Phil Ivey’s Last Stand With Crockfords Ends With A Loss

After a year of court battles in the UK, Phil Ivey lost his final appeal to receive $10 million in winnings from Crockfords. His Borgata case goes on.

Phil Ivey and Kelly Sun couldn’t quite pull off one last miracle win.

The pair took two casinos (Borgata AC and Crockfords London) for more than $10 million in baccarat winnings in 2012 by leveraging printing errors on the Gemaco playing cards used during their run. The casinos then refused to pay after it was discovered the players used an “unfair” advantage to rack up their titanic wins. Last week, the British Supreme Court sided with Crockfords in Ivey’s UK case.

“We are delighted that the High Court, the Court of Appeal and now the Supreme Court have all found in Genting’s favor, confirming that we acted fairly and properly at all times and that Mr. Ivey’s conduct did indeed amount to cheating,” said Genting Casinos UK President Paul Willcock. (Genting operates the Crockfords casino.)

According to The Guardian, the court’s five judges were unanimous in their decision.

What went down in 2012

While Ivey and Sun’s exploits were fairly well known in gambling circles, the general public caught wind when ESPN released a 30 for 30 podcast detailing exactly how the duo gashed Crockfords for a cool $10 million.

Basically, Sun noticed inconsistencies in the way Gemaco printed its purple cards. The inconsistencies were best leveraged in a game of single-deck baccarat, but Sun wasn’t paired at the time with a player who could earn her real money.

So through a series of friendships, she was able to link up with Ivey. The pair then came up with a strategy for using the Gemaco inconsistencies to their advantage. They’d request a private room where they’d play single-deck baccarat with purple Gemaco cards dealt so the printing abnormalities were showing. The dealer needed to speak Mandarin.

To pull those requests off, Ivey and Sun had to subtly negotiate. The private room kept the game under wraps. The cards, obviously, were purple Gemacos. And the final movement of the sly symphony was the Mandarin-speaking dealer. Sun, who speaks Mandarin, talked with the dealer throughout the first part of the game.

After she established rapport, she asked the dealer to adjust the cards to bring Sun good luck. Wish granted. Over and over again.

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Ivey and Crockfords / Borgata Casino court cases

Once Borgata and Crockfords realized what happened, they refused to pay Ivey. The poker powerhouse didn’t like that; few would. So he took Crockfords to court and lost. He filed his appeals, eventually ending up before Great Britain’s five highest judges.

Ivey wasn’t the only one battling Crockfords in court. The Borgata Casino also went toe-to-toe with Gemaco, saying the company knew its cards had irregularities. Ivey’s appeal in his own Borgata case awaits the outcome of the New Jersey casino’s tussle with Gemaco.

Kelly Sun’s Superhuman Abilities Might Derail Borgata’s Gemaco Law Suit

A revelation from Kelly Sun that she can read the card backs of any deck might manufacturer Gameco defend itself in Borgata’s law suit against the company.

The crux of Borgata Casino’s $10 million lawsuit against card deck manufacturer Gemaco is pretty simple. The New Jersey casino says the company knowingly manufactured and distributed decks with faulty card backs.

The imperfections in the card backs are what helped Phil Ivey and his partner, Kelly Sun, log winning Baccarat sessions for over $9 million.

Unfortunately for Borgata, Sun just blew a hole in that argument.

Sun says she can read the card backs of any deck of cards

To be clear, Borgata is not accusing Gemaco of purposefully creating defective cards. The name of the technique Sun and Ivey used is edge-sorting. The nature of how cards are manufactured means there are imperfections on the designs on the backs of cards. Advantage players learn to recognize which inconsistencies are on the more valuable cards, then play accordingly.

Lawyers deposed Sun as part of Borgata’s law suit against Ivey. In that statement, Sun claimed it did not matter who manufactured the cards. Why?

Because she can read the card backs of literally every brand of casino deck. NorthJersey.com reported on the incident, including a recent filing regarding Sun’s abilities:

“Sun confirmed that she can identify imperfections with any cards, regardless of who manufactures them. Sun further testified that the card manufacturer is irrelevant and that she is able to gain advantage with any card and can pick up imperfections in almost all instances.”

Does Gemaco have any culpability in the Ivey / Borgata case?

With that revelation, the entire law suit is now on shaky ground. New Jersey gaming regulations allow for some imperfections. Namely, there can be irregularities up to 1/32″ wide.

While that may not be enough to stop an advantage player like Sun, it is enough to put the manufacturer in camp with just about every other card company in the industry.

Here is why this is so important to the Gemaco case. There is a document stating the material facts of the suit. One of those facts states edge-sorting can only be done when there are major imperfections in the cards.

