How Does Edge Sorting Work in Casinos?

Everyone wants to win money from a casino. Everyone wants to win. You have to have a lot of luck to win; casinos designed games to give the house an edge. Every game has a price.

edge sorting


People who know about casinos know that baccarat and blackjack are the best games to play. When played perfectly, both games have low house edges. Even then, the math is against you in the “long run.” The house edge in blackjack in Las Vegas is only 0.28 per cent when the rules are easy on the house. On average, the casino will only keep 28 cents out of every $100 gambled.

Casinos have costs, and you should always think of gambling as a way to have fun and spend money. So how do you win at a casino? One possible answer is to try to find a weakness.

One option is “edge sorting,” which means finding a weakness. Weakness will always be exploitable in the perfectly tuned world of the casino.

Cheaters have taken advantage of the tiny differences between roulette wheels many times. Players spend hours watching a roulette wheel. When they see a small edge, they put a lot of money on a certain group of numbers. The bias changes the game and the odds. A small manufacturing flaw took away the house’s advantage.

What is Edge Sorting

Playing cards and the tiny, printed deviations on the back of each card are central to edge sorting. It’s a strategy that poker pro Phil Ivey used to win more than $21 million at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City and Crockfords in London.

Phil Ivey, one of the world’s best poker players, teamed up with professional gambler Cheung Yin ‘Kelly’ Sun to defraud casinos. Sun had discovered that certain decks of cards had minute manufacturing variations in the pattern on the back of each card.

The deviation was along the edge of each card and could only be seen when the card was rotated 180 degrees. Essentially, the cards were asymmetrical.

Hitting the Punto Banco Tables

Sun and Ivey went to the punto banco (a baccarat variant) tables for a high-rolling private session. Sun convinced the dealers that Ivey was superstitious and preferred to have certain cards – 7, 8, and 9 (the most important cards in baccarat) – rotated by 180 degrees for ‘luck.’ The croupier agreed to shuffle the deck. These are the sting’s ‘edge sorting’ components.

They also insisted on a purple Gemaco brand deck and a Mandarin-speaking dealer (who would appreciate the superstitious property of the “sting”). After playing through the entire shoe of cards, the pair asked to play it again because it had been so lucky, and both casinos complied.

This allowed Ivey and Sun to detect minor deviations and place bets accordingly. The pair had identified and exploited a flaw. The casino was oblivious to their bizarre demands because these two were serious high rollers betting big. The casino expected its winning streak to come to an end, and it didn’t.

Ivey was up $10 million after the 48-hour Crockfords session, and the casino insisted on changing the shoe. The casino reviewed its surveillance and checked the deck before determining the con. A judge later stated that “nobody at Crockfords had ever heard of edge-sorting before.”

It was a one-of-a-kind sting. Ultimately, both casinos sued for their money back and were successful. Ivey admits to edge sorting but maintains his innocence, claiming that he believed edge-sorting was a “legitimate advantage play technique” and “legitimate gamesmanship.”

Is Edge Sorting a Legit Tactic or Cheating?

If Ivey had been counting cards or simply exploiting the bias of a faulty roulette wheel, he might have gotten away with it. However, he duped the croupier and had the cards rotated to detect a manufacturing flaw. In short: he cheated.

A British High Court judge ruled that, contrary to Ivey’s belief, cheating had occurred, arguing that “if he had secretly gained access to the shoe and physically rearranged the cards himself, no one would begin to doubt that he was cheating.”

“He achieved the same result through the croupier’s unwitting but directed actions, tricking her into believing that what she did was irrelevant.” Mr. Ivey staged a meticulously planned and executed sting.”

Although Ivey lost his court case and several appeals, a film is in the works. Watch out for this edge.

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