Friday, October 10, 2014

Hypothetical questions about Phil Ivey

Suppose Ivey had set up his advantageous situation, with the casino's defective cards, automatic shuffler, etc., but had then had a streak of terrible luck and lost millions of dollars instead of winning millions, and the casino bosses later learned of what techniques he had been using. Would they have rushed to issue him a check to refund his losses? If he sued them trying to reclaim his losses, on the grounds that the conditions of the game were unfair, would they agree and cheerfully pay him back?

Put another way, is it the casinos' position that the conditions of the game were only unfair if they lost?


angerisagift said...


Pete P. Peters said...

Depends on if the Casino created the situation (or even knew of it in advance) or if Ivey created the edge unbeknownst to the house).

If the situation was created by the house, or if it was aware, then the Casino must be estopped from negating Ivey's play after the fact.

If, however, it was Ivey that created the edge, then he should live with the consequences if his scheme does not pan out. Any other result puts Ivey in a no lose scenario which cannot stand.

Pete said...

I think this is a poor case to make that point. It is my understanding that Phil Ivey actively participated in creating the situation by essentially bribing employees to turn cards for him so he could take advantage of the situation. Even if that wasn't the case, because the player in the game is the only one with decision making (which way to bet) the house could not benefit from the unfair conditions.

I think your point is better made when it comes to slot machines. When a player wins a large jackpot the aff opens up the machine to check for malfunctions. If a malfunction is found the jackpot is voided. Why is it that only check when they are losing. How come they don't come out and check to see if there was a malfunction after players lose?

Rakewell said...

PPP: As it is, aren't the casinos in the no-lose situation? If Ivey lost, they'd win. But when he won, they refuse to pay him (the British casino) or sue him to get his winnings back (Atlantic City).

Ivey requested the conditions, but authorized casino personnel explicitly agreed to his requests.

Anonymous said...

Let me preface by saying that (without knowing the details of the English law and not having read the specific ruling of the judge), the ruling sounds rather dumb: (1) the casino agreed to use the specific type of cards; (2) it was a "standard" deck of such cards (vs. Ivey adding in more Aces or something) that Ivey didn't physically manipulate (e.g. marking the cards himself); (3) casinos are fine with an unfair advantage as long as it benefits them and is (theoretically) public (though I don't recall the roulette table clearly numbering out for people the odds of each play before they make it, which would make it clear that 35/1 odds on a 36/1 odds is not "even" and instead favors the casino.

However, if Ivey's actions are viewed as "cheating"/"unfair", then the casino has no obligation to refund Ivey's theoretical losses even though the odds were "unfairly" slanted in Ivey's favor, just as a gambler doesn't have to return roulette winnings to a casino even though the standard (accepted) odds are slanted in the casino's favor (the odds being accepted are important because it reflects a "meeting of the minds", to borrow a phrase from contracts).

Say you agree to a bet with a shady person on a coin flip result, with the shady person having Heads. He's smart enough not to use a double-sided coin, but instead uses one that will (say) land on heads 60% of the time, while you think he's using a fair coin. Although the coin should give him an advantage, the end of the session sees that Tails has landed 55% of the time, giving you a victory. If the shady guy took you to court, what would his argument be? Even if he argued there was no meeting of the minds because you didn't know about the unfair coin, he has unclean hands (in terms of equity), as he was responsible for the slanting of the odds in his own favor whereas, had you lost, you could more reasonably argue that not only was there no meeting of the minds on the odds, but the defendant was also unjustly (due to his one-sided manipulation) enriched by his actions.

Eddie said...

Grump, there are multiple levels to this:

1) Casino setting up a game with an edge for itself: That basically describes all casino games! The exception is if the casino advertises a particular edge (slot payout for example) but configures the game to give it greater than advertised edge. It is the gaming commissions' responsibilities to catch the casino's in this deceit and punish them. However, the player(s) will usually be unaware of this and receive to remediation.

2) The player loses even after he cheats: Tough shit. Card counters lose at blackjack all the time. The goal is to get an advantage. Just because that advantage fails you, doesn't mean you can do anything about it.

3) Did Ivey cheat? This is the legal grey matter. I say any game in which the rules are agreed to at the start is legal. All casinos in this case agreed to give Ivey his conditions.

Do I agree with what Ivey did? Not really. Were his pools of games that he could beat drying up? It just doesn't make sense for his to even be taking that risk.