10/09/2012 : PHIL IVEY'S REWARDING PUNTO BANCO HEATER
London's 184-year-old Crockford's gaming club withholds GBP 7.3 million in winnings from top poker pro
Top international poker pro Phil Ivey went on a heater playing Punto Banco at London's exclusive Crockfords gaming club six weeks ago, but is still awaiting payment of GBP 7.3 million in winnings.
The 184-year-old Mayfair-based Crockfords, owned by the Malaysian Genting gambling group, has confirmed to the authorities that it is withholding payment, but has not revealed why it is only prepared to pay Ivey his GBP 1 million stake at this point. The lack of communication from both parties, now arguing the issue through lawyers, has triggered widespread speculation, and this weekend the UK tabloid The Daily Mail took up the story.
A source alleged to have close knowledge of the dispute described the situation as unprecedented.
Accompanied by a "beautiful Oriental woman", 36-year-old Ivey hit a winning streak over two nights of gambling action in a Crockfords private room last August bank holiday. There are questions surrounding his companion, who allegedly aroused suspicions when it was discovered that her membership of another Mayfair casino had previously been suspended for reasons unknown.
The Mail reports that Ivey played for around seven hours in all over the two days. The only other people in the room with Ivey and his companion were the croupier and an inspector.
All the action was recorded on ten cameras. Reports are that Ivey was initially gambling GBP 50,000 a hand, but was later given permission by the management to increase his stake to GBP 150,000 as the action developed.
At first, Ivey’s losses were reportedly heading towards GBP 500,000 but he recovered, and at the end of the first night was GBP 2.3 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 GBP 7.3 million.
The casino initially agreed to transfer Ivey’s winnings to his bank account, but said there may be a delay due to the bank holiday… six weeks on it has returned only his GBP 1 million stake.
In the meantime Genting has instigated a rigorous investigation, flying in experts from Malaysia to interview the female croupier involved and apparently trawling through hours of table security CCTV footage. The source claims that nothing has emerged from this enquiry.
"No imperfections, or marks, that would have given Ivey an advantage were found. In any case, Ivey at no time touched the cards," said the source. "The shoe was also thoroughly inspected; once again the investigators drew a blank."
Punto Banco is the favoured game of high-rollers. The result is determined as soon as the cards are dealt – it offers marginally better odds than games such as roulette.
The incident has achieved global media coverage, with some publications pointing out that twelve years ago a Triad gang used covert surveillance footage to read cards being dealt and relay a signal to a receiver outside the casino. The information was then transmitted to the player using a hidden earpiece. There is no suggestion that Ivey is accused of using any of these methods.
Ivey is an internationally known poker pro and holds eight World Series of Poker bracelets; his career earnings run into many millions of dollars.