Phil Ivey Won 7.8 Million Pounds by Edge Sorting Baccarat
The facts surrounding Phil Ivey's remarkable win at baccarat at Crockfords Casino in Mayfair, and the subsequent refusal of Crockfords to pay his winnings, has been an open secret in the game protection community over the last 8 months. Finally, the secret is out and we can talk about it: Phil Ivey did, in fact, use edge sorting to beat their baccarat. Here is the story in the U.K. Daily Mail:
Gambler won £7.8m by 'reading' the back of cards: How tiny flaw in deck design could have given poker star the upper hand
From what I understand, Ivey did not see the first four cards before making his betting decision. He only saw the first (top) card out of the shoe. This is equivalent to hole-carding baccarat. If the card is low (0,1,2,3,4,5), make a Banker bet, if it is a high card (6,7,8,9) make a Player bet.
Here is my blog article, "Edge Sorting in Baccarat," describing the method Ivey used to beat baccarat. Ivey knew if the first card was high or low, giving him a 6.765% edge over the house. This article may also be helpful: "Baccarat: The Known Card."
If nothing more than edge sorting took place, then the money belongs to the APs. I do not know a jurisdiction where edge sorting has been explicitly singled out as an illegal activity; a form of cheating. If it isn't cheating, then pay up. In Nevada, those casinos that got hit in the last couple of years paid up (as far as I know).
However, in the Ivey case, there may be other details coming out that cloud the issue. Until all the facts are known in this case so that issues of cheating can be put to rest, I can't take a stand one way or the other. And until the facts are fully known, it is at best whimsy to even argue the point.
There are a number of ways a casino can protect itself from edge sorting:
- Inspect the cards. Are they sortable?
- Include a turn in every shuffle.
- For pitch games, do the turn after a riffle.
- Don't neglect the turn on carnival games or games that use automatic shufflers.
- Don't let big players socially engineer the games.