The Borgata in Atlantic City is pursuing the Nevada assets of poker player Phil Ivey as it seeks to claw back at least $10.16 million that Ivey and an accomplice “won” while playing mini-baccarat at the casino almost seven years ago.

Phil Ivey

The greatest poker player of his generation, Phil Ivey was born and raised in New Jersey, but the Borgata has been unable to trace any of his assets there. It hopes it will have more luck in Nevada. It was here, after all, where Ivey made his name. (Image: Jayne Furman)

FlushDraw.com’s Hayley Hintze has discovered that, on January 29, the casino received legal approval from a New Jersey federal judge to widen the net in the hunt for Ivey’s assets after a search in New Jersey proved fruitless.

While Ivey was born and raised in the state, the Borgata was only able to trace one bank account in his name, and it was empty.

What’s Edge Sorting in Baccarat?

In December 2016, a federal court in New Jersey ruled that Ivey and “Kelly” Cheung Yin Sun must repay the $9.6 million they amassed during a four-day stint at the casino’s baccarat tables in 2012, plus an extra $504,000 won by Ivey at craps using some of the disputed funds.

The pair were using a type of advantage play known as edge sorting, in which a player is able to determine the value of advantageous cards by observing minute asymmetries in the patterns on their backs.

The Borgata claimed they were cheating and sued them for fraud. For their part, Ivey and Sun did not deny edge-sorting, but argued they were using skill to muscle the odds in their favor, legally. Despite having a small advantage in the game, they said, they were still gambling and could still have lost.

The pair did not touch or tamper with the deck while playing but asked the dealer to rotate certain cards in the deck 180 degrees, which they explained was a superstitious quirk.

Appeal Problematic for Ivey

The judge rejected the fraud claim but found Ivey and Sun were in breach of their contract with the casino.

“By using cards they caused to be maneuvered in order to identify their value only to them, Ivey and Sun adjusted the odds of baccarat in their favor,” said US District Judge Noel Hillman in his ruling. “This is in complete contravention of the fundamental purpose of legalized gambling.”

Ivey and Sun have appealed the judgment, but for the court to consider hearing the case, they would first need to post a supersedeas bond, equal to the disputed amount — something they appear to be unwilling to do at this stage.

Ivey was scheduled to appear at a deposition in New Jersey on January 30 to discuss his assets. It is not clear whether he attended, as the relevant court filings have not yet been updated.