Poker legend Phil Ivey was dealt more bad news in New Jersey this week.
U.S. District Court Judge Noel Hillman on Tuesday denied the Poker Hall of Famer’s motion to stay a $10.1 million judgement without bond pending an appeal to a higher court. In late 2016, Hillman ruled that Ivey and fellow high-stakes gambler Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun must return the millions of dollars they won in 2012 at baccarat using a technique called edge-sorting. The federal court in New Jersey determined that Ivey and Sun breached their contract with the Borgata casino-hotel in Atlantic City when they gained a small edge on the house.
Lawyers for Ivey and Sun still maintain that the court’s finding of breach of contract is erroneous. They asked the court to delay enforcement of the judgement pending an appeal for several additional legal reasons, including a claim that forking over the $10.1 million would cause “irreparable harm” because it would impact their careers as professional gamblers.
The Borgata’s legal team hit back hard in an Aug. 4 response to Ivey’s motion to stay the judgement without bond pending appeal. The casino said Ivey “is not in danger of being prevented from playing poker,” even pointing out in court documents that “one can play online poker with initial deposits of under $100.”
Judge Hillman sided with the Borgata.
“Defendants [Ivey and Sun] have provided no proof to show how the ‘purely economic injury, compensable in money’ would ‘threaten the existence of’ their business,” he wrote. “Defendants simply say that returning the $10,130,000 [Borgata] paid them to them in the first instance would have a ‘devastating impact’ on them. Without any evidence to support their claim that they will be irreparably harmed if the Court does not stay the judgment pending appeal, Defendants have not met their burden…to warrant a stay of the judgment pending their appeal.”
Specifically, Ivey’s legal team’s claim that the judgement would be “devastating” failed to meet the standard of an “actual and imminent” injury, rather than “remote” and “speculative,” Hillman wrote.
The Borgata pointed to Ivey’s return to high-stakes tournament poker in Las Vegas this summer as evidence that his career as a professional gambler is alive and well. Ivey, the winner of 10 World Series of Poker bracelets, has so far cashed for $2.3 million in tournaments in 2018.
The casino’s legal team also claimed that Ivey has the cash on hand to pay.
Hillman certified the $10.1 million judgments as final, according to court documents.
Borgata argued in court documents that Ivey and Sun’s appeal to a higher court isn’t likely to be successful. A similar edge-sorting case at a U.K. casino involving the gamblers went all the way to the U.K. Supreme Court. Ivey and Sun lost, though the high court said Ivey was “clever and skilful” in outsmarting the casino. That court also said Ivey had “remarkably sharp eyes.”
The Borgata says Ivey’s odds are long. The casino said that fewer than 15 percent of private civil cases between 2011 and 2015 were reversed on appeal.
Card Player’s request for comment from Ivey’s lawyer wasn’t immediately returned on Thursday.