The Bellagio has Bobby’s Room, the nosebleed-stakes poker room at the Bellagio named after Bobby Baldwin, the 1978 World Series of Poker Main Event champion. It is the place where most poker players dream of playing, though only an elite few (or rich businesspeople) will. In May 2010, just before the start of the WSOP, ARIA Resort & Casino opened its answer to Bobby’s Room: The Ivey Room, named after Phil Ivey. As of Wednesday, the single-table poker room no longer bears Ivey’s name, as it is now called “Table 1.”
Aria Director of Poker Operations Sean McCormack told CardPlayer that people should not read anything into the name change, that it was just time for it to happen.
“We thought it was time to rename the room,” McCormack informed CardPlayer. “The idea to call it ‘Table 1’ actually came from Elayne [Teitelbaum], our host. It’s so fitting because a lot of players have been calling it ‘Table 1’ for a while now anyway. [They were] coming in and asking if table 1 had a game going or was available.”
Most in the poker world are skeptical of this reasoning, believing that Phil Ivey’s name was removed from the high stakes poker room because of his legal battle with the Borgata in Atlantic City. As has been covered extensively, Ivey and a cohort figured out that the cards used at the Borgata’s high stakes baccarat tables were cut at the factory unevenly, resulting in the patterns on the backs of the cards being ever-so-slightly asymmetrical. Among other requests, Ivey and his friend asked the dealer to turn certain cards 180-degrees before putting them back in the deck, which meant that they could secretly tell which card was to come based on the pattern on the back.
Ivey and his partner won nearly $10 million from the Borgata. The casino later sued, claiming that Ivey cheated and after years of court battles, a judge ruled that Ivey and his partner did use an unfair advantage and ordered the winnings be repaid.
Most recently, a judge permitted the Borgata to go after Ivey’s assets in Nevada to recoup the money.
The Borgata is owned by MGM Resorts International, the same company that owns ARIA. This is why most think The Ivey room is now Table 1: ARIA doesn’t want to continue to honor a man who is in a legal tussle with its company. It’s a reasonable decision, I suppose, though I will be interested to see if it affects the poker room’s traffic at all. “Table 1,” while actually kind of a cool name, doesn’t really have the gravitas of “The Ivey Room.”
McCormack told CardPlayer that the name change has nothing to do with Ivey’s “edge sorting” saga or legal issues with the Borgata.
“Nothing lasts forever,” he said. “Obviously Phil is still an incredible player and still very much relevant in the poker world, but we thought it was time for a rebrand.”