Poker pro Phil Ivey made millions during a four-session baccarat run at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in 2012.
It turns out Ivey’s multi-million-dollar win was the result of he and playing partner Kelly Sun’s leveraging nearly imperceptible defects in purple Gemaco cards. Borgata is now suing Gemaco, claiming the card manufacturer knew the defects existed but didn’t correct the problem.
The Gemaco lawsuit stands between Ivey and his appeal of a judge’s decision that ruled Ivey didn’t commit fraud but did violate state regulations related to fair gaming.
How imperfections led to Ivey’s big win
Gemaco’s culpability is an interesting concept because card imperfections aren’t exactly rare. What is rare is that someone could use imperfections to gain an odds advantage (“edge sorting”) in baccarat.
Why is it rare? Because baccarat players would require the perfect set of circumstances for edge sorting to work.
As detailed in an ESPN podcast about the incidents, Ivey and Sun created that perfect condition by slow-playing a series of requests with Borgata:
- Playing with one deck of purple Gemaco cards;
- A dealer who spoke Mandarin;
- Dealer positioning cards a certain way
Ivey and Sun managed to convince Borgata to provide all three. The cards themselves were the key, but so were the other two provisions. Sun spoke to the dealer in Mandarin, chatting her up and eventually asking her to position the cards a certain way supposedly for luck.
Is Gemaco responsible for Ivey’s win?
With all this in mind, a judge might be hard-pressed to find Gemaco culpable. Instances of baccarat edge sorting are few and far between. How would Gemaco know a casino would grant Ivey and Sun very specific requests leading to millions in losses?
The answer to that question is worth around $10 million, as NorthJersey.com’s John Brennan pointed out earlier this month:
“Even the judge has noted in filings that Borgata’s actions were, er, less than optimal. But the court is not of public opinion; it’s based on legal liability. So if we conclude that Borgata was foolish but not liable, does Ivey just pay the casino back – or does Gemaco? Just another intriguing twist in a Hollywood-worthy saga.”