Was Phil Ivey Broke? The Mysterious Bankroll of the Tiger Woods of Poker
Earlier this year, the poker community was buzzing with rumors of Phil Ivey hitting rock bottom. The brash and brazen poker playboy, Dan “Blitz” Bilzerian, got the rumor mill started by telling Card Player Magazine that “Phil Ivey just went broke.” One month after the claim, Ivey returned to the felt and shipped a $250,000 buy-in during the Aussie Millions. After banking $4million AUD, Ivey flew west to South Africa. He arrived at 4am and “forced himself to stay awake” before busting the WPT Alpha8 in Johannesburg. He never responded to the claim from Blitz, but sent this ‘read between the lines tweet’ for all of his 700K+ followers to see.
Ivey is no stranger to poker headlines and social tabloids, scandal and controversy have followed him since Black Friday cast a shadow over the entire poker world. His absence from the 2011 WSOP grabbed everyone’s attention, the boycott was a bold move for a 9-time bracelet winner. The greatest player in the game was chasing history and out of nowhere the “Tiger Woods of Poker” decides to skip poker’s version of the Masters. Ivey’s drastic stance showed support for the players and his disapproval with Full Tilt Poker.
While Ivey sat on the sidelines, the drama played on. The poker superstar was now drawing attention off the felt, this time over a legal battle and financial dispute with his ex-wife. In the wake of his broken marriage, Luciaetta Ivey demanded Phil produce documents showing his income from Tiltware, a Full Tilt Poker subsidiary. According to those documents, Ivey received roughly $920,000 a month from his “passive interest in the company”. While his very own “matrimony muckfest” continues with lawsuits pending, so does Phil’s need to gamble. He took his talents across the pond and ponied up in the pits at Crockfords casino in London.
In August 2012, Ivey was reported to have won approximately $11 million playing Punto Banco, but was refused payment beyond his initial investment. Ivey was accused of edge sorting, a method of advantage play that uses irregularities in the cut on the backs of cards. A well-established British casino refusing to pay the “greatest poker player in the world” transcended the gaming world and made front page international news.
A similar situation recently surfaced when Ivey was charged edge counting again, this time just 2 hours from his childhood home. Last month, the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, sued Ivey for cheating at Baccarat. The East Coast casino claims he “took advantage of a defect in the manufacturing of the playing cards”. While poker celebrities such as Daniel Negreanu and Doyle Brunson have publicly come to his defense, fighting a legal battle with casinos has proven to be an uphill climb.
With Team Ivey making waves in the coaching arena and a stable full of world class poker pros, the image of Phil Ivey is struggling to fight off the unwanted publicity. It’s tough to keep a low profile when you’re spotted sitting courtside at Lakers games and featured on the cover of ESPN the Magazine, the mystique around this gambler has taken on a life of its own. His skills on the green felt are unmatched, but the line between hustler and degenerate are very thin.
So, was Phil Ivey broke? The only certainty is this – the size of his bankroll remains a mystery, the aura around the legend continues to grow…