The World Series of Poker main event isn’t quite the same without Phil Ivey, who for years was widely regarded as poker’s best all-around player. He hasn’t exactly lost that status, but he has stepped away from the pinnacle of the poker world where the game’s best compete.
Between 2002 and 2009, Ivey finished among the top 25 players in the $10,000 buy-in no-limit hold’em championship on four occasions. That’s in addition to all his final tables and bracelets in preliminary events at the annual summer poker festival.
Ivey was not among the more than 7,200 players in the 2017 main event, which closed registration shortly after 7 p.m. local time on Monday. Last summer, Ivey played only the main event.
“Not sure Ivey has missed the Big One before,” Poker Hall of Famer Phil Hellmuth told Card Player. “I would be shocked if he didn’t hop in before the cut-off.”
The deadline came and went and there was no Ivey, unfortunately. Longtime friend Daniel Negreanu, also a member of the Poker Hall of Fame, said Ivey has too much on his plate right now to compete. Making the final table requires about 12 hours of play each day for a week.
“It would be nice” to have Ivey in the main event, Negreanu said. “He’s just busy with the court cases that he has and, of course, he has stuff going on in Asia, big games he’s playing and stuff.”
On Thursday, Ivey’s case against Crockfords Casino in London will be heard before the U.K. Supreme Court. Ivey is seeking to recover £7.7 million he won in 2012 in a version of baccarat called Punto Banco. Ivey successfully implemented a technique called edge sorting to obtain a hidden edge against the casino. The cards were manufactured defectively, giving Ivey and his playing partner a chance to spot asymmetries.
Ivey’s actions are not cheating, but the casino withheld the winnings and has so far been able to keep them. Ivey is involved with a very similar case in New Jersey. In that one, the Borgata paid Ivey his winnings. Late last year, a judge ordered Ivey to pay the casino $10.1 million.
Though Negreanu is trying to catch Ivey in the bracelet tally, he hopes that once everything settles down for the poker legend, he’ll return to poker’s biggest stage.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a lack of electricity in the air, but it certainly helps to have Ivey in the tournament,” Negreanu said. “I hope we get Ivey back in here grinding every day of the Series. We have to make some big bracelet bets for him.”
Ivey’s last bracelet came in 2014. Though he’s widely regarded as one of the toughest no-limit hold’em cash game players of all-time, none of Ivey’s bracelets are in hold’em. His 10 career bracelets put him tied for second, trailing only Hellmuth’s 14.
In late 2010, Ivey had about $20 million in online poker winnings, but he has struggled on the internet in the post-Black Friday era. The high-stakes games online are tougher than ever before, and so it’s no knock on Ivey’s legacy that he has fallen behind in that space.
Thanks to turning 40 earlier this year, Ivey is now eligible for the Poker Hall of Fame. He’s among the 10 finalists announced Sunday. Living Hall of Fame members help decide who gets in, and both Hellmuth and Negreanu said he’s a lock.
“Ivey’s chances are 99 percent,” Hellmuth said. “It would be a huge injustice if he didn’t make it.”
“There’s the obvious choice, which is Phil Ivey,” Negreanu said. “After that it’s up in the air. Ivey is a shoo-in because if he doesn’t get in then what exactly do you need to do to get into the Hall of Fame? He’s the greatest player, still is one of the best. There’s no reason not to get him in there.”
For more coverage from the summer series, visit the 2017 WSOP landing page complete with a full schedule, news, player interviews and event recaps.