Phil Ivey, an accomplished professional poker player, and the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in New Jersey have a gentlemen’s disagreement over gambling winnings.

It seems Phil and his partner won $9.6 million playing baccarat at the Borgata. Now the parties are suing each other, the Borgata claiming Ivey cheated by taking advantage of a defect in the playing cards.

Ivey has fired back in court, claiming the casino knew that the process for manufacturing cards did not produce perfection. He also accuses the casino of destroying evidence.

How will this play out? Ivey lost a similar lawsuit in Great Britain last year.

If he loses again, everybody will finally have learned a crucial lesson about the difference between non-banked and banked casino games.

Poker is a game banked by the players, meaning the casino has no interest who wins, only that it gets a cut of every pot or the buy-in for a tournament.

Baccarat, like blackjack and craps, is a banked game, which means the house puts up money against players’ money. A game of chance slanted toward the house determines the outcome.

Casinos don’t like to lose. The states that sanction them don’t like to lose tax revenue. Both would literally stack the deck if they could, but then no suckers would show up. That $3 million slot machine jackpot might be declared a “machine malfunction,” particularly on an Indian reservation. A blackjack card-counting expert might be barred, or worse. To a casino, anybody who wins a dime by any means except luck is a cheat.

The takeaway: Consider legalized gambling a voluntary tax. Not that I’m against that. Dumb people should pay their fair share of taxes.

Advertisements