Cheating Alleged in WSOP $10K Heads-Up Event

29

After facing off against a Moldovan poker player in the WSOP $10K Heads-up No Limit Hold’em Championship, several respected grinders have become suspicious that they were cheated by their opponent.

Tournament Poker Edgeis the only poker training site dedicated exclusively to MTTs and features over 1,000 training videos, blogs, articles, podcasts and a dedicated strategy forum for members. Check Tournament Poker Edge out on Twitter.

After rumors and speculation had run rampant online and at the WSOP, Connor blanconegroDrinan and Pratyush Buddiga took to 2+2 to explain their allegations. Both players were matched up against Valeriu Coca (pictured) in the heads-up event, with Buddiga being the first to lose. He complained that initially, Coca had played in a very slow and passive style before picking up the pace and aggression later on in the match.

He told Drinan that his opponent exhibited strange behavior throughout the contest, including stalling by rechecking his cards from different angles after he clearly had decided to fold. Comparing notes, Drinan replied that Coca had done the same during his match. But initially, after folding several hands to Drinan’s pre-flop raises, the pro got the impression that the match would be a walk in the park.

Coca’s playing style soon changed, however, and from then on he seemed to make all the right decisions, leaving his opponents frustrated and perplexed. “From that point on, I won very few pots the rest of the match,” complained Drinan(pictured). “Every time I had a good starting hand, he folded. If I had a bad one, he raised or re-raised. If I whiffed a flop, he attacked my c-bets. If I whiffed and went for a delayed c-bet, he blasted the turn into me every time.” Drinan described the contest as the most frustrating match of his life.

Coca soon had a large chip lead, leading Drinan to raise all-in pre-flop with 3-3. “He snap-called me with K-5o… I held and won my only significant pot of the match, but he went back to work grinding me down… and then won a flip to end the match.”

Drinan left the casino with the sneaking suspicion that his opponent had used some sort of method to get a leg up in the contest. He contacted Buddiga, along with Matt Marafioti and Aaron Mermelstein, all three of whom had been dispatched by Coca. They all agreed that they had “felt totally owned and couldn’t win a pot” and all noticed the strange card-checking behavior.

They then warned Coca’s next opponent, Byron Kaverman, and contacted WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel in the hopes launching an investigation.

The next day, Drinan received a Facebook message from a Czech friend, which made him even more suspicious of his Moldovan opponent. “He has [a] ban in Czech poker casinos for cheating,” he said. “Guy was marking cards.”

Kaverman (pictured) was up next, but armed with his knowledge of Coca, had covered his cards well and asked for several deck changes. Even so, he wasn’t able to take down the match and felt that his friends’ suspicions of Coca had been spot on. “He said he was 100% sure the guy was trying to cheat and was watching the cards very closely as the dealer dealt off the deck,” relayed Drinan.

As Coca progressed, WSOP staff turned up the heat and began watching his play very closely. Eventually, Keith Lehr busted the Moldovan in fifth place.

Drinan and Buddiga believe that Coca was possibly using some sort of invisible ink to mark the cards while wearing special sunglasses that would allow him to see it.

WSOP Vice President of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky responded to player concerns announcing on Twitter that an investigation on the issue had begun. In an update, Palansky stated, “Preliminary testing of the card showed no markings or use of any foreign solution. Further test will be done to confirm initial.”

Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest WSOP coverage, brought to you by Tournament Poker Edge.

Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook.

29 COMMENTS

    • be interesting to see if they find any sort of markings in the next step of investigations, if not then maybe this^

    • His history and odd behavior mentioned in this article put me at close to 100% he was cheating by marking cards. Quite scary if WSOP can’t detect the ink though. One way to clarify, if he enters another event and exhibits similar behavior a tourney director needs to step in and ask to see his glasses for cheating devices while a marked deck is in play.

    • Would he not of won though if cheating? Atleast take it to 2nd or 3rd to not make it look overly suspicious! Cards were checked and no evidence but yeah bit of a coincidence hes been done for cheatin before. Maybe the other players were just havin a bad day n he was on a heater they got pissed off bcos they played wank and accused him of cheatin..thats my theory tho (jdoug)

    • Would he not of won though if cheating? Atleast take it to 2nd or 3rd to not make it look overly suspicious! Cards were checked and no evidence but yeah bit of a coincidence hes been done for cheatin before. Maybe the other players were just havin a bad day n he was on a heater they got pissed off bcos they played wank and accused him of cheatin..thats my theory tho (jdoug)

      You understand these are two massively respected regs who have played tens of thousands of tournaments? There is absolutely zero chance they “got pissed off bcos they played wank and accused him of cheatin”. Thats pure ignorance on your part.

