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.
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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.”