Phil Ivey, one of the world's top poker players, is being sued by the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, N.J. The casino accuses the poker star of noticing a defect in the cards being played during a baccarat session and parlaying that into a $9.6 million haul back in 2012, per Gillian Mohney of ABC's World News (via ABCNews.com).
John Brennan of NorthJersey.com provided a little more insight into the situation:
The suit alleges that the some of the cards made by Gemaco turned out to not have a perfectly symmetrical design on the back of the card. Ivey, the suit claims, was able to figure out what the first card to be dealt was – giving him a significant advantage over the “house,” or casino.
Brennan also reported that the casino employed the Gemaco playing cards and automatic shuffler that were used during the baccarat games in which it lost millions:
The poker celebrity and his partner, Cheng Yin Sun, are alleged to have practiced “edge sorting” to, in effect, “mark” the cards by forcing the dealer to handle the cards in a way such that “the leading edges of the strategically important cards could be distinguished from the leading edges of the other cards in the deck.” This, the casino says, is why Ivey wanted to keep the same deck and the automatic shuffler, which would leave the orientation of the cards unchanged.
This isn't the first time that Ivey, the self-proclaimed Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan of poker, has been in hot water for engaging in "edge sorting." Mayfair club Crockfords, a London-based casino, withheld £7.8 million from him after it believed he used the tactic to work the system and gain an unfair advantage over the house in baccarat, per the Daily Mail's Ian Gallagher.
In this case, Ivey was also accompanied by a Chinese associate. The associate began the process of "edge sorting" by identifying which cards were good and bad. Over time, Ivey was able to determine one card from another simply by looking at the edges.
It's all an extremely complicated process, but one that Ivey appears to have mastered.
According to the lawsuit he filed against Crockfords, Ivey admits to being an "advantage player"—someone who finds legal means to improve the odds of winning. He also argued that the casino should've been well aware of the process of "edge sorting" and figured out a way to stop it.
There's no question that the shoe is on the other foot here. Both Crockfords and Borgata are used to having a significant edge on the player, but Ivey managed to turn the tables, essentially using the casinos' own cards against them.
Whether that's considered illegal will likely be determined when a ruling is handed down in the Borgata case.
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