Currency: Moldovan Leu (MDL)
Time Zone: UTC+2
Casinos with Poker
- Nuovo Casino
- Kicker Cardroom
- Courage Poker Club
- Sports Poker Tiraspol
Moldova, a small Eastern European nation, has legal gambling.
They legalized games of chance all the way back in 1918, well ahead of many Western countries, such as the UK (which passed its gambling law in 1960). However, for most of the 20th Century. Moldova was part of the Soviet Union.
Due to the Communist ideology, which frowned upon games of chance as idle bourgeois pastime, casino games were banned. However, as soon as the USSR dissolved in 1990, Moldova went right back to legal gambling, much to the delight of its people.
Since then, the country has enjoyed a healthy gambling industry – and that goes for poker too. Some Moldovans have even scored nice tournament results in international events as well – more on that later.
However, sadly, the player who got the most attention in the poker world did so for all the wrong reasons.
Valeriu Coca entered the $10,000 NLHE Heads-Up Championship event at the 2015 World Series of Poker. As a relatively unknown player, he managed to fight his way through from the round of 128 all the way to the quarter final, the last 8.
So far, nothing out of the ordinary – even amateurs can make a deep run in WSOP events from time to time. However, every single opponent Coca player reported something suspicious.
The Moldovan man would play very tight early on in the match, while constantly peeking at his hole cards over and over again. Then, as time went on, he suddenly started to get more active – while, it seemed, conveniently folding every time his opponent had a strong hand; and raising every time they were bluffing.
After the end of Day1, the bombshell came: Coca had been banned from multiple casinos in Europe for marking cards. All his behavior listed above was consistent with that of a card marker.
However, the WSOP and the Nevada Gaming Control Board conducted a thorough investigation of the decks used in the $10K heads-up event that day and found no markings on them. The next day of the tournament, all eyes were on Coca.
In his round of 16 match against Byron Kaverman, the decks were changed multiple times. Perhaps as evidence of his innocence, Coca was able to win that match-up too, then eventually got knocked out in the next round by Keith Lehr. Coca ended up finishing in 6th place for $54,545.
However, suspiciously, Coca completely disappeared from the poker scene afterwards – he hasn’t even cashed in any live tournaments after his WSOP heads-up incident.
Famous Moldovan Poker Players
Pavel Plesuv leads the Moldova all time money list on Hendon with $4.695 million in live tournament earnings. In February 2018, he came in 2nd in the €5,300 Main Event at partypoker LIVE Germany for €750,000, losing the heads-up battle at the end to online poker legend Viktor “Isildur1” Blom. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of Plesuv’s career to date.
Online, a player with the screen name “MD IACONI” on PokerStars from Moldova has chased for $1.408 million in MTT’s during his career.
– Playing Live Poker in Moldova –
Live Poker Legislation in Moldova
As we wrote in our intro, gambling originally became legal in Moldova in 1918; then it became illegal again during the rule of the Soviet Union; to become re-legalized after the USSR dissolved in 1990. The current gambling law in place was passed by their Parliament in 2016.
However, all land-based gambling facilities are held by a state monopoly. They’re owned by the Moldovan Public Property Agency (PPA), which also handles licencing and regulation.
Live Poker Venues in Moldova
Casino Fortus in the capital city of Chisinau hosted the Moldova Championship of Poker in 2011. It was a big poker festival, bearing the country’s name, with events on the schedule with buy-ins ranging from $100 up to a $5,000 High Roller.
That venue is now called Nuovo Casino (meaning New Casino). They still have a poker room, however, information about it is scarce on their website. They claim they offer Texas Hold’em poker – however, it’s listed among poker game types which you play against the house, such as Russian Poker and Ultimate Poker. Also, whether it’s a cash game or tournament isn’t stated; while about the stakes, all we know is that “the size of bets is in the range of 5 USD and 500 USD”.
At the Kicker Cardroom, also known as TexasPoker Club – Kicker, you can find a wide selection of cash tables. They have NLHE tables on MDL5/5 ($0.30/$0.30), MDL5/10 ($0.30/$0.60), MDL10/25 ($0.60/$1.50), MDL25/25 ($1.50/$1.50) and MDL25/50 ($1.50/$3) stakes; and PLO tables on MDL5/5 ($0.30/$0.30), MDL5/10 ($0.30/$0.60), MDL10/25 ($0.60/$1.50) and MDL25/25 ($1.50/$1.50) stakes.
You can also find some action at the Courage Poker Club in Chisinau and Sports Poker Tiraspol in the city of Tiraspol.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Moldova –
Courage Poker Club
Sports Poker Tiraspol
Online Poker in Moldova
Moldova does not have a regulated online gambling market. This is usually bad news about a country for poker players – however, not in this case.
That is because the law in Moldova specifically states that gambling on the internet is not prohibited. They just don’t have a licencing scheme in place. Thus, apart from their online national lottery which is in governmental hands, all games of chance on the internet are essentially free-for-alls.
There have been attempts at regulating online gambling in the Moldovan legislature, the latest one in 2017 – however, they all failed.