WSOP Investigating Heads Up Championship Cheating Allegations

Valeriu Coca is at the center of cheating allegaions at the WSOP. (Photo courtesy of PokerStars Blog)

Valeriu Coca is at the center of cheating allegaions at the WSOP. (Photo courtesy of PokerStars Blog)

The highly anticipated $10,000 Heads Up Championship event wrapped early Thursday afternoon at the 2015 World Series of Poker after Keith Lehr defeated Paul Volpe in the final match. But after a post on Two Plus Two by two players in the event, the focus is all on fifth place finisher Valeriu Coca, who now finds himself at the center of cheating allegations from two of his opponents in the event.

Connor Drinan alleges that Coca played him and Pratyush Buddiga very deliberately at the beginning of their match and displayed some suspicious behavior. “He would stall by rechecking his cards at a bunch of different angles when it was clear he made up his mind to fold already,” Drinan wrote.

The allegations are now being investigated by the World Series of Poker who have released limited information while the investigation is completed.

Both Drinan and Buddiga have declined comment until the investigation is over. Drinan says he is seeking a lawyer to be involved. Drinan and Byron Kaverman, another one of Coca’s opponents, took their concerns to Effel. Lehr, who defeated Coca in his quarterfinal match, says he was warned by other players before their match. “Somebody warned me about him, other than that I don’t really know if any of it is true. There were some insinuations about him being barred in casinos and Prague. The World Series of Poker is looking into that and they’ve hired outside resources to find out if he really is. I’ll let them do what they do,” said Lehr. “I protected myself the best I could if he was, so I don’t know if he was or wasn’t,” Lehr added. “I got a text he was barred for cheating (from other casinos), but I don’t know if it’s true or not. He was being watched.” Seth Palansky, VP of Corporate Communications, replied on Twitter as well.

Aaron Mermelstein did speak on the matter and said, “Long story short, after I defeated Racener I played Coca next. The first few hands were going my way and I thought he was actually a pretty easy opponent.”

“After the first level or so, he really stepped up his aggression a ton. It just felt like he always knew when I had it,” Mermelstein said. “He knew when to fold, he knew when to bluff me and at the end of the match I felt really owned. I wasn’t sure he was cheating or anything like that, maybe he just figured out how I played. I’ve been told there is an investigation but I’m not in the board room and don’t know what’s going on.”

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Paul Oresteen

Senior Writer: Paul Oresteen originally joined BLUFF in 2008 as an intern. He covered two World Series of Poker’s before leaving to join After a two year hiatus Oresteen returned to BLUFF in November 2012. Since starting as a poker journalist Oresteen has covered the World Series of Poker, WSOP Circuit, World Poker Tour and European Poker Tour. He graduated from Georgia State University with a B.A. in Communications in 2008.
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