Phil Ivey and the $20million Edge-Sorting Saga Ends - a Timeline

With Phil Iveys $multimillion edge-sorting saga appearing to have been settled (though final details are yet to be disclosed, if they ever will be) a detailed timeline covering the entire 8-year legal battle seems in order…

By: Andrew Burnett

2012

One fine April evening 8 years ago, Phil Ivey and Cheung Yin ‘Kelly’ Sun - a friend of the poker legend with a unique talent for reading the design flaws in playing cards - started a run on the Borgata Punto Banco Baccarat tables that would net them $9.6million over 4 visits.

The first three of these winning sessions are detailed below…

  • April 11th +$2,416,000
  • May 3 +$1,597,400
  • July 17 + $4,787,700

The Borgata paid out the couple’s winnings in full each time, with an in-between August visit to Crockfords Casino in London netting them the £7.8million (equivalent to a further $12million). A suspicious Crockfords, however, refused to pay out, merely returning their £1million deposit.

Returning to the Borgata for another big session, Ivey and Sun walked off with $824,900, having at one point been $3 million ahead.

2013 and 2014

While the Borgata were suing Ivey and Sun for the return of their $millions, the duo were launching their own lawsuit in London against Crockfords, a Genting UK-owned casino.

The London case saw Ivey and Sun lose the first of a slew of courtroom battles, Judge Mitting declaring in 2014 that edge-sorting was “not a legitimate strategy for beating the game”. He claimed that “by using a croupier as his innocent agent or tool,” Ivey had, “gained himself an advantage.”

Ivey had made 5 requests of the casinos, which acquiesced to them:

  1. a private area for play,
  2. a dealer who spoke Mandarin Chinese,
  3. a guest to sit with him.
  4. one 8-deck shoe of purple Gemaco playing cards for each session, and
  5. an automatic card shuffler to be used.

2016

In October, U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman dismissed Borgata’s claims that Ivey and Sun had committed fraud, but he instead found that the players had breached their contract with the casino.

His judgment confounded many, claiming that gamblers must expect to lose and stated: “…even though Ivey and Sun’s cunning and skill did not break the rules of Baccarat, what sets Ivey and Sun’s actions apart from deceitful maneuvers in other games is that those maneuvers broke the rules of gambling as defined in this state."

Ivey was ordered to repay the $9.6million to the Borgata, expenses taking it to over $10million, but RICO and fraud charges that could have tripled his bill were thrown out.

In November he was dealt a second blow, back across the Atlantic.  Ivey had appealed the 2014 London judgment, but the Court of Appeal rejected it.

Lady Justice Arden explained: “It is for the court to determine whether the interference was of such a quality as to constitute cheating. In my judgment it had that quality.”

Ivey claimed the rejected appeal was nonsensical: “The trial judge said that I was not dishonest and the three appeal judges agreed, but somehow the decision has gone against me. Can someone tell me how you can have honest cheating?”

His lawyer, Matthew Dowd, added: “The court of appeal’s decision leaves the law totally unclear as to what constitutes cheating at gambling. Four judges have looked at this issue now and none of them have been able to agree on the correct interpretation of section 42 of the Gambling Act.”

2017

In January, Ivey tried to get his Borgata case listed as a final judgment so that he could appeal it in a circuit court.

Later that year, in August, lawyers for the Borgata sued the card-makers Gemaco for $10million, claiming they were partly responsible for the casino’s edge-sorting losses.

Meanwhile, by February, Phil Ivey had been handed a lifeline in the UK case, the Supreme Court granting him permission to appeal to the highest court in the land.

However, when they finally made their judgment in late October 2017, it was bad news for Ivey and Sun, all five judges rejecting the appeal, with one claiming the edge-sorters had taken “positive steps to fix the deck.”

Lord Hughes also stated: “What Mr. Ivey did was to stage a carefully planned and executed sting, which further suggests opposing ideas of what constitutes ‘cheating’ in the minds of the parties involved.”

This ended Ivey’s UK court cases. The £7.8million winnings ($12million at the time) stayed with Genting UK/Crockfords.

2018

In March, cardmakers Gemaco were relieved to hear that the most they would have to pay Borgata should it go to trial was a mere $27 – the cost of replacing a deck of their cards.

This had delayed the Ivey case, but in July a wave of court pleas and rulings were launched. Ivey’s lawyers claimed that having to pay $10.1million would cause “irreparable harm” to both Ivey and Sun.

The Borgata responded in August by asking the stay of judgment requested by Ivey to be denied, which was granted and led to an Ivey appeal.

The Borgata launched their own separate appeal, seeking to have the RICO and fraud charges reinstated.

2019

By February, with Ivey apparently having no assets in New Jersey, the judge gave the Borgata the go-ahead to chase his assets in Nevada.

In March, Ivey’s legal team filed an appeal against almost everything that had gone before., though to no effect.

Come June, and lawyers for the Borgata arrived at the WSOP with a writ of execution, seeking Ivey’s PPC winnings, some $124,000.

In an incredible twist, in September, Daniel 'Jungleman' Cates and Ilya Trincher filed legal documents claiming that part of Ivey’s winnings belonged to them.

The pair claimed to have paid the full $50,000 buy-in for Ivey to play in the WSOP Poker Players Championship event, and that the 50/50 deal on profits means $87,205 of the $124,410 Ivey won actually belongs to them.

That same month, as revealed later, the federal appeals court had sent the duelling parties in the case to mediation.

2020

The shock news came in July that Ivey and the Borgata legal team had reached a settlement, although the terms have not been disclosed.

Barring any unforeseen problems, it brings to an end the most remarkable series of courtroom battles on both sides of the Atlantic involving one of poker’s greatest ever players - and gamblers.

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