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Did Phil Ivey Cheat at Baccarat?

Phil Ivey playing poker

Professional poker player Phil Ivey has been accused of cheating. It sounds so serious when you say it like that, yet that is exactly the allegation being made by the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. The real question is, does their claim have any validity? Let's break down the situation.

The reports first started circulating about a week ago when the Borgota named Phil Ivey as a defendant in a $9.6 million lawsuit that alleged Ivey had cheated while playing high stakes Baccarat at the casino. The Borgata's claim is that Ivey used a tactic known as “edge sorting” to give himself an unfair advantage when guessing what cards were in play.

What the Borgata is saying is that Phil Ivey was examining the edge of the cards for any type of imperfection. When an imperfection was spotted, it would give Ivey better odds of knowing what the face-down card was, thus greatly improving his odds of winning.

Let's forget for a moment how completely ridiculous the allegation itself is. Even if it were true, how could you possibly go about proving it? “There he is on film your honor, you can clearly see he is looking at the cards.” Come on, Borgata; what were you thinking? Even with that set aside, let's consider a few points related to the claim.

1. The casino uses it's own cards from in-house stock
2. The casino chooses which cards are in play
3. The casino is the only one to have physical contact with the cards
4. The casino shuffles and deals the cards face down. The player just makes a guess.

Considering that they were the casino's cards, from house stock, and the casino was the only one to handle the cards during the course of play, it is hard to justify an allegation as serious as cheating, especially when they are applying that label to someone who earns his living playing cards. If anything, it would seem that the Borgata is acting wreckless in their handling of the matter.

Still, while it does not make sense to me, they obviously feel that they have a claim. They say that part of that stems from the fact that Ivey told them what cards to use. The Borgata makes this claim because Ivey made several particular demands, citing superstitious reasons. Ivey's demands included a private pit, a dealer fluent in Mandarin Chinese, an eight deck shoe of purple Borgata playing cards and an automatic card shuffler.

The Borgata claims that Ivey chose cards that are known to have imperfections in the edge. Think about this for a moment. What casino would have cards in stock that are known to be defective, and still allow them in play, particularly in a high stakes area? Does any part of that make sense at all?

The more you learn about the case, the more it appears to be an instance of a casino losing a lot of money to a smart high stakes player, and then being a sore loser about. Rather than accept the fact that someone beat their 1% house edge on the game, they would rather say it was the other guy who had an “unfair advantage” and then smear his name with an erroneous lawsuit. Or that's how it looks to me anyway.

What do you think? Did Phil Ivey cheat at Baccarat, or is the Borgata being a spoiled sport?

Last modified on
Jerry Garner

Jerry is the founder of Scores.fm, and a serial entrepreneur who has been involved with the formation of many publishing and broadcasting ventures.

Website: www.scores.fm
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