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Phil Ivey's edge sorting by John Connolly (Putting the record straight).

First of all, no bets were placed after the cards were drawn.

All bets were placed before any cards came out of the shoe.

So that puts that misconception to bed right away.

How events actually unfolded. We must remember that Cheung-Yin Sun known as the "Queen of Sorts" was involved in an edge sorting scam at Foxwoods Resort Casino in December of 2011, along with two other Chinese nationals. Following that episode, she hooked up with Phil Ivey.

Ivey approached the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City in April 2012 just prior to his first visit there on April 11,Th 2012.

Following a one million dollar, advanced wired, buy-in he stipulated the following five requests, first of all, in importance, the purple coloured Gemeco playing cards, which he and Sun knew had a defective edge which was cut short on one side. (see fig 1)

Fig.1. It can be seen from this card that the circles on the long edges of the card are of differing sizes on each opposite edge.

Miss Sun was particularly expert by now in spotting these differences.

The second request was for a Chinese Mandarin speaking dealer.

In a private gaming room.(3)

An automatic shuffling machine (4) and finally miss Sun (5) to accompany him and to sit down near the dealer on the same table.

The limits were set at $50,000 per hand, although initially, his average bet was below this limit. The sorting of the cards takes place like this. Bets are made and the first four cards are then drawn face down on the table. It is at this point that Sun, sitting at the dealer's right hand, asks the dealer to raise one edge of the card so she can peek the value of the card. If it is a good card i.e. a 6,7,8 or 9 she asks the dealer to flip the card over with that edge closest to her. (This is done she states for luck and Chinese superstition is taken into consideration by the house). If it is any other of the low-value cards then she asks the dealer to flip it over from right to left in the opposite direction , with that edge furthest away from her. (This also depends on whether the favourable edge is near to her or already on the far side of the cards, following a chemmy-shuffle and the shuffling of the cards by hand).

(see figure 2 for more cards susceptible to edge sorting.)​

The above low number cards have a full white diamond on the left-hand edge while the high cards have a half diamond.

During the initial period of play, while the cards are being sorted which takes what would normally be a couple of shoes, Ivey's betting was below average, however, once all the cards had been sorted his betting would rise to the table maximum. On this first visit after 16 hours play Ivey was ahead $2.4 million dollars.

In the following month of May, Ivey and Sun returned for a second time and after 56 hours of play Ivey was winning approximately $1.6 million. Following Ivey's request,the cards were kept overnight in the shoe !

They returned again in July 2012 with the same five requests this time 3 million dollars had been wired ahead and the limits were raised to $100,000 per hand.

Following 17 hours of play Ivey had won $4,787,700 with an average bet of $89,000 considering that his early play was below his average bet while the cards were being sorted, only hitting the maximum after this had been achieved.

Their final visit came in October of the same year, however by this time rumour had spread across the Atlantic ocean from London that Ivey had been refused his winnings of approximately $10 million dollars from the Crockfords Casino Club. On this visit after 18 hours play Ivey left winning around $800,000 after being ahead at one time by 3.5 million. This was also due to him only having first card advantage which gives the player an edge of 6.765% over the casino. (This may also be prevented by employing a brush or a slide cover at the front of the shoe which will hide the first card exposure.) His total winnings from Borgata was 9.6326 million dollars.

Subsequently, Borgata learned that while playing Punto Banco at Crockfords and with the same five requests it was considered that Ivey and Sun had conducted an edge sorting scam and their winnings had been withheld.

(As we know Punto Banco and Baccarat are basically the same game).

It was only armed with this knowledge that Borgata much later decided to sue Ivey for the return of his winnings which by now they had realised that he had won by foul means.

The writer's comments are the following. That while Foxwoods Resort Casino had realised in real time that miss Sun and her associates had sorted the cards, the casino kept back their winnings plus buy-in (stake money).

Crockfords had realised this too. Although only following an extensive review of their play over a long weekend in August of the same year and during the following days after Ivey had left the casino.

Amazingly, Borgata after four visits by the pair had only cottoned on to this scheme after the media news articles had circulated concernings Ivey's play in London.

When it was previously well known in casino security circles that "edge sorting" was a form of cheating at cards and particularly as it was discussed in surveillance & security forums following the events of December 2011 at Foxwoods.

I would like to also add that, in my opinion, Ivey made a mistake by changing venues and broadening this scam to the eyes and scrutiny of more casino professionals, when he had found a willing cash cow in the Borgata Casino. It is also my credo that when players consistently win by fair means or foul that they become bored with it and need the added excitement that changing circumstances bring.

A further mistake by Ivey was, according to court documents, he requested "one 8-deck shoe of purple Gemaco Borgata playing cards" had he requested a six-deck shoe or even a four deck game the sorting of the cards would have been much easier and quicker.

He also could have said to Crockfords "fair cop governor" and kept quiet, the case would not have received any media publicity and he could have gone on to conduct his scheme in many other casinos. With just a slap on the wrist if they had found him out but no he's a gambler and he gambled on winning a lost cause.

  • It has been my experience to find that cheats often become more daring and audacious the more success they are having.
  • Since writing this article just a few days ago, three appeal court judges have ruled against Mr.Ivey in his case to regain his winnings against Crockfords. Judge Mary Arden (a fellow Scouser :-) ) said that Ivey had received his winnings by manipulating the odds in his favour". There was no doubt, Arden added, that the actions of Ivey and another gambler, Cheung Yin Sun, interfered with the process by which Crockfords played the game. “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."
  • The London case is not over yet as Ivey will re-appeal to the Supreme Court because he's a gambler.
  • I would not like to see the bill for his legal costs

Image of Cheung-Yin Sun known as the "Queen of Sorts" !

Written by John Connolly www.EyeOnTheAction.com  e.mail: info@eyeontheaction.com