Keith Lehr won the $10,000 Heads-Up No-limit Hold ‘em Championship at the World Series of Poker on the 4th of June but it was fifth place finisher Valeriu Coca of Moldova who caught the attention of the media.
The Moldavian poker player surprised a number of poker pros at the table as he demonstrated remarkable skill to beat the likes of Connor Drinan, Matt Marafioti, Aaron Mermelstein, Byron Kaverman and Pratyush Buddiga. Coca ended up losing to Keith Lehr but was happy to finish 5th and walk away with $54,545.
Connor Drinan went on a popular poker forum to state that he was suspicious about Coca’s card play and felt that he had manipulated the cards. Drinan also stated that he discussed his views with some of the other poker players who had competed against Coca and they all shared his point of view. Drinan along with some of the other poker players decided to approach Jack Effel, the WSOP tournament director and lodge an official complaint against Coca.
Effel along with WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart and WSOP Vice President of Corporate Communications Seth Palansky have decided to launch an investigation into these accusations and have promised to take strict action should these allegations prove to be true. The WSOP invests a lot into its security to ensure that the tournament runs smoothly and there is no room for illegal activity. The WSOP pays special attention to make sure that none of the cards used have any foreign substance or markings on it to give players an unfair advantage.
So if Coca somehow managed to manipulate the cards, then the WSOP will want to get to the heart of the matter and find out how he managed to manipulate the cards. Coca has expressed his disappointment at the allegations and denies all charges of wrongdoing stating that his opponents are just jealous over the fact that he ended up beating them.
In a statement, Coca said “This is a fantasy. The players who lost are very good, so they just don’t believe they could lose to me for an honest reason. I don’t even know how they think this is possible. I have no way of marking cards or any other tricks. This is not gentlemanly, to lose and cry foul. They are not gentlemen. They lose and they think they must have been cheated. They are just looking for a way to explain why such strong players would lose to a much weaker one.”
The problem for Coca is that his reputation has been tarnished in the past with similar allegations of card marking. The former manager of the Ambassador Casino and Czech poker writer Martin Kuchařík have confirmed that Coca has been caught marking cards in a number of casinos in Prague and was known as a cheat in these circles. They also stated that he has been barred from entering these casinos in Prague.
Coca has also denied these allegations stating that he was barred from just one casino in Prague after he played roulette and was marked as an advantage player. The Moldavian stated that he had no problems if the WSOP investigated him as he was confident the investigation would clear him of all allegations.
Since the WSOP has not suspended Coca or imposed any restrictions on him, Coca plans to enter a number of WSOP events and see if he can go on to win one of these events. The WSOP is yet to confirm how long the investigation will take or what will be the penalty if Coca is found to be guilty.