Gordon Vayo, most famously known for finishing as the runner-up in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event, has filed a lawsuit against PokerStars, alleging that the online poker site confiscated his winnings from a 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker tournament after determining Vayo had been playing from the United States.
Vayo, a poker pro with over $6.2 million in lifetime earnings, is claiming that PokerStars has denied him his winnings from his victory in Event #1 of PokerStars 2017 SCOOP. It was a score worth nearly $700,000. Vayo, who makes his primary residence in California, asserts that despite having played the event at his part-time Canadian residence, is being denied his earnings based on PokerStars suspicions he was actually breaking the Terms Of Service and playing the event from the United States.
The lawsuit brought by Vayo against Rational Entertainment, the parent company of PokerStars, claims Fraud & Deceit, False Advertising and Money Had and Received, among other charges. All of the complaints are in an effort to recover the amount of $692,460 (plus 10% annual interest), which Vayo has been denied.
In the post-Back Friday poker landscape, Vayo claims to have established a number of part-time residences outside of the U.S., both in Canada and Mexico beginning in 2013. These residences were submitted to PokerStars and accepted by the online site and, like many poker expats, Vayo would relocate when he wanted to play online poker. In 2017 Vayo won Event #1 of the 2017 edition of SCOOP, the annual online series which has just once again begun this week.
After Vayo won, PokerStars put the money in his account and he even claims to have “engaged in interviews and other publicity regarding the SCOOP win.” The lawsuit goes on to claim that “PokerStars.com touted Mr. Vayo’s victory on its blog and website.” After SCOOP, Vayo continued to play on PokerStars.
The trouble began when Vayo opted to cash out his online balance on July 25, 2017. When he did, his account was allegedly frozen for investigation of suspicious activity. PokerStars suspected that Vayo’s victory was completed while he was playing from the U.S. via a Virtual Private Network (VPN), a connection that masks the true location of the player.
Vayo then states that a year-long investigation took place that had him forced to provide retroactive prove he was in Canada at the time of his SCOOP win.
To complicate matters, Vayo states that he was using a VPN earlier in the spring to visit different websites and a problem with that VPN may have caused confusion with the poker site. PokerStars then accused Vayo of using that VPN to “repeatedly” access his PokerStars account from the U.S.
At the end of the investigation, Vayo states that PokerStars rejected his submitted proof of being in Canada at the time of the victory and stated that it was “not inconceivable” that Vayo was in the U.S. during his tournament run.
On April 7, 2018 Vayo received a letter from the attorneys for PokerStars “stating that its investigation has concluded and that Mr. Vayo fad failed to produce evidence sufficient to ‘rebut’ [PokerStars] suspicion that Mr. Vayo was in the U.S. during a portion of the SCOOP tournament, and, as a result, Mr. Vayo would not be paid.”
Vayo’s lawsuit seeks relief in the form of no less than the $692,460 he won in the event as well as punitive and exemplary damages he looks to be awarded during a trial. Additionally, Vayo is seeking potential interest, cost of suit and attorney’s fees.