Canadian poker pro Gordon Vayo has sued the world's top site, PokerStars, for not paying out to him the prize money worth $692,460.92 that he apparently won during the 2017 SCOOP series via his online username "[email protected]", according to a Forbes SportsMoney article. The lawsuit is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, and it includes counts of fraud and deceit, false advertising, and breach of contract. The entire complaint can be viewed on a PDF by courthousenews.com.
Gordon Vayo, best known for his performance as a runner-up (2nd place) in the 2016 WSOP Main Event for $4.66 million, currently has $6.23 million in total live earnings, and he's pretty great at the online poker tables as well. Ironically, his SCOOP win last year wasn't disputed, because information about his win in SCOOP #1-H ($1,050 NLHE) is displayed for all to see on the blog site of PokerStars.
Unfortunately, his SCOOP prize money was never collected, because PokerStars launched an investigation into the said player's location while he played on the event. PokerStars speculated that Vayo may have played a few or all of the tournament while he was situated within the United States, which would make it clear he breached PokerStars rules.
Vayo denied this accusation and he provided PokerStars some evidence that he was in Canada the whole time he played at the tournament. However, PokerStars stood firm and said it was still ‘not inconceivable' that Vayo was in the United States at some point during the tournament.
According to Vayo, the poker site's allegation violates his rights as a player, refusing to pay him the money he won on grounds that bear no proof. He hopes his lawsuit against the company will raise awareness to similar situations experienced by other poker players.
Vayo said that PokerStars "Has engaged in a practice of approving U.S. citizens and residents for play on the PokerStars.com site, allowing and encouraging them to play on the site, happily taking their money - in many cases for years. Then, after a U.S. citizen or resident wins a significant amount of money on the PokerStars.com site, Defendant conducts a sham investigation into the user's activities and the location of the user's access of the site, placing the onus on the player to retroactively prove that it is 'inconceivable' that his or her play could have originated from within the United States, in order to gin up a pretext to deny payment."
On the other hand, PokerStars noted that Vayo utilized a Virtual Private Network (VPN), and according to the FAQ on the PokerStars website, the use of VPN / Proxy / IP randomizer is prohibited, as they can provide misleading information regarding one's location, or place of residence, "While Mr. Vayo did not understand what prompted Defendant's sudden inquiry, he surmised that the issue may have been related to a problem with the VPN he was using to access internet sites which he had encountered earlier that Spring, and which had persisted between March and May of 2017. He promptly responded to Defendant that same day, on August 5, 2017 - less than two hours after receiving Defendant's email - and informed Defendant of the VPN issue that he had encountered earlier that Spring."
The claim also says that Vayo proved he was in Canada for at least the first two days of the event, "60. Defendant made this assertion despite the fact that Defendant itself did not even allege that there were any out of jurisdiction logins to Mr. Vayo's account during the SCOOP tournament, and despite the fact that Mr. Vayo had submitted uncontroverted evidence - which Defendant did not contest - that he was in fact in Canada on the first two days of the SCOOP tournament, on May 20 and 21, and it would have been virtually impossible (not to mention inexplicable) for him to travel to the U.S. in the middle of an active, intensive, major tournament that required nearly around-the-clock play and focus, leaving time for only brief periods of rest and nourishment."
It was stated in the lawsuit that Vayo lives in Los Angeles and resides "part-time" in Ottawa, Canada so that he can play on PokerStars. The suit states he was allowed to play on the site even if he's not a permanent resident of the country. According to Vayo, everything was fine for many years but in May 2017 after he won first place in a PokerStars SCOOP tournament for $692,460, he did not cash it out immediately but kept it on the site and continued to play "regularly" for around two months. When he finally decided to cash out on July 25, 2017, the site froze his account and required him to show proof that he was in Canada the whole time when he played the tournament, and not in the United States, which has not been permitted since online poker's Black Friday incident. Vayo admitted to using a VPN for other various Internet activities at the time that he says he was in Canada playing the SCOOP tournament.
Last month, PokerStars told him that the investigation was over, and he's not going to be paid. That led to Vayo filing a legal action.
Even if he wasn't paid, Vayo states PokerStars still publicly promotes his win via their blog site. The suit says, "Ironically, to this day, Defendant continues to tout Mr. Gordon as the winner of the SCOOP tournament on the PokerStars.com site, and continue to profit off of its use of Mr. Gordon's name."
Vayo also claims that PokerStars threatened to file a countersuit against him about the issue.
He's seeking punitive damages and attorney's fees aside from trying to obtain his winnings.
What do you think?
Note: This is a developing story.