Phil Ivey is being sued by the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, N.J. The nine-time poker champ is being accused by the casino of cheating, benefiting from a “defective” card flaw that allowed Ivey to gain an unfair advantage in their baccarat games. The federal lawsuit was filed last Tuesday against Ivey, saying the high roller violated New Jersey casino gambling regulations.
According to ABC News on April 12, the 38-year-old Ivey, who considers himself a “Michael Jordan” of poker, is considered one of the best card and poker players in the world. That said, Ivey is also being sued on multiple fronts for his alleged cheating schemes.
As the video showed, Ivey is accused of cheating a UK casino out of $11.5 million over the course of a two-day tournament. The lawsuit was filed by Malaysia-based Genting Group, a major casino operator, in Britain's High Court. The similar claim against Ivey says he bamboozled the casino by finding imperfections in the baccarat cards.
Baccarat is a game of chance; no player skill is involved. Like Blackjack, a player plays their hand against the house. The card game reverses the point value of a typical set of cards – face cards are worth nothing and Aces are worth only one point. Cards two through nine are worth their stated value. Scoring is made by adding the sums together, but two digit sums are counted only by their rightmost value. For example, a nine and a four are worth only three (the rightmost number of the sum of 13).
The Borgata lawsuit alleges that in 2012 Ivey, and an associate, used a technique called “edge sorting” to exploit a defect in cards manufactured by Gemaco Inc., a Kansas City-based card manufacturer. Baccarat uses full-bleed cards – card patterns that run right to the edges of the card backs – and at times the cards may be cut by the manufacturer in such a way that certain cards can be identified. The tiny row of diamonds at one of the edges may be cut in half, or in quarters, for example, enabling a player with a keen eye to remember and identify certain cards.
Edge sorting is in violation of most state gambling regulations. Ivey, like many casino players, is superstitious, and the lawsuit says he requested a dealer to flip cards in particular ways, under the ruse of superstition. Ivey allegedly asked the dealer to rotate cards in a certain way, depending on whether the card was desirable. Ivey is known for leaving high dealer tips, and some dealers will comply with such requests.
The lawsuit also says Ivey made specific requests to have the cards shuffled by an automatic shuffling machine, which would not alter the way each card was aligned. In other words, the dealer may be rotating good cards, but with the pattern on the back supposedly being uniform, the player would not be able to gain an advantage. However, if the deck was defective and cut, the desirable cards would have the mis-cut edges facing a different direction.
Ivey’s lawyers have declined comment on the lawsuit. According to the suit, “The pretext given for some of these requests was that Ivey was superstitious. Ivey misrepresented his motive, intention and purpose and did not communicate the true reason for his requests to Borgata at any relevant time. Ivey’s true motive, intention, and purpose in negotiating these playing arrangements was to create a situation in which he could surreptitiously manipulate what he knew to be a defect in the playing cards in order to gain an unfair advantage over Borgata.”