Posted on: August 15, 2022, 07:32h. 

Last updated on: August 15, 2022, 12:16h.

On rare occasions, the house doesn’t win. After Star Entertainment banned two gamblers accused of cheating, a judge reversed that decision. He ordered the Australian casino operator to lift its ban.

Star Gold Coast casino in Queensland
Star Entertainment’s Star Gold Coast casino in Queensland, Australia. The casino operator will have to un-ban a gambler and his friend it accused of cheating. (Image: World Casino Directory)

ABC News reported yesterday that Mark Timothy Grant and Nathan Trent Anderson are no longer on Star’s blacklist. That doesn’t mean the operator won’t keep its eye on them. But it means it can’t prevent them from visiting its casinos.

Grant, a professional gambler, and his friend became enemies of Star in 2018 over a practice that some argue is simply using the tools available to them. They were taking advantage of “sloppy dealers” and card flaws to gain an edge at the tables, something which the operator took offense with.

Sorting Out the Differences

In March 2018, Star banned the pair after it determined that they used edge sorting, the same type of activity that caused poker great Phil Ivey grief a decade ago. Grant and Anderson, as did Ivey, learned to identify flaws in the cards to their advantage.

By recognizing mistakes in the cards (manufacturer defects or imperfections), players can then determine likely outcomes. For Grant and Anderson, playing “Pontoon,” a version of Spanish Blackjack, they could determine what cards would follow when the dealer dealt them.

When Star discovered that the two were winning too much, it cut them off. Star argued that edge sorting violates gaming laws since it involves “dishonest” actions.

Two years later, Grant and Anderson filed a complaint in Queensland for the court to overturn the ban. The grievance finally made its way through the system and found resolution last week.

If the casino staff had been competent, the gamblers would have never had an advantage, according to Grant. In addition, the casino used cards supplied by card manufacturer Angel, which it knew had flaws.

I find that the conduct of Mr. Grant or Mr. Anderson did not involve any form of dishonesty, involving lying, cheating, stealing or fraud by the ordinary meaning of the word, or that they were not honest,” said the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal judge.

While the judge recognized that Grant and Anderson may have employed edge sorting to beat the house, they did nothing illegal. Instead, they made the best of all available information to determine what decisions to make at the gaming tables.

No Tactical Advantage

The objective in Spanish Blackjack is the same as in standard blackjack. However, the game uses six decks of cards (some variations call for four or eight) in a single shoe, with the 10s of all suits removed. The goal is the same, though, to get 21 or as close to it as possible without going over, while beating the house. Hitting 21 is an automatic win, regardless of the dealer’s card total.

In general, Australian Pontoon, a localized version of Spanish Blackjack mostly found in Australia, Malaysia, and Singapore, offers a lower house edge. As such, Grant and Anderson were already working with an advantage at the table as soon as they sat down.

Then, included in the complaint was information regarding the cards in play. Some 33% had flaws, with only 13% of those cards having a high value. However, as the court acknowledged, there was still no way – even with edge sorting – to know the actual value.

Therefore, the gamblers didn’t have a huge advantage over the house. Grant could only make logical assumptions about which cards may follow. That made Star’s argument that the two had cheated more flawed than the cards themselves. As a result, the judge ordered the operator to lift its ban on the gamblers.