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Court Battle Unfolds Over Cards Used By Poker Legend Phil Ivey In Baccarat Sessions

Card Manufacturer Says It Shouldn't Have To Pay Casino Damages


A high-stakes legal battle between Atlantic City’s top grossing casino and a card manufacturer continues to play out in court.

According to court documents filed this month from both sides, card maker Gemaco denies that it was negligent and thus responsible for poker legend Phil Ivey and his playing partner Cheng Yin Sun using a controversial technique called edge sorting to take the house for $9.6 million across four mini-baccarat sessions back in 2012. The strategy involved the gamblers spotting imperfections on the back of the cards to gain a small but significant edge on the casino.

In December, Ivey was ordered to fork over $10.1 million to the casino. According to a July court document, Borgata is seeking another $10.1 million from Gemaco. The Missouri company argues that the casino, owned by MGM Resorts International, isn’t entitled to “double recovery.”

The casino and the card manufacturer had a contract dating back to 2011, which Gemaco claims “excludes any liability for gaming losses.” Borgata alleges that Gemaco breached the contract by selling it defective cards and spoiling the integrity of the game.

However, Gemaco’s legal team says that “it is well known by the Borgata and the casino industry in general that playing cards are not perfectly cut and that there are asymmetrical patterns that can exist on the backs of cards.”

“These cards, even with asymmetrical patterns, are acceptable and used every day in regular casino gaming without any issues.”

IveyAnother point raised by Gemaco in a 61-page brief filed Sept. 5 is that it shouldn’t be on the hook for damages because of a “potential inability to collect from Ivey.” The court document says that Borgata pegged Ivey’s net worth at an estimated $100 million.

As for Sun, the card manufacturer says that some of her comments on the edge sorting technique show that it isn’t liable for the ill-fated gambling sessions.

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

Gemaco says that the losses for Borgata were the result of “the combination of Sun’s remarkable mental acumen and the card dealers turning the cards” so that they were more distinguishable to the gamblers. Neither Ivey nor Sun ever touched the cards.

In a response filed Monday, Borgata denied the assertion that cards with asymmetries are allowed, per New Jersey gaming regulations. The casino also says that it isn’t true that all decks of cards contain some asymmetry and that the casino industry accepts this.

Per the Borgata’s response, a New Jersey detective investigating the edge sorting wanted to file criminal charges against Ivey because he viewed the cards used as being “marked.”

“Although Detective [Andrew] Koch can sign a criminal complaint, he was instructed to leave that decision to the New Jersey Attorney General’s office in the Ivey case. Despite Detective Koch’s efforts, the Attorney General declined to charge.”

Ivey either edge sorted or attempted to edge sort in Australia, England, Canada and, of course, New Jersey, according to the court document. A similar case involving a casino in London also did not go in the 10-time WSOP bracelet winner’s favor.

Ivey missed the WSOP this year, including the main event. Longtime friend Daniel Negreanu said that Ivey was “busy with the court cases.” A court hearing over his appeal against Crockfords Casino was scheduled during the main event. Ivey is seeking to recover £7.7 million he won playing baccarat, also in 2012. Unlike the Borgata, Crockfords didn’t pay out Ivey.