Top 10 Stories of 2018, #7: Gordon Vayo Versus PokerStars Lawsuit
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Gordon Vayo had a wonderful 2016, finishing in second place in the WSOP Main Event to Qui Nguyen, earning $4,661,228 in the process. However, since then, just six results on the live circuit have seen him cash for less than $20,000. This year, Vayo will not be remembered for his work on the live circuit, but a controversial legal battle that left him out of pocket.
Back in Spring, Vayo filed a lawsuit against PokerStars, or to be more precise, Rational Entertainment Enterprises Limited (REEL). The submission was that PokerStars had wrongly refused to pay out Vayo’s SCOOP Series win in 2017, in a tournament where he played under his known pseudonym “[email protected]”.
The reason PokerStars refused to pay out the winner’s prize was that they believed Vayo to have played illegally from the United States. Vayo denied this, declaring himself to have been in Canada for the duration of the tournament. The lawsuit against PokerStars was launched to recover what he considered to be ‘his’ money, a massive $692,000 he should have received for winning the first high buy-in event of the 2017 SCOOP series.
At that point, PokerStars was not moving. A spokesperson from The Stars Group provided the following response at the time:
“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."
Following that formal statement from ‘Stars, Vayo made his own claims, arguing that the onus had been placed on him to prove he wasn’t in the United States rather than PokerStars proving that he was. He stated that he was in Canada for the entire tournament.
Vayo provided bank details that apparently proved beyond all doubt that he’d been in Canada at the time of the tournament. But if he thought the case was closed, he was wrong. PokerStars investigated further and found evidence that the statement was doctored.
The source of this information? The forger themselves.
Haley Hintze, reporting for Flushdraw.net and VegasSlotsOnline, stated that REEL had confronted Vayo with proof that his so-called ‘evidence’ had been manipulated to suggest his presence in Canada when he had, in fact, been in the States.
With this latest twist just over two months ago, Vayo was forced to drop his own lawsuit and his legal representation, lawyer Gregory A. Fayer of Los Angeles-based Fayer Gibson LLP, quit on October 14th. It took Vayo just 11 days to find a new lawyer, with Californian law firm William A. Bowen taking over his case with immediate effect.
As if that wasn’t enough, REEL themselves were seeking $280,000 for legal fees and court costs. REEL’s attorneys made four inquiries to Vayo – the last of which on November 5th – to William A. Bowen. No response was forthcoming, which prompted the final act in a wrangle that may leave Gordon Vayo looking for backing in more ways than one.
REEL filed a motion on November 12 seeking $280,000 from Vayo for legal expenses and court costs. An excerpt of the filing, as quoted by VegasSlotsOnline, detailed the series of events:
“REEL received a ‘tip’ from a third party that Vayo’s bank and internet records were altered by a document forger Vayo hired (the “Forger”), specifically in order to create the false impression that Vayo was in Canada during the SCOOP Tournament so he could fraudulently demand payment from REEL. Stern . As described below, REEL’s further investigation confirmed this to be the case, and REEL immediately confronted Vayo about it, on a Friday evening.  Vayo’s counsel claimed that he was not aware of any forgery (i.e., he had just passed along the documents Vayo had provided to him), that he would ask Vayo about them, and that he was concerned about speaking further because—if the documents were in fact forgeries—the crime-fraud exception could apply.  About 48 hours later, on Sunday evening, Vayo filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of all of his claims  and his counsel subsequently withdrew. … REEL made repeated efforts to meet and confer with Vayo’s new counsel to avoid the need for this motion, including by sending a detailed letter explaining Vayo’s forgery. . Vayo ignored these meet and confer requests, and never denied the forgery. …
“The third party who informed REEL of Vayo’s forgery said that he (the third party) had spoken to the Forger. … The Forger told the third party that Vayo contacted the Forger for assistance creating a virtual private network (‘VPN’) for Vayo to use while he was playing on REEL’s site in California to create the false appearance that he was in Canada.  The Forger also provided the third party with the original statements from First Republic Bank and Bell Canada that Vayo had sent to the Forger to doctor so that they would demonstrate (falsely) that Vayo was in Canada during the SCOOP tournament. Importantly, the third party knew and volunteered that Vayo’s forged docume[/I]nts purported to be from Bell Canada and First Republic Bank, information that was not public at the time or provided to the third party by REEL.”
Vayo now faces expensive legal heat to his original claim surely has no chance of seeing the $692,000 that he won in the SCOOP event ever again. A large chunk of wasted time at the online felt via a VPN in 2017 looks set to see Vayo begin 2019 chasing losses.
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