Phil Ivey’s WSOP Winnings Seized by Borgata

Following a legal battle that began in 2014, Borgata Casino has confiscated Phil Ivey’s 2019 WSOP winnings to cover debts owed by the poker superstar. Despite cashing out four times at this year’s World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, the ‘Tiger Woods’ of poker, Phil Ivey didn’t take home a penny.

Phil Ivey playing poker.

Phil Ivey at this year’s World Series of Poker © WSOP

The saga began in 2012 when Ivey and a friend, Cheung Yin Sun, paid a visit to the Borgata casino in Atlantic City. Anyone who knows Atlantic City knows the Borgata. The MGM owned hotel is the largest in New Jersey, with 2,002 rooms. Its casino brings in more money than any other in Atlantic City. Since it’s opening in 2003, the Borgata has become an icon of Atlantic City’s skyline due to its distinctive gold glass exterior. This famous casino was also to become the setting for a huge poker scandal.

At the Borgata, Ivey and his companion played baccarat together over the course of a few months. During this period they took the house for a whopping $9.6 million. Borgata realized unfortunately late that the pair’s success had been assisted by the use of an edge sorting technique. Edge sorting is when a player observes the subtle pattern differences on the backs of playing cards to gain a playing advantage. These are caused when the cards are being printed and cut. Edge sorting is generally considered to be cheating, so on realizing what had happened Borgata sought to get their money back.

Borgata filed a lawsuit against Ivey and Sun in April 2014. The casino won the lawsuit in 2016 and a Federal Judge ordered the pair to pay back $10 million. Although they had not physically marked the cards, they had memorized imperfections on the cards for an unfair advantage. District Judge Noel Hillman found that this went against the New Jersey Casino Controls Act. Unfortunately for Borgata Casino, Ivey had taken all his money out of US bank accounts and moved it to Mexico. This meant that the casino was unable to seize the money it was owed. More lawsuits followed, but until Ivey’s success at the 2019 World Series of Poker, Borgata Casino couldn’t claim a penny.

A recent development has since enabled Borgata to successfully claim recompense for Ivey’s debt. A federal judge granted the Borgata permission to pursue assets outside of New Jersey in January 2019. This is how, seven years since that fateful game of baccarat, Borgata was able to claim Ivey’s WSOP winnings. Jeremy Klausner, an attorney for Borgata Casino served management at the WSOP a notice that they had a writ of execution against Ivey.

The Edge Sorting Technique

This isn’t the only time Ivey has found himself in hot water. It seems that the Tiger Woods of poker, as he is known, has a knack for edge sorting. Ivey won £7.7 million in 2012 at the Crockfords Casino in London. Playing baccarat again, this time the Punto Banco version, Ivey was able to play with advantage to secure a big win. As the casino caught on, Ivey never received his winnings. The poker star proceeded to sue the casino for his winnings but lost. Although Ivey claimed that edge sorting was not cheating, the UK High Court ruled that it was. Ivey appealed the judgment but lost. Yet again, he appealed to the UK Supreme Court and lost again.

Ivey does not deny using the edge sorting technique at the Borgata or Crockfords. He has been open about the methods he employed as part of his strategy. These involved making special requests to the casinos, making his edge-sorting process easier. At the Borgata and Crockfords casinos, he requested a certain card brand and that that the same deck of cards be used for all his games. Ivey also asked for a shuffle machine that he knew would keep the cards in a certain order and an Asian dealer, with whom his companion player could communicate in Mandarin. By controlling the circumstances under which he played baccarat, he was able to create ideal conditions for following the backs of cards. Both casinos complied with these requests and allowed Cheng Yin Sun to play with Ivey.

Cheng Yin Sun, Ivey’s baccarat companion is a known advantage player. She has been banned from visiting other casinos as a result of using the edge sorting technique. Both casinos state that she asked the dealer to turn cards. By turning certain cards, the two players were able to identify them and push the game’s odds in their favor.

Ivey claims that utilizing the edge sorting technique was legal and gave him roughly a 5% to 6 % advantage.

“My reputation is everything and gambling to risk my reputation over winning some money – I would not do that. Absolutely, 100%, I did nothing wrong and nothing illegal.”Phil Ivey, 10-time WSOP bracelet winner

While Ivey has maintained that his actions were fair, both casinos have disagreed. They state that despite agreeing to Ivey’s conditions, they were misled over the reasoning for them. Borgata and Crockfords claimed that he passed his requests off as mere superstition, so they were unaware of how he was manipulating the game.

Phil Ivey currently has ten WSOP bracelets to his name and has won one World Poker Tour title. Before being embroiled in controversy and lawsuits, Ivey was considered by some to be the best poker player in the world. So much so that he made it to the Poker Hall of Fame in 2017. His defeat by both the Borgata and Crockfords casinos has resulted in him not only being denied winnings but also being slapped with added costs. While Ivey did attend this year’s World Series, his reputation his been clearly tarnished and it is unknown whether he will return for next year’s series.

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