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Poker pro, friend must repay $10.1M to Borgata in cards case

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The exterior of the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City N.J., as seen in June 2013. On Dec. 15, a judge ruled that poker pro Phil Ivey and a companion must repay $10.1 million they won playing cards at the Borgata in 2012 using a card-sorting technique that the judge ruled was a violation of the players’ obligation to follow state gambling regulations.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. >> Poker pro Phil Ivey and a companion must return more than $10 million they won from an Atlantic City casino while playing cards that were arranged in a certain way to give the players an edge.

A federal judge had previously ruled Ivey and companion player Cheng Yin Sun didn’t meet their obligation to follow gambling regulations on four occasions in 2012 by having a dealer at the Borgata arrange Baccarat cards so they could tell what kind of card was coming next.

Last week the judge ordered the pair to return $10.1 million to the casino. The order by U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman essentially returned both sides to where they were before Ivey and Sun began gambling at the Borgata.

The sum includes money that Ivey won playing craps with some of the money he won at the card table.

“This case involves the whims of Lady Luck, who casts uncertainty on every hand, despite the house odds,” Hillman wrote in his opinion. “Indeed, Lady Luck is like nectar to gamblers, because no one would otherwise play a game he knows he will always lose.”

He added that deciding the case involved “voiding a contract that was tainted from the beginning and breached as soon as it was executed.”

Ed Jacobs, the attorney for the nine-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, stressed that the judge affirmed that Ivey had followed every rule of Baccarat and did not commit fraud.

“What this ruling says is a player is prohibited from combining his skill and intellect and visual acuity to beat the casino at its own game,” he said, adding Ivey will appeal the ruling soon. “The casino agreed to every single accommodation requested by Phil Ivey in his four visits because they were eager to try to win his money.”

The judge rejected a request by the casino to use a formula for calculating damages that could have seen the restitution go as high as $15.5 million. That method, assessing how much the casino could have won had Ivey and Chen not engaged in a style of play known as edge-sorting, was deemed too speculative.

The Borgata claimed the pair exploited a defect in cards that enabled them to sort and arrange good cards. The casino says the technique violates state casino gambling regulations. But Ivey asserts his win was simply the result of skill and good observation.

The Borgata claimed the cards used in the games were defective in that the pattern on the back was not uniform. The cards have rows of small white circles designed to look like the tops of cut diamonds, but the Borgata said some of them were only half-diamonds or quarters. Ivey has said he simply noticed things that anyone playing the game could have observed and bet accordingly.

The judge noted that Ivey and Sun instructed dealers to arrange the cards in a certain way, which is permitted under the rules of the game, after Sun noticed minute differences in them. But he ruled in October that those actions violated the state Casino Control Act and their contractual obligation to abide by it in gambling at the casino.

Neither the casino nor Ivey’s lawyer immediately responded to requests for comment Monday.

The judge rejected a request by the Borgata that Ivey repay nearly $250,000 in comps — listed only as “goods and services” — the casino extended him while playing there.

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    • The judge didn’t rule it “cheating”. If he had both players would be in jail. Since the casino provided defective cards and voluntarily agreed to the players request to have them sorted I wonder how/why the judge ruled against them.

      • Geezus, how credible are you when you can’t even get the facts straight. The game was baccarat and I bet you don’t even know the rules of that game or how its played. Also, it was the casino’s responsibility to be aware of the defect in the cards that were used in that game….not the players…….Ivey was right when he said he used his skill and visual acuity…..geez, do you even know what skill and visual acuity is…….????

      • Allie, who ever you are and what ever you are, you should improve on your reading comprehension skills before you generalize on things you have no knowledge about….there is a difference between poker and baccarat but evidently you were reading something antithesis of your own comprehension. Get with the facts ……….

    • The House provides the cards and it is up to the House and its employees (dealers) to ensure they aren’t “marked” cards. It shouldn’t be up to the player to act as a quality control monitor for the House.

      • Casino stack all the games in their favor. In blackjack, they like giving players false hope, so they’ll keep coming. The casinos don’t mind all the card counting books out there, as long as the players are not smart enough to overcome the house edge.

        Once in a while a player will be smart enough to overcome the house edge. That’s not cheating, just being smart. At that point the casino can exercise its right to refuse to do business with anyone. That’s their chicken-sheet right. So they ask the player to stop playing at their casino, but they don’t try to take back the money.

        Similar situation with Phil Ivey here. The casino started out with the rules in their favor, but he found a weakness and adjusted his strategy accordingly. Casino has the right to shut down the table, but maybe they should just let him walk away with his winnings.

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