Edge sorting is an advantage play technique that has gotten a lot of press as of late after New Jersey’s Borgata filed a lawsuit against famed poker player Phil Ivey for using it to win seven-figure amounts at baccarat. The technique allows players to identify the values of face-down cards to gain an advantage in games like blackjack, baccarat, and certain forms of casino-banked poker.
This form of advantage play is possible because the cut patterns at the backs of many brands of cards, including those used by casinos, are not entirely symmetrical. Mastering the technique is no picnic. It requires a keen eye and acute observation along with certain casino-related procedures and conditions.
Despite the fact it gained popularity only recently, edge sorting is not a novel technique. Skilled and professional gamblers have been using it to gain advantage for two decades or so. Let’s examine what the technique is all about, what are the requirements for it to work, and how it applies to the game of blackjack. SuperCasinoSites’ article also tackles the subject of edge sorting and legalities and examines the topic of whether the method can be effectively used in online blackjack.
The Premise of the Edge Sorting Technique
The design at the backs of playing cards usually consists of ornate patterns that are sometimes surrounded by white borders. Upon a closer examination of the cards’ backs, you may noticethe cut patterns are not fully symmetrical. The design of cards often shows irregularities along their top, bottom, right or left edges.
One card might have full diamond shapes on its right edge while another’s diamond shapes may be cut in half. Such asymmetries can also be observed in decks whose edges are faded or white. The faded borders of some cards may be wider than those of others.
The technique of edge sorting is predicated precisely on these asymmetries in cards’ cut patterns. Edge sorters use such irregularities as guidelines that help them identify the values of certain key cards even when said cards are facing down. In turn, this enables them to make smarter betting and playing decisions, gaining an advantage over the house in the process.
While the game is in progress, the advantage player aims to turn the cards in such a way so as to be able to identify certain key cards and distinguish them from the rest. By means of example, suppose an edge sorter spots a right/left asymmetry in the diamond shapes of a key card.
The player would then align the cards in a specific way so that the edges with full diamonds on the right side correspond to key cards while those with half-cut diamonds on the right edge stand for weaker cards. The edge sorter would then try to turn each card in the shoe or deck to identify which group it belongs to, key or weak.
Once the shoe or deck is sorted in this manner, the edge sorter would observe closely the edges when playing a hand. The advantage shifts in favor of the players because now they can determine which of the two groups each card belongs to. Of course, the shoe or deck must remain aligned for the player’s advantage to persist. The order can be maintained at tables that use automatic shufflers as well.
Edge sorting applies to games where the cards are classified in groups based on their value, including the likes of Mississippi Stud, baccarat, and of course, blackjack. The technique also calls for some assistance on behalf of unwitting dealers.
When put in the plastic holder at the end of each round, the strong cards must be turned in a direction opposite to that of the weak ones. Because of this, the technique is sometimes referred to as “the turn”.
To accomplish this without inviting suspicion, edge sorters would usually nonchalantly ask the dealer to turn the cards in the desired direction and then give them some trivial explanation for their request, such as being superstitious.
How to Edge Sort in Blackjack
Players can use this advanced technique in games where certain cards from the deck are assigned a greater value than others, which is nearly all card games on the casino floor. Blackjack is not an exception, either.
In blackjack, low cards are considered good for the dealer while face cards, aces, and tens favor the player. Respectively, it would be highly advantageous for a player to be able to identify high cards 10 through Ace. To gain an edge over the house, the player must ensure these high cards are turned in one direction while the rest of the cards are in the opposite direction.
If an edge sorter identifies the next card to be dealt is high, they would adjust their next wager correspondingly. Provided that the next card would cause them to go over 21, they would choose to stand on their hand, hoping for the dealer to bust or be outdrawn. The player can also use this knowledge to increase their wager if they believe the next card stands a good chance of giving them a blackjack for a larger payout.
Requirements for Edge Sorting to Work
First and foremost, edge sorters must look for tables where there are fixed shuffling and playing procedures. This way, the edges of the discards will not be disturbed after the dealer collects them for a reshuffle. Of course, the reshuffle will destroy the decks’ pattern but the edges of the cards will remain the way you have returned them.
Not all decks are susceptible to edge sorting. You need to find a casino that uses cards with clearly visible irregularities in the patterns of their backs.
3Visible Backs of the Cards
Edge sorting is efficient only in games where you get to see the backs of one or several cards before you make your playing decisions.
