Phil Ivey Cleared Of Fraud In Borgata Baccarat Case, But Found In Breach Of Contract

Steve Ruddock October 24, 2016 2708 Reads
Ivey edge sorting

There is a decision in the Borgata vs. Phil Ivey edge-sorting case (some background here), and it looks like the poker pro will be forfeiting $10 million in baccarat winnings after a US District Court judge found Ivey to be in breach of contract, guilty of marking cards.

While it looks like Ivey will have to repay the money, the ruling by Judge Noel Hillman was the classic case of good news/bad news for Phil Ivey in his battle with the New Jersey casino.

What happened to Ivey

First reported by Meadowlands Matters John Brennan, Judge Hillman dismissed the charge of fraud leveled against the poker superstar and a female accomplice by Borgata, but found the pair to be in breach of contract.

As John Brennan noted, the ruling is as complex as the method Ivey and his accomplice used to beat Borgata out of some $10 million over the course of four visits in 2012.

Per Brennan’s reporting of the judge’s opinion:

“Borgata’s contract-based claims are premised on the contention that when Ivey and Sun played Baccarat at Borgata, Borgata agreed to fulfill its obligations to provide a gaming experience in compliance with the New Jersey Casino Control Act (“CCA”), N.J.S.A. 5:12-1, et seq. (“CCA”), and Ivey and Sun agreed to play the game in compliance with the CCA. Because Borgata complied with the CCA, while Ivey and Sun did not, Ivey and Sun breached their agreement with Borgata.”

In the end it comes down to the definition of marked cards, and as Hillman wrote, “the fundamental purpose of legalized gambling.”

“Ivey and Sun’s view of what constitutes a “marked” card is too narrow,” Hillman wrote in her opinion. “By using cards they caused to be maneuvered in order to identify their value only to them, Ivey and Sun adjusted the odds of Baccarat in their favor. This is in complete contravention of the fundamental purpose of legalized gambling, as set forth by the CCA.”

Erstwhile lawyer turned poker player Cate Hall explained the decision thusly:

Ivey lost a similar case against Crockford’s in London — he appealed the decision — and has maintained from the outset that the method he used, known as edge-sorting, is simply a form of an advantage gambling and doesn’t breach the rules of the game.

What happens next

As Hall noted on Twitter, it’s likely Ivey will have to repay the money.

In her ruling, Hillman wrote:

 “Ivey and Sun’s motion for summary judgment on Borgata’s claims against them are granted on all claims except for Borgata’s claims for breach of contract. Borgata’s cross-motion for summary judgment in its favor is granted on its breach of contract claims, but denied as to all other claims. Within 20 days of the date of this Opinion, Borgata shall submit a brief setting forth its damages resulting from Ivey and Sun’s breach of contract, along with a proposed form of judgment. Ivey and Sun shall have 20 days thereafter to file a response to Borgata’s submission.”

Of course, it’s almost a certainty Ivey will appeal the ruling and the case will drag on for quite some time.

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