      I’m not saying i’m 100% true but it sounds very much like he has cheated somehow. Good players losing HU to relative unknowns happens all the time but look at the key elements that Prat and Drinan identified in both their games:

      – Takes his time early in the match and plays passive then speeds up and ramps up the aggression
      – Stalls and rechecks his cards from different angles after he clearly had decided to fold
      – Suddenly starts playing close to perfect, folding when he’s beat and calling/raising when he’s good
      – All four of his opponents (who are good regs) agree they had all idenitified his strange card checking behaviour
      – All four of his opponents comment on feeling like they got owned (by this relatively unknown player)

      ^^^ This alone looks pretty bad, now combine it with the fact that:

      – He has a ban from Czech casinos for cheating (marking cards)

      But please, tell us more about your theory of them being outplayed and needing to get over it

    • You understand these are two massively respected regs who have played tens of thousands of tournaments? There is absolutely zero chance they “got pissed off bcos they played wank and accused him of cheatin”. Thats pure ignorance on your part.

      I’m not saying i’m 100% true but it sounds very much like he has cheated somehow. Good players losing HU to relative unknowns happens all the time but look at the key elements that Prat and Drinan identified in both their games:

      – Takes his time early in the match and plays passive then speeds up and ramps up the aggression
      – Stalls and rechecks his cards from different angles after he clearly had decided to fold
      – Suddenly starts playing close to perfect, folding when he’s beat and calling/raising when he’s good
      – All four of his opponents (who are good regs) agree they had all idenitified his strange card checking behaviour
      – All four of his opponents comment on feeling like they got owned (by this relatively unknown player)

      ^^^ This alone looks pretty bad, now combine it with the fact that:

      – He has a ban from Czech casinos for cheating (marking cards)

      But please, tell us more about your theory of them being outplayed and needing to get over it

      100 percent agree

    • most people are responding as if the guy “for sure” cheated, the checking of cards does seem strange with his prior history especially, but if WSOP finds no evidence of any markings whatsoever then how could this guy of possibly known what they had? not saying this didnt happen but as of now they are only allegations…. if this guy did use some invisible ink i would think WSOP would be aware of this angle and have proper tools to detect it, very curious to see what they come up with

    • anything that involves money (or just competition) people will try to cheat, it’s human nature. Don’t know if anyone here knows anything about baseball but pitchers have been putting foreign substances on the baseball for over a hundred years. Two have been caught this year.

    • most people are responding as if the guy “for sure” cheated, the checking of cards does seem strange with his prior history especially, but if WSOP finds no evidence of any markings whatsoever then how could this guy of possibly known what they had? not saying this didnt happen but as of now they are only allegations…. if this guy did use some invisible ink i would think WSOP would be aware of this angle and have proper tools to detect it, very curious to see what they come up with

      Exactly what im sayin without evidence thrs nothin so innocent until proven guilty in my eyes. But if he is cheatin then he deserves everythin he gets thrs no place for it in poker or any sport for that matter. Wsop have the tools to find out if he was cheatin so let them do thr job before every1 wants the guy hung lol

    • most people are responding as if the guy “for sure” cheated, the checking of cards does seem strange with his prior history especially, but if WSOP finds no evidence of any markings whatsoever then how could this guy of possibly known what they had? not saying this didnt happen but as of now they are only allegations…. if this guy did use some invisible ink i would think WSOP would be aware of this angle and have proper tools to detect it, very curious to see what they come up with

      It sounds very much like the WSOP tested the deck that was used in his match vs Lehr when it was very clear that staff and players were on to him (I would imagine if he thought he was being scrutinized he would refrain from whatever he was up to). Not sure if they have the decks from the earlier matches but these are what need to be tested.

    • Discussion is redundant IMO. I don’t like to judge a book by it’s cover but… that’s one shady looking dude. Got that suspect vibe all over him… GUILTY! To the stocks!

    • It sounds very much like the WSOP tested the deck that was used in his match vs Lehr when it was very clear that staff and players were on to him (I would imagine if he thought he was being scrutinized he would refrain from whatever he was up to). Not sure if they have the decks from the earlier matches but these are what need to be tested.

      ya im sure the “further investigations” must include tracking down and testing the other decks used , assumed that would all be part of the process, i would hope they would be prepared for something like this and able to test those decks, if not something like this would be very concerning going forward for them, has there been any more updates on this?

