Two Gaming Experts Weigh In on Ivey Edge Sorting Case

phil-ivey-60-minutes-stillPhil Ivey was in a London Court this past week to make his case in the lawsuit he filed against Crockford’s Casino for withholding some $12.4 million worth of winnings during a session of Punto Banco baccarat back in August of 2012.

Ivey, who was accused of and admitted to “edge-sorting” during the session, was suing the casino, using the argument that edge-sorting is legal, and simply an advantage play like counting cards in blackjack.

On Wednesday the ruling came down against Ivey, on of all days, the morning after Ivey appeared on 60 Minutes Sports to defend his actions. Ivey, will have the opportunity to appeal the decision in London, whereas the case in Atlantic City is not expected to be resolved until sometime next year.

Despite Ivey’s assertions, and the opinions of many experts, the judge saw things differently.

“He gave himself an advantage which the game precludes,” Judge John Mitting stated, “This is, in my view, cheating.”

Ivey is also embroiled in a second, similar but separate lawsuit in New Jersey, where Borgata Casino is suing him for $9.6 million in winnings accrued over four sessions of mini-baccarat between April and October of 2012 where he used the same edge-sorting tactic.

In his 60 Minutes Sports interview that aired Tuesday, Ivey told James Brown that he doesn’t agree with the casinos’ assertions, “I disagree. That’s why we’re going to court,” Ivey says. “There’s a big difference between being an advantage player, someone who looks for…an advantage…over the house, versus someone cheating,” adding, “Cheating is using a device…or having information available that—both parties aren’t privy to.”

While these types of cases have historically not gone well for the player (as the London ruling shows), the vast majority of people, from fellow advantage players, to casino security, to consultants, to lawyers, still feel Ivey is in the right, and is more than likely to prevail in Atlantic City, although they also felt he had a good, but lesser, chance in London.

What do advantage players think

Former MIT Blackjack Team member, and current Chief Research Officer at PeerlessAnalytics.com, Mike Aponte (who knows a little something about advantage play) offered his opinion on the cases, stating, “Unless the dealer was knowingly colluding with Ivey and his playing partner, then it is a case of legal advantage play.”

In Aponte’s opinion Ivey would prevail in both cases (I spoke with Mike before the verdict was announced):

“Based on the facts of the case that have been made public, I expect Ivey to prevail in London and in Atlantic City. Atlantic City is an even stronger case because if laws were broken then arrests would have been made. The fact that no criminal legal action has been taken against Ivey indicates that no laws were broken. If you cross the legal line in casinos, they will most definitely will take swift and decisive action.”

“What created these opportunities were failures on the part of the casinos to enforce standard procedures. As long as the dealer is not complicit and deliberately breaking procedure to help the players win, then it is not cheating.”

What does casino security think

Douglas Florence Sr., CPP, a former Security & Surveillance Director at the M Resort, Hard Rock Casino, Mirage and Rio, as well as in the retail sector dating back to 1975, felt the cases would likely end in Ivey’s favor as well:

“Typically when we have a cheating event there is some action taken by the player other than taking advantage of the same information presented to all players by the casino for them to make a decision.”

“So in the matter of Phil Ivey where second party is also alleged to be involved in the alleged cheating, the information they used to make their decision on the outcome of the game was available to any players that could have been on the game and the casino allowed the play.”

Florence, someone who spent decades trying to thwart advantage players, essentially sees what Ivey and his accomplice did as legal advantage play, where the casino’s only recourse is to end the session and bar the player. But he admits that opinion is not an industry wide consensus.

“For many of us in the industry from surveillance, casino managers and players alike you could flip a coin on was what he did fair in how he beat the casino?” Florence stated. “But how do you call a weakness that was later discovered, a weakness in game protection that the casino allowed in the production of the cards that they purchased and used…be called cheating? You also have to consider that anybody could have used the same information provided on those games up to that point?”

Florence then offered a potential safeguard against this type of advantage play, “Today there are table game solutions like CASINO CONNECT from eConnect that provide game outcome data that can be audited and managed to determine if the game is being dealt within the rules.”

eConnect’s products have a lot of uses. They can be used to track player ratings, alert the casino when a deck is positive or negative (for card counters), and track individual players and dealers, allowing for instant review and real-time alerts.

If the Borgata or Crockfords had been using these new technological tools they might have detected the anomalous play much sooner, as these tools are a powerful resource to help detect cheating and scams.

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