Poker professional Phil Ivey has been battling legal issues for much of the last six years regarding his play in casinos on both sides of the Atlantic. In one case, the casino refused to pay his money and, in the other, the casino sued to get the money back they had paid him in winnings. Now that payment is becoming a part of their ongoing lawsuit.
The Borgata Isn’t Happy…
According to court documents filed earlier this month in federal court, the Borgata filed a motion for payment of the $10.1 million that Ivey won playing baccarat at the casino in 2012. Citing his return to the World Series of Poker earlier this year, where Ivey cashed four times for roughly $140,000, the Borgata’s attorneys maintain that the continued appeals and delays from the Ivey side are infringing on the ruling issued in 2016. Ivey and his attorneys lost that case, with the courts ordering Ivey to return the $10.1 million in winnings from the baccarat sessions and some extra time in the craps pit with money that he won in baccarat.
The Borgata also brought in front of the court the fact that Ivey hasn’t exactly been living a pauper’s existence and that payment of the $10.1 million wouldn’t infringe on that lifestyle. The Borgata’s attorneys cited his winnings from 2018, which total over $2.4 million, as an indicator that he is able to pay the debt that is facing him. “This case is about money, nothing more and nothing less,” the Borgata’s court documents state. “Ivey already has Borgata’s $10 million and he is clearly not in danger of going out of business. Defendants did not and cannot demonstrate irreparable harm as a matter of law. They are not entitled to a stay pending appeal.”
…And Neither is Ivey
Attorneys for Ivey are making a similar argument albeit in reverse. Prior to the Borgata motion, Ivey’s barristers stated that paying off a $10.1 million judgment all at once would have a “devastating impact” on Ivey’s ability to work in the poker rooms of the world. They also make the argument that the Borgata, which had live revenues of $755 million and online revenues of $57 million to dominate the Atlantic City gambling scene, isn’t going to be hurting if they don’t receive their $10.1 million from Ivey.
Since losing the 2016 case, Ivey’s attorneys have been arguing for extensions and stays regarding the payment of the money won at the Borgata. Those attorneys have been trying to decide how far to take the case in appeals, which have also been held up by a suit filed by the Borgata against the makers of the cards used at that baccarat table at the Borgata, Gemaco. That case has put a pause on final decisions on a current appeal from the Ivey camp regarding the 2016 decision.
How Did We Get Here?
For those that aren’t up to date, in 2012 Ivey and an accomplice, Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun, took a tour of casinos in both Atlantic City and London. Making significant demands for the casinos to get their high-stakes play – a Mandarin Chinese speaking dealer, cards made by a specific company, Gemaco, and other requests – the duo first took on Crockfords in London. Over a four-session span, Ivey and Sun won an estimated £11.7 million playing punto banco, a baccarat derivative. Ivey and Sun then jumped “across the Pond” for a spate of baccarat at the Borgata. That is where Ivey and Sun were able to win the $10.1 million in question.
Crockford’s was suspicious about their sessions, so much that they refused to send Ivey his money after the session (Ivey had deposited a couple of million for playing). This sparked dueling lawsuits in the London courts, where it was determined that Ivey and Sun had technically “cheated” to achieve their winnings. While they didn’t come out and say Ivey cheated to win, the London court did say Ivey and Sun had broken a “contract” with the casino to play fairly. Soon afterwards, the Borgata suit was filed but, unlike Crockfords in London, the Borgata had paid Ivey in full his $10.1 million in winnings.
In both lawsuits, the judges determined that the usage of “edge sorting” – the act of identifying advantageous cards through printing errors and having them in some manner identifiable to the player – by Ivey and Sun was cheating. In the case, it was established that Sun would, in Chinese, indicate to the dealer that the advantageous cards would be turned 180 degrees (citing a supposed “superstition” that Ivey had), with the singular deck then allowing the turned cards to be noticed by the player, Ivey. This simple act allowed Ivey to shift the odds ever so slightly into his favor – to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
And How Does It End?
The Crockfords decision is already in the books – the British High Court has adjudicated for Crockfords, who never paid Ivey in the first place. The Borgata case, however, is the one that everyone is watching. A decision regarding these motions from both the Borgata and Ivey’s attorneys will more than likely be held up by the Borgata/Gemaco lawsuit. Once that lawsuit is completed, the judge will probably process all the actions in the Borgata/Ivey case. Then it will be up to Ivey if he wants to push it any further up the appeals process.