We can now watch high-stakes baccarat gambling on the silver screen as the story of Phil Ivey’s female card-reading friend is told in an upcoming movie.
Reports this week said that the producers of the smash hit Crazy Rich Asians, SK Global, had just cast Awkwafina, that film’s co-star for the role of Cheung Yin ‘Kelly’ Sun, the ‘edge-sorting’ queen who several years ago, assisted Ivey take many casinos for millions.
As reported by calvinayre.com, the title of the film will be The Baccarat Machine, based on a 2017 Cigar Aficionado article by Michael Kaplan which described the 43-year-old Kelly’s skill to observe tiny design faults on the backs of playing cards and use that information to recognize a card’s face value. Over the course of a couple weekends in 2012, Kelly and Ivey used this ‘edge sorting’ ploy to take London’s Crockfords casino for £7.8m and Atlantic City’s Borgata for another $9.6m .
Despite Ivey’s objections that the skill Kelly used in gaming wasn’t technically unlawful, his attempts to keep his illicit gains eventually failed in both UK and US courts. More legal trouble awaited Kelly after Connecticut’s Foxwoods casino declined to pay her and some other accomplices approximately $1.15m for similar mischiefs the year before the Crockfords/Borgata incidents.
Kelly saw her edge sorting tricks with professional fairness, telling Kaplan in 2017 that she was “very happy to beat the casinos, but not excited … It’s what I have trained myself to do. I do not feel bad if I lose and I do not feel emotions if I win.”
Kelly, who says she had slipped into a Macau casino when she was 15 with a fake ID and by playing baccarat, was able to turn $1,500 into $150k, also says she lost millions playing in Vegas casinos and spent 21 days in jail at one time after signing a credit marker for a friend who couldn’t pay up.
Kelly Eventually, trained herself to edge sort and she and several friends started conning Vegas casinos big-time. Then, she met Ivey, a known baccarat giant at the 2012 Aussie Millions poker tournament in Melbourne, and we know what happened after that.
Andy Bellin, whose most famous screen credit was Lovelace, the film of 70s porn star Linda Lovelace, will write The Baccarat Machine. Bellin is also the author of Poker Nation, a direct account of his experiences with the professional poker world which received promising reviews when it was released in 2003.
History shows that Hollywood’s attempts to address gambling are bets which have seldom paid off. For every inspiring Rounders, there’s a ridiculous Runner, Runner, as well as middling fare like Molly’s Game, the story of Molly Bloom, high-stakes ‘poker princess’, the true legacy of which seems to have been persuading Tobey Maguire to stay far away from the camera.