A hot August weekend for American poker pro Phil Ivey at London’s oldest casino, Crockfords Casino, has turned into a wait-and-see affair for Ivey while the casino has temporarily declined to pay Ivey £7.3 million in punto banco winnings.
Ivey’s win, which at current exchange rates is worth just over US $11.7m, has been withheld by casino officials pending its ongoing review of security footage and interviews with casino employees managing the game.
The casino did return Ivey’s original £1m stake, which he had wired to the casino before joining the high-roller game.
British news reports indicate Ivey, who was betting around £50,000 per hand, started off by dropping £500,000 before an extended hot streak saw him lodge his £7.3 million profit over two nights of play. One report indicates he was wagering up to £150,000 a hand.
Speculation in British tabloids has centered on Ivey’s companion, described in a Daily Mail piece as Ivey’s “beautiful Oriental female friend.” The unnamed companion was, according to the British reports, alleged to have been banned from at least one other casino property, but it is unknown whether the banning was for gambling violations or other infractions.
Crockfords, London’s oldest continuous-running casino, has been in business since 1828, and is currently owned and operated by the Malaysian gambling corporation Genting. Genting officials have traveled to London as part of the investigation into Ivey’s as-yet-unpaid win, which may end up in the British courts.
Punto banco, the game where Ivey’s run occurred, is a skill-free variation of baccarat banked by the house that offers plenty of side action. The extensive opportunity for side bets makes it similar in that regard to craps, another notable favorite of the high-rolling Ivey.
The Crockfords dispute adds to an unsettled financial run for Ivey, who has seen his long-running deal with Full Tilt come to an end. Ivey, one of the site’s shareholders, may have received as much as $40m in owner distributions from the site.
Ivey also has been involved in a messy divorce with his former wife, Luciaetta, which included Luciaetta Ivey’s post-divorce allegations of improper donations by Ivey legal representatives to public officials connected to the case.