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The long legal battle between poker superstar Phil Ivey and East Coast casino Borgata over nearly $10 million that the former won in baccarat may finally be coming to a close.
NJ Online Gamblingreported Wednesday morning that Ivey and Borgata had reached a settlement, citing a July 2 filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Per usual in these cases, terms were not disclosed.
Ivey initially won the money all the way back in 2012, playing a series of sessions with gambling partner Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sununder agreed-upon conditions that enabled the pair to have a sizable edge on Borgata, unbeknownst to Borgata officials.
Borgata filed suit in 2014 and a legal war ensued for the next half decade.
According to gaming attorney and sometime PokerNews contributorMac VerStandig, the only real surprise is that the two sides took this long to come to terms.
'It's unsurprising to see litigation settled, especially at the appellate stage where both parties have had the opportunity to air respective grievances, and the cost of going forward may outweigh what either party stands to gain,' VerStandig said. 'Cooler heads normally prevail sooner but it's not at all surprising to see it come to pass here.'
History of Legal Back-and-Forth
Borgata Slot Winners 2019 List
While the legal war started in 2014, it took until late 2016 for a big inflection point to finally occur. At that point, the judge presiding over the case sided with Borgata and ordered Ivey and Sun to return more than $10 million they'd won — the at-issue baccarat millions plus some craps winnings.
The case continued on appeal, and some sources reported Ivey was in danger of losing tens of millions to Borgata if things continued to go poorly in court.
Further damage against Ivey came when Borgata was granted clearance to seize his Nevada assets early last year. They followed through on that in high-profile fashion, garnishing Ivey's winnings when cashed in the $50,000 Poker Players Championship.
Ivey's Hidden Progress
However, while every turn was seeming to go against Ivey, he was all the while making some small gains in the background, like a poker player stealing enough blinds to stay afloat in a tournament.
'Borgata's case has always had serious vulnerabilities'
The appeals process was apparently going far better for Ivey than the initial case. Of central concern was the issue of whether he had cheated by marking cards. While nobody disputed that he hadn't marked the cards in the traditional sense, Borgata argued that turning the cards in different directions so Ivey and Sun could identify tiny imperfections in them — 'edge sorting' — constituted marking.
NJ Online Gambling reported that Ivey was likely a small favorite on appeal, a sentiment with which VerStandig agreed.
Conclusion Not Thrilling, Not Surprising
If Ivey were to win his appeal, the case would have continued on remand, going back to a lower court for reconsideration.
Borgata would have been forced to return the $124,410 it had already seized from Ivey, and nothing would have been guaranteed going forward. Both sides would have also been on the hook to continue shelling out attorney fees, which have been mounting the entire time in the long-running case.
Furthermore, even if Borgata emerged a winner in court, it's uncertain whether anything but a Pyrrhic victory would have been achieved. A New Jersey search for Ivey's assets only turned up a 'zero-dollar' bank account, and Ivey has been keeping most of his poker-playing activities out of the U.S. and away from Borgata's reach.
NJ Online Gambling also pointed out that ultimately losing the case 'could potentially create a precedent that could harm parent company MGM Resorts International in future cases involving cheating or advantage casino play.'
Given that there appears to have been more downside than upside at this point for Borgata, the settlement seems unlikely to have been very costly for Ivey.
'Borgata's case has always had serious vulnerabilities and Borgata is certainly justified in getting whatever settlement it can get and not risking those vulnerabilities on a remand,' VerStandig said.
TagsPhil IveyBorgataPoker and the Law
Related PlayersPhil Ivey
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More than 2,500 entrants in the 2019 Borgata Poker Open Event #1: $600 Deep Stack Kick Off NLH event fell by the wayside and it came down to the final two, Benson Tang and John McGuinness. Tang had a 2:1 chip lead on McGuinness when they got heads-up and an agreement was reached before a single hand was dealt.
Tang, a practicing corporate lawyer, took first place for $200,000 and the BPO trophy. He was the chip leader at the start of Day 3 and although he did not hold it all day, he put on a commanding performance in what became his first-ever tournament win. When away from the day job, he heads for the $5/$10 no-limit hold'em cash games but decided to give the tournament a shot.
Tang relocated to New York from San Jose, CA, to attend law school at Columbia and graduated with his J.D., passing the bar on his first try. He's planning to stick around the east coast since he's gainfully employed, which is why he won't be able to play more tournaments during this series — he's got to get back to his day job.
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Final Table Results
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*Indicates Adjusted Payouts
Day 3 Action
Second place and $176,080 went to McGuinness, a local tournament grinder who already has four Borgata titles to his credit. Two from DeepStacks Challenge series events and two from Open series events. His most recent was just a couple of months ago during the Summer Poker Open when he took first place and $31,000 in the $500 Black Chip Bounty NLH event.
Borgata Slot Winners 2019 Results
On his way to the title, Tang took out at least half the players at the final table, catching the cards when he needed them, and using his big stack to push his opponents around when he didn't. When the ten-handed final table redraw took place, 2019 Borgata Spring Poker Open Championship winner David Jackson had edged out Tang for the chip lead. Not long after that, the last woman remaining in the event, Brittney Barnes, took the chip lead when she flopped two pair in a three-way pot with Tang and Mitchell Smith. Her lead was also short-lived, however, as Tang felted Ilya Dyment in ninth place in a blind-versus-blind confrontation holding a dominating ace. That pot took him up to 14 million and he never relinquished the lead after that. Barnes busted out eighth for $27,544.
Following Dyment's demise (ninth for $19,674), Tang went on to felt Frank Marasco (seventh for $40,659); Jackson (fifth for $68,334); Keith Warren (fourth place, $82,368); and Smith (third place, $96,883). After three long days of play, the final two were ready to call it quits and quickly came to an agreement on the division of the remaining prize pool.
World Poker Tour Champions Club member Mike Linster made it to Day 3 near the top of the counts, but ran his pocket queens into a flopped two pair by chip leader Tang and was felted in 15th place ($8,853). Among the other players cashing out on Day 2 were two-time Almighty winner Greg Fisherg (62nd - $2,886); 2018 Spring Poker Open Kick Off winner Rafael Reis (23rd - $5,509) and WSOP bracelet winners David Prociak &James Calderaro, 29th and 34th, respectively, for $4,656 each.
That concludes PokerNews' coverage of Event #1, but there are still plenty of tournaments remaining over the two weeks. Click here to see what other tournaments are currently being live reported from the 2019 Borgata Poker Open.
TagsBorgataTournament ResultsPokerNews UpdatesBenson Tang
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