The Borgata in Atlantic City sued poker pro and high-stakes gambler Phil Ivey last April for allegedly cheating its casino out of $9.6 million in 2012 by using illegal edge sorting techniques that gave Ivey and his co-defendant Cheng Yin Sun an unfair advantage, but the evidence, the playing cards themselves, have since been destroyed.
Responding to a countersuit levied by Ivey’s legal defense team in July, attorneys for the resort said the cards were destroyed before Ivey’s suspected cheating came to light, and that the removal and demolition of old playing decks is common practice.
The lawyers also insisted that Ivey’s countersuit has no legal basis because any injury or sufferance he or Sun experienced was the result of their own wrongdoing.
Edge sorting involves the process of advanced players noticing subtle defects in card patterns stemming from unintentional printing and/or cutting errors.
Edge sorters then convince the croupier to unknowingly sort the cards into low and high, giving them a distinct advantage in knowing which numbers will be dealt next.
The Borgata wasn’t the first time Ivey tried his hand at edge sorting. In fact, during August of 2012, he won some $12 million playing baccarat at Crockfords, but the London-based casino refused to pay out his winnings after they suspected him of cheating.
At the time, Ivey denied any misconduct and sued the casino. “The fact that I have issued a lawsuit in the face of what they are alleging says everything about how comfortable I am… Any allegations of wrongdoing by Crockfords are denied by me in the very strongest of terms.”
Sir John Mitting, a judge for the High Court of England and Wales, disagreed in an October 2014 ruling saying, “He gave himself an advantage which the game precludes. This is in my view cheating.”
Gemaco Cards, a manufacturer based in Missouri that has since been acquired by Gambling Partners International, manufactured the Crockfords cards Ivey used. And you guessed it; Gemaco was also the supplier for Borgata’s baccarat tables.
The Crockfords case raised suspicion among Borgata officials who quickly realized that they had been taken, but lawyers claim by the time they discovered the breach the cards had already been recycled out of play.
Ivey, who this time received his multimillion-dollar payday, is refusing to concede he did anything wrong, though he has admitted to incorporating edge sorting into his play.
“It’s not my nature to cheat, and I would never do anything to risk my reputation,” Ivey said after the Crockfords ruling. “I believe that what we did was a legitimate strategy, we did nothing more than exploit Crockfords’ failures to take proper steps to protect themselves against a player of my ability.”
In its statement this week the Borgata admitted “there were circumstances where Gemaco, Inc. playing cards were delivered in miscut fashion,” but using edge sorting violates New Jersey casino gambling regulations.
Of course, knowingly tampering with evidence and obstructing justice is also a criminal offense, highlighting the likely continued lengthy legal battle between Ivey v. Borgata.