A Borgata Casino lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses Phil Ivey, the world’s best known — and by many accounts, best — poker player of cheating the casino out of $9.6 million during a series of visits to the Atlantic City, New Jersey, casino in 2012. The Borgata is also suing the manufacturer of playing cards that, according to the lawsuit, contained a printing error that allowed Ivey to manipulate a card game in his favor.
The 38-year-old Phil Ivey, who in his own promotional material compares himself to such all-time great athletes as Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan, has won nine World Series of Poker championships, or “bracelets,” as well as one World Poker Tour title.
But the game at which he allegedly cheated was not poker, but a high-stakes form of baccarat — a blackjack-like game that gained worldwide popularity when author Ian Fleming described the game in his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. Several James Bond films show the fictional spy playing baccarat.
According to the Borgata Casino lawsuit, which also names the Kanas City card manufacturer Gemaco and a Gemaco employee who inspected the cards, Ivey was aware that the cards had design flaw that allowed him to visually sort out “good” cards from “bad” ones as long as the cards were handled and dealt according to his specific instructions.
Ivey arranged a private baccarat game at the Borgata Casino on April 16, 2012. He wired $1 million in “front money” to the casino, to cover a series of $50,000 bets. He made extremely particular requests about how the cards should be dealt and turned by the dealer. The casino accommodated his elaborate instructions because of Ivey’s status as a “high roller.”
According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in New Jersey by the Borgata — which is half-owned by the Las Vegas Boyd Gaming Corp. — Ivey told the casino he made the highly specific requests due to his superstitions, but in reality, they allowed him to exploit the defective cards, which he also specifically requested, in ways which let him know in advance which cards would be favorable.
An associate of Ivey, Cheng Yin Sun who is also named in the lawsuit would give the dealer highly specific instructions on how to turn the cards as they were dealt.
The Borgata Casino affair is not the first time that Ivey has been accused of cheating. A London casino withheld about $12 million from Ivey after it said he manipulated the cards in a game of Punto Banco, which is similar to baccarat.
Neither Ivey nor the Borgata Casino have publicly commented on the lawsuit.