All bets are off as to who landed the instruction from 888 and Ladbrokes. Frontrunners Slaughter and May and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer both lucked out in the latest move in the gaming industry, seeing Ladbrokes and 888 hold preliminary merger talks. 888 operates 888.com, Casino-on-Net.com and PacificPoker.com. When the talks were confirmed on 6 November shares in 888 jumped by 8.6 per cent to 120p, valuing it at more than £400m. Slaughters is advising longstanding client Ladbrokes, with relationship partner Richard De Carle leading. 888 turned to corporate partner Julian Long at Freshfields, which had pledged to take a chance with its client despite wariness from other City firms. Slaughters was one of those firms, but De Carle said the firm had made no such explicit statement not to represent online gaming companies. A case of hedging bets?