Gemaco’s legal teams filed a response to the document contesting the edge-sorting point. If Sun’s statements are true and the deck manufacturing plays such an insignificant role in her success, that is an ineffective definition of the concept.

No word yet on what the court thinks of the argument. What this does indicate is that this law suit will be a drawn-out process. That is not great news for Phil Ivey. He cannot appeal his case with Borgata until the Gemaco suit is resolved.

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Borgata Says Manufacturer In Ivey Case Knew Cards Were Marked

Borgata is in the process of a second suit related to Phil Ivey’s $10 million in Baccarat wins. The NJ casino wants card manufacter Gemaco to pay up too.

A judge already found Phil Ivey culpable for the $10 million he won playing Baccarat at the Borgata tables. The New Jersey casino is not done placing the blame, though.

Next up for Borgata is its case against Gemaco, the playing card manufacturer who provided the cards used by Ivey and his partner, Kelly Sun. The casino would like the company to pay the $10 million it lost.

Gemaco cards featured manufacturing error that led to edge-sorting

The reason Ivey and Sun managed to win so much at the Baccarat tables is because of defects in the playing cards. The name of the technique is edge-sorting. As Sun explained on a recent ESPN podcast, borderless decks like the Gemaco decks have barely perceptible differences in the card backs. She knows which differences correspond to which card and plays accordingly.

Not only did Sun and Ivey request Gemaco cards. They alo requested a single Gemaco deck instead of letting the dealer frequently change cards out. Because Ivey is such a high roller, the Atlantic City casino let these odd requests slide. Some of the other things Ivey asked for were a dealer who spoke Mandarin and for that dealer to manually shift the direction of the cards.

By shifting the direction of the cards, Sun could better see the cards’ imperfections and tell Ivey what to do. Over the course of four sessions, the two earned $9.6 million at the tables.

Borgata claims Gemaco knew about the defect in the cards

According to NorthJersey.com, the paperwork Borgata filed as part of the suit says Gemaco was aware of the defect before they sold Borgata the decks. With that in mind, the casino alleges the card company is culpable for damages stemming from the card defects.

This is where things will be tricky for the judge.

If Borgata is correct and Gemaco knowingly issued the decks with the flaws, there is still a lack of clarity as to who is really to blame. After all, Borgata staffers are the people who agreed to Ivey’s numerous requests. Had the casino denied Ivey, the plan to win millions likely would not have worked.

Borgata thinks the card company should pay the $10.1 million judgment in their favor. Currently, courts say Ivey is liable to pay as well. His case is pending appeal at the moment. The court will not hear Ivey’s appeal until the Gemaco case is closed.

If Borgata is successful with Gemaco, there is a chance the casino gets $10 million from both parties.

Ivey staying busy with Crockfords case

While Borgata spars with Gemaco, Ivey is sparring with Crockfords in London. The British casino sued Ivey in another Baccarat-related case. The property is trying to make Ivey pay back the £7.7 million he and Sun won at the Crockfords tables in 2012.

The lower courts all sided with Crockfords, but the British Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last month. There is no final judgment in the case yet.

In both the Borgata and Crockfords trials, the court would not go so far as to say Ivey and Sun were cheating. They did, however, break the unspoken contract with the casinos in the eyes of the judges.

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ESPN Releases 30 For 30 Podcast Documentary About Phil Ivey Baccarat Case

ESPN’s 30 for 30 division recently released a podcast covering the more than $20 million baccarat exploits of NJ-born poker pro Phil Ivey and Kelly Sun.

Nobody likes to lose millions, especially casinos.

That’s the main takeaway from ESPN’s 30 for 30 podcast about how Phil Ivey and Kelly Sun took casinos for millions. They did it based on a simple inconsistency in single-deck baccarat games.

Now, the podcast occasionally smacks of a startup trying to imitate the pacing and tone of This American Life, but its treatment of Ivey’s headline-grabbing wins at the Borgata and London’s Crockfords was captivating.

The story is really about Kelly Sun

The podcast particularly highlights Ivey sidekick and advantage player Kelly Sun as the reason he was able to win millions at private casino baccarat tables. (The podcast is titled “Queen Of Sorts.”)

Sun was the daughter of a wealthy Chinese businessman who often put her up in luxurious accommodations in Las Vegas, and the MGM Grand was one of her favorites.

The podcast goes on to describe how she should lose millions on MGM’s floor, but the money wasn’t a big deal. However, one day in 2007, a friend of Sun’s took a $100,000 line in her name, and an unaware Sun didn’t pay up.

MGM detained Sun, and she spent a few weeks in jail, coming out of the experience with a chip on her shoulder: She wanted to take a casino for millions of dollars.

