What is Edge Sorting?

By Alex Smith May 19, 2022

Since casinos were first built, there have always been players looking to take advantage of the house and gain an edge that allows them to win more money in the long run. Given the nature of casino games, players are always statistically more likely to lose than win.

Of course, it’s not uncommon to experience the occasional winning session. However, the mathematical edge determines that the casino can always expect to make money from its casino games in the long run.

However, that has not stopped players from attempting to find ways to beat the casino, and one of the most popular — and, indeed, successful — methods is known as edge sorting.

Edge sorting has become quite popular in the media in recent years. For example, the world’s most well-known and well-respected poker professional, Phil Ivey, underwent a year-long legal battle with a London casino that refused to pay him more than $8 million he won while playing Baccarat.

They refused to pay him as they claimed he was using edge sorting to gain an unfair advantage. It is quite a murky area. While there does not appear to be any specific legislation outlawing edge-sorting, if casinos find you doing it, they will most likely confiscate your winnings and throw you out from the premises.

On this page, we will show you more about edge sorting. We will be discussing how it works, when it is used, and whether it really gives players as much of a benefit as some people seem to think.

Edge Sorting: An Introduction

Before we even get into looking at applying edge-sorting, it’s crucial you understand what it is and how this unique technique works. Once you have a better understanding of the basics, you will realize why it’s such a grey area in casinos, and you can form your own opinion as to whether or not you think edge-sorting constitutes cheating.

Essentially, edge sorting is a special advantage play technique, and it is primarily used in the casino table game, Baccarat. This is one of the most straightforward casino games you will find offered at a casino, but it is also incredibly popular with high-rollers. The game has a relatively low house edge, and it is, essentially, a 50/50 gamble each time you play.

Edge sorting takes advantage of the fact that every playing card has slight imperfections on the back of them. When a player is trained to spot these imperfections, they can access information that they would not otherwise be able to have.

For example, a player may be able to note that a number of high cards have already been dealt from the shoe. This would then give them inside information about whether they should consider lowering or increasing the size of their next bet.

This is not an illegal practice. In most people’s opinions, they believe it is the casino’s responsibility to make sure that the playing cards they are using do not have these imperfections. However, when a player is suspected of using edge sorting, the casino, as a private establishment, does have the right to remove you without explanation.

It should also go without saying that edge-sorting only works in land-based casinos. You need to be playing a game of Baccarat where physical cards are being used. It is not possible to use edge sorting techniques when you are playing Baccarat online.

Baccarat: An Introduction

To give you a more in-depth idea of what edge sorting is and how it works in relation to Baccarat, it’s important you understand the rules of the game. Baccarat is one of the oldest casino table games in existence, and the goal of the game is to place a bet on the winning hand. The player can bet on both sides (the banker or the player), and the winning hand is the one that scores closest to 9.

The total value of the hand is calculated by adding together the two cards dealt to both the player and the banker, and the first digit is then removed. For example, if you were dealt two cards, an eight and a nine, your hand total would be seven.

All cards, two through to 9, use their face values in Baccarat. Aces count as one, and all of the other playing cards, including tens, jacks, queens and kings, carry a value of zero. So, for example, if you were dealt a king and five, your hand would score 5 points.

Depending on the casino you are playing at, some additional rules determine when you or the banker must draw additional cards. However, these can vary quite considerably between casinos, so we’re not going to get into specifics here.

You should also know that, unlike Blackjack, Baccarat does not rely on any degree of player skill. When you sit down at the Baccarat table, you will need to follow the automatic rules that are attached to this table. This means you may need to draw certain cards differently when you play Baccarat at one casino than you would if you played at another. The same goes for the banker.

Baccarat & Advantage Play: Technique to Lower the House Edge

Now you understand the basics of how Baccarat is played, it’s time to look at how much of an advantage you can have by edge sorting. We also want to point out that edge-sorting has nothing to do with card counting. Card counting is a technique used in blackjack to lower the house edge; it’s rarely used in Baccarat. Counting cards has nothing to do with edge-sorting, so please dismiss it from your brain.

So, firstly, you will notice when playing Baccarat that there are good cards and bad cards. Ideally, you want as many 7s, 8s and 9s in the hand you’re betting on as possible. This will maximize your chances of forming a win. You want to avoid picture cards and small values. So, how do you benefit from edge sorting?

It’s all thanks to imperfections in the cards used by land-based casinos. In theory, the back of all playing cards should be perfectly symmetrical. In reality, this is rarely the case. Many decks of cards have small pattern flaws in which the edges differ.

For example, the left side of a card may have slightly larger icons than the right side. These can be much more noticeable to the trained eye than you’d think. The player then needs to persuade the dealer to rotate these cards. This means that in future rounds, they will be angled to allow the player to know exactly what that card is.

When playing Baccarat, you’d want to rotate all of the 6s, 7s, 8s and 9s. If you know that one of these cards is about to be dealt, you gain an immediate and significant advantage.

