While cheating at poker is nowhere near as rife as Hollywood suggests in movies, unfortunately, it does still happen.
Recent years have seen a few cases appear during live tournaments, and here is our list of the five worst.
Counterfeit Chips at Borgata Casino
Firstly, we have the case of counterfeit chips finding their way onto the tables at Borgata Casino during a tournament.
With 27 players left in the $2 million guaranteed event during the Borgata Winter Open, play was paused due to discrepancies in the chips.
Further investigation led to the tournament being called off due to their being counterfeit chips circulating around the tournament tables.
The tournament was cancelled, and a brief investigation into which player was responsible, ensued.
Christian Lusardi, who was one of the 27 players, raced up to his hotel room and flushed a few handfuls of fake chips down his toilet, blocking the pipes and revealing himself to be the culprit.
He was sentenced to 5 years for his counterfeiting activities, which was little comfort to the players who had to abandon their bid to win the $372,123 1st prize.
Ali Tekintamgac and the fake reporter
Second on our list is the ‘fake reporter’ scam. This one took place at the Partouche Poker Tour, and involved a player called Ali Tekintamgac working with a fake reporter.
The player would get his fake reporter friend to stand behind his opponent whenever there was a pot in progress, and use hand signals to tell Tekintamgac what his opponent held.
Thankfully, the suspicious behaviour was identified and the player was disqualified from the event before the final table got underway.
This may not have been the first time this had happened though, as the player in question had already won WPT Barcelona previously.
Hialeah Park Casino caught cheating
Normally, players would expect the floor staff and supervisors of a tournament to be the ones protecting them against cheating, not the ones undertaking the cheating.
Suspicions were first raised by a professional tournament player who bought into a tournament at Hialeah Park in Florida. He first noticed friendly exchanges of words between some players and floor staff,
Which was followed by those players picking out where they wanted to sit.
Some brief calculations then also revealed that the prize pool was light by $48,000, and managers appeared to be handling cash without any receipts.
Troubled by the situation, the player spoke to a supervisor, and was told that if he didn’t like it, he could go play his tournaments elsewhere.
An official complaint was filed with the Florida Division of Pari- Mutuel Wagering, which investigated, and confirmed the player’s suspicions.
The staff involved in running the event were seemingly making up their own rules, while pocketing cash from the prize pool.
Extreme Collusion at the Partouche Poker Tour 2009
The fourth incident to make our list is another from the Partouche Poker Tour.
It took three years before anyone noticed the extreme collusion that took place between French players Jean-Paul Pasqualini and Cedric Rossi at the final table in 2009.
Careful inspection of the video revealed that players were touching parts of their heads and faces to signal their cards to each other throughout the final table.
They used these signs to play as a team. In an incredible sequence Pasqualini pauses, then inexplicably smiles as he folds his A-K without seeing a flop, despite being short-stacked.
Although they were eventually found out, the players kept their prize money which amounted to 1,000,000 Euros and 606,700 for their respective 1st and 2nd place finishes.
The GPI suspended both players from their rankings however, and they are now recognised as cheats.
The final case we examine, is that of Valeriu Coca. We will speak about this one as a separate entity from those we have already mentioned, as Valeriu Coca was in fact investigated and cleared of wrongdoing. But he strangely disappeared from the live poker scene after this incident.
Cheating Allegation in the WSOP $10K heads up event
During the $10K heads up event at the WSOP, some players who had been defeated by Coca voiced concerns about what they viewed as suspicious play.
Coca would check and recheck his cards in different ways before passively folding a lot in the early levels according to them, before suddenly playing back every time they were bluffing, and folding every time they had it.
The players found his behaviour very strange, and Connor Drinan described himself as feeling “super used” after the game.
It later emerged that Coca had been thrown out of casinos in Europe for marking cards by bending them slightly, but this time he was declared innocent, according to the investigation conducted by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the casino.
Valeriu Coca was paid out the prize money of just over $54,000 for his 5th place finish in the event.
These stories are not there to tarnish the image of the game of poker which has made spectacular progress in terms of professionalism and fair play, they are just a reminder that not all people are honest – especially when big amounts of money are involved.
Script and Voice by Craig Bradshaw – Video Bruno Thienard