Borgata To Phil Ivey: You Can Pay Us That $10 Million Now

Written By Bart Shirley on August 16, 2018

The poker world has rejoiced about the re-emergence of Phil Ivey on the tournament poker scene. Borgata Hotel and Casino would simply prefer Ivey pay back the $10 million now.

In 2016, a judge ordered the poker star to pay back $10.1 million that he won at Borgata playing baccarat. However, Ivey quickly appealed the decision and is now fighting to keep the winnings until the appeal’s conclusion.

In a motion Ivey’s attorneys filed last month, the poker player claimed that having to surrender the winnings or post a bond for the amount would have a “devastating impact.”

However, in early August, attorneys for Borgata fired back, citing Ivey’s recent success in the World Series of Poker as evidence of his solvency and ability to pay the ordered amount.

Casinos don’t like Phil Ivey taking advantage of them

The case stems from a series of baccarat sessions the poker superstar played in 2012. Along with his partner, Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun, Ivey scored tens of millions of dollars in profits at casinos across the globe.

The team’s secret for success hinged upon Sun’s ability to practice “edge sorting.” Essentially, Sun managed to detect manufacturing defects on the backs of playing cards and match the cards with their face value.

Part of the strategy also depended upon the casino granting various requests to the team. Because each casino saw the potential for a big win, they allowed Ivey and Sun to dictate aspects of play such as:

  • The game had to be mini-baccarat rather than traditional baccarat so that the players never touched the cards.
  • The dealer had to speak Cantonese.
  • The dealer had to sort the deck in a particular way.
  • The deck could never be changed.

All these requests were non-negotiable for Ivey and Sun to proceed with play. The third and fourth requests should have alerted the casino to something being amiss, but floor personnel wrote the requests off as superstition.

Crockfords, a London casino, was the first casino to surrender a large win to Ivey and Sun. However, the casino wisely kept the winnings in escrow and initiated a legal challenge. Last year, a British court found in favor of the casino’s argument that Ivey unfairly won the money.

Gemaco suit may result in Ivey giving back the money

Unfortunately, Borgata made the mistake of letting Ivey leave the property with his winnings. Now, five years later, Atlantic City’s largest casino is still trying to get the money back.

Borgata also sued Gemaco, the card manufacturer that made the defective cards, for $9.6 million. The same judge that ordered Ivey to repay the money once again found in Borgata’s favor.

However, he did not find Borgata’s claims of damage nearly as compelling, and instead, awarded the casino $27 of the $9.6 million listed in the suit. Naturally, Borgata did not accept the decision and is now working toward a settlement with Gemaco.

The sticking point for Ivey, however, is that his appeal cannot proceed until the Gemaco matter completes. So, the lower court’s order remains the last word on his culpability, and he may not have any remedy for having to return the money.

Incidentally, Sun’s edge sorting method creates an advantage for the player of about 7 percent. So, Borgata still had a good chance of winning, even amidst Ivey and Sun’s advantage play. It’s hard to believe the casino would’ve reacted the same way if it had won the money.

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Bart Shirley

Bart Shirley is a writer and poker player from Houston, Texas. When he's not teaching high school math and business, Bart writes about the NJ online casino industry and US online poker. He has a master's degree in business administration from Texas Christian University and a degree in English from Texas A&M.

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