Things to Remember

It’s important to understand that edge-sorting only works under special circumstances, and it may sound a lot easier than it actually is. For this technique to work, there are several requirements. First of all, the dealer needs to be able to accommodate your requests. This means you will need to develop a plausible reason for why the dealer should rotate the cards. Be aware that most dealers are well-trained to spot players trying this technique.

Secondly, the cards must be shuffled in a way that does not rotate them. This means that automatic shufflers must be used. If a dealer shuffles the cards by hand, they will be rotated, and this technique will fail to work.

You also need quite a trained eye to really notice the small imperfections on the cards. It can take even more time to understand how to begin implementing this at the table. Lastly, the decks of cards must not be changed during the session. If the dealer or casino manager changes the deck of cards, you will have to begin the process all over again.

However, if all of the above requirements are met, you can gauge a significant advantage over the casino. Some mathematicians have calculated this advantage to be in the 6% or more region. This may not sound like a lot, but you would be amazed at how much of an impact a 6% increase could have when it comes to casino table games.

Remember, it is still possible for you to lose using this technique in the short term. However, if you apply it successfully in the long run, the odds are in your favour, and this is how some savvy players have been able to make a living from edge sorting.

Is Edge Sorting Illegal or Cheating?

Edge sorting is not illegal; no laws prohibit players from using this technique. However, casinos do not like players they deem to be cheating, and this includes advantage players. A good comparison is players who count cards at the Blackjack table. It is not illegal to count cards while playing blackjack, but a casino can stop you from playing at any time.

However, some critics do argue that edge sorting is unethical. They argue that if you were to play a poker game with marked cards like this, it would be a clear disadvantage to all other players at the table and be frowned upon.

You will not likely get into any legal trouble edge-sorting. However, if the casino cotton on that you are doing it, they will probably change the dealer, change the cards in use, and replace any automatic card shufflers with manual shuffles. If they still believe that you are using edge sorting to gain an unfair advantage, the casino will likely cut you off from playing. Whether or not they will pay you your existing winnings is more of a grey area. We will be covering this in the next section of this page.

What Happened with the Poker Player, Phil Ivey?

The poker player, Phil Ivey, hit the headlines back in 2012. The poker superstar, Phil Ivey, played at the Crockfords Casino in London and won around $10 million. He was playing Baccarat along with his friend, Cheung Yin Sun. The casino felt that something was wrong; they decided to open an internal investigation once Ivey had finished playing.

They discovered a number of irregularities and refused to pay him his winnings. As the case became public, Ivey admitted he had used edge sorting but denied it wasn’t cheating. Still, the land-based casino claimed that Ivey had deceived them in such a way so that they didn’t have to pay, and for the next few years, Ivey was stuck in a legal battle trying to get his winnings from the casino.

The case made its way all up to the UK’s Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court decided that Ivey wasn’t entitled to his winnings. He was, however, paid back the money he had wagered on the game.

This isn’t the only time that Ivey has run into problems while playing card games. Just a few months after his issues at Crockfords Casino, the AC Borgata Casino in Atlantic City claimed Ivey had used the same edge-sorting technique to beat the house.

Again, they refused to pay his winnings, and again, the case went to court. The courts delivered exactly the same result; they sided with the land-based casino and agreed that Ivey had no claim to his winnings.

This means that courts seem to see edge sorting as taking advantage of a casino, although it’s important to point out that it’s still not illegal. However, if caught, advantage play will result in you being denied your winnings.

Can You Use Edge Sorting in Poker?

Each time players learn about edge sorting, they often ask whether it can be used in poker. After all, if you were able to tell which cards your players had, it would be a huge advantage. And, you could potentially end up winning a lot more money than you could while playing Baccarat.

What’s more, with up to 11 players at the poker table, it’s unlikely you’d be caught out as fast as if you were playing Baccarat on your own. In theory, edge sorting could indeed be used in poker; but it’s almost impossible for several reasons.

First of all, the dealer needs to accommodate your request to rotate certain cards, and these cards would change positions after each hand, making it impossible for more than one hand at a time. Another thing is that once cards are physically dealt to players, they’re likely going to rotate them, turn them and play with them. There are no guarantees these cards will be kept in the same place, thus rendering the technique completely unworkable.

Conclusion

If you know exactly what you’re doing, have the patience and are willing to take the risks of potentially not being paid your winnings, edge sorting is clearly workable. When playing Baccarat, edge sorting can improve your odds and lower the casino’s house edge.

However, even if you do manage to apply edge sorting techniques successfully, the casinos will probably cotton on quickly. If you continue to win and keep requesting the deck of cards to be rotated, the land-based casino will soon realize what’s going on.

If you choose to give it a go, make sure you get plenty of practice beforehand. Know what the imperfections will look like, understand how to recognize them, and do some practicing on how you’re going to sweet talk the dealer!

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