Cheating is wrong. Using one’s intelligence to gain a competitive advantage is acceptable. Most people agree with those two statements, but deciding what cheats or advantages fall into which category is another matter entirely. At least that’s what Britain’s oldest casino, Crockfords, and arguably the single greatest card player on Earth, Phil Ivey, are proving with a new lawsuit that may wind up being one of the most important trials ever to involve gambling.

Last year, Ivey and an unidentified Asian woman sat down at a Punto Banco table at Crockfords. The basic idea of the game is to draw as many cards as are needed in order to get closer to nine than the dealer. In theory, the game is about twenty percent common sense and eighty percent luck, but Ivey proved the exact opposite over a three day period in which he won more than $10,000,000. After he was finished, the casino said it would wire the money to his bank account, but according to The Daily Mail, almost a year later, all they’ve returned is his initial investment of a little more than $1,000,000. As such, Ivey recently filed a lawsuit to force the company to transfer his earnings, but if the casino is to be believed, he’s not entitled to them because he cheated.

Apparently, Ivey won so much money because he noticed tiny imperfections in the back of the cards near the edges. Through incredible mental effort, Ivey and the unidentified Asian woman allegedly figured out what imperfections corresponded with the most desirable cards, and he made larger bets when he knew those cards were going to be dealt to him. To casinos and this one in particular, what Ivey did was a form of cheating. To gamblers, however, what he did was use his own brain power to beat the casino using the conditions it created.

Over the last decade or so, poker has exploded in popularity, mainly because people have watched amateurs play with professionals and even occasionally win during The World Series of Poker. In the short run, that can definitely happen, but being a winner over the long haul is about way more than a single game. It’s about finding as many competitive advantages as one can through tells, card imperfections and basic math to increase winning odds as high as possible. There’s a reason why Ivey has millions and millions of dollars to his name, whether he wins this lawsuit or not.

We will keep you updated as the case progresses through the court system. Right now, it seems like the casino will have an uphill battle to prove it doesn’t owe Ivey the money he won through what sure as hell seems like competitive advantage, but we’ll just have to wait and see what legal arguments the lawyers come up with.

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