PokerStars is engaged in a “pattern of fraudulent and unlawful conduct.” This from Gordon Vayo, an American poker pro and runner-up at the 2016 WSOP main event. Vayo has launched a lawsuit against the world’s leading online poker portal, claiming that it illegally stopped him from collecting winnings from a high-stakes tournament in May of last year.
According to the lawsuit, “[A]fter a U.S. citizen or resident wins a significant amount of money on [PokerStars], 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 U.S., in order to gin up a pretext to deny payment. In this way Defendant takes the money of Plaintiff and other users of the PokerStars.com site with impunity, while depriving the same users of their largest winnings if and when they occur.”
Vayo, a Las Vegas resident, calls Canada home part-time in order to play on the site. He argues that he has been approved by PokerStars to play on the site even though he isn’t a permanent Canadian resident. He had played regularly on the site for several years, including his big win at a 2017 SCOOP tourney, in which he picked up almost $700,000. He initially left his earnings in his account on the site for a couple of months while he continued to play.
When Vayo tried to cash out in July, PokerStars froze his account and asked for proof that he was in Canada when he participated in the tourney. Vayo confirmed that he was, but also admitted to using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) at the time for “other Internet activity.” PokerStars refused to believe the VPN story and denied his request to cash out.
The civil lawsuit has been filed in California with Vayo claiming that PokerStars is only trying to keep his money for its own financial benefit. The suit, in part, reads, “Defendant suddenly notified Mr. Vayo that his account was being frozen for investigation of suspicious activity. What ensued was a nearly year-long inquest, during which Defendant engaged in an appalling campaign of harassment, prying into every aspect of Mr. Vayo’s record, demanding Mr. Vayo produce detailed retroactive proof of his location, and even opening meritless investigations into his friends’ accounts, in order to gin up a pretext for not paying Mr. Vayo what he had won.”
Vayo isn’t the first to be denied his winnings. An unnamed player tried to withdraw $140,000 in 2016, but PokerStars froze his account. That individual was finally able to collect his money.