Is Edge Sorting Something Only Rich Gamblers Can Do?

Well Dressed Gambler With a Stack of Chips Next to a Question Mark

Up until the early 2010s, edge sorting was a lightly known advantage play technique. Then, Phil Ivey came along and blew the doors open on this strategy!

Ivey won over $21 million through edge sorting. Of course, he also managed to win on the strength of a massive bankroll and special privileges due to his high roller status.

Can you still successfully use sort edges even if you’re not an extremely wealthy gambler? I’ll discuss this matter by covering more on edge sorting, along with if it’s possible for the average gambler.

How Does Edge Sorting Work?

Edge sorting is the process of trying to determine face-down cards’ values by looking at their backs. The idea is to notice flaws in the card-back designs and exploit them.

You might think that such flaws are completely irregular. After all, card manufacturers have streamlined processes that produce countless decks every day.

Most aspects of card backs are identical from one value to another. For example, the back of an ace looks the same as a two.

Many decks do feature differences in the two long edges of cards. High cards may have a half-diamond pattern on one edge, for example, while low cards feature a full-diamond pattern in the same spot.

Of course, these differences are extremely difficult to spot during the course of play. You may even need the cards rotated so that you can better see the irregularities.

Some casino whales have enough sway to where they can convince the casino and dealer to rotate cards for them. They might claim to be extremely superstitious and can only play well when cards are rotated in a specific manner.

Of course, a hand-dealt game usually disorients these rotations and makes spotting the flaws in card backs more difficult. Therefore, edge sorters only target games that feature automatic shufflers. An automatic shuffler doesn’t disorient the cards after they’ve been rotated.

Additionally, edge sorters must know which decks are flawed and in what manner. By studying the official decks used at various casinos, they may be able to spots imperfections and take advantage of a relevant casino.

How Phil Ivey Beat Casinos for $21 Million

Phil Ivey pulled out all the stops to beat the Borgata and Crockfords casinos in 2012. He and his accomplice, Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun, won a collective $21.6 million from these casinos.

Ivey made special requests at both gambling establishments that included the following:

  • A Mandarin Chinese-speaking dealer
  • Certain cards rotated at 180 degrees for superstitious reasons
  • A purple Gemaco-designed deck

Sun wanted to give the dealer instructions that the casino staff members couldn’t understand. This is why she wanted a Mandarin-speaking croupier.

They had cards rotated to ensure that Ivey and Sun had a better chance at seeing irregularities on card backs. Sun studied the purple Gemaco deck and knew exactly where the flaws were.

All of these requests were made under the guise of superstition. However, they were really just means to give Ivey a bigger advantage.

Exterior of the Borgata Hotel and Casino

He and Sun used these special privileges to win $12 million at Crockfords and another $9.6 million at the Borgata Hotel and Casino. However, they ultimately didn’t get to keep the money.

Crockfords withheld Ivey’s $12 million winnings with the excuse that they would pay him after a bank holiday. But the famed London casino never made payment.

The poker pro and advantage gambler sued Crockfords to get his money. However, a London high court sided in favor of the house.

Upon seeing the result of this case, the Borgata sued Ivey in New Jersey to get $10.1 million back, $500,000 of which came on the craps tables after his baccarat win. The Borgata was also successful with their case and has been receiving payments from Ivey since then.

As you can see, this baccarat team wasn’t ultimately successful due to the lawsuits. However, they were able to make more money from edge sorting than anyone in history.

The Case for Anybody Being Able to Edge Sort

Ivey’s reputation as a high roller makes it seem like only the wealthy and elites can pull off this advantage gambling technique. The truth, though, is that gamblers from all walks of life can sort edges.

First off, there are many decks in existence that are exploitable. Quite a few official casino decks feature irregularities on card backs.

You can study a specific casino’s cards to try and spot flaws. You then use this information when you’re playing on their tables.

Baccarat isn’t the only game that can be edge sorted either. Other table games are also vulnerable to this advantage play strategy.

Borgata Gemaco Style Purple Playing Card

The only requirement is that you choose a game that features face-down cards. For example, Caribbean Stud Poker, Let It Ride, Three-Card Poker, and Ultimate Texas Hold’em all feature hole cards.

You’re not supposed to know the value of the dealer’s hole cards. Instead, this information is meant to remain incomplete and help the house win.

But if you sort edges and determine card backs before they’re flipped over, you’ll be able to gain more of an advantage.

Finally, you don’t have to walk into a casino with millions of dollars like Ivey does. You can still play for high stakes and make special requests with a five-figure bankroll.

Of course, even this amount is worth quite a lot to the average person. You may consider forming a team that can pull funds and put 1-2 high rollers at the table

In some cases, you don’t even need to rely on the dealer granting special privileges. Provided cards are already in an advantageous manner and an automatic shuffler is in use, you might have everything you need to win at the casino already.

Roadblocks That the Average Gambler Faces

Edge sorting definitely isn’t an easy advantage gambling method to pull off. It not only requires skill but also the right conditions.

It’s not like blackjack, where you can just sit down to a random game and begin counting cards. You instead need a deck with flawed card backs along with an automatic shuffler.

Without these factors, you won’t be able to differentiate one card value from the next. You’ll be gambling like any other player as a result.

Poker Player Phil Ivey With Headphones On

Of course, you could potentially request certain conditions if you’re a high roller like Ivey. However, nothing guarantees that the casino will grant these requests.

The gambling industry is less likely to cater to you after the way Ivey beat casinos. They may be able to win their money back in courts just like Crockfords and Borgata, but they still don’t want to take the chance of allowing edge sorting.

Chances are, you don’t have the bankroll or VIP status to command special rules. Casinos normally only allow such conditions under special circumstances.

Even if everything goes your way, you still need the skills to consistently win with edge sorting. You must be able to differentiate card values just by looking at their backs.

Should You Bother With Edge Sorting?

You can see that edge sorting isn’t the easiest gambling strategy to pull off. You have to rely on more than just your own skills to win.

Of course, you do need to be skilled enough to spot flawed card backs and understand what values are beneath them. However, sorting edges goes beyond just being smart and observant.

You must put plenty of work into the matter before sitting down to the table. This means figuring out which decks are flawed and where the imperfections are.

Next, you have to ensure that the right conditions are in place. You’ll need to play at a table with an automatic shuffler and exploitable deck.

As a high roller, you may be able to request what you need. But after what Ivey and Sun did, casinos are wiser to edge sorting.

Even when everything falls into place, you’re not guaranteed profits. You could still lose with an advantage if luck goes against you.

On the positive side, edge sorting is a legitimate advantage gambling play method that actually works. You can use it to earn serious profits if you get away with it.

Of course, getting away with sorting edges is easier said than done. Ivey knows this better than anybody else, because his massive winnings were taken away by the casino.

Assuming you’re looking for a new way to beat the casino, then edge sorting and can help you do it. You just have to be aware of what’s against you before embarking on this journey.


Phil Ivey made edge sorting famous. In the process, he also created the perception that this strategy is a rich person’s pursuit.

You’ll definitely be aided by high roller status and the ability to make special requests. However, you don’t have to be worth millions just to use this strategy.

Edge sorting is possible even if you’re just a regular gambler. But you’ll need to overcome more roadblocks to make it work.

In summary, edge sorting is a legitimate way for anybody to beat the casino. You can opt for more realistic advantage play techniques, though, like card counting and shuffle tracking.