PokerStars has 99 problems but the b*tch ain’t one. Gordon Vayo, however, is. The 2016 WSOP Main Event runner-up is suing the poker site for $700,000 for refusing to payout his winnings from a 2017 SCOOP event and, regardless of whose side you believe, this is a bad look for PokerStars at a bad time.
Vayo filed the lawsuit after appealing to get his money for nearly a year. PokerStars says he was playing the tournament in the United States, which is illegal, but he disputes that claim and argues he was playing from his home in Canada where online poker is legal.
Following the conclusion of the tournament on May 22, 2017, Vayo continued playing on PokerStars without problems until he attempted to cash out on July 25, 2017 when he discovered his account was frozen. He later received a letter accusing him of illegally playing in the US and, as a result, the poker site has refused to give him the $692,460 he earned for winning a $1,050 SCOOP event.
In PokerStars’ Terms of Service, it clearly states that players are only allowed to play in jurisdictions where online gambling is legal. Violation of TOS can result in suspension or banishment. Vayo, who has played poker online since at least 2007 knows the rules and understands that PokerStars does not permit US players to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to block their location.
Did He Even Do It?
What we have here is a he said, she said situation. After his account was frozen, Gordon sent the poker site evidence what he claims as proof that he played the tournament in its entirety from Canada. But PokerStars, after further review, says the evidence wasn’t sufficient.
When this goes to civil trial, assuming the parties don’t settle out of court, my guess the Plaintiff’s attorneys will have to prove PokerStars was out to get their client and that the refusal to pay had little to do with a TOS violation and more to do with some sort of anti-American player bias.
The reason I say that is because I’m not sure how Vayo is going to prove he was physically located within Canada’s borders when he played the SCOOP tournament. So, it comes down to he said, she said, which likely won’t be enough to convince the jury he deserves to be paid. Therefore, his legal team is likely to make this case into a witch hunt against their client.
Outcome Makes No Difference
I don’t know who to believe in this case as I don’t personally know Vayo. But that doesn’t even matter because, regardless of who you believe, this is the kind of negative publicity that could eventually cripple PokerStars.
Everyone knows that PokerStars has the best poker site in the world, and that is why more people play there than all other global poker sites…combined. But that doesn’t mean another site won’t one day overtake PokerStars.
The majority of the poker community will take Vayo’s side. They always take the poker player’s side on controversial issues. If this becomes a long, drawn out case, that’s a publicity hit the poker site doesn’t need.
With partypoker upping its game, signing on big name stars, even former PokerStars Team Pro members such as “ElkY” and Ike Haxton, the site that has long dominated the internet poker industry is starting to have a bit of competition.
It’s a bad time for PokerStars to be locked up in a heated civil battle against a respected poker player, win or lose.