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Edge Sorting: Cheating or a technique to beat the house?

Edge Sorting: Cheating or a technique to beat the house?

Edge Sorting: Cheating or a technique to beat the house?

Tue Jun 28 2022 12:25:00 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

For years, casino games have been synonymous with nail-biting excitement and thrilling uncertainty which for many, are their most charming aspects. However, these emotional highs aren’t enough for some players. So despite the absolute randomness of casino games, some experienced punters still devised techniques to gain an advantage over the house in hopes of winning massive jackpots. 

One of these players is Phil Ivey who found a way to beat the house just by thoroughly inspecting the cards themselves. He called the strategy edge sorting and if you want to learn more about it, keep on reading!

What is edge sorting?

Applied and made famous by Phil Ivey, edge sorting is a technique that lets you know the value of cards mostly used by casinos around the world by thoroughly inspecting the printed pattern found on the back. Following this gives you an upper hand in various table games that involve face down cards.

The edge sorting technique differs from other ones invented by other players because it doesn’t involve card counting or any kind of betting pattern like in the Martingale system. However, it’s no cakewalk either as it requires you to have a keen eye and utmost focus.

How does edge sorting work?

To easily understand how edge sorting works, just remember that it uses design irregularities as guidelines. At first glance, the decks of cards used in most casinos may all look the same but some are designed asymmetrically which means that not all of them contain the same patterns. 

It is through these subtle and minor details that this technique strives in and it was proven quite useful on various occasions which we’ll get into later on. By knowing the values of these face down cards, you can gain an advantage over the game as you can change your next move to prevent loss and make better betting decisions.

The usual giveaways that people notice on the back of cards include:

Cut patterns

Playing cards are cut individually from a single sheet of paper. Sometimes, this method results in asymmetrical cut patterns that can be seen on the top, bottom, left and right edges of each card.

One of the most usual card designs found on their backs is the diamond pattern. When they’re cut individually, some cards may have full diamonds on one edge while the other will only be left with half of a diamond. These extremely minute details are enough for players to correctly predict a card’s value even if it’s faced down.

Faded borders

Another dead giveaway that players using the edge sorting technique notice is the faded borders that appear on the edge of cards. This time, it requires the player to inspect the thickness or wideness of the border as they believe that not all of them are identical.

Specific requirements

Even though edge sorting may seem easy to do on paper, you first have to meet a set of specific requirements for it to work. If one of these requirements is missing, there’s a huge chance that the technique won’t work at all.

Choosing a table

Before you even start playing any game of your choosing, you must first find a table that specifically has fixed shuffling and playing procedures. This is so that whenever a reshuffle will commence, the edges of the discarded cards will not be altered in any way.

Another important factor to consider when looking for a table to play in is if it’s using an automatic card shuffler. This is vital in this technique as it ensures that the cards won’t be rotated to 180 degrees during the shuffle which will render edge sorting useless. 

Lastly, don’t opt for tables that use shuffle turns throughout the game. This type of shuffle is done when the dealer cuts the deck and rotates one stack 180 degrees in relation to the other.

The decks

As was mentioned earlier, not all playing cards used in casinos feature asymmetrical patterns. Some are perfectly designed to the point where they all look identical which is something that you want to avoid.

Others don’t have identical cards but the details are so minute that you can’t tell them apart. Avoid this too as much as possible. Instead, look for a casino or a table that uses cards with obvious irregularities so you can easily distinguish them from each other even if they’re faced down on the table.

Moreover, you should also look for a game where the back of the cards is visible before making crucial decisions.

Avoid getting detected

One of the things that make edge sorting even harder is that aside from closely inspecting the back of the cards, you also have to remain unsuspicious. 

Because of the famous case of Phil Ivey, more and more people have started using this strategy which in turn, resulted in more casinos being aware of the technique. That’s why if you’re going to use this technique, make sure to act and look natural or better yet, find a casino that’s not aware of edge sorting.

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Where can you use edge sorting?

What makes a casino strategy great is its versatility. With edge sorting, even though it can’t be applied in all card games, it can be used in two of the most played casino games in history, blackjack and baccarat. Keep on reading to find out how you can use this technique in these fun card games.

Edge sorting blackjack

A great game to test this strategy in is blackjack as it can help you gain important info regarding the dealer’s hole card. This way, you can adjust your bet accordingly and rethink your strategy. 

The challenging part would be looking at the deck itself as it’s usually located near the dealer. Aside from the dealer’s hole card, edge sorting can also help you determine the next card that will be dealt from the shoe in every round. 

When doing this technique in blackjack, just remember that low cards are good for the dealer while tens, face cards and aces are beneficial to you, the player. With this information in hand, you can easily gain an advantage over the casino. Moreover, if you use this technique along with other blackjack strategies, you can increase your chances of winning even more. 

