Phil Ivey To Settle With Borgata

Phil Ivey has come to a settlement with the Borgata Casino, Atlantic City after a six-year legal battle over accusations that Ivey cheated at the casino. Ivey has long denied that edge-sorting, a tactic that saw him win millions of dollars at both the Borgata and Cockfords in London, is cheating.

A baccarat casino table game with dealt cards.

Poker champion Phil Ivey and the Borgata casino in Atlantic City have finally settled a legal dispute centered around Ivey’s use of edge-sorting in baccarat in 2012. ©Macau Photo Agency/Unsplash

The case began in 2014, when the Marina District Development Company, the parent of Borgata, filed a damages claim against Ivey for roughly $10 million for cheating with accomplice Cheung Yin Sun. The alleged incidents took place over numerous occasions in 2012 at both the Borgata and Cockfords.

In 2016, the New Jersey District court ruled that Ivey and Sun’s complex edge-sorting method that was utilized during high-stakes baccarat games was cheating, and ordered the pair to return their winnings from the scheme. Ivey immediately appealed the decision, where it has been considered for more than three years.

The terms of the settlement, which was filed in early July by the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals, have not been revealed. What is known is that the case is partially remanded to the New Jersey District Court, which may indicate that some of the original 2016 verdict stands.

The last development in the case happened in September in 2019 and indicated that the parties had come to some form of a deal. According to the wording of the latest settlement, the New Jersey District Court will need to reconsider its decision to force Ivey to pay all of his winnings back.

The settlement will also end a Nevada case relating to the legal dispute, which has seen the Borgata successfully sue to seize Ivey’s assets to make up for the damages. While it’s clear Ivey will lose some of his winnings, Ivey can now play poker events without fear of having more assets seized.

The settlement comes years after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that Ivey had cheated. The court supported Crockfords Casino’s refusal to pay him out his winnings. Ivey and Sun used the same edge-sorting tactics in the casino and managed to take home roughly $10 million.

The judges in the case determined that baccarat should be based on chance and that Ivey and Sun had cheated that by creating a carefully staged sting. At the time, Ivey and the larger poker community opposed the ruling, viewing Ivey’s scheme as a legitimate technique.

“At the time I played at Crockfords, I believed that edge-sorting was a legitimate Advantage Play technique and I believe that more passionately than ever today…It is because of my sense of honor and respect for the manner in which gambling is undertaken by professional gamblers such as myself that I have pursued this claim for my unpaid winnings.”Phil Ivey, World Poker Tour champion, speaking to Associated Press Journalists

The Edge-Sorting Scandal

Edge-sorting is a technique that allows its users to determine the house edge and bet accordingly. In order to pull off the scheme, players must notice subtle differences in the patterns of the back of cards and convince the dealer to sort the deck so that high-value cards are distinguishable from low-value cards.

Additionally, players must then convince casinos to allow for hands to be dealt before they place their bet to give an even larger advantage over the house. If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is. This is why Ivey recruited Cheung Yin Sun, an expert card reader, to help.

At their Crockfords session, the pair asked for a specific brand of playing cards with a pattern on the back they were familiar with. They requested the dealer undertake a few card-sorting rituals that seemed superstitious but in fact helped the players to distinguish card values before the game had started.

With the edge in his favor, Ivey began with bets valued at roughly $5,000 and increased them until he was betting almost $100,000 hands. Expecting something was wrong, Crockfords refused to pay out the winnings until it had investigated. At the time of the scheme, the casino had never heard of edge-sorting.

After reviewing surveillance footage and looking through the cards, the investigators discovered the tactic. Ivey and Sun later sued for their winnings. The case was discovered by the Borgata in Atlantic City, a former target of the scheme, and motivated them to seek a return of their winnings from the pair.

Throughout the legal proceedings, Ivey never denied the accusations and stood by the argument that edge-sorting is a legitimate tactic void of dishonesty. While British judges have acknowledged they believe Ivey believes he wasn’t cheating, judges in the US did not take a similar viewpoint.

The New Jersey District Court ruled that Ivey was using the card printing errors and the dealer’s shoes as “marked cards” and a “cheating device” respectively, which constituted cheating in the state. As “marking” was not clearly defined in the state, Ivey used this vague definition to appeal the decision to the Third Court.

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