A court hearing involving poker pro Gordon Vayo and PokerStars will be conducted on November 6th after Federal Judge Frederick Mumm decided to cancel the previously scheduled hearing for September 25 and set a new date for Nov 6. The lawsuit was filed by Vayo in May 2017 and alleges that PokerStars fraudulently withheld $692,000 that he won during a PokerStars tournament in 2017.
Gordon Vayo
PokerStars certainly needs no introduction as it is the biggest online poker website in the world. However, not everyone will be familiar with the 30 year old poker pro Gordon Vayo who has accumulated over $6.2 million in career prize money so far. His biggest claim to fame was when he finished as the runner-up at the 2016 World Series of Poker (WSOP) Main Event which netted him a total of $4.6 million plus, which was also his biggest payout in his poker career.
Vayo hasn’t had a lot of success playing live poker in the last couple of years but he has found more success playing online poker or so he thought. If you win a lot of money playing online poker but suddenly find that you are not eligible to withdraw those winnings, then it’s a slap in the face and that’s what Vayo is trying to overrule.
The Root Of The Matter
After winning an online PokerStars tournament in May 2017, Vayo attempted to withdraw his winnings but PokerStars froze his account. It is the position of PokerStars that Vayo played the online tournament from his house in California which is illegal as online poker at that time was only permitted in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.
Vayo contends that he was in Ottawa at the time which is where he is registered. PokerStars debunked those claims and has asked Vayo to prove that he was in Ottawa during the event. Vayo’s lawyers have called PokerStars’ request for documentation a “sham investigation” and a “witch hunt”.
According to court documents, PokerStars said that geo-location analysis showed that Vayo had connected to the internet using his mobile device in California and that he had done so over 50 times during the period between March 24th and July 31st of 2017. They also claim that Vayo used a Canadian mobile provider in an attempt to pretend that he was in Canada at the time of the tournament. Vayo claims that he used a VPN from Canada so that he could have access to streaming services.
War Of Words
PokerStars cannot legally offer their services in California and hence they filed a motion to dismiss the case in July. PokerStars’ legal representatives wrote that Vayo’s complaint relies solely on his claim that he was playing in Canada at the time and that the case should be thrown out. Vayo counterclaims that PokerStars has deliberately exploited U.S. law by setting up a plan to scam U.S residents in the wake of Black Friday.
Vayo has gone so far as to claim that PokerStars has taken millions of dollars from U.S. residents and that they chose to ignore the physical locations of those U.S. citizens that played on the site. It is alleged that PokerStars has no procedures in place to verify the location of American residents who play at PokerStars. Vayo alleges that PokerStars only started to investigate locations after an American resident won a court settlement against them.
Public Relations
Vayo’s attorneys sent a letter to PokerStars on December 14, 2017, demanding immediate payment of his winning which are close to $700,000 and threatened a lawsuit if payment wasn’t made. The lawsuit also stated that Vayo would go public and expose the poker giant’s practices to the poker community. The letter went on to explain that even if Vayo loses the battle, he will succeed in shedding light on PokerStars’ habit of harassing their customers after they win large sums of money.
PokerStars’ legal team dismissed the threat as merely a public relations attack and intimidation and they decided to send  Vayo’s legal team a letter saying that they would seek legal recourse if any false or defamatory accusations were made against the online poker giant.
The ruling on November 6 is going to be very interesting as a ruling against PokerStars could open up the company to lawsuits from other players.

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