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Phil Ivey

Phil Ivey pauses during a hand at the final table at the 2009 World Series of Poker (WSOP) at the Penn & Teller Theater at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada on November 7, 2009.

The new year won’t start well for Phil Ivey if he fails to overturn the recent verdict of the New Jersey court. Noel Hillman, U.S. district judge, presiding over the MGM Borgata’s case against the high roller and his partner, decided Ivey must repay $10.1 he won at baccarat tables using the skill known as “edge sorting.” Naturally, Ivey announced he would challenge this ruling.

Breaking the Contract

After the initial hearing, Judge Hillman ruled what Ivey and his partner Sun did couldn’t be constituted as cheating. However, that decision didn’t mean one of the best poker players in the world was off the hook. The judge further explained their actions did break the contract with the casino by changing the game circumstances.

In light of this decision, he instructed Borgata to submit their claims to damages arising from this breach of contract. Borgata proceeded to request significantly more money than what Ivey won playing baccarat, asking for $250,000 in comps, as well as winnings from other games. The casino insisted these other winnings were made using the money from the baccarat sessions.

Advantage Play Winnings to Be Repaid

Judge Hillman overturned a majority of other requests, as they were based on speculation, but ordered Ivey to repay the money he and his partner won using edge sorting. He also added one million on top of the winnings, partially accepting the Borgata’s stipulation Ivey used the money won to play in other games. In total, Ivey and Sun need to pay Borgata $10.1 million.

Ivey to Appeal the Decision?

Ivey now has an option to appeal this decision, and he will probably exercise this right. However, it seems unlikely a higher court instance would be willing to overturn the ruling. Ivey and his legal team have already made their arguments about edge sorting being a highly developed skill. The judge didn’t see it their way, and it isn’t likely another judge would have a different opinion on the matter.

It seems the Ivey saga is finally reaching a conclusion. Unfortunately for the high roller, it won’t be the one he was hoping for. Earlier this year, Ivey lost his lawsuit against Crockfords Casino who refused to pay him out his baccarat winnings for the same reasons. Once the Borgata case is finally concluded, there will be much more legal clarity on the matter of edge sorting. Players will finally know for sure if it is acceptable from the legal standpoint and it will be a significant precedent moving forward.

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