One has to wonder about the integrity of the casino business when they resort to filing lawsuits against players who "break the bank." That is exactly what happened to poker superstar Phil Ivey after he walked away with more than $9.6 million by playing baccarat at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in October of 2012.
Ivey, considered by many to be one of the greatest high-stakes poker players of all-time, currently holds 10 WSP bracelets and has won more than $22M in WSP tour events. Playing baccarat is something he likes to do in his "spare" time, and he appears to be very good at it, at least that's what his lawyers claimed as they filed a "motion to dismiss" in early July.
In the original filing of its lawsuit, the casino claimed that Ivey used a technique called "edge-sorting." This technique involves finding imperfections in the printing on the back of cards that helps to indicate the value of each card. By using this technique, a player can shift the house edge into a 6.5% advantage for the player.
Earlier in October of 2012, Ivey was involved in a similar incident at the Crockfords Casino in London, where the casino withheld over $7M in winnings claiming he won by edge-sorting. In 2013, he filed a lawsuit against Crockfords Casino, which is still pending.
The problem for both casinos in the above-mentioned lawsuits is that there is nothing illegal about edge-sorting. Is it considered the equivalent of card-counting in blackjack, which is strongly discouraged by casinos and often results in a player being banned, but usually with their winnings in hand. In both of these cases, the casinos are trying to keep the money without any occurrence of cheating, at least from a legal standpoint.
In the Borgata case, casino officials claim they complied with Ivey's request to use specific automated dealers and playing cards, which is a common response to requests from "high-roller" of Ivey's stature. When everything went bad for the casino, they accused Ivey and his playing partner, Cheng Yin Sun, of making such requests knowing they could exploit the situation for a big win.
For his part, Ivey has neither denied edge-counting or admitted to cheating. He has simply stated that what he did was to level the playing field and beat the casino at its own game, all legitimately.