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London authorities are trying to determine if cheating played a role in the American poker star Phil Ivey’s recent winning streak at a game called Punto Banco.

A variant of baccarat, the game is a favorite of Ivey, often called the Tiger Woods of Poker for his dominance and resemblance to the golf great.

In August, Ivey, 35, and a companion entered Crockfords in London’s fashionable Mayfair district, the city’s oldest gambling club and among its most prestigious.

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Over the course of two days, the couple played for seven hours, first losing heavily, then winning back their losses plus many millions more – $11.5 million in all.

He’s still waiting for the money.


“There’s nothing in his past that would hint at his being a cheater or unethical in any way,” says Brian Bradley of Bluff Magazine.

“People say he’s arguably the best poker player in the world; but, really, there’s no argument: He’s #1. He’s known both for skill and his love of high-stakes games.”

“He loves anything where there’s some sexiness at stake.”

According to the Daily Mail, suspicions of cheating arose when it was discovered that Ivey’s female companion had her membership at another gambling house suspended.

Genting, the parent company of Crockfords, has had its investigators inspect every detail of Ivey’s play.

Video recorded by 10 overhead cameras also was reviewed, but failed to disclose any wrongdoing.

Ditto interviews with all staff present.

Bradley finds coverage of the story by the English press to be insinuating and contradictory.

“Bizarre” he calls it. On the one hand, the stories make clear that no impropriety has been found. Yet at the same time, they leave open the possibility Ivey may have cheated.

“Character assignation,” Bradley calls it.

What possible explanation could there be?

“I’m not sure,” says Bradley. “They’re earning themselves a ton of publicity – but it’s not the kind of publicity you want. It’s like a run on a bank.”

“When you withhold payment, people stop trusting you. Maybe it’s because with $12 million involved they just want to make sure every ‘I’ has been dotted and every ‘t’ crossed.”

“Phil’s going to get his money; they’re just making him wait.”

And why might they want to make him wait?

“Casinos love high-rollers. But not high-rollers who win. Maybe they think if they make it less enjoyable for Phil, he won’t come back. Essentially, they’re firing their customer.”