Inside the Phil Ivey Card Trick That Got Him $10 Million

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Poker pro Phil Ivey has been ordered to pay back $10 million he won while playing cards at the Borgata Casino. He along with companion player Cheng Yin Sun, are accused of taking advantage of defects in a deck of cards to give them an edge.

He made sure to have a private area to play, a guest to sit with him, a dealer who spoke Mandarin Chinese and an automatic card shuffler during baccarat games at the Borgata, ABC News Emily Shapiro reports.

The complaint alleges that Ivey and Sun "played Baccarat with cards that had been manipulated and 'marked' so that their value was identifiable to Ivey and Sun before bets had to be placed and before the cards were dealt."

It wasn’t as easy as simply taking advantage of card defects.  The scheme involved an elaborate process.

From the complaint:

Sun would identify minute asymmetries on the repeating diamond pattern on the backs of the playing cards to identify certain cards' values, and would have the dealer turn those strategically important cards so that they could be distinguished from all other cards in the deck," Hillman wrote in his opinion.

"Ivey and Sun would then be able to see the leading edge of the first card in the shoe before it was dealt, giving them 'first card knowledge,' and Ivey would bet accordingly.

Shapiro goes into further detail:

Ivey and Sun allegedly requested several accommodations from the casino "to make the edge sorting scheme work" including a private area in which to play, a dealer who spoke Mandarin Chinese, as well as "(3) a guest (defendant Sun) to sit with him at the table while he played; (4) one 8-deck shoe of purple Gemaco Borgata playing cards to be used for the entirety of each session of play; and (5) an automatic card shuffling device to be used to shuffle the cards after each shoe was dealt, which retained the orientation of each card that Sun requested to be turned," Hillman wrote.

The complaint does acknowledge that it is not uncommon for Baccarat players to make special requests but “at no time did Sun or Ivey disclose the true purpose behind Sun’s request for how the cards were to be dealt."

From ABC News:

The dealer would first lift the card so that Sun could see its value before it was flipped over all the way and placed on the table," the complaint said.

Sun would then either tell the dealer the Mandarin word for "good card," or "bad card," the complaint said. "By telling the dealer 'good card' or 'bad card' in Mandarin, the dealer would place the cards on the table so that when the cards were cleared and put in the used card holder, the leading edges of the strategically important cards could be distinguished from the leading edges of the other cards in the deck," according to the complaint.

The complaint said Ivey and Sun also requested an automatic card shuffler to keep the edges of the cards facing the same direction.

“Once the 'edge sorting' was completed, Ivey and Sun were able to see the leading edge of the first card in the shoe before it was dealt, giving them 'first card knowledge,'" the complaint said.

- Ace King, Gambling911.com