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Phil Ivey:

The World's Greatest Poker Player?

Phil Ivey PokerMany consider Phil Ivey to be the world’s best poker player, and a quick review of his accolades makes this a difficult position to dispute

  • 10 World Series of Poker bracelets (2nd only to Phil Hellmuth’s 13)
  • His 9 World Poker Tour final table appearances is the highest of any player
  • 3rd on the all-time poker tournament money list with $21,457,074 in winnings (as of 15 Aug 2014)

Ivey's amazing poker tournament results are even more spectacular when you consider that tournament poker is not his preferred game! According to iveypoker.com, his bread and butter is high stakes cash games.

Personal Life

Born Phillip Dennis Ivey Jr. on 1 Feb, 1976 in Riverside, California, Ivey moved to Roselle, New Jersey when he was just 3 months old. By age 16, he told his family that he was going to become a professional gambler. He began playing against co-workers at a telemarketing firm in the late 1990s. One of his nicknames, “No Home Jerome” comes from the ID card he used so he could play poker in Atlantic City while still a teenager.

He often wears basketball jerseys at the poker table, and is a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets. He also likes the Buffalo Bills. He enjoys golf and finished 3rd in the inaugural World Series of Golf in 2007.

Phil Ivey currently resides in Las Vegas.

Phil Ivey at the World Series of Poker

phil ivey wsopIn 2000, Phil Ivey was the first player to ever beat poker legend Amarillo Slim heads-up at a WSOP final table. In 2002, he won 3 WSOP bracelets, tying Phil Hellmuth Jr., Ted Forrest, and Puggy Pearson for the most WSOP tournament wins in a single year, earning him the nickname “The Phenom”.

Between 2002 and 2009, Ivey finished in the top 25 of the WSOP Main Event a remarkable four times. The fact that his 10 WSOP bracelets come from 9 different games shows his incredible ability to adapt to any variation of the game.

In 2009 he earned another 2 bracelets (his 6th & 7th). While defeating a field of 376 players to win the $2,500 Seven Card Stud Hi/Lo & Omaha Hi/Lo mixed event, Ivey also played in the $5,000 Pot Limt Omaha Hi/Lo event during breaks, and still managed to finish 22nd!

His 10 World Series of Poker Bracelets ties him for 2nd most of all time with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. Although he trails Hellmuth’s 13 bracelets, Hellmuth was 4 years older than Ivey when he won his 10th bracelet.

Phil Ivey is currently 22nd on the WSOP all-time money list with $6,165,620 in winnings and has reached the money 56 times (the 17th most of any player).

The World Poker Tour and other Tournament Success

Phil Ivey is currently 7th on the WPT all-time money list with $4,027,221 in winnings from 14 cashes. He reached the final table 10 times (more than any other player), but has only won once (in 2008 at the LA Poker Classic).

Ivey has also won the Monte Carlo Millions tournament (earning an even $1,000,000), and then won another $600,000 the following day at the FullTiltPoker.Net Invitational Live from Monte Carlo.

In January of 2012 he won the Aussie Millions, a A$250,000 high-roller event that earned him another A$2,000,000. He also finished 12th in the Aussie Millions main event the same year for another A$100,000. In February 2014 he earned his highest ever prize of A$4,000,000 by winning the Aussie Millions LK Boutique $250,000 Challenge. Amazingly, Phil Ivey has earned $6,335,373 to date at the Aussie Millions tournament, more than he has earned at either the WSOP or WPT!

Phil Ivey is currently 3rd on the all-time poker tournament money list with $21,457,074 in winnings (as of 15 Aug 2014).

Cash Game Killer

As good as he is at tournament poker, Ivey is even deadlier in poker cash games. He regularly plays The Big Game, a $4k/$8k mixed cash game at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

In February 2006, Ivey won over $16 million over a 3-day period playing heads-up Limit Texas Hold’em with blinds of $25,000/$50,000 and $50,000/$100,000 against billionaire Andy Beal.

Phil Ivey and Full Tilt Poker

Ivey was a member of the original design team for Fult Tilt Poker. While playing online poker for real money on the site, Ivey won more than $19 million from 2007 to 2011, making him the most profitable high stakes online cash game player on either Full Tilt Poker or Poker Stars, according to highstakesdb.com.

Since leaving Full Tilt poker, Ivey has founded two companies. He established Ivey Poker in 2012, which offers a free to play poker app via Facebook. In 2014, he founded Ivey League, a poker coaching website that offers plenty of free content in addition to monthly subscription plans. Ivey League features 30 coaches including several big name poker players like Patrik Antonius and Jennifer Harman.

Edge Sorting Lawsuits

In August 2012, Ivey won approximately £7.3 million playing Punto Blanco at Crockfords casino in London. However, the casino claimed that Ivey had cheated by using a technique known as “edge sorting” to his advantage and refused payment beyond his original stake of £1 million. phil ivey lawsuit

The back of most cards used by casinos are symmetrical. That is, they look the same from either direction. However, the Gemaco brand cards used by Crockfords were NOT symmetrical – the printing was slightly off-center, making the pattern on one side of the cards slightly different than the other side. Ivey’s companion asked the dealer to rotate key cards, which made them recognizable while remaining face down, giving Ivey a small advantage. As you can see in the image on the left the cut off circles (which represent the tops of diamonds) are smaller on the right than they are on the left.

In May 2013 Ivey sued the Crockfords Casino for refusal to pay him his winnings. He has admitted to using edge sorting at Crockfords, stating that the casino only had themselves to blame for not recognizing the flawed card design themselves.

In April 2014 Ivey was sued for $9.6 million by The Borgata Casino in Atlantic City for allegedly cheating at baccarat by taking advantage of the same card defect over 4 sessions in 2012. Unlike Crockfords, The Borgata Casino did not realize what had happened until well after they had paid Ivey his winnings, and were only made aware of the card defect after learning of the incident at Crockfords.

Both lawsuits are still ongoing, but there are several facts that support Ivey (and his companions):

  • Edge-sorting has never been declared illegal
  • Neither Ivey nor his companion ever manipulated the cards. They simply took advantage of a defect that was already present
  • A precedent already exists for a similar “crime”. In Blackjack, players can gain a small advantage by counting cards (i.e. remembering which cards have already been exposed and then increasing their bet substantially when the deck becomes favorable to the player). Since card counting is not illegal, the most a casino can do is pay the player their winnings, ask them to leave and ban them.

References

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