By the looks of things, Phil Ivey and the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City are nowhere near done with each other. The edge-sorting real-life court drama is the saga that keeps on giving.
In early September, Ivey filed an appeal to prevent Borgata from immediately collecting on its $10 million judgment.
Borgata’s legal team admits the appeals are not likely to change the rulings in effect. A schedule for the appeal hearing is not known. Borgata can continue to attempt to collect the award until a reversal of the decision — if it comes.
A look back at Borgata vs. Ivey
Borgata filed court documents in 2014 seeking restitution from Ivey alleging he and his partner defrauded the casino.
Borgata went so far as to claim Ivey and his partner, Cheng Yin “Kelly” Sun, participated in a RICO operation at the state and federal level. The casino tried to convince the court the duo purposefully used edge-sorting to take financial advantage of the popular AC destination. Borgata asked for $30 million from the poker pro.
US district court judge Noel Hillman found in favor of the casino but not for fraudulent behavior. Instead, Hillman found Ivey violated the Casino Control Act that ensures a fair game for both parties by using employing edge-sorting to his advantage.
“Ivey and Sun, and perhaps others view their actions to be akin to cunning, but not rule-breaking, maneuvers performed in many games. Even though Ivey and Sun’s cunning and skill did not break the rules of baccarat, what sets Ivey and Sun’s actions apart from deceitful maneuvers in other games is that those maneuvers broke the rules of gambling as defined in this state.”
The award of $10.1 million to the Borgata, in essence, returned the assets of each party back to where they were before the baccarat playing spree.
Initially, the court ruled Borgata could start collecting immediately. Ivey contended it will do “irreparable harm” to his business and filed the appeal to stop collections.
What is edge-sorting (and why it’s wrong)?
Edge-sorting is a skill that allows someone to determine the value of the card while it is face down.
During the manufacturing of the cards, they are cut in such a way that the pattern on the back of the cards is not uniform. For example, one edge might have a larger portion of a shape than another.
However, that alone isn’t enough to give a player a huge advantage in baccarat. The player has to manipulate the dealer into sorting the cards to ensure the high-value cards face one way and low-value cards face the other. The sorting of cards allows the player to determine what cards are coming before the card leaves the shoe.
In Ivey and Sun’s case, their requests for a certain brand of cards, asking the dealer to turn the cards a certain way, and keeping the same deck amounts to something similar to card counting in blackjack.
It’s not illegal, but it does not constitute a fair game.
Ivey returns to tournament poker
Ivey was conspicuously absent from the poker tournament circuit for quite some time. Earlier this year, he made an appearance at Triton Super High Roller Series in Montenegro.
Living up to his reputation as one of the best poker professionals of all time, he wins a short deck title right out of the gate. It’s been two years since he racked up an official tournament cash.
After Montenegro, Ivey turned up in the Nevada desert. He spent the summer playing several events at the World Series of Poker.
So far this year, Ivey has racked up $2.4 million in tournament earnings. Ivey can’t enter a poker tournament without the media reporting on his every move.
The amount he won over just two tournament series is a quarter of what he owes Borgata. He might be hard-pressed to convince a judge that paying back the casino will be a “hardship” to his business.