Edge Sorting: Is it Cheating or a Strategy?

The absolute randomness of casino games pushes gamblers to invent techniques to outsmart the house and win significant cash. One of these gamblers is Phil Ivey, who won millions of dollars in 2012 by inspecting each card’s back. He called this strategy edge-sorting—a gambling approach that, before its emergence, was not widely known by most casinos.

What is Edge Sorting?

Edge sorting is considered a type of advantage gambling. Advantage gambling refers to legal approaches’ players can use to reduce the house edge. Unlike cheating, edge sorting aims to look for irregularities in the patterns printed on the back of the cards.

Typically, a standard card features a symmetrical back design, but a card with an uneven cut displays an asymmetrical design. Skilled players employ edge sorting to recognise specific cards with unique values and get an advantage over the dealer.

How Edge Sorting Works?

Whenever people hear about a new strategy, they wonder how it works. When using edge sorting, you need to determine the value of the face-down cards by spotting their irregularities.

Simply put, this strategy is all about noticing the imperfections in the card design and using this information to ascertain card values. Here are some of the irregularities you might notice in cards:

Cut Patterns

Casino cards are cut individually from a single sheet of paper. Sometimes, this results in asymmetrical patterns, which can appear on each card’s top, bottom, left, and right edges.

The diamond pattern is one of the most common designs on the back of the cards. When cut individually, some cards may have full diamonds on their edges, while others are left with half of a diamond. These minor patterns are enough to predict a card’s value even if faced down.

Faded Borders

Another thing you might notice is the faded borders that are present on the edge of the cards. This time, you need to inspect the thickness and wideness of the borders as they are sometimes different.

While most card manufacturers try their best to avoid design mistakes, it does happen. So, players usually study defective cards and find a casino that uses them. This strategy works well in baccarat online, poker, and other card games, considering you have an excellent eye for spotting imperfections.

There are other aspects to consider apart from looking for cards’ flaws. Edge sorting also requires the ability to manipulate the casino dealer. Card irregularities can be easily read when face cards are rotated.

For instance, you can ask the casino dealer to rotate the card 180 degrees. If the dealer grants your request, you can recognise that card the next time it appears. Some successful poker players usually ask dealers to rotate cards under the guise of superstition.

                                        person playing poker

The Phil Ivey Case

If not for Phil Ivey and his accomplice, Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun, edge sorting would have remained unknown. In 2012, they won a substantial profit of about £12 million from Crockfords and £10 million from Borgata Casino after they made some strange requests:

· They wanted certain face cards to be rotated at 180 degrees for religious reasons.

· They insisted on using a specific deck Sun had studied in advance for all their games.

· They asked for a Mandarin-Chinese speaker to be assigned to them

· Lastly, they requested only an automatic shuffler to deal with the cards.

These requests were presented as superstitious preferences but were part of Phil’s strategy to exploit edge sorting to their advantage. While Phil and Sun won significant money, the casino became suspicious and examined the game.

Borgata Casino also executed an investigation and reassessed the video footage from the night Phil and Sun came to their casino. After carefully reviewing the evidence, they noticed the technique and took Ivey to court.

Ivey never once tried to deny that he was doing edge sorting but claimed that there was nothing wrong with it as it was not cheating. He argued in the court that edge sorting is an advantage play; however, the court did not believe his side.

Despite being sued, Phil was not jailed. This is because edge sorting is advantageous but cannot be labelled cheating. Even the Supreme Court did not say Ivey was cheating, but they agreed that he was intentionally dishonest as he manipulated the dealer.

Is Edge Sorting Considered as Cheating?

Edge sorting is an advantageous trick. It is an advantage game where the player does not leverage external means to gain an edge. So technically, no law is broken when using edge sorting.

However, Phil Ivey’s cases against casinos are a testament to the risks associated with edge sorting. While this is not labelled as cheating, casinos can still sue you for manipulating dealers and taking advantage of the house. If you were caught using edge sorting, casinos might include you in their block list and refuse to give you the payout.

Should You Use Edge Sorting?

Edge sorting is a complex technique; you must thoroughly observe the cards’ tiniest irregularities. However, if you plan to play online blackjack, you cannot use this strategy, as blackjack utilises Random Number Generators (RNG). Each card is digitally designed; you cannot guess the card values when faced down.


The public remains divided on whether edge sorting is a strategy or cheating. Some believe there is nothing wrong with this technique; others claim that cheating is cheating, no matter how you defend it.

The truth is you cannot beat the house in their own game. Even if you find an edge, they will find their way to get their money back. This will also force card manufacturers to pay more attention to their production process and avoid these card errors in the future.

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