From The Lounge archive

May 2013

Phil Ivey's $12 Million Case

Posted: May 22, 2013 2:00pm ET
By Michael Kaplan

Back when I reported a 2010 cover story on Phil Ivey for Cigar Aficionado, his penchant for high-stakes gambling away from the poker room was no secret. I watched him at a craps table, casually putting hundreds of thousands of dollars into action. Then I witnessed casino hosts wooing him with cases of expensive Spanish wine and the kinds of sublime, small-production cigars that most of us will never see. Hosts didn't kowtow to Ivey because he's a great guy or a world famous poker player. They did it because he's willing to bet huge sums of money at games in which the odds are tilted against him. Whether or not he's an overall winner, I have no idea. But I know for sure that he gives casino executives the levels of action that they crave. It's easy to believe that he takes out the high-denomination markers that hosts love extending to their best customers, as reported in my story "Collecting the Debt" in the current issue of Cigar Aficionado. So it's hardly surprising that Crockfords, the most venerable casino in London, welcomed him with open arms last August. As is the custom for those who gamble at the highest stakes, Ivey was given his own table on which to play. His game of choice that night was punto banco, similar to baccarat, based purely on chance, and unbeatable in the long run. Ivey promptly dropped $500,000 and took the loss like a man, as is his norm. Then he asked the casino to raise his betting limit from $50,000 to $150,000 per hand.

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