Phil Ivey - £7.8 Million Win Playing Punto Blanco

By Maria McCoyGoogle
One of pokers most renowned card sharks smashed a Punto Blanco casino table game for just under £8 million in the Crockfords Casino in the UK, but they won’t pay out the winnings.

Last August Phil, also known as the Tiger Woods of Poker, was in London smashing a game of Punto Blanco with a female companion by his side. However, since the game has such wild odds that swing mostly in the houses favour this raised alarm bells for casino officials. It is a game that is well known for its up swings as well as for its massive down swings, so a win of this magnitude wasn’t impossible, but the frequency of Ivey’s wins was just too much of a coincidence for the casino.

Punto Blanco is a variation of Baccarat, but it is slightly different to the traditional version of Baccarat with a higher house edge to the game. The rules on drawing are fixed, and so players have no choice on the way the cards are drawn onto the table as they would in normal Baccarat games. The cards are taken from a shoe usually containing 4 to 6 decks shuffled up in one batch. A cut card goes in front of the 7th last card, and this represents the last coup from the shoe. Players can win if they get an instant 8 or 9 with no more cards drawn. If an 8 or 9 is not present, then the rules on drawing cards are used. A way to cheat is if you had spotted imperfect patterns on the cards, then you could wager on the winning hand by selecting bank (balnco) or player (punto).

News has it that the lady accompanying the Poker superstar Ivey, who has 9 World Series of Poker Gold Bracelets and over $17.5 million in tournament earnings, has been banned from several casinos for cheating at exactly the same game. Punto Blanco cheats read the card patterns imperfections by asking the dealer to tilt the card deck to an angle. Apparently, after the casino questioned the croupier dealing the cards in the game, the croupier said that Ivey had in fact asked the cards to be tilted.

Further evidence of possible foul play was also revealed by the dealer as not all decks of cards have these imperfections. Phil had allegedly asked the dealer not to change out the decks, and the dealer was happy to fulfil Ivey’s request as he is a well-known high roller at the Crockfords casino owned by Genting, and so he was treated as such.

To date, Phil has only been given back the amount of money he cashed out in chips before he started playing, meaning he walked out of the casino neither up or down, but he has not received the pay-out he believes he is owed. As a result Ivey is now threatening court action, but in most cases such as these the casinos usually come out on top.

It could be that Crockfords offer a settlement to keep the incident low key, but Ivey may push the boundaries and make the case public. With his popularity in poker this could be damaging for Crockfords and Gentings, so it could be that they just pay Ivey and let it go if the case becomes too risky for the casinos reputation. It’s looking more and more like this is going to be a rare popular pro-gambler versus casino battle, so watch this space for more updates on how this story develops.

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