A poker player who won $54,545 at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas is accused of cheating by his opponents.
Valeriu Coca, from the small European country of Moldova, finished fifth in the $10,000 buy-in Heads Up Championship event. In a heads-up tournament, players battle one-on-one in a bracket-style format, (think NCAA college basketball tournament), until one winner is left.
Players competing against Coca think he may have been marking the cards, either with some kind of invisible ink, or by making a tiny indent or crease with his fingers. His opponents suspect he may have marked the aces and the kings. One of his opponents, Connor Drinan wrote in an online poker forum that one of the few times Coca folded to him before the flop, was when Drinan had pocket aces.
Among other strange behaviors, Coca frequently asked opponents to move their hands so he could see their chips, which would likely also cause them to move their hands away from their cards. A tactic which is unnecessary because if you know how many chips you started with, and how many you have now, some simple math would tell you how much your opponent is playing.
Drinan says the player who eventually beat Coca, Keith Lehr, was warned and took extra care to protect his cards.
The World Series of Poker, owned by Caesar's, said in a statement to CNBC: "We treat these allegations seriously and have been investigating since this matter came to our attention. Our next update will be provided when the investigation is complete. "
The WSOP did not say what would happen if he is found to have cheated, whether his opponents would be compensated or whether it could get back the prize money from Coca. But Coca has agreed not to play in any other tournaments while the investigation is ongoing.
Pokernews.com spoke with Coca and he denied the allegations and said the poker pros he beat were being sore losers. Coca also denied allegations that he had been banned from casinos in Prague for marking cards.