1. The casino was using cards which, when viewed edge-on, were not rotationally symmetrical. (A separate complaint against the card supplier.)
2. Over multiple rounds of play, as players handled the cards, they rotated them to encode a high/low value before returning them to the dealer.
3. The players requested an automatic shuffler so that the cards rotations were not randomized by the shuffling process.
4. Players observed the edges of the "shuffled" card stack to determine whether incoming cards were high/low, using this information to improve their odds.
In this case, Ivey had an Asian woman with him, and she told the dealer that she was superstitious and asked that the dealer turn cards of certain values a different direction. That she was Asian was important because the casinos are claiming that Ivey requested that his dealers speak Mandarin Chinese, and that the instructions to turn the cards were given by the woman in Mandarin so that supervisors wouldn't hear and immediately object to the request. In any event, the dealers complied. This incredibly simple strategy apparently worked at Borgata and Crockfords in London, to the tune of over $20 million in combined winnings. Because the casino could have simply said "no," I find it extremely unlikely that the Borgata will prevail here.
This was much more of a social engineering hack than anything else. Interestingly, because of this issue, casinos (at least in Las Vegas) have purchased cards with a new type of background that looks like pixelated noise - much harder to do this with.
This dancing story is nuts:
> A complaint filed by the board against Caesars Palace says a customer was
> playing baccarat in the high-limit baccarat room on Oct. 10, 2009. On three
> separate occasions, the man climbed onto the baccarat table from his chair,
> walked on the table and made a bet before returning to stand on his chair,
> eventually sitting down, according to the complaint.
> On the second occasion, the player performed a dance on the table before
> returning to his chair, the control board said. The three incidents took
> place over a 45-minute period, according to the complaint.
Link to complaint: http://gaming.nv.gov/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=30...
Players are not typically allowed to handle the cards in punto banco, so would have needed the dealer to turn the cards for them.
This, I understand, is one reason they preferred a Mandarin-speaking dealer.
Sometimes you're given the option to deal out the cards yourself, but this would be more likely to break Ivey's careful edge sorting. If it was offered, I would strongly tend towards declining it.
Traditional card counting might still have been useful, assuming only the top card would be readable.
Finally, this is only what Ivey has admitted to. I politely suggest that there are other ways of getting an advantage.
My impression from prior coverage was that the rotation occurred as the cards were revealed during play, so that on each next shoe, more and more (potentially all ) of the intended cards were reversed.
Usually you'll start play by breaking the seal on new decks which will be fanned out to check them: it's effective and efficient to get the dealer to turn a few sequences of cards here while they're still in the right order.
Otherwise, you have a lot more work to convince the dealer to rotate the cards one-by-one: "rotate that 9 of clubs, not the other 9 of clubs" is way more suspicious.
Having said that, it is a bit surprising that "dealer collusion" spidey-senses were not tingling. This is the first thing that casinos should watch out for. Maybe they realised something was going on but couldn't figure out what, or how it would be effective, in time.
Whereas, making requests during the game, that seem a bit erratic (or triggered by in-round results, like "let's flip that one so it doesn't burn me again!"), seem like they might escape scrutiny longer.
FWIW I think almost anyone could gain an exploitable edge by recognizing the direction in which specific cards are returned into the deck if they took it seriously and practiced... it just sounds like a lot of work, and a way smaller edge. I personally think it's more impressive that he socially engineered the dealer.
It's kind of like "good artists copy, great artists steal" only for statistical edges. maybe "good gamblers work hard for an edge, great gamblers have an edge before they sit down"
"it just sounds like a lot of work, and a way smaller edge."
If you read Ben Meizrich's Bringing Down the House, you wouldn't believe the degree to which these guys work to get an advantage over the house. There's a part in the book where he talks about how members of the MIT Black Jack Team so thoroughly practiced cutting a deck that they were able to cut stack of decks exactly 52 cards from the bottom. A seemingly improbable feat to do regularly but one that they perfected to the point that it became an integral part of their strategy.
If you haven't read Ed Thorpe's The Mathematics of Gambling I think you'd love it. It's about finding these edges regardless of the game. Thorpe is fascinating too -- he invented one of the early blackjack counting systems, and figured out how to beat the game of roulette (as crazy as that sounds). He was also one of the first stat arb guys, figuring out how to price warrants and making a killing for the UC Irvine retirement fund.
