The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a court ruling Thursday regarding the long-lasting saga between poker legend Phil Ivey and MGM’s Borgata casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Both parties have reached a settlement the terms of which have not been disclosed.
Edge Sorting Technique Changed the Odds
The case started in 2012, when Phil Ivey and playing partner Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun won $9.6 million from the casino playing high-stakes baccarat. In this game, the casino has a 1% advantage against baccarat players and Borgata allowed a stake of $100,000 per hand to be placed. Unfortunately for the casino, Phil Ivey and his partner spotted manufacturing defects in the patterns at the back of the playing cards, a technique called edge-sorting, and exploited this to their advantage changing the odds in the game to 6.8% in their favor.
Four years after Borgata filed against Ivey, the US District Court for the District of New Jersey issued a ruling in favor of the casino, stating that the two players were in breach of their contract with Borgata by using the edge sorting. The judge sought to return both parties to their positions prior to the controversial baccarat sessions, and Borgata tried to collect its money going after Ivey’s poker winnings.
Borgata decided to comb Phil Ivey’s domestic accounts despite knowing that the nearly $10 million from the infamous baccarat play went outside of the country, as the casino itself agreed to wire the amount to the player’s account in Mexico.
Rebuke from the Poker Community
Going after Ivey’s WSOP winnings did not do any favor to the casino, besides earning a strong rebuke from the poker community, calling Borgata to stop pursuing the player. Phil Ivey is a legend in the professional poker world, having 10 WSOP bracelets and millions in cash games, even considered to be the most talented ever poker player.
Phil Ivey and his playing partner appealed the 2016 court ruling to the Third Circuit in 2018, as they did not mark the cards to gain an edge. Ivey and Sun never denied they used the edge-sorting technique to win, with their attorney stating in 2014 it was sheer skill, while Borgata insisted money should be returned because marked cards were used.
The casino went further stating that the dealer’s turning of the cards is an act of “marking” and that the automatic shuffling device was a “cheating device”. The casino law in New Jersey does not define “marking” but deals with “use” of marked cards. There were also claims Borgata was well aware of the asymmetrical patterns present in the cards used for baccarat.
The Third Circuit’s ruling stated that, after the oral hearing in 2017, the matter was referred to the Appellate Mediation Program, and the parties have now reached an agreement, the settlement of which is pending certain items being vacated by the lower court.
There is no detail as to whether Phil Ivey would return partially of fully the money or Borgata decided to call it a quit.