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Poker pro accused of cheating eliminated from WSOP Main Event

Updated July 11, 2022 - 10:13 pm

There were several notable players still alive in the World Series of Poker’s Main Event at the start of Day 5 on Monday, including defending champion Koray Aldemir and 2020 winner Damian Salas.

But one name on the chip counts stirred up stronger reactions and ruffled more feathers in the poker community than any other.

Ali Imsirovic arrived at the WSOP as public enemy No. 1, hounded by unsubstantiated allegations from fellow poker pros that he cheated online and during live tournaments.

He was a source of ridicule at the tables and on social media throughout his run in the $10,000 buy-in No-limit Hold’em World Championship at Bally’s before being eliminated Monday in 229th place for $46,800.

The Main Event continues Tuesday with Day 6 at Bally’s and inches closer to the final table. Karim Rebei of Algeria was the unofficial chip leader at the dinner break Monday with 197 players remaining.

Imsirovic is the 2021 Global Poker Index player of the year and currently sits No. 2 on GPI’s rankings. He also captured PokerGO Tour player of the year honors in 2021, winning 14 high-roller events.

Since he burst onto the poker scene a handful of years ago, the 27-year-old originally from Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, has more than $18 million in live career earnings, according to HendonMob.com.

But in April, high-stakes pro Alex Foxen accused Imsirovic of using real-time assistance (RTA) and multi-accounts online, and colluding with players he financially backed during live tournaments. He also was alleged by Foxen of looking at another player’s hole cards during a $100,000 buy-in high roller event.

“Ali is known as a cheater to almost all in the high roller community, however without much ironclad proof, most stay silent,” Foxen wrote on Twitter.

Justin Bonomo, poker’s all-time leading money winner, made similar allegations on social media against Imsirovic, as did three-time WSOP bracelet winner Chance Kornuth.

RTA is a form of software that tells a player in real time the optimal way to play a hand during a tournament or cash game. It is considered cheating by online poker sites.

Imsirovic has not responded to the accusations publicly and has declined to be interviewed during the WSOP. But his presence has caused a stir with every deep tournament run he’s made.

Imsirovic’s Wikipedia page was anonymously edited to describe him as “a Bosnian-American professional RTA-advantaged poker player from Vancouver, Washington.”

He finished fourth in the $100,000 buy-in High Roller Bounty No-Limit Hold’em event at the start of the WSOP as some members of the poker community questioned whether he should be allowed to play despite the fact that the cheating allegations haven’t been proven.

During Day 4 of the Main Event, Imsirovic was reportedly mocked by poker pro Dan Smith before he was seated at the feature table for PokerGO’s coverage. Imsirovic somehow managed to fly under the radar for most of the session, though, as Zilong Zhang’s aggressive betting and speech play captivated the audience.

Imsirovic also was prominently mentioned the past two days in the WSOP tournament updates, which are provided by PokerNews. That recognition was the subject of a heated debate on Twitter, with some players taking exception to how Imsirovic was portrayed.

“I hope it doesn’t go unnoticed that @PokerNews had zero issue shadow banning (Paulina Loeliger) last year, refusing to cover her in any capacity, but have zero issue doing full write ups & max coverage on a collection of known cheaters who have fleeced the community for 8 or 9 figs,” poker pro Matt Berkey posted.

Berkey’s tweet prompted several responses, with PokerNews executive editor Chad Holloway defending the work of tournament reporters who provide updates.

A potentially uncomfortable situation for the WSOP was avoided early Monday evening, as Imsirovic was eliminated by Austin Apicella’s pocket queens. In the hand recap, he was described as “the scandal embroiled Imsirovic.”

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Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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