Ivey Awaits Next Steps in Borgata Baccarat Case
When most poker fans are asked to name the best poker player in the world, there are usually three answers. One is Daniel Negreanu, a fan favorite always willingly in the spotlight, another is Phil Hellmuth, who serves as his own best publicist, and the third is Phil Ivey, a somewhat shy player who mostly mystifies fans and keeps them wondering about his next moves.
Ivey is one of the highest earners in poker’s history. While he plays the highest cash games in the world, he also shows a record $23,856,033 in live tournament earnings to date. Combine that with millions of dollars won online as well as more in sponsorship money and business endeavors, it puts Ivey in a league by himself. Even with that rich history in the game, he has played little poker in the past several years and has not cashed in a tournament since January 2016.
It is unclear what Ivey does with much of his time, but many of his resources have been focused on a pair of edge-sorting cases related to baccarat/punto banco cases with casinos. His case with the Crockfords gambling establishment in London began with a £7.7 win at the punto banco tables in 2012, and the final appeal is now in the hands of the UK Supreme Court. The other case began with baccarat play at the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, also in 2012.
On a Baccarat Binge
The Borgata case is somewhat similar to the Crockfords incident, in which Ivey and gambling partner Cheung Yin Sun used a technique called edge sorting to win millions of dollars.
The technique of edge sorting is a controversial one around the world, as it is generally not ruled as a form of cheating and therefore not against the law, but it is considered a faux pas in casinos and can garner a permanent removal from casino property. Basically, a player is trained to spot the tiniest of flaws in the designs on the back of the cards, which allows him or her to mentally mark the cards and gain an advantage when betting in future hands.
Ivey and Sun mastered the technique and used it during four sessions of baccarat at the Borgata between April and October in 2012, and the duo won $9.6 million in total. Unlike at Crockfords, the duo did walk away with their winnings when they completed their mission in Atlantic City, but they were subsequently hit with a lawsuit. Borgata filed suit against them in April 2014 to get its money back after learning that the two did the same thing at Crockfords. They claimed Ivey exploited manufacturing flaws in the cards, and the lawsuit alleged the actions constituted fraud, racketeering, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, and civil conspiracy, among other charges.
More than a year later, Ivey and Sun countersued the Borgata for nearly $10 million. That lawsuit claimed that the casino knew of the defects in the cards at the time and did everything Ivey and Sun asked, including meeting special requests for certain decks of cards. The casino then destroyed the decks of cards, making it impossible for Ivey and Sun to sufficiently prove their claims of innocence.
Motions and Appeals and More
In October 2016, a federal judge rendered an interesting decision on the original case. The judge granted a summary judgment and ruled that Ivey and Sun were not guilty of fraud and some of the other charges. However, the judge ruled in favor of a cross-motion by Borgata that Ivey and Sun did breach their contract, which was the Casino Control Act, an ordinance that gamblers must observe in casinos.
As a result of the breach of contract ruling, the same judge ruled two months later that the charge would result in Ivey and Sun required to return the $10.1 million to the Borgata, a sum that includes the baccarat winnings as well as extra monies won at other casino tables. However, the Borgata’s request for extra damages, including implied winnings and nearly $250K in comps afforded to the duo during their stays at the Borgata, was denied.
A few months into 2017, Ivey’s attorneys were working on an appeal in the case, but Borgata asked the court to require Ivey and Sun to post a sort of bond, a down payment on the money owed, while the appeals process moved forward. Ivey’s attorneys responded by asking for a summary judgment on that motion in order to move forward with the appeal. Meanwhile, Borgata had a case in process with Gemaco, the manufacturer of the playing cards that reportedly had imperfections that allowed for the edge-sorting to take place. Ivey’s lawyers wanted a summary judgment in that case.
By the end of June of this year, the US District Court judge finally ruled on the motion and denied it.
Little more than a month later, Borgata filed for a summary judgment in the Gemaco case, which Ivey and Sun support, more or less. All parties wish to move forward with the appeals process and not unduly delay progress. If a judge rules that Gemaco is at fault for the marred cards, that puts the onus on Gemaco to pursue a case against Ivey and Sun, and Borgata can get its money back from Gemaco instead of the baccarat players.
The situation is complicated and ongoing. As Ivey waits for the UK ruling and the outcome of the Borgata-Gemaco case, the poker world awaits his rare appearances at the poker tables. Many are hoping for positive results for Ivey so he can put baccarat and punto banco behind him in favor of more poker games.