Gordon Vayo, the runner-up in the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event, has filed a lawsuit against PokerStars (more specifically, Rational Entertainment Enterprises Limited (REEL), but for our purposes, it’s PokerStars) in the U.S. District Court Central District of California Western Division because the online poker room has refused to pay him nearly $700,000 that he won in the first event of the 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker.

PokerStars’ reason for not letting Vayo withdraw the money is that he played in the event from the United States, using a virtual private network (VPN) to make it look like he was in Canada. In 2013, Vayo established a temporary residence in Montreal so that he could play online poker and later setup another residence in Mexico.

In the complaint, Vayo and his legal team say they provided PokerStars plenty of evidence that he was in Montreal while he was playing in the tournament:

… Mr. Vayo had submitted uncontroverted evidence – which Defendant [PokerStars] did not contest – that he was in fact in Canada on the first two days of the SCOOP tournament, on May 20 and 21, and it would have been virtually impossible (not to mention inexplicable) for him to travel to the U.S. in the middle of an active, intensive, major tournament that required nearly around-the-clock play and focus, leaving time for only brief periods of rest and nourishment.

PokerStars, though not disputing his evidence, said, “….that Mr. Vayo’s documentation of his whereabouts was insufficient because he had not proven that it was ‘inconceivable’ that he had “travelled to the US and was present in the US on May 22” when he won the SCOOP tournament.”

There are several different angles to this lawsuit, but one of the most interesting claims that Vayo makes is that PokerStars is quite aware of people playing from the United States, allows them to do it, and then refuses their large-sum withdrawals. Stars, he says, is basically freerolling. If U.S. players lose, fine. If they win, they don’t get their money. From the lawsuit:

Defendant then allowed and encouraged Plaintiff and other users to play on the PokerStars.com site for months and years, while they placed their money at risk on the site in what they believed to be games in which they had a fair opportunity to either win or lose their money based on their play. During this time Defendant turned a blind eye and was indifferent to the location from which users of the PokerStars.com site were playing and accessing the site. Only after a user won a significant amount of money on the PokerStars.com site, would Defendant conduct an investigation into the location of the user’s play and access of the site. In this way Defendant was able to take the money of Plaintiff and other users of the PokerStars.com site with impunity, while depriving the same users of their largest wins if and when such wins occurred.

Vayo’s exact monetary claim is for $692,460, the amount he won in the SCOOP event after a four-way chop at the end of the tournament (he was the official winner). Should he win, various penalties could grow that sum into the millions.

“I am deeply disappointed it has come to this,” Vayo told Forbes, “but 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.”

Cover photo credit: World Poker Tour ; License

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