with each new card, lending huge excitement to the action. Like blackjack, the game is played with several packs of cards, which are shuffled by a croupier and dealt from a shoe.
The 184-year-old casino initially accepted the loss and agreed to transfer the winnings to his bank account, but six weeks on it has returned only his $1 million stake.
A known fact is that Mr Ivey played for two nights over the August bank holiday for about seven hours in all.
Crockfords, the oldest private gaming club in the world, is owned by Genting, the Malaysian gaming corporation, and are also corporate sponsors of Aston Villa FC.
Genting investigators flew to London from Kuala Lumpur to speak to everyone who was working on the two nights in question and to examine hours of film from surveillance cameras.
The cards used and the shoe they were dealt from were also scrutinised. All the action was recorded on ten cameras.
Mr Ivey was initially gambling $55,000 per hand, which can be over in less than a minute. He was later given permission by the management to increase his stake to $150,000. At first, Mr Ivey’s losses were heading towards $500,000 but he recovered, and at the end of the first night was $3 million up. His winning form continued on the second night and by the time that he signalled he was ready to quit he had amassed £7.3 million.
He told the management he wanted the money transferred into his bank account.
The casino allegedly told him it couldn’t be done straight away because of the bank holiday, but assured him that it would be done on Tuesday, August 28.
Mr Ivey left the club and the casino began an immediate investigation.
Because of the difficulties involved, instances of Punto Banco cheating are rare.