    • [QUOTE=

      – Takes his time early in the match and plays passive then speeds up and ramps up the aggression
      – Stalls and rechecks his cards from different angles after he clearly had decided to fold
      – Suddenly starts playing close to perfect, folding when he’s beat and calling/raising when he’s good
      – All four of his opponents (who are good regs) agree they had all idenitified his strange card checking behaviour
      – All four of his opponents comment on feeling like they got owned (by this relatively unknown player)

      Pretty sure the guy that said he was banned for marking cards, and the guy that ended up defeating him needs to chime in here or somewhere 2p2 prob.

      Because other then that situation this guy other people have ran and played like this before and I’m sure people thought they were cheating as well. Everyone is unknown until they make the run of a lifetime and play nearly “perfect”.

      Thus saying, I hope if this guy was a proven cheat that he should take a punch to the face from each opponent he ko’d along with paying the players bi back.

    • Would he not of won though if cheating? Atleast take it to 2nd or 3rd to not make it look overly suspicious! Cards were checked and no evidence but yeah bit of a coincidence hes been done for cheatin before. Maybe the other players were just havin a bad day n he was on a heater they got pissed off bcos they played wank and accused him of cheatin..thats my theory tho (jdoug)

      By that point i am pretty sure he would know they were watching him. I’m curious to see if it is proven to be true.

    • They got owned n lost so get over it

      Shut the f up u gronk. Bet ur a scum fk cheat urself

    • Wtf is a gronk u aussie, ive no need to cheat at all i earn my money the right way u bellend

    • Is there a video replay of this event? Link?

      Not as far as I know, just pictures:

      http://pokerphotoarchive.photoshelter.com/gallery/2015-WSOP-Event-10-10-000-Heads-Up-No-Limit-Holdem-Championship/G0000yrrB.lQNTjg/

    • Not as far as I know, just pictures:

      http://pokerphotoarchive.photoshelter.com/gallery/2015-WSOP-Event-10-10-000-Heads-Up-No-Limit-Holdem-Championship/G0000yrrB.lQNTjg/

      This is literally a who’s who of poker! No Ivey, Negreanu or Deeb?

    • So if the guy could see his cards why would he snap call in a 50/50 spot……You would think he would just wait till he knew he had a significant edge to call?…….Thoughts?

    • So if the guy could see his cards why would he snap call in a 50/50 spot……You would think he would just wait till he knew he had a significant edge to call?…….Thoughts?

      Maybe he paid the poker Gods off and “knew” he was going to win 😉

    • This is literally a who’s who of poker! No Ivey, Negreanu or Deeb?

      Negative on all three. A lot more big names missing too

    • Is there an update on this anywhere? Having some formal training as a sleight-of hand and close-up Cards and Coins Magician, I know a little bit about what is possible with cards in a up close situation and know a little about inks both old stand-by stuff and newer experimental inks being tested/used by mentalists. If this player was using a petroleum-based, evaporating, invisible ink, it is probably only detectable by the use of certain chemical testing agents which the WSOP would have to outsource the testing. That said, if the results came back showing the decks in question to be different from controlled set, they then have to figure out why and how this came to be. A cheating player is not the only answer and the test itself is not proof he was the one who marked the cards or that anyone used the marks to their advantage. lastly, if they did stumble on to some new technique of using invisible disappearing ink or infrared heat detectable marking system, do you think they would publicize it so others were hip to it? Doing so would have a significant negative impact on the industry as well as the trust associated with live poker play all over the world. The WSOP would be better suited to have (very) private talks with those involved and then other outside experts so they could get completely schooled on this, do a risk/damage assessment, and then come up with a remedy for catching it the next time. They already know if he was cheating as there are people who would be able to tell you this after watching him for just a short period of time. How he is doing it, with what tools, and then proving he did it then, to the point of changing the official outcome of an already highly scrutinized event is another collection of puzzles all together.That said, don’t expect to hear anything more about this, ever. Because either way, true or not, there is no value in saying anything more about it aside from maybe restoring the egos of those who got beat. Also, much like hackers who get busted and then disappear to work for their enemy, people who get caught like this or are under suspicion of using some very creative techniques like this, often get privately banned or become consultants on retainer for some entity close to the original incident. It takes an incredible amount of intelligence, discipline, knowledge, nerve, and skill to pull off what everyone is accusing this guy of, and in the environment he was accused of pulling it off in.These people are of high value to the industry and if called out may be offered some sort of deal in parallel with a very strict non-disclosure agreement to refrain from play inside certain circles and agree to monitor and/or test, and report inside of others. So if this guy disappears from WSOP events, and this story is never followed up upon, look for him at your local card room (or at a non-WSOP event) wearing a fake beard (and ankle bracelet) and trying out new methods of deception.PS – It was probably body-heat-activated, dissipating, ultra-violate infrared powder detectable for short periods of time through specific color eye glass lens filters. Ha! just kidding…maybe.