Phil Ivey had exceptional skills as a professional poker player, winning significant sums from competitions and casinos worldwide. But his relationship with casinos hasn’t always been plain sailing. Atlantic City’s Borgata Casino even took him to court for over 15 million dollars. So, why did the casino feel the need to file a lawsuit against Ivey – and did he deserve it?
It is reported that back in 2012, Ivey and his long-term partner Kelly Sun attended the Borgata to play baccarat. After a long session, the pair walked away from the table, almost 10 million dollars richer. Was it due to skill, luck – or was it another of the ?
The courts have judged it to be the latter, although Phil contests this. The pair is judged to have been playing with a technique called “edge sorting”. This is when the gambler tries to memorise different playing cards based on manufacturer defects. One of the most common ways a card could defect is damage to the edge of the card, hence why the technique is known as edge sorting.
Ivey has previous too. Earlier and across the pond in the United Kingdom, he was judged to have used the same strategy in a casino to win big. But the UK casino refused to pay player on the spot. As a result, he decided to sue the casino, which was not successful, leaving him empty-handed. Maybe in hind sight, to fight the case.
The Borgata Casino might not have put their foot down from the outset, but they also didn’t allow Ivey to get away with it. After the event, they calculated how the game would have played out if the customer had not cheated and decided to file a lawsuit for a refund of the winnings. The lawsuit was made for just over 15 million dollars.
The judge sided with the casino in 2016 but ordered Ivey to pay around 10 million dollars back, which is less than what was asked but still more than his winnings on the evening. The next problem the casino had was getting the money from him. The gentleman had emptied his US accounts and sent his money abroad.
Fast-forward three years, and the courts have granted permission for the casino to chase the money in other locations. In the same year, Ivey had a number of wins on the World Series of Poker, accumulating modest wealth. But Borgata was ready to pounce as soon as the competitions were over and seized all of his winnings.
The key takeaway? The house really does always win – but sometimes they have to go to court first.