American poker player Phil Ivey walked into Crockford’s and won $11.5 million, but left the famous London casino without the winnings as the casino investigates whether the World Series of Poker regular cheated.
There is no evidence that Ivey, 35, cheated the system when he and a woman described as a “beautiful Oriental female friend” visited Crockford’s in August and won $11.5 million playing Punta Banco – a variant of baccarat, the Daily Mail reported this week. In fact, the casino wouldn’t even say publicly whether they believed Ivey cheated.
But that didn’t’ stop Crockford’s from paying Ivey his winnings. Instead, the London casino transferred the 35-year-old Californian’s $1.3 million initial stake, the Daily Mail reported.
The investigation into whether Ivey cheated involved inspecting cards, the dealing show and surveillance footage of Ivey’s Punto Banco streak.
Ivey, known as “The Tiger Woods of Poker,” is well known in the poker world and is a regular at the so-called “Big Game,” where top poker professionals play for large stakes. The 35-year-old has won eight bracelets at the prestigious World Series of Poker events in Las Vegas, according to Ivey's bio on poker-king.com.
Ivey’s reputation is known as much for winning as it is for him being honorable, according to Lance Bradley of Bluff magazine.
“"There's nothing in his past that would hint at his being a cheater or unethical in any way," Bradley told ABC News. “People say he's arguably the best poker player in the world; but, really, there's no argument: He's #1. He's known both for his skill and for his love of high-stakes games. He loves anything where there's some sexiness at stake."
Bradley claimed Ivey is the victim of a “character assassination” by Crockford’s and its owner, Genting Malaysia Berhad.
He told ABC News that publicity may be the reason Crockford’s is withholding Ivey’s winnings, speculating that the professional poker player will eventually get the $11.5 million transferred to his bank account.
Crockford’s is “earning themselves a ton of publicity—but it's not the kind of publicity you want. It's like a run on a bank: When you withhold payment, people stop trusting you; they stop playing. Maybe it's because with nearly $12 million involved they just want to make sure every 'I' has been dotted and every 'T' crossed. Phil's going to get his money; they're just making him wait,” Bradley told the network.
Ivey is also getting support from poker author Barry Carter.
“I don’t think for one minute that he cheated,” Carter, the author of “The Mental Game of Poker,” told the Daily Mail. “It is almost impossible for him to have an influence in a game of pure chance like Punto Banco. “Just because it’s statistically unlikely doesn’t mean you can’t have such a long winning streak — it is the nature of probability.”