Friday June 5,2015 : CHEATING CONTROVERSY SURFACES AT WORLD SERIES OF POKER
But no evidence yet that player from Moldova has done anything wrong.
At least five professional players in this year's World Series of Poker currently taking place in Las Vegas have voiced so far unsubstantiated suspicions of cheating by Moldovan player Valeriu Coca following the conclusion of the $10,000 Heads-Up Championship event.
Coca finished fifth in the competition, earning $54,545. He bested Matt Marafioti, Pratyush Buddiga, Aaron Mermelstein, Connor Drinan and Byron Kaverman, all of whom voiced suspicions of cheating but could not say how this had been carried out.
Heightening interest in the allegations, Martin Kuchařík – a Prague journalist – and a former Czech casino manager at the poker tournament claimed that Coca has a history of marking cards and has been banned from Czech land casinos.
The cheating controversy first surfaced when Drinan used social media to comment on the strange way that Coca played, saying that his careful and slow style and other giveaways may suggest a marked cards scam. He cited other curious mannerisms in Coca's play that increased his suspicions that all was not above board.
Drinan's suspicions were also voiced by other professionals that the Moldovan had bested, and the matter was reported to tournament officials, who agreed to look into the allegations.
It has since emerged that Coca was subjected to intense technological and personal official scrutiny in subsequent games but that nothing untoward was observed.
WSOP spokesman Seth Palansky confirmed that the complaints were being investigated, but that nothing suspicious had been found either in regard to the cards in use or behaviour observed using the surveillance techniques deployed. WSOP would make no further comment beyond that whilst investigations continued, he said.
Tournament director Jack Effel gave a similar reassurance in a Twitter post, saying:
"We are aware, monitoring very closely with all resources at our disposal, including surveillance, security, and forensic examination of cards. We take integrity very seriously, as evidenced by our lifetime bans, and would enjoy nothing more than catching a cheater in our midst."
WSOP executive director Ty Stewart also weighed in on the issue on Twitter, commenting that officials were "pretty on top of this situation with every measure we have in our bag of tricks," and giving an assurance that "if we have evidence of a cheat in action, we're going to act very swiftly."
The eventual winner of the event, Keith Lehr (see story below) was also convinced that something was not right in the way Coca played, saying that the Moldovan's card handling and decisions were suspicious, although not manifestly dishonest or illegal.
Coca's profile on statistical poker sites indicates that he has played in a number of live international tournaments with varying degrees of success. He has not thus far commented on the accusations that have been levelled at him.