For instance, according to the basic blackjack strategy, you should stand on a hard 12 if the dealer shows 4, 5 or 6 to prevent you from going bust. However, if you successfully use edge sorting, you can check the back of the card and determine whether or not you’ll go bust if you choose to hit. 

When you’re sure that the card that will be dealt next doesn’t have a ten-value, you can hit since you won’t go over 21.

Even if you’re not using other blackjack strategies, edge sorting can still be proven useful in this game because it lets you think a step ahead of the dealer and other players as well.


Edge sorting baccarat

Another game that has a simple premise but offers exciting and high-stakes gameplay is baccarat. And just like with blackjack, edge sorting can also be proven useful here. This along with some basic baccarat strategies, can help you win more matches and minimise your losses.

In baccarat, your goal is to correctly predict which side between the player and the banker will end up with the hand value closest to 9. The important numbers that you need to remember in this game are 6, 7, 8 and 9 because when they appear, the side that it will be dealt to will have a higher chance of winning.

By knowing which card will be dealt first on either side through edge sorting, you’ll be giving yourself an advantage over the casino because you can avoid placing your bet on the losing side. This simple advantage is enough to bring the game in your favour.


Edge sorting poker

Although it works great with baccarat and blackjack, edge sorting poker is impossible because once the cards get into the hands of the players, they’ll disturb the pattern. They’ll start rotating, squeezing and shuffling them and you’ll lose track of the cards themselves.


Is edge sorting cheating?

One of the first questions that pop into players’ minds is whether or not edge sorting is considered illegal or cheating. Although it’s extremely frowned upon by casino owners, the strategy still isn’t considered illegal.

Until today, it’s a quite tricky question to answer because, by definition of law, a certain move will only be considered illegal when the player intentionally interferes with the game. This can become a form of cheating if the player alters the cards in any way like, let’s say marking them but what this technique uses are marks that have been made by the manufacturer of the cards itself. So technically, no law is broken when edge sorting is done.

Considering this, most players argue that it's not cheating simply because it just involves being extremely observant of small details.

However, with how the results turned out in the court between Phil Ivey and Borgata, it’s still risky to pull off this technique especially if you get noticed by the casino. It’s also worth noting that Ivey went through a series of steps to alter the deck itself aside from closely observing the cards which led to him winning.

How did Phil Ivey use edge sorting?

The most famous case of a player using edge sorting is when Phil Ivey and his companion Cheung Yin Sun, took home a whopping prize money of over $21 million by edge sorting back in 2012. The two used the technique over several games of baccarat in both the Crockfords Casino in London and Borgata in Atlantic City.

The first incident was in the Crockfords where they won roughly $9.6 million by making a series of specific requests with the first one being asking for a specific brand of playing cards that has a distinct white-circle pattern.

Aside from that, the duo also requested the cards to only be shuffled by an automatic machine and that they’ll keep using the same decks. The strangest request, however, is that they asked for the dealer to rotate cards 7 to 9, considered the most valuable ones in the game, the moment they come out of the shoe.

Shortly after the two played baccarat, the authorities of Crockfords felt that something was off which prompted them to investigate. They then discovered the imperfections behind the cards Ivey requested and refused to pay all his winnings.

The whole issue then went public and Ivey admitted to edge sorting cards. He never saw anything wrong with the technique which is why he never denied using it. 

He also argued that he won legitimately and that what he did was not cheating. However, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Hughes thought otherwise stating, that he ‘did not just watch the cards with a trained eye but rather he took active steps to fix the shoe [deck]’. 

In the end, the court sided with the casinos and Ivey was asked to return all of his winnings.

After this scandal, Borgata also stepped up and claimed that Ivey used the same method in their casino. The case ended with the same result and once again, the court sided with the casino which led Ivey to return his winnings once more.

Should you use edge sorting?

Edge sorting is a hard technique that requires you to thoroughly observe the tiniest imperfection in the cards being used in table games such as Blackjack and Baccarat. It’s not considered illegal but Phil Ivey’s cases against the numerous casinos he played in are a testament to the risks that come with using this technique.

However, if you’re planning to play online blackjack, you can’t use edge sorting because these games use Random Number Generators (RNG). On top of that, each card is digitally designed and you can’t predict their value when they’re faced down. 

In these titles, it’s best to stick with basic blackjack strategies that can help you lessen the house edge. The same goes for live dealer blackjack and baccarat. These games have been specifically designed to throw off card counters and shuffle trackers. However, if you're looking for a challenge that can improve your chances in casino card games, then you’re free to use edge sorting anytime you like!

Words by: Jericho Paradeza

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Edge Sorting: Cheating or a technique to beat the house?