*Professional poker star Phil Ivey, often known as the Tiger Woods of poker for his card-playing genius, is undoubtedly a raw talent.
But all those with the slightest knowledge of the professional poker playing world will be aware that it’s that very genius which has landed him in hot water over the past few years.
Allow us to explain…
The 40-year-old Ivey has won lots of World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets along with a World Poker Tour title. He is regarded by many observers, including WSOP.com, as the world’s greatest poker player. But back in August 2012, Ivey won over £7 million (around $10 million) playing Punto Banco, which is a form of baccarat, at the Crockfords casino in the London, UK. This is when all the controversy began. The casino refused to pay Ivey anything over his initial £1 million stake, saying that the card player had used “edge sorting” (a player can observe slight unintentional differences on the back patterns of some cards).
Ivey strongly denied the allegations but in April 2014 the same thing happened again at Atlantic City’s Borgata Casino. Both casinos had used the same type of cards, which had been made by Gemaco, and resulted in the Borgata suing the manufacturer as well as Ivey.
In October, 2014, a UK court decided in favor of Crockfords casino and said the methods used by Ivey constituted cheating. The court also awarded the casino the costs of the case. This caused huge controversy in the casino world, with many on the gambling side of the fence of the opinion that Ivey was badly treated.
The case in the US still goes on. The Borgata Casino filed a suit against both the poker professional and another player, Cheng Yin Sun, saying the two men used the imperfections on the back of a number of card decks during four separate baccarat game sessions in 2012. Together, the two players won $9.6 million but weren’t paid their winnings by the Borgata. The eventual ruling will cause huge interest across the casino industry.
It’s also very relevant for the online casino world. Such a problem couldn’t ever arise when playing on a secure casino server, so the skill element of the gambler would have to be unequivocal. Any players playing baccarat, poker or blackjack online, which is described by the 32red as the world’s most popular casino card game, would be seeking providers like Mr Green, the aforementioned 32red, or Gala to name just a few where they can play games that are 100% fair and safe.
This begs the question as to why real cards are used anywhere, particularly when some of the top online casinos use such believable graphics and real dealers. It is not possible to edge sort or card read when online, so the games are simply fair. But there is still a large element of skill and judgement involved.
Tech-savvy readers will know online casinos use systems such as random number generators to ensure all their games are fair and offer the same odds of winning as in a real casino. Edge sorting is certainly impossible. Whenever you play a game such as online bingo, roulette or craps – anything where the outcome is reliant on chance – RNG replicates that element of chance that you’d get on a physical roulette wheel spin, the deal of a deck of cards, or the throw of the dice in a game of craps. RNG makes it impossible to predict the outcome of a game and that works to the advantage of both the gaming operator and the players.
For RNG to work, a sequence of algorithms is used to produce random numbers. RNG systems produce multiple digit numbers which are then reduced down to the number size required for a particular game. Reputable casino sites have their games assessed by independent bodies through stats tests that analyse gaming history to demonstrate the effectiveness of the RNG systems in place. As part of 32Red’s Fair Gaming Policy, for example, independent auditors eCogra review the site’s game payouts and players can view the results on the site, as well as the game randomness certificates. These third-party endorsements provide players with further reassurance that they are being offered a fair chance at success each time they place a real money bet on an online game.
The biggest online casinos also work hard to do all in their power to reassure players of their credentials in other ways. 32red demonstrates that it’s an internationally-renowned company by sponsoring some of the top Premier League clubs in the UK and using a powerful brand ambassador in the form of well-known actress Patsy Kensit. Associations such as these simply wouldn’t be possible unless the casino was completely legitimate in its operations. These are the kind of measures the top online casinos need to take to reassure less tech-aware members of the public that they’re getting at least the same deal online as they would in a real casino.
In practice, though, it’s an even better deal as most of the top online casinos also have generous welcome deals and bonuses for new players. But it does have to be said that those bonuses don’t run to the sort of amounts that would make a whole lot of difference to the likes of Phil Ivey. As we’ve seen, they are pretty high rollers!