In 2012, 10-time World Series of Poker winner Phil Ivey requested a specific brand of playing cards, a shuffling machine, repeat card decks, and an Asian card dealer at Crockfords in London and The Borgata in Atlantic City. In an interview with 60 Minutes Sports he claimed that he used these factors to gain an “edge” while playing games of Punto Banco, a version of baccarat.
This edge, called “edge-sorting”, is the basis behind two lawsuits between him and the two casinos. His strategy included taking note of asymmetrical patterns on the backs of certain cards. Certain games, he explained in court, have an unfair “house edge” that favours the casino, and edge-sorting seeks to reduce the casino’s edge.
Ivey is suing Crockfords for not wiring him his £7.7 million in winnings from the game of Punto Banco, and The Borgata is suing Ivey for $9.6 million of his winnings in the game. Crockfords did wire back his £1 million stake but refused to wire his full winnings due to cheating allegations.
Ivey, the 38-year-old professional poker who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is described on the World Series of Poker website as “arguably the best poker player in the world,” has defended his reputation and claims that “edge-sorting” is not cheating.
“I use a variety of strategies whilst playing in casinos,” explained Ivey in court last Friday for the Crockfords lawsuit. “No system is fail-safe, and each time I play, I risk failing to execute the strategy properly — some of these are very complex or difficult to execute — which usually results in me losing a lot of money.”
“I consider all the strategies I use to be lawful, and I would never cheat in a casino,” he continued. “It is not in my nature to cheat, and nor would I risk my reputation by acting unlawfully in any manner.”
Litigation in both cases is on-going. All eyes are on the results of the lawsuits as this will certainly be a landmark case for players who use edge-sorting techniques at casinos in the future.