Purple Borgata Gemaco cards

Can you spot the flaw? The Borgata is claiming these purple Gemaco playing cards allowed Phil Ivey and Kelly Sun to take the casino for nearly $10 million in 2012. (Image: Gemaco)

The Borgata is hedging its bets in its longstanding legal battle to recoup $10.1 million “won” by poker legend Phil Ivey during a mini-baccarat rampage in 2012. In a new twist, the Atlantic City casino is suing Gemaco, maker of the cards in play.In a motion for summary judgment, the Borgata is claiming the card-maker was negligent in supplying defective cards, and therefore liable for the money Ivey and Kelly Sun won with them.

The two alleged cardsharps unapologetically acknowledged they were using a practice known as “edge sorting,” when they took the casino for millions. But they have remained steadfast in asserting they were using skill to beat the games fair and square.

Edge-sorters can spot tiny, asymmetrical flaws in the patterns on the backs of playing cards that allow them to differentiate between high-value and low-value cards to gain an advantage over the house.

“Marked” Cards

In October, a New Jersey judge ruled that Ivey and Sun were indeed liable to repay the casino because they had benefitted from a game that used “marked cards,” despite never having physically touched the deck.

But they had manipulated them, the judge said.

First, Ivey and Sun had asked to play with a specific type of Gemaco cards because they knew there were minute discrepancies in the patterns on the backs.

Second, they “marked” the cards by requesting the dealer rotate certain ones by 180 degrees.

They claimed it was a superstitious ritual (such quirks are common among baccarat players), but really they were allegedly sorting cards into two identifiable groups, one that offered advantage to the player, and one that didn’t.

The judge concluded that by muscling the odds in their favor they had altered the nature of baccarat, and so in actuality they were playing a variant of mini-baccarat, one not authorized by New Jersey gambling law.

Case against Gemaco

Ivey and Sun are appealing the judgement, and in case they’re successful, Borgata is going after playing card manufacturer Gemaco, too.

Borgata’s motion notes, “Borgata’s original summary judgment motion demonstrated that Gemaco’s playing cards were defective because the asymmetrical card backs ‘enable[d] a person to know the identity of any element printed on the face of the card,’ ”

A New Jersey gaming statute says, “the backs of each card in the deck shall be identical and no card shall contain any marking, symbol or design that will enable a person to know the identity of any element printed on the face of the card or that will in any way differentiate the back of that card from any other card in the deck.”

The Borgata is asserting Gemaco is at fault for supplying cards with flawed patterns on their backs, a flaw Borgata claims Gemaco knew about without disclosing it to their customers.

In July, Phil Ivey petitioned the UK Supreme Court to consider his assertion that lower British courts were wrong to conclude that he owes Crockford’s Casino in London $9.5 million for winnings obtained through similar edge-sorting in 2012.