4Avoid Tables That Using Shuffle Turn
As mentioned previously, this form of advantage play is only possible at tables without the shuffle turn. Before you join a table, observe whether the dealer splits the cards into two stacks and turns one stack 180 degrees in relation to the other. If yes, do not bother wasting your time with this table.
After the edge-sorting lawsuit against poker player Phil Ivey came to light, an increasing number of casinos are beginning to watch closely for patrons who try to gain an edge with this technique. To avoid detection and increase your longevity, it is essential for you to find a casino whose floor personnel and management are completely clueless about edge sorting.
How the Technique Aids Blackjack Advantage Players
It is quite obvious edge sorting, when executed properly under the right table conditions, can yield a massive edge to advantage players. First and foremost, this technique gives the edge sorter valuable information about the blackjack dealer’s hole card.
Additionally, it helps you gain knowledge about what card from the top of the shoe is to hit the felt next. With the help of edge sorting, the player also gains information about what card is to be dealt first during a given round of play.
By means of example, suppose you are dealt a hard 12 in an S17 game that plays with six decks. Those familiar with basic strategy know that it recommends you to stand on hard 12 against a dealer who shows 4, 5 or 6 and hit against all other dealer upcards.
However, if you establish through edge sorting the next card is not a ten-value one, you will hit all hard totals of 12. It would be impossible for you to go over 21 on the next hit in one such scenario.
Edge sorting can help players make better-informed decisions about their insurance wagers. When seated in the first-base spot, you can also better size your initial wager when knowing what card is about to be dealt next.
If you know that the first card is an ace or a face card, you increase your advantage over the casino by the impressive 18%. Respectively, you will post significantly larger bets under these conditions.
Edge Sorting – A Legal Form of Advantage Play or Cheating?
Many players question the legalities of edge sorting, especially after the lawsuit against poker superstar Phil Ivey hit the mainstream media. Some people even compare this technique to card marking.
However, card marking is different from edge sorting because it involves purposefully altering cards to make them easily recognizable when facing down. This is usually achieved by bending or leaving noticeable marks on the cards.
With that in mind, marking is largely impossible in multiple-deck games since players are prohibited from touching their cards in the first place. This is considered a severe breach of etiquette in shoe games. Needless to say, the practice of marking cards is considered cheating and as such, is illegal.
As for edge sorting, players who use this technique take advantage of cards that have already been “marked” by the manufacturers, which is not at all the same as altering them intentionally. The technique obviously requires a good amount of time and skill to master.
Furthermore, a parallel can be drawn between edge sorting and card counting. When the latter first gained popularity, casino operators argued card counting was illegal. In a 1982 lawsuit equally notorious as that against Phil Ivey, blackjack legend Ken Uston sued Atlantic City’s Resorts International, arguing casinos have no right to bar players for using their skill and brains at the tables.
The New Jersey Supreme Court apparently was of the same opinion since it ruled out in favor of Uston. Card counting remains a popular form of advantage play to this day. The practice is frowned upon by pit bosses and casino managers worldwide but is not considered illegal.
Nevertheless, casinos continue to wage a war against skilled players by barring them, using continuous shufflers and introducing unfavorable rules. Similar measures have already been adopted to deter edge sorters such as the shuffle turn we spoke about earlier.
Another adequate precaution would be to instruct dealers not to comply with players’ request to turn cards because of superstitions. Players who are suspected of using edge sorting face potential bans although a given casino might also choose to allow them at the tables on condition they flat bet.
Edge Sorting in Online Casinos
As for online blackjack, players who engage in RNG-based games should altogether abandon the idea of using edge sorting to their advantage. The technique is obviously inapplicable in such games. The best you can do is try to at least partially reduce the house edge by using basic strategy.
The same is largely valid for the online blackjack games hosted by live dealers in real-time. Although these are theoretically susceptible to certain forms of advantage play, live casinos have taken all the necessary precautions to deter card counters and shuffle trackers from exploiting their games.
Where edge sorting is concerned, you need a clear and closer view of the back of the cards to detect any potential irregularities in their cut patterns. As high-definition as the stream in live-dealer games is, detecting such asymmetries borders on the impossible.
Furthermore, an increasing number of live casinos are beginning to introduce continuous shufflers at their tables. These machines are not opaque which makes it impossible to see the cards inside. Moreover, the dealer would feed the discards into the machine after every round or two of play so the shuffler continually rearranges them, yielding edge sorting and all other forms of advantage play futile.