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SCOOP Winner Gordon Vayo Takes PokerStars to Court Over $692K Debt

Poker pro Gordon Vayo is suing PokerStars for what he sees fraud, deceit and false advertising following his 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) win.

Gordon Vayo away from the felt is taking PokerStars to court in order to retrieve his 2017 SCOOP prize money. (Image: WGLT/Gordon Vayo)

The 2016 WSOP Main Event runner-up made the headlines almost 12 months after his Las Vegas exploits by winning SCOOP-01-H: $1,050 NLHE Phased tournament. Thanks to a five-way deal on the final table, Vayo won $692,460 but still hasn’t received his money.

A Matter of Location

According to the Bloomington Illinois native, PokerStars refused to release his prize because they believe he was playing illegally from the US. In a lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Vayo contests that he played the entire SCOOP festival from Canada.

An investigation ensued, but PokerStars refused to honor the win despite Vayo’s evidence that he wasn’t in the US during the tournament.

“The 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,” reads Vayo’s lawsuit.

Forbes has since been unsuccessful in obtaining a comment from PokerStars, but Vayo maintains that the operator has no grounds to withhold his money.

Is It Conceivable Vayo Entered the US?

At the heart of the debate is the location of Vayo during the online MTT. Being a Phased tournament means that Vayo will have completed day one and then taken a break before coming back to complete the event.

This period of inactivity is where PokerStars appears to be pitching its legal argument by claiming that it’s “not inconceivable” Vayo could have travelled to the US during this time. The other insinuation is that the SCOOP winner was inside the US the whole time and found a way to circumnavigate the geolocation blocks.

In response, Vayo has not only criticized PokerStars for ignoring his evidence but suggested that US players were actively being encouraged to join the site.

Professionals moving countries in order to play is nothing new. What Vayo appears to be suggesting is that PokerStars is soliciting US players in the hope they’ll login when they’re outside of the country.

“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,” Vayo told Forbes.

A judge will now decide examine Vayo’s evidence and decide whether or not PokerStars’ position is lawful. Should the chips fall in the player’s favor, it could set a precedent for more claims against PokerStars and other major operators in the future.