Edge Sorting ‐ And why it's illegal

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If you've done any reading on advantage play at casinos, you may have come across the term Edge Sorting which refers to an advantage gambling technique whereby players determine whether or not a face down playing card is high or low value by looking for subtle, unintentional differences on the back of certain brands of cards. These players then persuade the dealers to unwittingly sort the cards into high and low values.

This technique began when some players realised that certain manufacturer's cards had unintentional irregularities . Generally, all cards in a pack have identical backing but on some brands the two long edges of each card are consistently different and the pattern is asymmetrical on a 180 degree rotation.

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When edge sorting is employed, during a game the advantage player will request that the dealer to rotate a few of the face-up cards, often explaining that they believe that this will make them luckier. Dealers know that gamblers are often superstitious and as they are not really revealing the card, often oblige without realising that the cards are being turned so that the low value cards are positioned one way and the high-value cards another way. This method of play will also be conducted only on tables where the dealer will use the automatic shuffler which doesn't change the orientation of the cards the way that manual shuffling does.

Once a considerable number of cards have been turned, the player will be able to use the knowledge of the high and low cards to his or her advantage and thus overcome the house edge and walk away with a tidy profit. Unlike other advantage play methods and blackjack scams like shuffle tracking and Ace Steering, Edge Sorting can be used during any card game.

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Obviously this technique cannot be employed at online casinos, but it has been used by players at land based ones, most notably by the famous poker pro Phil Ivey back in 2012 who won a whopping 7.7 million at the Punto-Banco Baccarat tables of Crockfords Casino using this method. The casino however caught on and withheld the winnings, accusing Ivey of cheating.

The case inevitably went to court and the UK High Court ruled the technique cheating and stated that the casino was justified in refusing to payout any winnings. It was noted that the ruling would not be applicable if a player simply noticed and took advantage of an observed error or anomaly but due to the fact that Ivey manipulated the dealer, albeit unwittingly into cheating, he was complicit and was not entitled to the money.

Ivey was obviously exceptionally disappointment at the outcome of the case, and a spokesperson for the poker pro related that he believed that he was using a legitimate strategy, doing nothing more than exploiting the casino's failure to take steps to guard against advantage players. Clearly the judge was not in agreement and Ivey's permission to appeal was denied.

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