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Borgata goes All In on Marked Card Theory (NJ)

July 25, 2019

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<p style="text-align: justify;">The odds are always in the house’s favor.  While that maxim has proven true over the years, the Borgata Hotel has been testing that theory in a court of law.  After poker star Phil Ivey and Cheng Sun flipped the odds in a series of baccarat games back in 2012, the house filed a federal lawsuit on the grounds that Ivey and Sun won $10 million by creating marked cards to shift the odds in their favor.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">But how exactly did Ivey and Sun mark the cards?  In 2012, Ivey and Sun agreed to play a series of Baccarat games at the casino, under a number of agreed-upon conditions.  For example, the games would take place in a private room, the cards were to be purple-backed and dealt from a shoe.  During the game, Sun arranged for the cards to be arranged in a certain manner and because she could identify small differences on the back of the cards, and the players bet accordingly, the odds shifted in the players’ favor and they won millions.   Although the <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Trial-Court.pdf">Trial Court decision</a> acknowledged the players did not mark the cards “in a traditional way,” it held that Ivey and Sun engaged in a scheme to create a set of marked cards and placed bets on the markings.  In doing so, the court reasoned that the term “marking” in this context includes setting the orientation of a card in such a way that the value of a flipped card can be determined.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Obviously, the case is on appeal to the Third Circuit.  On appeal, <a href="https://www.wcmlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Ivey-Appeal.pdf">attorneys for the players argue</a> that turning of cards violates none of the rules of baccarat and that a criminal statute banning the marking of cards should be narrowly applied only to cards that are marked, in other words, physically altered.   Casinos have long taken the Hunger Games greeting of “may the odds be ever in your favor” to heart.  At some point in the future, the odds will be ever in their favor.  The question is, will new legislation tilt the odds back to the house?  Or will Ivey pay through the nose?  Stay tuned.  Thanks to Mike Gauvin for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="mailto:BGibbons@wcmlaw.com">Brian Gibbons</a> with any questions.</p>

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