A Rat in the Baccarat

Silliman on Sports
By Stan Silliman


Crockfords’ Casino in London got whipped in a game of punto banco (baccarat) to the tune $ 12 million dollars by an American and they’re not paying.  Phil Ivey is suing Crockfords to collect his winnings.

We rarely do poker stories but when the world’s greatest poker player beats England’s oldest casino and they refused to pay, our ears perked.  What possible excuse can Crockfords’ (“You can get any color chip you want, as long as it is black”) make that allows them to not pay the winnings?  Phil Ivey has a sterling reputation, has never been accused of cheating but that’s exactly what Crockfords is trying to maintain.
Crockfords’ withheld payment because they thought Ivey spotted imperfections in the cards giving him an unfair advantage.

So let’s figure this out. Punto banco is a game where you draw three cards and the closer to nine wins. Ivey played this game at Crockfords over three nights and sometimes saw his pot go $ 770,000 in the red but he hung in there and walked out with a receipt for $ 11.9 million in winnings.  Now, Crockfords’ is saying he may have noticed some of the cards might have had slight printing differences on the back sides giving Ivey an advantage.  That is Crockfords’ case and they’re hiring experts trying to prove it.

Hmmm? This begs a few questions. How many years you been in business, Crockfords? Since 1828 when William Crockford set up a nice place to fleece the royals and the aristocrats? Okay. Who furnishes the cards for the baccarat games? Did Phil Ivey walk in with his own deck of cards? How many cameras do you have in the ceiling watching Ivey and all the high rollers who frequent your joint?

Crockfords is saying the winnings were won with a bad deck of cards, that they were somehow imperfect.  I say that’s what my dad would call a “crock.” These games were played over three days. Certainly, a fine establishment like Crockfords could afford more than one deck of cards. I know some Brits are penny pinchers but, surely, the overhead isn’t that tight.

This is a case of the house always wins, and when it doesn’t win, it whines. C’mon Crockfords’, YOU supplied the cards. If they were bad, that’s your problem or at the very least, a problem between you and your card supplier.   Ivey, a poker player, did what poker players do. They look for tells, they check for weaknesses, they OBSERVE.  You can’t supply bad merchandise and then claim foul when your own products screwed you up.  If you didn’t dispose of the cards after each days play, that’s your fault. I think you got greedy, Crockford, and kept the cards in play when you saw Ivey losing the first two days and was only too happy to raise the betting limit from $ 77,000 per hand to $ 230,000 a hand on day three.
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Greed, Mr. Crockford, and faulty merchandise did you in.  You figured since he was losing at the smaller hands, you could really smack him at the $ 230,000 hands. You violated your own rules and raised limits even when knowing you were squaring off against the number one ranked poker player in the world.

Let’s go back to the imperfect card theory with the diamond backed pattern, the one where you claim some of the cards could have been cut differently at the corners.  You’re one of the oldest casinos in existence. Don’t you have people check your new card shipments when they arrive?  Don’t you know every trick in the book? What good is it to be in business 185 years if you haven’t gained experience? What good is it to be around 185 years if you don’t quality control the products you put on the table?
Even if the cards were imperfect and Ivey spotted it, you’re still the house. You supply the decks, you have all the options.  I know the house always wins but this time the American beat you. Pay up, old chap.

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