Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa is suing a professional gambler who they allege won $9.6 million by cheating at baccarat over multiple visits in 2012.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court Tuesday, names defendants Phillip Ivey Jr.; an alleged associate Cheng Yin Sun; Gemaco Inc., a Kansas City card manufacturing company; and an unnamed employee of that company, who inspected the game cards.
Borgata said in the lawsuit Ivey calls himself the “greatest professional poker player of all time.”
It alleges that Ivey knew about a defect in the playing cards and was manipulating the situation by making special requests using high-roller privileges in order to have an advantage over the casino.
The method he allegedly used to scam the casino is called edge sorting, which allows a player to “mark” the cards without actually touching, defacing or placing a physical mark. The backs of the playing cards had a repeating geometric design — rows of small white circles designed to look like the tops of cut diamonds — and when the cards were improperly cut asymmetrically during the manufacturing process, the two long edges of the cards were not identical. Borgata claims some of them were only a half diamond or a quarter of one.
According to the suit, in April 2012, Ivey contacted Borgata to arrange a high-stakes game of baccarat in which he agreed to wire a deposit of $1 million and a maximum bet at $50,000 per hand.
Ivey also made special arrangements, including having a private area, or pit, a casino dealer who spoke Mandarin Chinese, one eight-deck shoe of purple Gemaco playing cards to be used for each session of the play, and an automatic card shuffling device.
Borgata said in the lawsuit that Ivey told them he made these requests because he was superstitious.
But the casino's suit allege Ivey knew there was a defect in the cards and the requests were made so he could “surreptitiously manipulate what he knew to be a defect” to gain an unfair advantage over Borgata.
The automatic card shuffling device was requested because it would not change the direction of the cards and allow them to be distinguished when used again.
The lawsuit claims that Ivey and Sun instructed a dealer to flip cards in particular ways, depending on whether it was a desirable card in baccarat. The numbers 6, 7, 8 and 9 are considered good cards. Other "bad" cards would be flipped in different directions, so that after several hands of cards, the "good" ones were arranged in a certain manner — with the irregular side of the card facing in a specific direction — that Ivey could spot when they came out of the dealer chute.
Sun, also a professional gambler, was banned from several casinos around the world at the time.
The same arrangements were made for subsequent trips in May, July and October 2012. The only change that was made was an increase in Ivey’s deposit, to $3 million, which increased the maximum allowed bet.
During the October visit, Borgata’s suit says, the casino became aware of a London casino that was withholding about 7.3 million British pounds, or about $12.2 million, due to an investigation into an alleged card manipulation scam while Ivey was playing Punto Banco — a game similar to baccarat.
When confronted about the situation, Ivey said he intended to sue the casino, Crockfords, the Borgata suit says. That case is ongoing.
Borgata is suing Gemaco to reimburse the casino for the amount paid to Ivey, $9,626,000, attorney and court fees, and to be liable to reimburse the casino for any and all current or future losses resulting from negligent manufacture and inspection of the cards.
The casino also is suing both Ivey and Sun for the same $9,626,000, court and attorney fees and any other damages as defined by the court.
A hearing has not been set for the case. Borgata decline to comment on the case Friday.
There was no immediate response to a message sent Friday to Ivey's Twitter account. A message left with a lawyer who previously represented Ivey was not immediately returned, and Ivey's website did not include a contact email or a phone number.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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