Borgata Lawsuit Shows How Phil Ivey Won $9.6m Edge-Sorting in Baccarat

Phil Ivey
"Ivey misrepresented his motive, intention and purpose," says Borgata in recent lawsuit.

New details have come to light about how Phil Ivey used a technique called edge-sorting to win more than $9.6 million from Borgata in baccarat during 2012.

Borgata filed the lawsuit last week but we now know even more about how he was able to pull off the almost eight-figure score.

According to the lawsuit Ivey and an Asian woman named Sun (named in the lawsuit as Cheng Yin Sun) contacted the Borgata in April of 2012 asking for special accommodations to play high-stakes baccarat.

It's common for casinos to give big spenders special treatment but in this case it cost the Borgata nearly $10 million.

The special requests included a private area in which to play, a dealer who spoke Mandarin, allowing a guest to sit with Ivey at the table and that they would play with one 8-deck show of purple Gemaco playing cards for the entirety of each session.

Ivey also requested that an automatic card-shuffling machine would be used to shuffle each shoe after it was dealt.

Ivey proceeded to visit the Borgata on four separate occasions over the remainder of 2012:


  • On April 11, 2012, Ivey played for 16 hours and logged a win of $2,416,000.
  • Ivey returned on May 3 and played 56 hours over the next few days, winning $1,597,400.
  • On July 26 Ivey played for 17 hours and won $4,787,700.
  • On October 7 and 8 Ivey played for 18 hours, winning $824,900. In the lawsuit Borgata alleges that Ivey had been up close to $3 million in that session but intentionally lost most of it back since news of his similar lawsuit against Crockfords Casino in London became public at exactly the same time.

What Is Edge-Sorting and How Did Ivey Use it to Win $9.6m?

Edge-sorting refers to a technique of using imperfections in the pattern printed on the back of playing cards to gain an advantage in games like blackjack and baccarat.

When playing cards are printed with a pattern that extends to the edge of the card there's often a difference between opposite edges of the card.

edge sorting
Here you can see a subtle difference between opposite sides of every playing card in a deck.
 

If a player is able to orient certain cards they can differentiate between two groups of cards even when they're face down. So in blackjack, for example, a player might try to turn all the aces and face cards one way, while leaving all other cards facing the other direction.

Using edge-sorting when playing baccarat in American casinos is especially difficult because players are not allowed to touch the cards. They must convince the dealers to orient the cards for them.

In the lawsuit Borgata alleges that Ivey and Sun convinced the dealers to turn special cards 180 degrees based on superstition, as well as making sure the decks were handled and shuffled without disturbing the sort.

Ivey was most likely turning sixes, sevens, eights and nines since these are the most significant cards in baccarat.

The lawsuit explains that if the player can identify the first card on the deck they will gain an overall advantage of 6.765%.

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About Matthew Showell

Matt Showell was born and raised in the fair city of Vancouver, Canada. He now spends the bulk of his time traveling the globe, reporting on the world’s biggest poker tournaments. Matt has lived and breathed poker since the end of high school when he learned the most common variants at home games with his friends. In university he made his living playing low-stakes cash games and multi-table tournaments online while following the professional circuit on television and the Internet and in magazines.

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