If you’re betting on anything with Phil Ivey, you’d better believe that he’s going to do his best to have an edge. But now, some casinos are asking whether or not some of his techniques at the baccarat table are crossing the line into cheating.
The Borgata Casino in Atlantic City is suing Ivey in federal court, claiming that he won $9.6 million by cheating at high-stakes baccarat in 2012. According to the casino, Ivey took advantage of a defect in the cards being used at the table in order to gain an unfair edge at the game.
Ivey Has History of Edge Sorting
This isn’t the first time that Ivey has been accused of edge sorting – an advantage play that takes advantage of some defective cards that are not perfectly symmetrical on their reverse side. He was previously accused by Genting Group of using the same technique to win £7.8 million ($13 million) from Crockfords casino in London.
Here’s how it works. In this case, the backs of the cards being used – cards manufactured by Gemaco Inc. – were incorrectly cut so that the edge patterns were slightly different. In other words, the left side of a card was clearly distinguishable from the right when face down. This problem was the same for all cards, so in most situations, that still wouldn’t allow you to identify a card, meaning that there would be no way to get an edge.
But Ivey and his partner – a woman named Cheng Yin Sun – were able to take advantage. Before the cards were put into the automatic shuffler, they asked that the dealer turn some cards – those worth six, seven, eight and nine points – 180 degrees, claiming this was for superstitious reasons.
In the high-stakes baccarat games played by Ivey, the cards for both the player and banker hands are dealt face down before bets have to be made. With the edge sorting technique in place, Ivey could tell whether each card was of a high or low value. Knowing just that much information about the cards would be enough to give any player a huge advantage over the casino: by correctly betting on the banker, player or a tie based on this technique, the player has an advantage of nearly 21 percent.
With that kind of an edge, it’s no surprise that Ivey won big. By betting up to $100,000 a hand over several trips to the Borgata during 2012, he was able to win $9.6 million from the casino.
Borgata, Crockfords Cases Differ
There is at least one major difference between the two cases, however. At Crockfords, the casino refused to pay out Ivey’s winnings, and the two sides are still in a legal battle over whether they’ll have to give Ivey his money.
The Borgata, on the other hand, paid out everything Ivey won. They’re now saying that the edge sorting violates New Jersey casino gaming regulations, meaning that the baccarat games were essentially played against the state’s rules, voiding the results.
In addition, the Borgata is also suing Gemaco over the imperfections in the cards that allowed Ivey to use the edge sorting scheme.