Also, if you haven't heard of the Kelly criterion, I think it'll basically blow your mind. I think it's the least appreciated house edge there is, and a very cool piece of math.
"It's with Shannon that Thorp would revisit a question he had considered years earlier: whether he could apply mathematics to beat the game of roulette as he had done with blackjack. Thorp and Shannon would develop a friendship and, in the process of answering that question, build what is widely regarded to be the first wearable computer."
Additionally, Phil Ivey is an astonishingly good poker player (20M+ club, 8 braclets), but is known more as a degen on other games.
you understand it correctly.
What I don't understand is how much information the players got. Did they have to learn each half of the deck? That seems absurdly hard. I get the feeling Phil Ivey was just along for the ride. My guess is the chinese guy could watch how the cards were sweeped, adjust in his head which cards were in what half, and recompute odds based on the backs. That is a bat shit crazy talent.
 The mechanism was root caused to printing the front of the card first, then the backs, the card company did this to save money (fronts were all the same but the backs were different) but all of the face cards were on one side of the sheet so as the sheet went through the rollers the face cards (which have more ink on them) slowed the cards down slightly giving a slightly darker back (I couldn't tell the difference but folks said they could)
(There was another lawsuit against Gemaco, for not providing decks that were pre-shuffled as required: http://www.pokernewsdaily.com/atlantic-city-casino-loses-law... )
> baccarat players have a long and tawdry history of introducing some truly
> bizarre superstitions into gaming parlors. Gently blowing on the dice at a
> craps table is downright sensible behavior compared to some of what goes on in
> baccarat pits on a daily basis,
To try and boost numbers they will accommodate strange requests for changes to games without fully understanding the reasoning behind the changes. This is the same method Don Johnson used to win $5m from them at Blackjack.
"Other claims are interrelated, which is to say that certain claims depend on the success of others to survive. And, at core, most of these lose all oxygen if a court finds, as I suspect it will, that 1) there is no contract between a player and a casino; 2) a casino deviates from its own well-oiled protocols at its own risk; and 3) exploiting house vulnerabilities is not a form of “swindling and cheating” any more than an automatic shuffler is a “cheating device” (please cast aside memories of one particularly memorable scene in Ocean’s Thirteen, and appreciate that no one is alleging Ivey or Sun to have planted a corrupt shuffler in the Borgata)."
So what if we compare this case with, say, accessing a website (e.g. the Weev or Aaron Swartz cases)? Do you have an implied contract with sites you access over the internet, are online resources published "at your own risk" and is 'exploiting house vulnerabilities' (e.g. disclosing information publicly that you intended to be private) a swindle?
On all three counts, it seems clear that the same principles apply.
He's endangering his own livelyhood. Is he so far in debt that it's necessary? Did he blow his bankroll and then some? What's the backstory that he's willing to risk this much?
Now, Binion's is going to allow him in the WSOP, but how much action will he lose?
I would bet that on average, any given casino wants Ivey more than he wants them, because he's a draw, and there are more casinos than super-famous poker players.
Particularly with poker, where the house has no stake in the game itself.
In card counting, you never have precise knowledge of what cards will come... it's always statistical, and you don't manipulate the cards with your hands to create the signal.
It sounds like with this method, you literally know the next card to come and base your bet on that knowledge. That sounds more like marking cards... like if they were playing poker, and they were denting the Aces with their fingernails.
Even if all the high-value cards were the only ones rotated, it didn't reveal exactly which value would be next, only that it would be one of the more-interesting ones. And that much information didn't guarantee a win, just a better chance of a win, when all the other (unpredictable) cards came out. (There are no choices in this game other than how much to bet, on either the 'player' or the 'dealer'... so only one card's worth of extra info, the top card in the shoe, at the beginning of each round.)
So it's all still just statistical.
Also, apparently Ivey never touched the cards: he requested the dealer reorient them, and under the full observation and assent of the casino. (It wasn't a secret side conspiracy with the dealer.)
Your analogy is actually worse; the cards came pre-marked. So they didn't mark the cards, but they did go out of their way to exploit the existence of marked cards.