Another edge (excuse the pun) that has hit the headlines more recently is that of edge sorting, a technique made famous by legendary poker player Phil Ivey for two situations that occurred in 2014.
One related to the Crockfords casino in London’s Mayfair, which refused to hand over approximately €12m in baccarat winnings, instead simply returning the player’s $1m initial stake.
Ivey even lost a UK High Court case after suing the casino.
The other involved the Borgata casino in New Jersey, who filed a lawsuit demanding the return of close to $10m in winnings that Ivey had won playing baccarat.
So what is edge sorting?
Edge sorting is a piece of advantage play which profits from the imperfections on the backs of playing cards. When numerous decks of cards are cut, the same pattern may not be displayed around all of the four edges.
For example, two of the edges may show the tips of the diamond suit, while the remaining edges have been cut at the middle point of a diamond.
The fact that all four edges are not completely symmetrical means that eagle-eyed players with an instant knowledge of such irregularities may be able to sort the cards in their favour, depending on which direction a certain edge is pointing.
Effectively, a player or players are using a casino’s own equipment against them.
How do players sort edges?
What an edge sorting team is able to do is manipulate used cards in a certain way to suit their betting strategy at a later date.
For a blackjack player, it would be most helpful to identify aces or cards with a value of 10. By ensuring all of these cards have a certain edge in one direction and the remainder of the deck in another, they theoretically will have a strong idea which cards are in play, whether it be the dealer’s hole card or which is next to come out of the dealing shoe.
Imagine if a dealer was showing a seven and it could be concluded that their face-down card was a 10 based on the way the edges had been sorted.
Knowing that the dealer would be forced to stand on a final hand of 17 is great knowledge for a player when it comes to developing their own hand.
If they were holding two eights, which is considered to be the worst hand to be dealt, sticking would be pointless as this is a guaranteed losing hand. Hitting for another card is more likely than not to bust, so splitting the eights would seem a logical move in the hope of making at least 18 with one of the two hands.
Without knowing the dealer’s hole card, the player would certainly have considered staying with a seven on show from a dealer.
In Ivey’s case, he allegedly rotated all of the low-value cards in one direction and the high cards in another, which dictated whether it would be most profitable to bet in favour of the player or the banker at baccarat.
It has been suggested that such knowledge would offer a player an edge of close to 7% over the house.
What casinos can do to stop edge sorting?
The obvious way for a casino to prevent this type of advantageous play is to ensure all that the decks they use are perfectly symmetrical.
However, this is largely out of their control as the reliance is on the card manufacturers to correct this issue. It would be an arduous task for a casino employee to open every pack of cards before they are introduced to a game and thoroughly check that all of the edges possess an identical pattern.
It may additionally be the case that certain card manufacturers are more consistent than others in terms of the accuracy of their cut and so a casino may also wish to carefully choose from who they receive their decks of cards.
Two ways a casino could definitely wipe out edge sorting would be to either bring out a new deck of cards every time a shoe has been played out or introduce a turn into their shuffling procedure.
It requires a player to work through a whole shoe at least once to favourably sort all of the cards, so a new deck at the end of every shoe would prove all of this sorting pointless.
In a similar light, incorporating a turn into half of the cards when completing a shuffle will interfere with any sorting that had previously been conducted.