This case has exposed a new dimension in gambling. Card cheating Phil Ivey and Cheng Yin Sun did not commit fraud but their edge sorting skills may actually cheat them out of their winnings. How ironical is that?

Card Cheating Phil Ivey and Cheng Yin Sun

Card Cheating Phil Ivey and Cheng Yin Sun

Controversy surrounded a Court case heard in the State of New Jersey against Phil Ivey and Chen Yin Sun. Judgement was made on Friday 18th October 2016. The case involved alleged card cheating.

Ivey has been the winner of nine World Series of Poker bracelets.  Sun is also a world-class poker player. It was alleged that Ivey and Sun together had cheated the Borgata Casino out of 9.6 million dollars which Ivey and Sun won playing Bacarrat during December 2011.

The Borgata Casino claimed the pair had exploited small defects in the cards which had enabled them to sort and arrange the good cards. This is called edge sorting. The casino claimed that edge sorting violated gambling regulations. Ivey claimed that the winning streak was the result of good observation and skill. The cards used by the casino had slight imperfections in the printing. Those small differences were noted by Ivey and Sun and used to their advantage. In the game of Bacarrat it is legal for the players to instruct the dealers arrange the cards as requested. It was possible for Sun to use edge sorting techniques to know which cards would be dealt next. Hence the odds were heavily shifted towards the player.

One of the keys factors in determining this case was whether the casino should not have allowed the defective Gemaco deck of cards to be used. Lawyers acting for the Borgata Casino claimed that Ivey and Sun were aware of the defects and exploited the Borgata. Ivey argued that the pair had beaten the Casino fairly without violating any rules.

Implications of the Ruling

The Judge eventually ruled that the pair had violated the New Jersey Casino Control Act. However, he dismissed allegations by the Borgata Casino that the pair had committed fraud. The Borgata Casino were ordered to outline the damages they had suffered within 20 days. Now, no criminal charges are being faced by Ivey and Sun, this is a civil matter, without any crime being committed.

Ivey and Sun were told by the Judge that their actions were clever and cunning, but their actions did not break any laws. So much for cheating at card playing.

This was indeed good news for Ivey and Sun. The problem now is the ruling opens the door for the Borgata Casino to claim damages so the astonishing win may now be void. Furthermore, this is complicated because Ivey and Sun had deposited $1.6 million dollars with the casino before they played Bacarrat. The argument against the Borgata Casino will be whether they should have allowed the game to progress if they knew the deck of cards being used was defective. Before the big win, they stood to retain a very large deposit from the players, if they lost.

The award of damages will ultimately determine who won, the players or the Casino. It would seem that both parties knew what was going on here and both stood to either win or lose a large sum of money. Perhaps the casino allowed play to continue without realising how good Ivey and Sun were at edge sorting. Beyond the game, this case seems to have opened up a new dimension to the odds of gambling. Was that not gambling in itself?

In conclusion, it seems as though Phil Ivey and Cheng Yin Sun were just taking a big gamble. Equally, the casino were gambling on keeping a large deposit.


Yesterday, the Court ruled that Ivey could not recover the money he won playing high stakes Bacarrat in a London Casino in 2012. In a statement Iveys lawyer said: “The Court of Appeal’s decision leaves the law totally unclear as to what constitutes card cheating when 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. It essential that the law is clarified and in light of today’s decision we are seeking permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.” Maybe we will now get a judgement on what constitutes cheating when playing cards.

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