Gordon Vayo has filed a lawsuit against PokerStars for fraud and deceit, and for refusing to pay him more than $692,000 in winnings from the 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker Tournament Series (SCOOP).
The lawsuit was filed by Vayo on May 2 at the US District Court for the Central District of California, which argues that PokerStars has committed fraud and deceit, false advertising, violation of right of publicity, unfair competition, and breach of written contract, all stemming from the operator’s refusal to pay him his $692,460 for winning 1st place during the 2017 SCOOP Event #1-High $1,050 No Limit Hold’em.
PokerStars decided to not payout Vayo’s winning because they believe that Vayo has violated their rules by playing a part of the tournament from a US jurisdiction—something that Vayo has continuously refuted.
The ‘Americans playing outside America’ Clause
For people who are not acquainted with PokerStars’ presence in the US, the online poker operator exited the US market when the US Department of Justice banned them from offering online poker services in 2011. After PokerStars’ exit, US citizens were only granted access to play on the site as long as they can prove that they were currently residing outside the US.
In 2013, Vayo’s application to play on the site as a part-time Canadian resident was approved. Since then, he has spent time and money playing hundreds of thousands of cash games and tournaments on the site with no problems. For the record – PokerStars has since entered the US market but operates only in New Jersey as of now.
PokerStars Freezes Vayo’s Account
Vayo has been very active in the poker scene ever since 2010, cashing millions in live and online tournaments. To date, he has $6,231,394 in live earnings alone, after he bagged more than $4.6 million by finishing second at the 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event.
SCOOP has become a very popular tournament for PokerStars since it promises over $60 million in guarantees. In May 2017, Vayo was one of the thousands of players who decided to take part in SCOOP and he had immediate success.  PokerStars acknowledged his victory, posted the winnings to his PokerStars account and publicized the victory. There was nothing unusual at this point, as Vayo has been actively depositing and withdrawing funds from his PokerStars account throughout the years.
After Vayo’s win, he continued to play at PokerStars, joining at least 37 tournaments and playing around 5,500 hands of cash games. That was until July 25, 2017. When Vayo attempted to cash out his PokerStars account containing his 2017 SCOOP winnings, he was alerted that his account was frozen due to suspicious activity.
PokerStars’ informed him that he had to present evidence to prove that he was indeed located in Canada, not the US for the duration of the 2017 SCOOP.
Vayo pointed out in the lawsuit that this was the first time that he was asked to prove his whereabouts in the entirety of his activity at PokerStars. And despite presenting the documents that PokerStars required from him, the online poker operator maintained that it was still “not inconceivable” that he was in the US at some point during the tournament.
Vayo Will Continue To Fight
According to PokerStars’ Terms of Service, all legal matters that players wish to file against them should be filed on the Isle of Man, a place seen as a tax haven for many corporations. But Vayo asserts in his complaint that PokerStars is shielding itself from litigations by forcing players to file lawsuits at the Isle of Man. This is why he wants that the matter be settled in the jurisdiction of the US District Court for the Central District of California instead.
In a statement, Vayo said, “I am deeply disappointed it has come to this, but I 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.”
Vayo is currently seeking financial compensation that includes his $692,460 prize money, plus interest of 10 percent per annum from the date of the breach, punitive damages, treble damages pursuant to the Lanham Act, attorney fees and lawsuit costs and more.

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