Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun is best-known in the poker community as the player who helped Phil Ivey make millions playing baccarat. Little is known about the edge sorting genius, but we’ll soon be getting a glimpse into her life in the upcoming film, The Baccarat Machine, with Nora “Awkwafina” Lum playing the role of Sun.
The movie will chronicle Sun and Ivey’s exploits as they won millions from casinos around the world, including the Borgata in New Jersey and Crockfords of London. As a high rolling poker champion, Ivey is already well-known in the poker world – but little is known about Sun. This film will delve more into her story and explore how she ended up in her unlikely partnership with Ivey.
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Sun’s Story So Far
The Baccarat Machine is based on an article of the same name written by Michael Kaplan. In it, he chronicled Sun’s journey as she became a notorious edge sorter in the casino world.
Sun grew up in China attended school in Hong Kong and Paris. Over the years, she developed a knack for gambling and eventually created a method called edge-sorting by which she could identify slight flaws on the back of playing cards.
In 2011, Sun used her technique to amass winning in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The next year, she was introduced to Phil Ivey by a friend, and the pair started working together at baccarat tables at the Crown Casino in Melbourne. As part of their agreement, Sun would identify the low cards while Ivey would make the bets.
They then took their show on the road and hit casinos in Singapore, Montreal, Atlantic City and Monte Carlo. It was during this time that Ivey gave Sun the nickname “The Baccarat Machine”.
It was Crockford’s that first brought a court case against Ivey in 2014. The casino refused to pay out the £7.7 million that he and Sun had won in just two days at the venue, as their surveillance showed that the pair were using edge sorting to win.
The casino won the case and Ivey sought out an appeal. After his appeal failed, he took the case to the UK’s Supreme Court but the judge ruled against him yet again.
This inspired the Borgata in Atlantic City to take action. The casino sued Ivey for the $9.6 million that he and Sun won playing baccarat and an additional $500,000 that Ivey won using his baccarat winnings to play craps.
Again, the courts ruled against Ivey. However, the same appeal process was started all over again. To this day, Ivey has yet to pay back any of the money that he and Sun won playing baccarat around the world.
Names Attached to “The Baccarat Machine”
Lum is the first actor to be attached to the project, and talks with potential directors are currently underway. Additional casting has yet to be confirmed, as producer SK Global was very eager to get Lum on board and will be filling additional roles later. John Penotti, co-CEO of the production company says:
“We can’t think of a better way to start this project than by announcing that our friend Awkwafina has come on board. She is uniquely equipped to bring Kelly to life onscreen and will infuse the role with genuine humor and humanity.”
Andy Bellin will be writing the script. He has worked on a number of small projects with Phil Hellmuth and wrote the feature films Lovelace (2013) and Trust (2010).
The 31-year-old Nora Lum started out as a rapper and comedian, recently rising to fame with her Golden Globe for her role in The Farewell. She currently stars in the Comedy Central series Awkwafina Is Nora from Queens, and has also starred in hit films like Jumanji: The Next Level and Ocean’s 8.
The story of Phil Ivey and Cheung Yin “Kelly” Sun is an intriguing one. It certainly deserves the silver screen treatment and I’ll be sure to buy a ticket for opening weekend.