Poker Pro Phil Ivey is considered to be one of the best poker players of all time, having won 10 World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelets and more than $23 million in career prize money. Ivey, who is ranked 5th in the all time money list of poker players according to the Hendon Mob, has had his name under a cloud for the last couple of years after the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City filed a lawsuit against Ivey and his playing partner Cheng Yin Sun for ‘cheating’ the casino of around $9.6 million during a period ranging from 2012 to 2014.
The Borgata lawsuit alleges that Ivey and Sun used a technique known as ‘edge sorting’ while playing baccarat to beat the house and win millions of dollars. Edge sorting is the process of identifying marked cards to get ahead of the house and casinos do their best to prevent players from resorting to such techniques. Phil Ivey filed a counter lawsuit against the Borgata to dismiss the alleged charges stating that he would never cheat and risk his reputation in the industry but does acknowledge that he and his partner were able to exploit the deck of cards because of the skills they had mastered over the years.
U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman made a ruling on the case and determined that Ivey and Sun did not commit fraud against the casino but by using edge sorting had violated the New Jersey Casino Control Act. The judge has given the Borgata casino a period of 20 days to come up with the extent of damages it had suffered due to Ivey and Sun’s breach of the casino act.
In a statement, Judge Hillman said “Borgata and Ivey had the same goal when they entered into their arrangement: to profit at the other’s expense. Trust is a misplaced sentiment in this context. I view their actions to be akin to cunning, but not rule-breaking, maneuvers performed in many games, such as a play-action pass in American football, or the ‘Marshall swindle’ in chess.”
The Borgata is not the only casino to accuse Ivey of cheating as a similar charge was brought against Ivey by London’s Crockfords Casino. The casino filed a lawsuit against Ivey after he won around $12 million playing Punto Banco during 2013. Punto Banco is a game very similar to baccarat and Ivey was once again accused of using edge sorting. The Crockfords Casino refused to pay Ivey the $12 million he won and Ivey took the casino to court. However in October 2014, the London High Court ruled in favor of the casino which infuriated Ivey and caused him contest that decision with the Court of Appeal in London. The filing was made towards the end of 2015 and a final decision on the case is yet to be made.