There are numerous different techniques that can be used when it comes to playing card games, but edge sorting is one that has been the focus of various amateurs and professionals, including Phil Ivey.
What exactly is this technique, and can it really help you to win a card game? Furthermore, is it considered to be a legal form of gameplay when participating in the card game? We’ll be taking a look at all of these questions and more surrounding edge sorting.
What Exactly Is Edge Sorting?
To put the description of edge sorting in as simple terms as possible, it’s basically a technique that is used in advantage gambling. Any player using such will have the goal in mind of determining whether a face-down playing card is likely to be a low one or a high one with regard to casino table games. But how is this possible to do with a face-down card?
Well, players who are skilled at edge sorting will be able to view the backs of the cards and locate subtle and unintentional differences in the patterning there. While a casual player will pretty much look at the backs of these cards as all being the same, an edge sorter may see that the ace of spades (for example) has a very slight alteration in a small part of its back design. So, if he sees the back of that card, he knows that it’s the ace of spades and can use that knowledge to his advantage.
It’s unfortunately true to say that many packs of cards produced by manufacturers do have unintentional and often almost indistinguishable irregularities in their edges. Typically speaking, the back of every card in a pack is identical. However, the two long edges of each card are distinguishable from one another. Essentially, the back pattern of one card is not symmetrical to another that has been rotated by 180°.
How Does a Player Utilise This Technique?
Obviously, it’s not specifically easy for a player to really get to grips with a pack of cards to spot the differences outrightly. So, it’s common for edge sorters to request that the dealer rotates one or more face-down cards, giving the excuse that they feel it will bring them a certain sort of luck. The dealer may proceed with this request, without really knowing that they’re orienting the cards in such a way that the valuable higher ones are displayed on way in the deck and the low cards the alternate way.
With this action being undertaken, the edge sorter then knows which cards in the pack are higher and which are lower when they are dealt face-down. As long as the cards aren’t shuffled in a way that rotates them, this orientation of them remains the same. Dealers aren’t obliged to comply with the rotation requests, although will frequently do so when it comes to gambler superstition or mistrust.
If this has been enacted and a player is aware of which cards are high and which cards are low, this gives them a distinct advantage over the house and/or other players participating in the game. But can this be considered an actual technique, or is it just a form of cheating to win the game in hand?
Is Edge Sorting Cheating or Is It Legal?
While each casino has differing rules surrounding how players act within their establishments, edge sorting has been deemed as a form of cheating by many casinos already. On the other hand, players utilising edge sorting don’t consider it to be so, and instead describe it as a legitimate form of gameplay that allows them to gain an advantage over their opponent(s). And you don’t need to look far to find instances of people using edge sorting in order to garner huge wins.
The aforementioned Phil Ivey opted to put it to use in 2012 while engaging in baccarat. He and his partner Cheung Yin Sun went on to win $9.6 million from the Borgata casino in Atlantic City, although this led to a lawsuit being filed against them in April 2014. The outcome of that led to both being ordered by a Federal Judge to repay $10 million to the Borgata establishment, although it was stated that even though they didn’t commit fraud, they did breach their contract with the casino itself. The New Jersey Casino Controls Act has a provision in place that prohibits marking cards.
Ivey was later reported to have won £7.7 million by playing punto banco at Crockfords casino in London. While the casino initially agreed to send him his winnings and refund his £1 million stake, this decision was reversed. Ivey sued the casino for the payment but lost out in the High Court of the United Kingdom, when it was determined that edge sorting was “cheating for the purpose of civil law”. To this day, Ivey maintains that he won money legitimately at both Crockfords and Borgata.
Which Games Can Edge Sorting Be Used In?
Edge sorting is more commonly used in the table game of baccarat, due to the fact that those at the table are able to bet on the banker, player or a tie outcome. The dealer deals out a hand for the player and the banker, and the goal of the table game is to get as close to 9 as possible with those cards. No hand can go over 9 and any total over that drops 10 from its total value. After dealing both hands, if neither hand has a 9, then the next best is 8. A third card can be drawn if there isn’t a winner by this point.
Because the rules surrounding baccarat (and the alternate version of it known as punto banco) are quite simple, an edge sorter has the ability to utilise his knowledge of upcoming cards to his own advantage when betting.
Yet, edge sorting isn’t specific to baccarat and games of the same ilk. It can also be put to use when playing games like blackjack and poker, because evidently, as long as you can spot the discrepancies in the backs of the cards and have the ability to rotate them or have them rotated for you, the technique can be brought into effect.
As it happens, there is even a specific card manufacturer – Gemaco – whose cards have been identified as possessing more noticeable flaws than other brands. And sometimes, if the flaws in the patterns aren’t as difficult to spot, they may not even need to be rotated, which makes them simple for edge sorters to take advantage of and gain a positive outcome.
Can Edge Sorting Be Used for Online Games?
It’s easy to see how edge sorting can be used in a land-based casino situation, but is that same technique usable at online casinos, too? Well, while in theory it is something you could bring into practice, it’s difficult to really comprehend that patterns on the back of virtual cards would have the same discrepancies that physical cards would. After all, it’s much easier to design a copy and paste pattern for virtual cards than it is to have perfect card designs printed physically. That’s a costly process to undertake, whereas for a software developer, it’s not so much of an issue.
Therefore, edge sorting is not something that online players can really benefit from. A multitude of other strategies and techniques can be used for online card games, but edge sorting doesn’t hold as much ground as it does at land-based establishments.
That being said, some online casinos also employ live dealer games, which have the same setup as land-based tables. So, if you’re playing a game of live baccarat for example, you may be able to put forth a request for the cards to be rotated via the live chat side of things. Of course, again, the dealer doesn’t have to accept and comply with this request, and furthermore, there are many other players playing the same game. Of course, these games are also streamed to your device, so you’d need to have a good definition of the table and the cards themselves to spot any discrepancies on the cards and use the technique.
How Do Casinos Crack Down on Edge Sorting?
Casinos have gotten wise to the possibility of their players employing the edge sorting technique, and so some have incorporated certain measures to counteract it. Some establishments will use cards that have zero pattern on the back of them, thereby not allowing players the opportunity to work out any inconsistencies with such.
Additionally, it’s become common for some casinos to state that dealers don’t accept any unusual or suspicious requests from players, including the rotation of face-down cards. Naturally, casinos do wish to cater to players as much as possible, but there is a line to be drawn. In line with that, croupiers will also be fully informed on the edge sorting technique, so they can spot the tell-tale signs of this taking place. Furthermore, dealers are often informed to employ a “turn” in the cards during a shuffle stage, to ensure that different rotations take place automatically.
One other measure that has been introduced is for casinos to have a “no touch” policy at their baccarat tables in specific. This way, players can’t rotate the cards themselves. It’s also relative to note that high rollers will be kept watch over more specifically, due to the fact that they stand to win more from putting the edge sorting technique into practice. Of course, the best edge sorters will only use the technique infrequently so as to avoid being caught out.
If a casino suspects someone of using edge sorting, then it’s entirely up to the establishment as to how they handle it. Players can be thrown out or banned from a table for employing a technique that is deemed as cheating by the casino.