This summer, the poker world welcomed Phil Ivey’s return to high-profile tournaments in Las Vegas. However, that is now being used against him in a lawsuit over in New Jersey.
Atlantic City’s largest casino is fighting efforts by Ivey’s legal team to continue postponing a $10.1 million judgement from late 2016, pending an appeal. In court documents filed Aug. 4, the Borgata casino-hotel’s legal team is asking a federal court to deny a motion from the Poker Hall of Famer that seeks to delay the judgement and “avoid posting a bond” in the amount of the judgement.
Lawyers for Ivey said in a motion filed in late July that the “enormity of that amount would clearly be of devastating impact.” His legal team also said that Borgata, as a business, won’t be harmed if enforcement of the judgement is delayed further.
Borgata said in court documents that Ivey’s team is erroneously arguing that the judgement would cause “irreparable harm,” one of several legal standards for granting a stay.
“There is no testimony or evidence in this case that defendants will be prevented from pursuing their careers as professional gamblers if a stay is not granted,” Borgata lawyers wrote.
Litigation involving the casino and the Missouri-based manufacturer of the cards Ivey and Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun, his playing partner, used during the controversial baccarat sessions in 2012 is still pending. Ivey and Sun used a technique called “edge sorting” to spot and exploit subtle manufacturing defects on the backs of the cards to gain a small but significant edge against the house. After a handful of gambling sessions where Borgata catered to the gamblers’ unusual demands, Ivey and Sun were sitting with profits of $9.6 million. The $10.1 million judgments included money Ivey won at craps using the money won at baccarat.
Ivey maintains that he did not cheat, but rather used skill to outsmart the casino. The only civil litigation stemmed from the sessions. Ivey and Sun used the same technique to beat a British casino for a similar amount, also in 2012. Unlike Borgata, the U.K. casino, suspecting something was amiss, never paid Ivey his winnings, and the courts there upheld the move. During their baccarat partnership, Ivey and Sun reportedly also played in Singapore, Macau and Canada.
Borgata lawyers said in the Aug. 4 court documents that the argument for “irreparable harm” caused by the $10.1 million judgement fails because “Ivey is a very long way” from being unable to put together the bankroll to play poker for a living.
“First, let us not forget that Ivey has Borgata’s $10 million,” the casino claimed in the court documents. “As early as October 2012 (immediately after the fourth trip to Borgata), Ivey knew that his edge sorting scheme was unmasked, with [the British casino] Crockford’s publicly withholding about $12 million in alleged winnings. There is no indication that Ivey did not prudently sock away Borgata’s $10 million, figuring that was the next shoe to drop.”
The casino also cited Ivey’s recent return to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas as evidence that he has “no problem coming up with” high-stakes poker buy-ins. The MGM Resorts-owned casino claimed that Ivey can always get into a poker game. Borgata listed in court documents more than $2 million worth of Ivey’s tournament poker scores from this summer.
“Ivey’s skill and success as a professional poker player are well documented,” the casino said of the 10-time WSOP bracelet winner. “He is in the top 3 for poker winnings all the time, and there is no suggestion that he cannot continue to be successful. Entrance fees for other poker tournaments are far less than $10,000 and one can play online poker with initial deposits of under $100. He is not in danger of being prevented from playing poker.”
Borgata also cited Ivey’s 2015 appearance in a Chrysler 300 commercial as an example of “other business interests” he’s involved with besides poker.
“This case is about money, nothing more and nothing less. Ivey already has Borgata’s $10 million and he is clearly not in danger of going out of business. Defendants did not and cannot demonstrate irreparable harm as a matter of law. They are not entitled to a stay pending appeal.”