Did you hear? holla@yoboy got stiffed for $692K. While a debate over who builds a wall on the U.S./Mexico border continues to divide the country, an American headed over the northern border to Canada is the focal point of the latest news story. Gordon 'holla@yoboy' Vayo proved he was in Montreal, Canada to play in the 2017 SCOOP, but an investigation by PokerStars said otherwise. Specifically, they stated “it came to our attention that there has been account access and activity from within the United States.” Vayo cited a VPN glitch. As a result of alleged U.S.-based logins, they froze Vayo's winnings. All $692,460 worth. Vayo felt he had no choice except to pursue legal action.
Forbes broke the story earlier in the week. According to Gordon Vayo, "I am deeply disappointed it has come to this, 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."
If the name Gordon Vayo sounds familiar, it's because he was a member of the last-ever November Nine. Vayo final tabled the 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas. Vayo got heads-up, but lost to Qui Nguyen. Vayo earned $4.6 million for a second-place finish. In total, Vayo won $6.2 million over his short career as a tournament player.
Vayo is among a group of online grinders who headed to the Great White North to play in the annual Spring Championship of Online Poker. Vayo opted for Montreal. Some American pros will go to Mexico to play in big online events. I knew a pro based out of West Los Angeles who commuted to Mexico every Saturday so he could set up shop for the Sunday grind and play the Sunday Million. Then he'd drive back to California on Tuesday. Due to the events of Black Friday, American pros were forced to go to another country to earn a living.
Vayo won the first "high" event on the 2017 SCOOP calendar. Vayo made a five-way deal and then went on to win Event #1-H $1,050 NL. Despite playing for an extra $100,000 to the winner, Vayo actually won less money than Germany's girafganger7, who locked up $745K per terms of the chop and was the big stack at that time.
It wasn't until Vayo requested a withdraw in July 2017, a couple months after the SCOOP win, when his account got flagged. That's when all hell broke loose. During an intense investigation, Vayo provided retroactive proof he was in Canada whenever he played on PokerStars, not just for SCOOP 2017, but in other instances he played cash games (approximately 5,500 hands).
Haley Hintze summed it up best in her column: "Vayo's lawsuit also attacks the way PokerStars treats its American expat players in general, including the allegation that Stars' security only looks into whether a player is really playing from the US when a large withdrawal is at stake."
Vayo sued on eight claims including fraud, false advertising, unfair competition, breach of contract, and "promissory estoppel." You can check out the details of the lawsuit here.
First of all, this would not be an issue if the federal government got with the modern times and legalized online gambling across the board. That means legalized sports betting, fantasy sports, and online poker. If Americans didn't have to go to Mexico or Canada or elsewhere to play online poker, then this VPN thing would not be an issue.
Then again Vayo brought up a good point... the odd hypocrisy that it's cool to play on VPN so long as you lose money and create rake!
I'm no legal expert but I'm gonna use the phrase, "It's another classic case of throwing the baby out with the bath water." I have no idea if that's even applicable, but it sounds cool and I'm a lazy hack who loves cliches.
I remember and miss the old days when things were settled with a simple sitdown (image flash -- the old coffeeshop at Binion's Horseshoe) without overpriced legal eagles. Too bad this wasn't nipped in the bud. Not the best time for a lawsuit, then again is there ever?
PokerStars released a statement: “We cannot comment on pending litigation matters and our investigation into this particular matter is ongoing. However, as operator of the most regulated poker site in the world we believe that we have a duty to protect the integrity of the game and ensure we provide a safe and fair poker platform by enforcing our terms of service. We have paid out over half a billion dollars in tournaments winnings this year alone and will continue to implement rigorous security procedures to protect our players.”