- Associated Press - Thursday, August 27, 2015

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - A professional gambler accused of cheating an Atlantic City casino out of $9.6 million by seeking an unfair edge at cards says the casino has its own method of gaining an advantage: plying gamblers with free booze served by flirty, scantily clad waitresses.

Phil Ivey is using the unusual defense against allegations that he and a partner cheated while playing baccarat at The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in 2012. Both sides are suing each other over his winnings.

The Borgata claims Ivey and an associate exploited a defect in cards that enabled them to sort and arrange good cards. The casino says the technique, called edge sorting, violates New Jersey casino gambling regulations.

But Ivey asserts his win was simply the result of skill and good observation.

In a court filing this week, Ivey turns on its head the Borgata’s assertion that he and the associate sought an unfair advantage at the card tables. Ivey said the Borgata does the same thing by “plying him with free alcohol served by only the most curvaceous and voluptuous females in the industry.”

The casino declined comment.

The court filing quotes from a deposition in which Ivey recounted the attention Borgata employees lavished on him while he was betting $50,000 to $100,000 a hand.

“It distracts you from your playing,” Ivey said. “I mean, anything they can do to give themselves an advantage. Everyone knows that alcohol impairs your judgment, and they offer that, and they have the pretty cocktail waitresses and they’re all very flirty. They’re talking to you, you know. I got quite a few numbers.”

The latest filing came as Ivey’s lawyers seek to take a sworn statement from the casino’s food and beverage manager about its cocktail servers, which it calls “Borgata Babes.” They wear tight-fitting bustiers, short skirts and heels, and are featured in an annual calendar that the casino sells.

Ivey’s lawyers say that in refusing to make the manager available for a deposition, the Borgata is seeking to conceal “evidence of its own institutional methods to disadvantage high rollers” like Ivey.

But he also answered a question during a deposition about his drinking habits while gambling at the Borgata.

“Was I drunk while I was playing? I’m not sure if I ever wasn’t drunk while I was playing,” he said.

But Ivey said it didn’t matter whether he was drunk or not, because his companion - who did not drink - was making the calls on which cards to bet on.

The Borgata claims the cards used in the games were defective in that the pattern on the back was not uniform. The cards have rows of small white circles designed to look like the tops of cut diamonds, but the Borgata says some of them were only half-diamonds or quarters. Ivey has said he simply noticed things that anyone playing the game could have observed and bet accordingly.

Ivey lost a similar lawsuit last year in Britain’s High Court by the Malaysia-based Genting Group, a major casino operator. The court agreed that the casino didn’t have to pay Ivey $12.4 million he had won through edge sorting. He denied any misconduct and said in a statement after the ruling that he believes his strategy to exploit the casino’s “failures to take proper steps to protect themselves against a player of my ability” was a “legitimate strategy.”

Ivey has won nine World Series of Poker bracelets.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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