Edge sorting is an advantage gambling method that gained mainstream fame several years ago. Professional gambler Phil Ivey used this technique to make nearly $21 million in profits.
Of course, Ivey is a 10-time World Series of Poker champion and multimillionaire. It’s not like he was some Joe Six-pack walking down into the casino and winning a life-changing fortune.
That said, you may wonder if it’s possible for an average Joe to win like Ivy—or at least net a large amount of money—through edge sorting. I’ll discuss more on the latter technique along with if it’s feasible to use for the average gambler.
How Does Edge Sorting Work?
Edge sorting involves spotting irregularities on the backs of cards. Many casino decks feature small imperfections that can be exploited.
You’ll usually find these imperfections on the long sides of card-backs. For example, you might notice that a deck features full diamonds on the left long edge of some cards and half-diamonds on others.
If you can figure out which card values correlate to full or half-diamonds, then you have a chance of guessing values before the cards are flipped over.
You need the edges arranged in a particular order that allows you to better see the full and half-diamond patterns. If the cards are constantly being rotated during hand-shuffles, then you’ll have no chance to pull off edge sorting.
Therefore, edge sorters commonly play on tables with automatic shuffling machines. In contrast to hand-dealt games, a machine doesn’t rotate the cards during shuffles.
Edge Sorting Challenges for the Average Gambler
Edge sorting is hard enough to pull off from a skill-based perspective. It becomes even more difficult when considering the following challenges.
Easier for Wealthy Gamblers
The card orientation presents a big problem for average gamblers who try sorting edges. Once sorted, the cards need to remain in their position during the deal and shuffle.
This task becomes easier when an automatic shuffler is being used. However, the majority of baccarat tables are hand-shuffled games.
If you’re just a regular bettor who wagers between $5 and $25 per hand, you don’t exactly have the sway to make special requests. You just have to go with the flow of whatever is happening at the table.
High rollers, like Ivy, have a much better chance at successful asking for favors. Casinos are willing to honor any supposed superstitions that gamblers may have if they’re willing to bet big enough.
For example, both Crockfords (London) and the Borgata (Atlantic City) granted Ivey the following concessions:
A Mandarin-speaking Chinese dealer
A (flawed) purple Gemaco deck
Certain cards rotated a special way (supposedly for superstitious reasons)
You can’t just sit down to a $5 baccarat table and start making these demands. You’ll be laughed out of the casino.
Ivey made a $1 million deposit at the Borgata and Crockfords. This stake earned him the right to make requests that average players can’t.
He used these special advantages to win approximately $12 million at Crockfords and another $9.6 million at the Borgata. But as I’ll cover next, he didn’t get to keep all of this money.
Not Exactly Legal
Edge sorting lies in a weird area between legitimate advantage gambling and flat-out cheating. Unlike marking cards or stealing chips off the table, edge sorting isn’t blatantly scamming the casino.
Those who use this technique need special skills to spot flawed card-backs. Furthermore, they’re not using any equipment or pulling cards out of their sleeves.
Nevertheless, judges in both New Jersey and London sided with the casino. They noted that, although Ivey probably didn’t think he was cheating, edge sorting ultimately goes beyond legal advantage play.
This strategy may not be something that gets you thrown in jail like marking cards. However, the casino can sue you and get their money back.
Hard to Pull Off
Perhaps edge sorting would be worth the hassle if it were easy. However, this technique is as hard as they come with regard to beating the casino.
First, you need to go through various decks that are used at casinos. Your mission is to spots irregularities on card-backs, if any, on the long edges.
The endgame is to sort high-value cards from the low-value ones. Assuming you can do this in a game, you have a better chance at knowing what cards will be dealt before they’re flipped over.
The most difficult part involves sorting the edges as you play. You won’t have the cards right in front of your face during a game and must be able to spot the edges from a short distance.
Your skill isn’t the only crucial factor here either. You also need the right conditions, including a shuffling machine and flawed deck, before you can profit from this strategy.
Can You Successfully Use This Strategy as an Average Joe?
Edge sorting isn’t absolutely impossible as an average gambler. However, you’ll face more challenges than a wealthy high roller when using it.
As covered before, Ivey and any other high-stakes players who use this technique have more sway to make special requests. If they convince a casino that they need specific conditions out of superstition, they might be granted certain privileges.
Unless you’re betting at least $100 a hand, possibly more in Vegas Strip casinos, you can’t ask for special conditions. You merely need to take what the casino offers.
The difficulty of sorting edges compounds the problem. You’ll find card counting to be a much easier pursuit when trying to make profits in the casino.
