Phil Ivey has lost his $124,410 World Series of Poker (WSOP) earnings after lawyers for Borgata casino in Atlantic City told the event organizers that they had legal authority to garnishee the poker legend’s assets in the state of Nevada.
Ivey had registered a strong run in the (WSOP) $50,000 Poker Players Championship, one of the most prestigious poker tournaments of the year, in June to finish in eighth place. He was set to pocket $124,410 before the Borgata’s lawyers intervened.
Writ of execution
Borgata’s lawyers wrote to Caesars Entertainment and WSOP on June 27, informing them of the garnishee order. At the time, day three of the WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship, Ivey was the chip leader and “in the money” as one of the final 12 entrants.
He later slipped to eighth and was eliminated from the tournament.
In a writ of execution directed to Jack Effel, the WSOP tournament director, Borgata’s lawyers advised the organizers not to make any payments to Ivey, but instead wait for instructions from either the casino’s legal representatives or the U.S. Marshal service.
The money was directed to the U.S. Marshals service as payment for the $10.13 million that Ivey and his partner Cheng Yin “Kelly” Sun owe the Borgata, the most profitable casino in New Jersey.
Caesars Entertainment then filed for and was granted a release from any further involvement in the case as they had followed the instructions in the writ of execution.
“Caesars is not the employer of Mr. Ivey; Caesars is not a financial institution, and Caesars does not know of any additional debts due to Mr. Ivey. Thus, Caesars has delivered the total Ivey Funds to the United States Marshal Service, fulfilling its obligations and relieving itself of further liability pursuant to NRS,” court filings show.
Ivey haunted by legal drama
This is the latest twist in a long-running legal battle between Ivey and Sun on the one hand and the Borgata casino on the other.
In 2012, Ivey and Sun won $9.6 million in a high-stakes baccarat session at the Borgata. While this episode seemed to have passed without incident, Borgata became interested again in Ivey after a British court ruled that the poker pro had cheated a London casino using the edge sorting tactic, where he was able to spot defects on the back of cards to gain a small advantage.
Ivey won almost $11 million in the British casino, but the casino did not have to pay the amount following the court case.
In 2014, Borgata went to court, claiming Ivey and Sun had cheated using the edge sorting technique.
Borgata sued the two players for $15.5 million, with a court ruling that Ivey must repay the $9.6 million he won. The court also ruled that Ivey and Sun should pay an additional $504,000 they had won playing craps with the money they had won from baccarat.
The Card Player website reported that after the judgment in Borgata’s favor in 2016, the casino struggled to recoup its money from Ivey, as all they found was the poker player’s empty bank account. The casino said it had only found one account in Ivey’s name and there was no money in it.
Lawyers for Borgata further claimed that Ivey had moved his winnings to a Mexican bank and since the ruling, Borgata’s lawyers had not been able to get the casino’s money back.
The casino once again returned to the courts in 2018 and this time they wanted an order allowing them to seize outside New Jersey. A federal judge assented to Borgata’s request, allowing the casino to go after the player’s assets in Nevada.
What next for Ivey
Now, there is speculation that Ivey may never play a poker event in the U.S. in fear that his earnings may be garnished. Instead, Ivey could play more games in Europe, where he is said to be “relatively active.” In the recent past, Ivey has taken part in the Triton series in London, United Kingdom and has also participated in other high roller events.
Ivey’s participation in poker games in the U.S., particularly non WSOP games, had become quite rare in the recent past. It was reported that the last time he had earnings in a U.S. that was not a WSOP event, was when he finished ninth in the 2013 NBC Heads-Up Championship.
One probable way out for the poker pro is to keep playing at WSOP tournaments and hope to pay Borgata off his winnings. But that also looks like an unlikely avenue, Tightpoker reported that to date, only 13 players have been able to win at least $10 million at the WSOP. “Each of them either triumphed in the Main Event or ran deep in the $1,000,000 Big One for One Drop. Phil Hellmuth is currently the only player in the $10 million group who never won a Main Event following the Moneymaker era,” the website reported.
With all avenues seemingly shuttered, this could well be the last time that Ivey plays Poker in the U.S.
One of poker’s most popular players
Ivey is reportedly one of the most successful poker players in recent history. The Hendon Mob puts his live cash earnings at more than $26.3 million. In addition, he is said to be the richest poker player originally from New Jersey. However, most of his money is said to be kept outside the U.S.
In addition, Ivey is listed as the number two player in all-time popularity rankings by the Hendon Mob. The list is compiled from the number of unique player profile hits each person has on the poker website. Casino.org further says Ivey is the face of Virtue Poker, an internet poker network that “uses the unique features of blockchain technology in conjunction with P2P networking to provide a safe, honest environment to play online poker.”
Ivey was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017. He has won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets since he started his career in the 1990s.