Phil Ivey Ordered to Repay Borgata Casino $10.1m

Phil Ivey and his gambling partner, Cheng Yin Sun, have been ordered to repay the Borgata casino $10.1 million that they won through baccarat and craps.

Ivey and Sun used an advantage-play technique called edge sorting to gain a small edge over the Borgata. This resulted in a collective $9.6 million in baccarat winnings over four sessions.

In October, a federal judge ruled that Ivey and Sun failed to follow state gambling regulations by requesting a flawed Gemaco deck and having a dealer arrange cards at a 180-degree angle. This allowed Ivey to better spot tiny flaws on card backs to tell their values.

U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman received a request from Borgata, asking for $15.5 million, including both the money that Ivey won along with expected losses he would’ve incurred.

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

The judge also wrote that the case involved “voiding a contract that was tainted from the beginning and breached as soon as it was executed.”

Ed Jacobs, Ivey’s attorney, argued that Ivey broke no rules or laws, and the casino agreed to every condition he requested.

“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,” said Jacobs. “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.”

Hillman ultimately rejected Borgata’s request for $15.5 million. Instead, he ordered Ivey to return the $9.6 million in baccarat winnings, along with another $500,000 in craps winnings to even out damages.

While the judge believes that Ivey and Sun didn’t break any laws, he also says that they went beyond normal advantage play.

Ivey and Sun requested the Gemaco deck because they knew it had flaws on the card backs. Specifically, there were only half-diamonds and quarters on the backs, when there are supposed to be full white circles.

Ivey argued that he merely observed this flaw and used it to beat the casino at their own game. However, Judge Hillman notes that asking the dealer to arrange cards in a specific manner just to exploit card flaws violates the state’s Casino Control Act.

Jacobs says that his client is already preparing to appeal the verdict.