In just the latest salvo in the ongoing war between poker professional Phil Ivey and the Atlantic City casino the Borgata, Ivey’s winnings at the 2019 World Series of Poker have been garnished and are in the hands of federal authorities. By taking this action, the state of Nevada and its businesses are officially endorsing the decisions of the courts in New Jersey, which could put a damper on Ivey ever playing again in the States of America.
Ivey’s Winnings at 2019 WSOP Going to the Borgata
According to Haley Hintze at Flushdraw, the Borgata took the unusual approach of contacting Caesars Entertainment in July while Ivey was playing in one of only two events he took part in at the WSOP, the $50,000 Poker Players’ Championship. In a letter, attorneys for Marina District Development Co, LLC (the ownership group behind the Borgata) stated that they had an “writ of execution” that had been delivered to WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel. In that writ, the Borgata attorneys stated that “any assets due Mr. Ivey from…Event #58 (and WSOP bracelet if he is the winner)” would be seized by federal agents to execute previous judgments against Ivey.
Ivey went into Day 3 of the PPC in the chip lead and was able to make it to eighth place before he was eliminated. The $124,400 payday that would have normally immediately gone to Ivey was instead frozen and, in mid-July, Caesars Entertainment issued a check to the U. S. Marshals Service for the appropriate amount. They also filed for and were granted a release from any further involvement in the case as they had given the winnings to the appropriate parties, stating “Caesars is not the employer of Mr. Ivey…thus, Caesars has delivered the total Ivey Funds to the United States Marshal Service, fulfilling its obligations and relieving itself of further liability.”
“Edge Sorting” Case Continues to Haunt Ivey
For those late to the game, the garnishment of Ivey’s WSOP winnings is but the latest in the ongoing story with the lawsuit that Ivey and the Borgata have been involved in. The lawsuit, which was brought by the Borgata in 2012, alleged that Ivey and a cohort had conspired to cheat the casino during a private baccarat session at the casino. Ivey, in bringing his action to the Atlantic City casino, asked for and received a litany of “special” demands, then proceeded to rack up over $10 million in winnings.
It wasn’t until after Ivey’s actions in a British casino came to the fore that the Borgata acted. Ivey was judged by a British court to have cheated a casino in London by using a tactic called “edge sorting,” in which slight imperfections in the cuts of a particular deck of cards are noted and cards that are advantageous to the player are in some manner marked. In Ivey’s case, the British casino alleged that he had the dealer rotate cards 180 degrees (supposedly as a “superstition”) so that he would notice the different cards. In that British case, the casino didn’t have to pay Ivey nearly $11 million in winnings because of the “edge sorting.”
The Borgata case played out in nearly the same manner, with a New Jersey judge finding that, while Ivey wasn’t literally “cheating,” the actions that Ivey and his cohort used were unfair “advantage play.” The difference was that, in the Borgata case, they had paid out the $10 million to Ivey ($9.7 million in baccarat winnings and another $400,000 in craps winnings that Ivey had used the baccarat money on).
Ivey was ordered by the courts to pay back the winnings in 2016 and, since that time, the song and dance has continued. Ivey’s attorneys have asserted that paying the bill in a lump sum would have an impact on his professional career, while the Borgata states that Ivey continues to live well and play high stakes poker without any impediments. Earlier this year, the Borgata did earn the ability to garnish any proceeds Ivey gets in the state of Nevada, setting up the action by Caesars Entertainment regarding Ivey’s PPC winnings.
The End of Phil Ivey?
The decision by Caesars Entertainment and the Nevada courts could effectively spell the end for Phil Ivey ever playing tournament poker again in the state and, arguably, in the U. S. Two state courts have now adjudicated that Ivey owes the Borgata $10 million and one business has garnished his winnings in a poker tournament to put towards paying off that adjudication. If Ivey cannot win money in tournaments in the U. S. because those winnings would be garnished immediately (courts in other states aren’t going to side with Ivey in this case), then it is highly likely that he won’t bother playing in the U. S. to avoid the entire issue.
Many might say, “Why don’t Ivey just pay off the judgement?” Honestly, it could be a case that Ivey doesn’t have the liquidity to be able to handle a eight-figure bulk payout like that. Many people with investments, home ownership and other businesses may well be “millionaires,” but they also don’t have much of that wealth in cash on hand. Ivey, even though he has been rumored to be worth up to $100 million, may not have anywhere near the $10 million necessary to pay off the Borgata for the decision in the case.
While he may continue playing outside of the U. S. (where state judgments do not have as much impact), we could be effectively seeing the end of Phil Ivey’s tournament poker career in North America.