The Borgata has been out $10 million ever since poker star Phil Ivey employed a card marking tactic he sees as clever, but the house calls cheating.
Now, the casino has legal permission to seek out the funds in Nevada, as Ivey’s hometown is currently Las Vegas.
U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman ruled on Jan. 29 that his 2016 New Jersey decision ordering Ivey to repay his winnings can be entered into court in Nevada.
It’s the latest legal step in a saga that started nearly seven years ago when Ivey and his friend Cheng Yin Sun won $9.6 million playing baccarat and another $504,000 at the craps table at the Atlantic City casino.
But it turned out the two didn’t just come by those large sums out of luck, like most winners of baccarat. Instead, they used a technique known as edge-sorting, which involves noticing practically un-noticeable inconsistencies on the backs of cards, allowing them to tell whether high- or low-value cards were next in the deck, according to court documents. They then used some of the winnings to play craps.
That’s not fraud, Hillman ruled in 2016. But the act does breach state’s Casino Controls Act’s standards prohibiting marking cards.
Ivey, who graduated from Old Bridge High School, countersued the casino, arguing the responsibility was on the house to know its cards had inconsistencies. To him, having a keen eye wasn’t breaking the rules.
But he also took extra measures to make sure he knew the deck like the back of his hand. Ivey allegedly demanded Sun sit with him at all times, that only one deck of cards known to lack perfect symmetry be used and that they be shuffled with an automatic device, which keeps the cards oriented the same way, according to court documents.
Ivey bet $50,000 and walked away with $2.4 million during his first visit to play in 2012. He returned in May, July and October, once winning $4.8 million in just 16 hours.
The 42-year-old is one of the world’s most successful poker players, winning 10 World Series of poker bracelets, and one World Poker Tour title.
The Borgata became suspicious when they heard Ivey pulled a similar scheme in London, and filed suit against him. In 2016, a federal judge ruled Ivey would have to hand over the $10.1 million
Ivey and Sun have appealed the decision.
An attorney for Ivey did not immediately return a request for comment Friday afternoon. An attorney for the Borgata said the casino does not comment on on-going litigation.