As one of the world’s preeminent high-stakes gamblers, poker pro Phil Ivey has experienced massive wins and losses worth millions of dollars – part and parcel of a successful career spent crushing casino games all over the planet.
But even for Ivey, the possibility of suffering a swing valued at more than $25.5 million in just over two weeks’ time must be concerning to say the least.
That possibility became quite probable on November 11th, when lawyers for the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey submitted a supplementary filing to US District Court Judge Noel J. Hillman, in which the casino requests damages from Ivey in excess of $15.5 million.
For Ivey, the damages demand from Borgata represents his second setback related to his now infamous 2012 “edge-sorting” scandal involving high-stakes sessions of baccarat at two major casinos. Along with Borgata, Ivey practiced edge-sorting – a controversial method of “advantage” play in which players scan the backs of cards to detect imperfections in the printing which can give away the card’s rank – at Crockford’s casino in London back in 2012.
At the time, Ivey managed to win £7.7 million ($9.7 million) from Crockford’s over the course of a two-day session in which he alternated between $50,000 and $150,000 bets on single hands of the baccarat variant punto banco.
Crockford’s management later detected abnormalities in the cards, however, and coupled with behavior by Ivey and his companion Cheung Yin Sun that was deemed suspicious in hindsight, Crockford’s refused to pay out the winnings.
Ivey sued the casino shortly thereafter seeking to release the enormous sum, and lost an initial ruling in 2014 before lodging an appeal. That appeal was denied on November 3rd of this year – effectively ending Ivey’s chances at claiming nearly $10 million in funds.
Eight days later, Ivey received notice from the Borgata demanding $15.5 million in damages relating to the casino’s own edge-sorting case.
Before heading to Crockford’s to apply his edge-sorting techniques – which involved inside knowledge of the Gemaco brand playing cards carrying a printing defect that allowed informed, sharp-eyed players to differentiate low and high cards – Ivey and Sun used the same process to beat Borgata out of $9.6 million over the course of four high-stakes sessions of mini-baccarat in 2012.
In this case, however, Borgata was unable to detect any irregularities in the game before paying Ivey the full balance of his winnings. In April of 2014, with the full extent of Ivey’s edge-sorting scheme exposed by his own filings in the Crockford’s case, Borgata sued the poker pro to recoup its losses.
On October 21st, Judge Hillman issued a “split decision” in the case, siding with Ivey in rejecting Borgata’s assertion that he willfully cheated to defraud the game, while also ruling in the casino’s favor by holding that Ivey violated his inherent contract to abide by the tenets of the New Jersey Casino Control Act (NJCCA).
The judge then gave Borgata’s lawyers 20 days to determine a justifiable figure to represent damages, and the casino replied by requesting $15.5 million from Ivey.
The amount constitutes the original $9.626 million in winnings, $5.418 million in “expectation damages” based on Ivey’s bet sizing and the true house edge of a baccarat game in which edge-sorting is not present, $504,000 in craps winnings that occurred during the same period, and $249,199 in comps issued throughout 2012.