Collusion Alleged at 2009 Partouche Poker Tour Main Event Final Table



Over the years, we have seen our share of online poker cheating scandals. After all, for those who really want to do it, it’s not all that hard to cheat when your opponents can’t see you. Cheating live, however, is another animal entirely. Sure, people have been finding ways to break the rules since the first cars were ever dealt in a poker game, but it’s not often they have cameras recording their every move.

That’s allegedly what happened in 2009 at the Partouche Poker Tour Main Event final table. In an edited version of the final table telecast put together by French poker player and author Nordine Bouya, two French players, Jean-Paul Pasqualini and Cedric Rossi, appear to be shown relaying their cards to each other via hand signals. It worked, as Pasqualini won the tournament and €1,000,000, while Rossi finished as the runner-up, cashing for €606,700.

The video, which was first made public on the French-language poker site pokerengligne.com, shows a number of hands in which both men were involved and, since it was televised, the hole cards are known to the viewer. In order to follow the alleged collusion, Bouya first displayed a key to the hand signals he deciphered. For different holdings, Pasqualini and Rossi allegedly touched parts of their bodies as follows:

Ace – Top of head
King – Forehead
Queen – Eye
Jack – Nose
Ten – Mouth
Eight or Nine – Neck
Small Pair – Arm

In each hand highlighted in the video, the two players did seem to engage in the hand motions in accordance to Bouya’s key and in each case, the player who had the worse hand ended up folding. The most egregious instance of this occurs about four minutes into the video. In the hand, a short-stacked Pasqualini holds A-K♠ and as he puts out his bet, he clearly touches his head and then his forehead. The video then skips to a point after Rossi has already raised to 475,000 with A-A♠ and is waiting for Pasqualini to call. The camera, positioned over Rossi’s right shoulder, captures him scratching his head with both hands and then looking around. The next shot is that of a smirking Pasqualini as he quickly folds.

Another example of what could easily be construed as flagrant signaling comes almost three and a half minutes in, when Rossi is holding K♠-J♣. He almost goes to his sunglasses (eye), but quickly adjusts, touching his forehead, then his nose in what seems like fairly unnatural movements.

Of course, by themselves, the body touches could be nothing. But when they are partnered with the same cards every time, they do look highly suspicious. The third place finisher in that tournament, Italy’s Gianni Giaroni, told the website gioconews.it three months later that he had figured out that his two opponents were colluding, to the point where he was even able to steal some of the signals. Unfortunately, he said, there was nothing he could do about it at the time. By the time he was eliminated, he was so tired that he just went back to his hotel room with his wife and went to sleep. While angry, Giaroni was still pleased with winning €357,200. Gianni Giaroni has since passed away.

The second place finish was by far the best of Cedric Rossi’s career. His biggest cash since was for €26,624 ($37,188) for placing 3rd in the €3,150 No Limit Hold’em Mazagan Deepstack event, held in March 2011. Coincidentally or not, Pasqualini won that tournament, as well.

Jean-Paul Pasqualini has responded to the allegations, insisting that he did not collude with anybody. He claims that the Partouche organizers reviewed the tapes and determined he did nothing wrong.

Nordine Bouya’s video can be found on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b42KbfyDxeM.

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