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Cardsharp! Professional poker player Phil Ivey caught in breach of contract controversy – has to repay $10 million in winnings to Atlantic City casino

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Pro poker players dinged for exercising their craft, ‘being observant’

Nine-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, poker pro Phil Ivey, 39, guilty of breach of contract , no fraud  
 Ivey and companion player Cheng Yin Sun had a dealer arrange Baccarat cards so they could tell dealing sequence, in 2012
Court noted that Ivey and Sun instructing dealers on card arrangements, which is permitted under the rules of the game, after Sun noticed minute differences in them, didn’t constitute fraud
Judge Noel Hillman, concluded that while Ivey’s strategy wasn’t fraudulent, it affirmed Borgata’s claim of breach of contract
Instructions gave Ivey and Sun significant advantage over the house
Ivey and Cheng Yin Sun ordered to repay Atlantic City casino, Borgata, $10.1 million
phil-ivey-looks-up-during-the-world-series-of-poker-at-the-rio-hotel-and-casino-in-las-vegas-in-2009Phil Ivey (seen) during the 2009 World Series of Poker at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV
Professional poker player Phil Ivey and a companion have been ordered to return more than $10 million they won from an Atlantic City casino while playing cards that were arranged in a certain way to give the players an edge.
Judge Noel Hillman, concluded that the strategy employed by Ivey, a nine-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner, did not constitute fraud. However, he upheld Borgata’s claim of breach of contract.
The federal judge ruled that requests by Ivey and companion player Cheng Yin Sun, on four occasions in 2012 by having a dealer at the Borgata arrange Baccarat cards so they could tell what kind of card was coming next. It allegedly, gave Ivey a significant advantage over the house in certain hands, therefore didn’t meet their obligation to follow gambling regulations.

Borgata-Casino2.jpgPoker table at the Borgata casino

Last week the judge ordered the pair to return $10.1 million to the casino. The order by U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman returned both sides to where they were before Ivey and Sun began gambling at the casino.
The sum includes winnings from playing craps with some of the money he won at the card table.
“This case involves the whims of Lady Luck, who casts uncertainty on every hand, despite the house odds,” Hillman wrote.
“Indeed, Lady Luck is like nectar to gamblers, because no one would otherwise play a game he knows he will always lose.”
Adding that deciding the case involved “voiding a contract that was tainted from the beginning and breached as soon as it was executed.”
Attorney for Ivey, Ed Jacobs, emphasized that the judge affirmed his client had followed every rule of Baccarat and did not commit fraud.
“What this ruling says is a player is prohibited from combining his skill and intellect and visual acuity to beat the casino at its own game,” he said, adding Ivey will appeal the ruling soon.
“The casino agreed to every single accommodation requested by Phil Ivey in his four visits because they were eager to try to win his money.”
The judge rejected a request by the casino to use a formula for calculating damages that could have seen the restitution go as high as $15.5 million. That method, assessing how much the casino could have won had Ivey and Chen not engaged in a style of play known as edge-sorting, was deemed too speculative.
The Borgata claimed the pair pf gamblers exploited a defect in cards that enabled them to sort and arrange good cards, which according to the casino violates state casino gambling regulations.
Ivey on the other hand, asserts his win was simply the result of skill and good observation.

borgata.jpg

Poker table at the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, NJ, successfully sued poker pro, Phil Ivey. Judge turned down the bid to recover $250G in hospitality expenses

The Casino claimed the cards used in the games were defective in that the pattern on the back was not uniform. The cards have rows of small white circles designed to look like the tops of cut diamonds, but the Borgata said some of them were only half-diamonds or quarters. In his own defense, Ivey has said he simply noticed things that anyone playing the game could have observed and bet accordingly.
The judge noted that Ivey and Sun instructed dealers to arrange the cards in a certain way, which is permitted under the rules of the game, after Sun noticed minute differences in them. But he ruled in October that those actions violated the state Casino Control Act and their contractual obligation to abide by it in gambling at the casino.
The judge rejected a request by the Borgata that Ivey repay nearly $250,000 in hospitality expenses, listed only as “goods and services”, the casino extended him while playing there.

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