The 2023 World Series of Poker (WSOP) is underway in Las Vegas and it looks to be another successful year for poker’s biggest annual festival. And yet a cheating scandal involving Czech player Martin Cabrhel threatens to spoil the fun and leave a sour taste in the mouths of both participants and viewers.
Roble, Smith begin charges
The first hint that something might be amiss came on June 18: the third and final day of the $250,000 buy-in Super High Roller NLHE. It was the most expensive event on the WSOP 2023 slate, but that didn’t stop 69 people to enter, generating a substantial prize pool of $17,181,000.
Before the final table players sat down to finish the event, Andrew Roble, who was out early on day two of play, tweeted the following about Cabrchel, who was entering day three with the second-largest chip stack:
This might seem like a case of a salty loser throwing shade at a disliked competitor who has progressed further in the game than the defeated appellant, but then we have to look at the exchange that happened later in the day between Kabrhel and Dan Smith.
After Dan Smith’s A♦ Q ♦ was cracked by Martin Kabrhel’s T♦ 6♦ All-in before the flop, sending Dan in 6th place with $912,022, he commented to the rest of the table, “Good luck to most of you.” To Martin, he said, “I hope you get banned.”
“What does it mean?” Cabrhel asked.
“Forbidden,” Smith explained.
“Your antics are the worst I’ve ever met,” Dan clarified. “Everyone else is a great player.”
Martin Cabrhel finished third in the tournament, earning $2,279,038 in prize money. The eventual winner, Christopher Brewer of California, won $5,293,556.
In an interview after the fallout, Dan Smith expanded on his previous comments, saying:
Martin’s antics at the table are worse than any I’ve ever played with. People speculated… for example, there was a lot of discussion about whether he marked cards. Whether that’s true or not, it’s incredibly unpleasant to play with. He is rude. It takes the full 30 seconds every time and last night when I was playing with it it felt like something not kosher was going on. I can’t know for sure, but I think it’s ridiculous that he’s allowed to play in the tournament.
About the main characters
All three of the main people involved in this dispute are seasoned poker pros, so it’s not like these claims are the result of rash reasoning by newbies who don’t understand the differences and like to find evidence of manipulation and cheating everywhere. Nor can it be argued that Kabrhel is guilty of wrongdoing due to ignorance or inexperience.
Martin Cabrhel, 40 and from the Czech Republic, is No. 1 on the live tournament earnings list for his country with $11.7 million in tournament winnings. His wins include 50 WSOP cashes, five rings and two gold bracelets, the latter coming in the 2017 and 2018 WSOP Europe series.
Michigan’s Andrew Roble has amassed more than $5.6 million in offline tournament winnings throughout his career. The 36-year-old has also been a participant in high-stakes cash games, both live and at online poker sites, so his actual poker winnings are likely to be slightly more than that figure. Although there have been five separate WSOP events at the final table, Robl has yet to win a single one.
New Jersey’s Dan Smith amassed a whopping $43.7 million in live tournaments: good for 6th on the all-time money list. Among his achievements are eight EPT titles, one WPT title and one WSOP bracelet. Smith recorded this enviable record at the relatively tender age of 34, so he probably has many more successes ahead of him.
The poker community weighs in
After posting his first tweet on the subject, Andrew Roble wasted no time in going into more detail:
Other prominent players chimed in with their views on the situation:
Fellow poker pro Chance Cornuth had an interesting insight. He felt that Cabrhel may not have cheated, but he may have pretended to cheat as a way of cornering his opponents and making them second guess their decisions. Part of Chance’s lengthy tweet on the subject is reproduced below:
He stands up and makes a show of looking at the players’ cards when faced with almost every decision – he knows he’s been accused of marking cards in the past and wants the players to think about it – shooting from a huge angle.
But let’s assume for the sake of this thread that Martin isn’t cheating…
Having a strategy to make players think you are cheating is bad for the game on many levels.
He gains an unfair advantage and pushes the line of mental warfare too far.
The floor does everything it can to protect players from angle shooters and to me what Martin does is the best angle…
DELIBERATELY creating the illusion that cheating in any case, especially the highest stakes should not be tolerated.
Martin Cabrhel responds with legal action
On the evening of June 19, Martin Cabrhel took to Twitter to give his side of the story. In a series of four consecutive tweets, he stated:
On behalf of yesterday’s situation, I feel the need to speak. @Andrew_Robl yesterday tweeted an accusation that I was marking cards and cheating in poker tournaments. I was shocked at how quickly people accepted it as a true, pure claim with no evidence and..
..started a media blizzard in which I am presented as a fraud. You can accuse me of controversial mannerisms, bad jokes, awkward acting or whatever stickers you put on my autistic behavior, you can call me sick ** but calling me a fraud is something completely out of…
.. line. I’m not a fraud, that’s not true!! This gossip is not only damaging to me as a poker player, but also to my business activities and my family. That’s why I decided to take legal action against Andrew Roble, because in such a professional tournament series like the WSOP..
..it is very easy to prove that such accusations are pure lies. I simply cannot believe how easily people join such accusations just because of their personal antipathy towards my man.
Then on June 21, Daniel B. Ravitcher, a partner at the law firm Zeisler PLLC, published a letter he had drafted the day before. It was addressed to five parties: Justin Bonomo, Chance Kornut, PokerGO, Andrew Roble and Dan Smith.
The letter accuses the five of making “false and defamatory statements” about the firm’s client, Martin Cabrchel. Ravicher instructed them to preserve all messages, documents, memos, DMs and other material relating to Kabrhel under penalty of possible legal sanctions if such material is not preserved. In concluding the letter, the lawyer explained that his client wanted the named parties to “compensate him for any and all damages caused by your statements.”
A copy of the letter is reproduced below:
The WSOP answers
The World Series of Poker, for its part, is taking the allegations seriously and has promised to conduct a full investigation. In a statement to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the WSOP said:
While we do not discuss specific security protocols used to monitor players and gaming equipment, the integrity of the game remains paramount and we can assure our colleagues that we take these allegations very seriously. As this is an ongoing investigation, there is no further comment on the matter at this time.
There were very few people who jumped to Martin Cabrhel’s defense, while tons of seasoned professional players rushed to criticize him. Yet very little actual evidence of Cabrhel’s fraud has been presented.
Most of the criticism against Martin has centered around his annoying chatter, tendency to stare at opponents’ cards, excessive timing, and general angle shooting. These shenanigans are annoying, yes, but they are not a scam.
One of the few dissenting voices on this topic is Alex Jacob. He explained his reasons briefly in a tweet:
We largely agree with what Jacob said. Martin Cabrhel isn’t just some unknown prodigy who burst onto the scene to instantly set the poker world on fire, as Mike Postle appears to be. Rather, he has live tournament success dating back more than a decade.
If many players really believe he has been cheating for several years, why wasn’t an outcry raised well before this latest instance? Shouldn’t the poker community have conducted an investigation using all available camera footage to uncover the truth long before this?
The narrative of Martin Cabrhel being a fraud just doesn’t seem to add up.
An online realm largely free of fraud allegations
The past few years have seen several cheating scandals in the world of live poker, such as the Hustler Casino incident in October 2022. However, the game played online is largely free of such controversies.
If you want to move all or part of your game online, then you can check out this guide to internet poker for Americans to learn how to get started. Rest assured that this activity is completely legal, as you will find out if you review this brief information on the legality of online poker in the USA.