Phil Ivey has been fighting against the Crockfords Casino in London and Borgata Casino in New Jersey in a court battle since 2012. The podcast gives us a closer look at these two cases.
Of course, no one ever likes to lose millions worth of money, especially the casinos. That is the most important point from ESPN's 30 for 30 podcast about Phil Ivey and his companion Kelly Sun who "took" millions from the casinos. Their strategy was based on a quite primitive yet effective concept - by exploiting the simple inconsistencies of the cards used in the single-deck baccarat games they played at.
Kelly Sun - A Queen of Sorts
The podcast titled "A Queen of Sorts" specially highlights Ivey's companion/sidekick and advantage player "Kelly" Cheung Yin Sun as the reason why he was successful in winning millions at the baccarat tables of the private casinos.
Kelly Sun is a daughter of a rich Chinese businessman who often sends her to stay at luxurious accommodations in Las Vegas, in which MGM Grand is tagged as one of her favorites.
The podcast described how she is expected to lose millions on MGM's gaming floor, but the money really isn't a big deal. However, there was one day in 2007 when one of her friends took a $100,000 line in her name, and the unaware Sun chose not to pay up.
As a result, MGM detained Sun, and she spent a few weeks behind bars. After she was finally freed, her experience had left her with retaliation: She wanted to take a casino for millions of dollars.
Sun's use of edge sorting to make the casinos pay
The podcast describes Kelly Sun as a natural advantage player. Her skills developed even more when she began dating a connected gambling man named "Eddie".
Somewhere down the road, Sun particularly set her sights on edge sorting, which is a method of increasing odds of winning by taking note of tiny inconsistencies in the way specific brands of playing cards are cut.
FYI, there are some cards that have borderless patterns running right to their edges. If the cards are not cut to perfection, the pattern (for example, a sequence of circles) could be seen longer on one end of some cards and shorter on the other in some cards of the same deck.
Sun realized that the cards printed by Gemaco had this slightly visible inconsistency that she can use to her advantage.
Sun and Ivey take on Crockfords and the Borgata casinos
With this knowledge of Gemaco cards being imperfect, Sun and Ivey used this and was well on their way to win millions. Their success depends on some factors that the casino must be willing to do for them:
- Provide a private mini-baccarat table
- Provide a Mandarin-speaking dealer
- Seat them on the table so that Kelly Sun can quickly detect the inconsistencies
- Use of Gemaco cards
Through some effective sweet talking, Phil Ivey and Kelly Sun managed to have the Crockfords, Borgata and other casinos to agree with their terms.
Pretty much as planned, Kelly Sun would make small talk with the dealer in Mandarin, talking about cards, luck and pretty much anything about life. At some points in the games, Sun would request the dealer to "turn the cards a certain way" under the notion of it being better luck. The dealers at the Crockfords and Borgata unsuspectingly complied, and so Ivey and Sun went on to win over $20 million.
Two sides of the same coin
By the time the casinos realized what happened, they refused to pay Ivey his winnings. Thus, Ivey filed lawsuits against them, for which up until now have not been resolved.
The legal conflict between Phil Ivey and the casinos is truly an interesting one due to the fact that technically Ivey broke no laws - the use of edge sorting is not illegal. However, the casinos claim that Ivey and Sun's tandem gave them an unfair advantage and that, in itself means, they cheated.
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