“Stop dreaming… It can’t be you!”

If there is one lesson to be learnt from Phil Ivey's recent court case, it's that the house always wins.


Phil Ivey: even the pros play a dangerous game when they bet against the casino
(Image credit: 2010 Jacob Andrzejczak)

"One of these days a guy is going to offer to bet you that he can make the jack of spades jump out of this brand-new deck of cards and squirt cider in your ear. But, son, do not accept this bet, because as sure as you stand there, you're going to wind up with an ear full of cider." So wrote Damon Runyan, an American short story writer. When you're up against a casino, that rule always applies as the poker player Phil Ivey and his business partner Cheung Yin Sun found out a few weeks ago when the UK Supreme Court ruled against them.

The judges found that Ivey and Cheung's actions during games of Punto Banco at the Crockfords casino in London over two days in August 2012 amounted to cheating, reports Estelle Shirbon in The Independent. The casino claimed that their £7.7m winnings came from using a technique known as "edge sorting" while playing the game, a variant of Baccarat that is supposed to depend on luck, not skill. Ivey admitted that he had indeed used the technique, which involves spotting tiny differences between the long edges of playing cards to keep track of good ones, but he argued that the advantage was legitimate.

Calling Ivey a cheat is unfair "he didn't so much as cheat the casino as outwit it", says Victoria Coren Mitchell, a professional poker player, in The Guardian. Still, "he's helped millions of people to see that you're not allowed to be cleverer than the casino". Indeed, the casino's victory is rather empty given that they made "a long, detailed public statement expressing their delight' at not having to pay him". The whole, long court case amounted to them "bellowing into the ears of their target market: stop dreaming of that winning system! There is no such thing! It can't be you!'"

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It's hard to have any sympathy for Crockfords, agrees David Flusfeder in the Financial Times: casinos are, after all, "machines engineered to separate people from their money". The casino happily hosted the pair when it saw a chance to make an easy buck from a poker player and a "Chinese woman with broken English, who was typically obsessed with luck". Indeed, Cheung's defeat is all the more bitter because she was once a sucker herself. "Bankrolled by her indulgent family, she would regularly lose huge sums" estimated at more than $10m, says Ben Machell in The Sunday Times. Casinos aggressively wooed her and "would put her up in beautiful villas, bring her bottles of champagne" and give her free meals.

However, when a dispute over her gaming led to her being briefly jailed, she vowed revenge. Having learned about card sorting, she began to hit Las Vegas casinos, winning up to $1m at a time. She then teamed up with Ivey, which was even more profitable "because casinos were more likely to allow him to bet higher stakes". As a result, the duo were able to make more than £20m playing baccarat.Ivey and Cheung can at least take some consolation from the fact that their case has set a precedent in UK law that "we can no longer attempt to convince a jury that we genuinely did not realise we were doing something dishonest" which may affect a whole host of cases, including the scandal over the fixing of Libor.

Tabloid money £2.3bn is a small price to pay for royal celebrations

Singer Alexandra Burke has been branded a hypocrite for wearing a fur-trimmed coat she had previously posed naked for an anti-fur poster with the slogan "I'd rather go naked than wear fur". "Cut the girl some slack," says Tony Parsons in The Sun. Burke apologised she thought the £775 Canada Goose coat was lined with fake fur. "She got it wrong and she said sorry." Canada Goose itself says it only uses "animals who have not been subjected to unfair practices". But "if we could talk to the animals, they would ask: how fair can fur ever be"?

Surely an extra day's holiday to celebrate the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle won't wreck the economy, says former Labour deputy prime minister John Prescott in the Sunday Mirror. "That's the Tories' job after all!" Experts put the cost of a bank holiday at £2.3bn due to lost economic output. Yet Prince William's big day contributed £107m to London's economy from increased tourism alone. A weak pound and huge US interest from a royal marrying an American mean Harry's wedding could easily make money for UK Plc.

I've come up with a "brilliant" money-making idea "which will make all those business snots on [television show] Dragon's Den shower me with money", says Jennifer Selway in the Daily Express. Cambridge researchers last week found that Neolithic women's arms were stronger than those of today's elite women rowers, because they spent up to five hours a day grinding grain. "Not a lot of fun, but you know what they say: no pain, no gain So, ladies, come to my bespoke gym called (cleverly) The Daily Grind (very little outlay just a few boulders and some sacks of wheat)." Better still, "there will be a bakery attached selling authentic artisanal Neolithic bread at a ridiculously inflated price".