Phil Ivey has been noticeably absent from the 2015 World Series of Poker.
Not many people were surprised when Ivey didn’t show up the first few days, as he’s been known to show up late.
But as championship event after championship event went by Iveyless, concern started to grow.
An Ivey-less WSOP isn’t unprecedented though. Ivey missed the first few WSOPs due to not being born and then skipped a few due to infancy, childhood and general pubescence.
After Ivey became a poker icon, though, he also missed the entire 2011 WSOP in solidarity with the victims of Black Friday, stating “I do not believe it is fair that I compete when others cannot.”
Ivey returned the following year and made five final tables. But there’s been no Black Friday since the last Black Friday and Ivey hasn’t given any specific reason for his absence in 2015.
Where's Ivey? Speculation Abounds
Spectators, players and media were certain Ivey would show up for the $50,000 Poker Players Championship, but they were wrong. Even after Ivey didn’t show up on Day 1 of the event bright-eyed fans still clung to hope.
“He can still register tomorrow right?” a small child on the rail asked his father.
“I think so son,” the dad said. “I think so.”
Security promptly informed the man no children were allowed in the Amazon room and escorted them out. Players bagged and tagged for the night and while there were a few late-entries on Day 2 there was still no Ivey.
“I heard he’s coming for the One Drop,” said a railbird on Day 2 of the $50k championship. “He’s stuck playing cash games in Macau.”
The other railbirds nodded in agreement while another one, by the back exit, guffawed.
The laugh came from a tall man with a long black coat, a fedora and an eyepatch.
“That’s not even the half of it,” he said. The man lit a cigarette and took a deep drag.
“Excuse me sir,” said security. “You can’t smoke in here.”
The man apologized and quickly went out the back exit. Intrigued by his comment and odd choice of clothing in 110F heat, I followed the man out.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Do you know where Ivey is?”
The man, who I’d later come to know as Deep Legs, got off his moped and proceeded tell me the most unbelievable, absolutely false poker story I’ve ever heard.
Deep Legs was a NOC agent for a branch of the CIA that defunds criminal and terrorist cells with an elite group of gamblers.
According to Deep Legs, Ivey was one of those agents and he’d been sent to Macau to annihilate the United States branch of the 14K Triads.
“The 14K is a hydra now,” Deep Legs said. “It’s too big for any one central leader so every chapter just funds and does whatever it wants.
“Our chapter invested too heavily in nail salons in New York City and now that they’re under state investigation, the entire US Triad organization is in danger of going bankrupt.
“The local leader flew to Hong Kong to try and get a loan from them, but the bosses there shut him down. So he decided to try and win the money in Macau.
“That’s when we called in Agent Cristal.”
“That kinda sounds like the plot of Casino Royale,” I said.
“Shut up,” said Deep Legs. “Do you want me to finish or not?”
The Cristal Balla Catches The Right Eye
I nodded and Deep Legs lit another cigarette. He was smoking one out of each hand.
“Do you remember the Cristal Balla incident?” Deep Legs asked.
“Of course," I said. "We wrote about it right here at PokerListings.”
“Well, there was somebody else in that restaurant, John Brennan, director of the CIA. He was awestruck by Ivey’s brash display of opulence and disregard for money when it came to one-upping adversaries.
“Brennan said it was the most patriotic thing he’d ever seen.”
From then on, the CIA had their eyes on Ivey. Once they heard about the 14K’s impending Hong Kong trip the agency rushed to get Ivey involved, but the 10-time WSOP bracelet winner was reluctant.
He had friends in Macau, they trusted him and he didn’t want to spy on them.
“We told him we didn’t want him to spy,” said Deep Legs. “We just wanted him to win. A lot”
Deep Legs said Ivey agreed and asked them if they could make a certain lawsuit in New Jersey fall in his favor, he’d be in. He became Agent Cristal and the CIA sent him off to Macau.
A Rough Start
“We hit a speed bump almost immediately,” said Deep Legs.
“The 14K Triads were obsessed with this new form of poker, Six-Plus Hold’em. Ivey had never played it but the Triad boss had his best minds on the game for months, they didn’t go to gamble, they went to win.”
The CIA tried to pull out Agent Cristal but he told them not to worry, he had it.
“He lost though,” Deep Legs said. "A lot."
He pulled out a cigar and lit it.
“Agent Cristal lost our entire roll and backup fund and we tried to pull him out again. Even Brennan got involved but somehow Ivey convinced him that he could complete the mission.
“He just needed some more money, and backup. That’s when we sent in Lady Sansa.”
Codename: Lady Sansa
“Lady Sansa?” I asked.
“That’s his codename,” said Deep legs. “You probably know him as Dwan, Tom Dwan.”
After Dwan arrived things started going just like Ivey said and the pair were on the verge of completely busting the Triads.
“But then we lost contact,” said Deep Legs.
“We’re still not entirely sure what happened. Some say Johnny Chan crossed them, but they might've been able to track the money back to us.
“The next thing we knew they were on this video online.”
“If you look closely, you can see them using the distress signals we taught them.”
The CIA now thinks that in addition to just taking the money, the Triads have Dwan and Ivey hostage and are using the two to promote the game and then win money off of whatever whale shows up to Macau.
“Our plan backfired,” said Deep Legs. “That’s why I’m here.
"I need to find someone else to send in, thought the Poker Players Championship would be a good place to start.”
“Did you find anyone?" I asked.
Deep Legs pulled out a pipe and took a quick puff.
“Sorry kid,” he said. “Classified.”
Then he drove off into the Gold Coast.