WSOP Runner-Up Files Suit Against PokerStars Over Confiscated Funds

man clutching piggy bank in courtroom

Last week, Gordon Vayo was probably best known for his runner-up finish in the 2016 WSOP Main Event. That feat earned him $4.66 million of his $6.23 million in live winnings.

Today, Vayo is the poker player that is suing PokerStars.

Vayo vs. Rational Entertainment Limited dba PokerStars

In May 2017, Vayo won SCOOP Event #1: $1,050 NLH for $692,460.

One year later a complaint was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The filing states that when Vayo attempted to cash out his online poker account, PokerStars “notified Mr. Vayo that his account was being frozen for investigation of suspicious activity.”

The money was deposited into Vayo’s PokerStars account immediately upon winning the tournament. Vayo continued to play on his PokerStars account for the next two months without incident.

The suspicious activity stemmed from Vayo’s location during the tournament. PokerStars prohibits players located in the U.S. from playing on its global site. Vayo, a resident of California, commutes to Canada to play online.

Following was nearly a year-long investigation where Vayo needed to provide documentation as to his whereabouts. Vayo said he complied and provided the proof requested.

Even so, PokerStars said it was “not inconceivable” that Vayo spent part of the SCOOP tournament in the U.S.

From the court filing:

“[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.”

Where’s the proof Vayo violated TOS?

A six-figure payday is a life-changing amount of money for most. Paying out six figures, however, is not unusual for PokerStars. To claim that the attempt to cash out a large sum triggered the investigation seems at odds with PokerStars’ daily operations.

PokerStars is claiming that Vayo failed to produce sufficient evidence to alleviate its suspicion that he was in the U.S. during part of the tournament.

In the court filing, Vayo admitted to using and having trouble with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPN’s provide anonymity and privacy when a user is online.

The use of a VPN is against PokerStars’ terms of service.

“The use of VPN / Proxy / IP randomizer is prohibited, as they can provide misleading information regarding your location, or place of residence. According to our Terms of Service, which you can find on our website, all players are required to provide accurate data, including information about their location.”

It seems highly unlikely that PokerStars does not have proof to substantiate its suspicion. PokerStars issued the following statement.

“We cannot comment on pending litigation matters and our investigation into this particular matter is ongoing. However, as operator of the most regulated poker site in the world, we believe that we have a duty to protect the integrity of the game and ensure we provide a safe and fair poker platform by enforcing our terms of service. We have paid out over half a billion dollars in tournaments winnings this year alone and will continue to implement rigorous security procedures to protect our players.”

Play At PokerStars NJ

Let the court decide

“I am deeply disappointed it has come to this, but feel that taking legal action is necessary to protect my rights as well as those of other PokerStars players who are in my situation but may not have the means to get their message out and protect themselves against the unwarranted bullying tactics that I have experienced during this ordeal,” said Vayo in a statement to Forbes.

Currently, there is only one side of the story out there, and that is Vayo’s side. The lawsuit will force PokerStars to tell its side.

The next thing is to decide which story stands up in court.

About

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while traveling around the world. You can learn more about her work and travels at kimyuhl.com.