In short, yes, you can theoretically sort edges and make money. However, you need to devote lots of time and effort into making it happen when you’re just an average Joe.
Why Should You Consider Edge Sorting?
My point with this post isn’t to discourage you from edge sorting. Instead, I’m merely highlighting the many challenges you’ll face when trying to successfully pull off this technique.
Assuming you do become a master edge sorter, then you stand to make serious profits. You could gain up to a 6.75% advantage when using the strategy.
Of course, you may not make almost $21 million like Ivy did. After all, he was placing six-figure bets.
However, you can still earn serious money through this method. You could be walking out of the casino with thousands of dollars every night as a highly skilled edge sorter.
What Other Options Are Available for Beating Casinos?
You may have reservations about using edge sorting. Assuming you still want to make money in the casino, but with a different advantage gambling method, then you should consider the following options.
Card counting is the best place to begin when starting with advantage play. It’s fairly easy to learn, and you shouldn’t have much trouble mastering it with some practice.
Of course, I’m not saying that card counting is completely easy. But you’ll find it to be easier than any other worthwhile advantage gambling pursuit.
Plenty of card counting systems exist. However, the Hi-Lo is definitely the best system to use in the beginning thanks to its simplicity and effectiveness.
Once you learn the process for the Hi-Lo, you want to practice your skills. You can do so by using free online blackjack trainers, dealing cards to yourself, or even playing $5 blackjack at land-based casinos.
When playing for real, you’ll need to raise your bets during positive counts to capitalize. Therefore, you want a bankroll worth at least $10,000 before you start solo counting.
If you’re counting with a team, you want at least $20,000. These amounts help you survive the volatility associated with counting, given that you’ll only hold a 1.5% edge in the best-case scenario.
Caribbean Stud Collusion
Caribbean Stud isn’t typically seen as one of the most popular casino games for getting an advantage. However, you can collude with other players to tilt the odds in your favor.
First off, you need to fill all seven seats with your team. Provided you can do this, then your team will gain up to a 2.38% advantage. Fill just six of the seats, meanwhile, and you’ll be facing a 0.4% house edge at best.
The next step involves secretly sharing information on your hole cards with each other. The idea is to share the number of aces, kings, and matching cards (match the dealer’s upcard) that your team holds.
Your team must use discreet hand signals or texts to spread this info around the table. You can see more on the details of Caribbean Stud collusion here.
Plenty of table games have face-down cards. You’re not supposed to see either the dealer’s or other players’ hole cards.
But hole carding provides a way for you to see face-down cards and swing the odds in your favor. You can use this information to make perfect plays that deviate from basic strategy based on the situation.
Here’s an example:
You have 13.
The dealer’s up-card is 5.
You normally should stand in this situation, because the dealer risks busting when hitting to the mandatory 17.
But you see that their hole card is 6, thus improving their odds of reaching 17 without busting.
Therefore, you hit.
As the scenario above shows, you must know what to do with the information after obtaining it. However, hole carding is about more than just knowing how to break from basic strategy.
Most importantly, you need to find a dealer that accidentally shows their hole card quite frequently. Known as a flasher, these dealers are poorly trained and don’t do a good job at concealing their face-down card values.
You must look far and wide to find a flasher by scouting many casinos. But once you find one, the work really pays off when you gain a massive advantage.
Shuffle tracking adds an extra layer to card counting. It begins with you counting cards like normal until the dealer reshuffles the shoe.
At this point, you determine the count for the undealt portion of the shoe. Here’s an example:
You’re playing at an eight-deck table.
The croupier deals six out of eight decks before shuffling.
You finish with a -3 count for the six dealt decks.
That means the two undealt decks must have a +3 count.
The next step is to watch the card piles as the dealer shuffles the shoe. Specifically, you need to keep an eye on any cards that were in the undealt (+3) part of the shoe.
Assuming you properly track these clumps, you can raise your bets when the right cards come out of the shoe. You’ll gain more of an edge when using shuffle tracking versus just card counting alone.
Edge sorting certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires a great deal of skill on top of seeking the perfect conditions, including a flawed deck, automatic shuffling machine, and clueless staff.
Phil Ivey blew the doors open on this advantage gambling technique. More casinos are aware of it than ever before, even if you’re a high roller.
However, you may find a casino or two that offers the perfect edge sorting conditions without knowing it. In these cases, you can gain a large advantage.
But with how difficult sorting edges is, you should consider other advantage play methods, too. Card counting, hole carding, and shuffle tracking are ultimately easier to pull off for the average Joe.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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