Casinos may soon get access to new technology to fight back against the technique known as “edge sorting.”
Brittney Martino, a student at UNLV spent her time in a Gambling Innovation class developing a new type of card shoe that could make edge sorting impossible. She has now been granted a patent for her invention. The UNLV class has also produced a prototype model.
Phil Ivey brought edge sorting to the public eye
Edge sorting hit the headlines after poker legend Phil Ivey was accused of cheating when he used the technique at Crockford’s Casino in London and at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City.
With the help of an assistant called Cheung Yin Sun, also known as the “Queen of Sorts”, Ivey won nearly $20 million from the two casinos while playing Baccarat.
Sun has an incredible visual acuity which allows her to identify tiny imperfections in the edge of cards. This information gave Ivey an advantage in knowing when high cards were next to be dealt from the shoe.
Ultimately the advantage came to nothing after the UK Supreme Court ruled in December 2017 that edge sorting was not a legitimate playing tactic and that “intervening with the process of the game” nullified their winnings. Ivey also lost his case against Borgata.
The new shoe uses flashing lights to obscure the cards
The idea that Martino came up with is certainly ingenious. She proposed fitting the dealer shoe with a set of lights at the front plate of the shoe. The patent, USPTO 9,895,599, explains:
“The purpose of the light(s) is to overlay colors or tones and white background on the back of the playing card. The wavelength, pattern (e.g., discontinuous distribution of light) and intensity of the shone light being sufficient to reduce optical contrast of different colors and/or shades on the back of the first playing card. The pattern can disrupt visible perception of the actual pattern printed on the back of the playing card. The emitted/projected pattern may be significantly different from the printed pattern, or only slightly vary from the printed pattern to confuse optical/visible reading of the printed image.
The patent description goes on to state that the light color can be matched with the colors of the playing cards in use at the particular casino:
“Where the back of the card, for example, has red-and-white colors, the emitted light should be sufficiently red to color and blend the white into the red; when the back of the card is greenish, the emitted light should sufficiently match the green, and similarly with single colors or multiple colors on the backs of the cards and the emitters.”
Technology is playing an even larger role in countering fraud
In the UK case, the judge explicitly said that she didn’t believe that Ivey thought he was cheating. Ivey maintained that he was simply using his skill to get an advantage.
That wasn’t enough to win him the case because the judge ruled that even though there may have been no cheating, the action was an interference in the normal process of the game.
To be safe against any judgments that might go the other way, US casinos are actively deploying technology to ensure that what they deem to be cheating cannot take place.
Playing cards and chips can now be equipped with radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and camera technology advances mean that players can be monitored from a wide range of perspectives.
The old-school eye in the sky may still exist, but its days are numbered.
Martino said that she was surprised by the reaction she got from fellow students when she came up with her idea, but most of all she surprised herself:
“Let me add, not only did I not have much knowledge of the gaming industry, I’m also not an engineer.”
“Turns out there is value in being the jack of all trades. Recombine information in a “novel, useful, and non-obvious” (in the USPTO’s words) and you might just have something!”