Phil Ivey Claims Casino Used Booze and “Borgata Babes” to Distract Him during Baccarat
In court documents filed on Tuesday, Phil Ivey claimed Borgata used unlimited alcohol and flirty waitresses to distract him and impair his judgment during the baccarat binge which netted him his partner, Cheng Yin Sun, $9.6 million in winnings. Ivey’s charges were made during the court case stemming from Borgata’s lawsuit of Ivey and Cheng, who won in a series of high stakes baccarat sessions over the course of the spring and summer of 2012.
For a year, Borgata took its loss to Phil Ivey and his partner with good grace. But then the Genting Group’s casino in London accused Ivey of taking advantage of faulty purple Gemaco cards and a technique called “edge sorting” to gain an advantage, eventually suing Ivey to avoid paying $12.4 million in baccarat losses to him.
After the trial (which Ivey lost), the famous poker player told UK publications the casino had only itself to blame, due to “failures to take proper steps to protect themselves against a player of my ability”. He also added his baccarat playing involved a “legitimate strategy”.
Borgata’s $9.6 Million Lawsuit
This prompted Borgata to sue, making the same charges as Genting Group. Borgata’s management knows that same thing all casino owners know: American-style baccarat has no strategy element. If the game is played long enough, the casino always win. In Borgata’s thinking, Phil Ivey had to cheat, or else they would have won back the money they originally lost. In the poker player’s long sessions, Borgata eventually upped the betting limits from $50,000 a hand to $100,000 a hand, hoping to recoup its losses. The plan did not work, despite what Phil Ivey describes as Borgata’s own underhanded tactics.
Phil Ivey’s filings make the argument that Borgata’s management did not play fair (either), as they grew increasingly desperate to turn the tide against the famous poker player.
High Roller Baccarat
Casinos understand high rollers go on winning streaks at a time. Because baccarat has a house edge between 1.06% and 1.24%, the casino is willing to offer comps, free drinks, and other enticements for high stakes gamblers to keep playing. The operator understands that the house edge eventually turns the game to the casino’s advantage.
That reasoning breaks down when the gambler has an advantage, which is why casinos stay watchful for card counters. That’s always why Borgata sued, accusing Phil Ivey of violating New Jersey state gaming laws, which are written to favor the local business community: in this case Atlantic City casinos.
Flawed Gemaco Cards
Phil Ivey’s lawyers claim Borgata knew about the flaws in the Gemaco playing cards. Not only that, he claims the casino destroyed Gemaco cards previous to his arrival, knowing that they were faulty. Therefore, he claims the casino knew what they were doing when he and Mrs. Cheng arrived and asked for Gemaco purple playing cards. For its part, Borgata admitted destroying Gemaco cards, but claims it was done in the normal course of business.
Those charges were made weeks ago, and represent an attempt to show the Atlantic City casino took extraordinary decisions to retain Ivey’s business. Tuesday’s charges are a more general indictment of the casino industry, which the 9-time WSOP bracelet winner implies uses sleazy and underhanded tactics as a normal operating procedure.
The Borgata Babes
Phil Ivey’s deposition read: “I mean it distracts you from your concentration. I mean anything they can do to give themselves an advantage. So alcohol does–everyone knows alcohol impairs your judgment–and they have pretty cocktail waitresses and they’re all quite flirty. They’re talking to you, you know. I got quite a few numbers.”
Ivey’s lawyers have called for Borgata’s food and beverage manager to give a statement about the casino’s operating procedures. In particular, they want to hear about policies involving the “Borgata Babes“, who wear bustiers, short skirts, and heels. The Borgata Babes are featured in an annual calendar that the casino sells.
Drinking and Gambling
The famous poker professional admits he was drunk during large stretches of the baccarat sessions. That was why he brought along Cheng Yin Sun, whom he says made all the strategy decisions.
When he first appeared at the casino, Ivey and his friend used their high roller status to call for special cards, a Chinese translator, and the ability to sort the deck themselves. Borgata agreed, because he was playing for $50,000 a hand.
Edge sorting is a technique in which the players sort a card deck to favor their chances. The Gemaco cards are said to have been defective, so that diamonds on the backs of certain card ranks did not match the rest of the cards in the deck. This allowed the sorter to place certain types of cards wherever they wanted, knowing they involved a small range of numbers. In that way, edge sorting allows a player to gamble at an advantage.
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