Edge sorting became Sun’s way of making casinos pay

The podcast characterizes Sun as being a natural advantage player. Her skills took a leap when she started dating a connected gambling man named “Eddie.”

Somewhere along the line, Sun focused her attention on edge sorting — a method of increasing odds by noting small inconsistencies in the way certain brands of card are cut.

For some background: Some cards have borderless patterns that run right to their edges. If the cards aren’t cut perfectly, the pattern (let’s say, a series of circles) could be longer on one end of certain cards and shorter on the other.

Sun found that cards printed by Gemaco had a barely visible inconsistency she could use to her advantage.

Ivey and Sun take Crockfords and the Borgata

Sun and Ivey then used her knowledge of Gemaco cards to win millions. Their success hinged on a casino’s willingness to:

  • Offer a private mini-baccarat table;
  • Use Gemaco cards;
  • Position them on the table so that Sun could see the inconsistencies;
  • Provide a dealer who spoke Mandarin.

Through some schmoozing and sweet talk, Sun and Ivey got Crockfords, Borgata, and other casinos to comply.

Sun would chit-chat with the dealer in Mandarin, talking about cards, luck, and life. At some point, Sun would ask the dealer to turn the cards a certain way under the pretense of it being better luck.

The dealers at Borgata and Crockfords complied. Ivey and Sun went on to win more than $20 million.

The butcher’s bill

Once the casinos became wise to the ruse, they refused to pay Ivey his winnings. Ivey wanted them. Legal action ensued.

So far, Ivey’s lawsuits with Crockfords and Borgata have not been resolved.

The legal battle between Ivey and the casinos is an interesting one because Ivey broke no laws — edge sorting isn’t illegal. However, the casinos claim Ivey and Sun’s gambit gave them an unfair advantage and that, in effect, they cheated.

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Image by World Poker Tour / CC BY-NC 2.0

Phil Ivey Allowed to Appeal Cheating Conviction

Poker professional Phil Ivey has been given permission to appeal the decision of the London High Court to take $12.4 million in winnings after edge-sorting.

One of poker’s biggest stars will get another chance to recoup $12.4 million in winnings that were withheld from a London casino. Ten-time WSOP bracelet winner Phil Ivey has been given permission to appeal a London High Court ruling that marked him as a cheater.

Last year, Ivey lost his case against Crockford’s Casino and the casino was allowed to keep the $12.4 million in earnings that Ivey reportedly won via edge sorting in Punto Banco. The appeal in this case could have ramifications on a similar case awaiting trial in Atlantic City.

Ivey given permission to appeal ruling

On Saturday, the Daily Mail reported that Ivey was given permission to appeal the 2014 ruling that Ivey cheated at Punto Banco, allowing Crockford’s Casino to withhold Ivey’s winnings of £7.8 million ($12.4 million US).

Ivey was given permission to appeal the case after a judge ruled that his case as “a real prospect of success,” and that it raised an important question regarding the law.

According to the report, Ivey’s lawyers plan to argue that cheating involves some type of dishonesty and that Ivey was never dishonest. Ivey admitted to using edge-sorting, a technique where one can determine the value of cards via flaws on the deck, in order to win at Punto Banco.

Ivey speaks out – ruling resulted in casino bans

Typically quiet, Ivey spoke out regarding the case after last week’s announcement. “It is not in my nature to cheat, which is why I was so bitterly disappointed by the judge’s decision a year ago, even though he said I was a truthful witness.”

Ivey continued, “When you are a professional gambler you are always looking for ways to gain an advantage over the casino. It’s their job to prevent me from having any advantage. Sometimes I come out on top, sometimes they do.”

Ivey admitted that he’s been barred from a few casinos as a result of last year’s ruling. “When you’re accused of cheating it’s a very big deal in gambling.”

Ruling could impact Borgata case against Ivey

The Crockford’s case is not the only one hanging over Ivey’s head. Ivey is also facing a lawsuit from the Borgata in Atlantic City over $9.6 million in Baccarat winnings from 2012. Ivey was paid those winnings and the casino is seeking restitution after determining that Ivey used edge-sorting there as well.

Lawyers for the Borgata have asked the judge to consider the ruling from the Crockford’s case, meaning that the appeal could make a difference in whether Ivey has to repay the Borgata.

Many feel that Ivey was merely an advantage player at the table and that his techniques do not equate to gambling. Others look at the lengths Ivey went to pull off the edge sorting and believe that it is on par with gambling.

Regardless of which side you sit on, the matter will receive a ruling soon. Ivey is to appear in the Appeal Court on December 10. Don’t be surprised to see the Borgata drop their case against Ivey should Ivey prove successful.