Andrew Robl has accused fellow poker professional Martin Kabrhel of marking cards in World Series of Poker Event #40 and “every tournament” the two have ever played together. The event in question was the $250,000 Super High Roller, so a lot of money was at stake. Kabrhel finished third, winning nearly $2.3 million, while Robl failed to cash. Kabrhel has since announced that he intends to take legal action against Robl for the tweeted accusation.
WSOP officials confirmed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that an investigation is underway but are unable to provide additional information until it concludes. Tournament staff implemented a new rule that players were forbidden from standing up during final table play. Other players at the table – Dan Smith and Chance Kornuth – explained to Kabrhel during play that this was precisely to prevent him from trying to get a better look at potentially marked cards. Kabrhel stood up at one moment, and a tournament official had to intervene.
It wouldn’t be a World Series of Poker without some form of drama. Last year, we had a stampede, a dealer accidentally packing up chips that were still in play, and a controversial nipple massage. There was even a cheating incident, albeit a lower-profile one: an unnamed player in the Ladies Championship event was apparently caught smuggling chips onto the table and banned from the property. Meanwhile, Ali Imsirovic sparked ire by playing at the series amidst accusations of having cheated in other events previously.
Cheating accusations aside, Kabrhel is unpopular with fellow players for other aspects of his table persona. These include stalling and condescending table talk. In a tweet, he described these as “bad jokes” and “autistic behaviors” while insinuating that the cheating accusations stem from others’ discomfort with him as a person.
Accusations of Marking Cards
Card marking is a well-known method for cheating at live poker and other card games. The concept is straightforward: a player surreptitiously leaves some sort of mark on the back of certain cards they are dealt. When the same cards appear in others’ hands, the player can look for those markings and gain secret knowledge of those players’ holdings.
Even in a high-stakes poker tournament, dealers change decks rarely, usually only when players point out damage to the cards. Over many deals, each player will eventually receive each of the cards in the deck. So, over time, a would-be cheater has the opportunity to mark whatever cards they want.
Card-marking schemes can be simple or complex. In 2005, opponents accused Valeriu Coca of marking cards with some sort of invisible substance he could see through polarized lenses. However, the WSOP and the Nevada Gaming Control Board failed to find any evidence of wrongdoing.
Perhaps the most straightforward card-marking scheme involves nicking or denting certain cards – every Ace, for instance – with a fingernail.
As evidence, Robl and other accusers have presented videos and stills from live-streamed events. These variously appear to show Kabrhel pressing down hard on cards with a finger, having cards stick to his fingers, or staring intensely at the backs of opponents’ cards.
Reading his card markings or is he just using his X-Ray vision superpower? pic.twitter.com/OZleiV85mi
— Andrew Robl (@Andrew_Robl) June 18, 2023
Kabrhel Threatens Legal Action
Robl made his accusations on June 18, and Kabrhel responded on Twitter the following day. In addition to denying the allegations, he said he would be pursuing legal action against Robl.
His remarks spread over several tweets, but the relevant portion reads:
I am not a cheater, this is not true!! This gossip is damaging me not only as poker player, but also my business activities and my family. That’s why I have decided to take legal action against Andrew Robl, because in such a professional tournament series as WSOP it is very easy to prove such accusations are pure lies.
It remains to be seen whether or not he will follow through. That may depend on the result of WSOP’s investigation, as a complete exoneration would go a long way to help a potential defamation case. Conversely, an official determination of cheating would undermine it.
Either way, however, the American civil justice system does not have much of a track record for ruling on poker cheating one way or another. Courts typically feel that gambling operators and regulators are the appropriate parties to decide on such complaints.
Take, for instance, the Mike Postle saga that began in 2019. The widespread belief in the poker community is that Postle “obviously” cheated. Nonetheless, a federal judge dismissed a suit against him, ruling that such losses aren’t recoverable. On the other hand, he ended up owing the plaintiffs money regardless. That’s because his attempt to sue them for defamation backfired. In other words, regardless of which party initiates legal proceedings, historical evidence suggests one should bet on the defense to prevail.
History also tells us that unless WSOP rules that Kabrhel cheated, there will never be any consensus on the truth. It’s tough to prove that cheating happened and even harder to prove that it didn’t. Once such an accusation is out there, it never goes away. The player’s supporters and detractors will go on believing what they believe indefinitely, and clarity won’t be forthcoming. Just ask Robbi Jade Lew.