Last August, in Britain’s oldest private gambling club, the professional poker player and gambler Phil Ivey went on a hot streak. It was his second night in a row at Crockfords in Mayfair. The previous night he and his unnamed companion, a Chinese woman from Las Vegas, started with a million-pound stake and played punto banco in a private room until they lost a half million pounds. They asked to raise the stakes, from 50,000 pounds per hand to 150,000. The club agreed. Soon Ivey and company were up almost two million. They agreed to come back and play again the next night only if the club agreed to keep the exact same cards for them to use. “Superstition,” the mysterious woman explained. Crockfords agreed.
The next night when Ivey and his friend returned to play, the woman insisted that the dealers turn certain cards 180 degrees before putting them into the shoe to deal. Again, Ivey is superstitious, she explained. He also happened to be a very good tipper. The club again agreed to the unusual request. A few hours later, Ivey and his partner had won more than seven million pounds. By the time he was finished playing and wanted to cash out, the club had decided something wasn’t right. They gave Ivey back his initial million pounds and kept the rest, pending an investigation into Ivey’s play.