Gordon Vayo Drops PokerStars Suit After Forged Documents Discovered

Updated: November 15th, 2018 by Haley Hintze

Pro poker player Gordon Vayo has voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit against PokerStars corporate entity Rational Entertainment Enterprises Limited (REEL) in the wake of PokerStars’ discovery that bank and utility statements submitted earlier to the company by Vayo were almost certainly forged and fraudulent.

The voluntary dropping of the action by Vayo was accompanied by the withdrawal of his original lawyer, Gregory A. Fayer. Fayer withdraw as Vayo’s counsel shortly after PokerStars notified Fayer regarding the document forgeries. Vayo has since retained a replacement attorney, William A. Bowen, though this may be a defensive move, given the possibility of civil or even criminal sanctions against Vayo, who prior to this was most well known as the runner-up in the 2016 WSOP Main Event.

Vayo sued REEL in May of 2018 after PokerStars froze his account within weeks of Vayo’s winning of over $692,000 in a large prelim event in Stars’ 2017 Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP). Noting that most major sites review the accounts of major winners, a general review of Vayo’s account turned up evidence that Vayo, a California resident, had played the SCOOP event and other events on PokerStars from the US, using a VPN (virtual private network) to make it appear that he as in fact playing from Canada.

PokerStars repeatedly asked Vayo beginning in July 2017 to provide proof of his presence during the event in question, which took place largely on May 21-22, 2017. Eventually, Vayo submitted bank and utility statements purporting to show his presence in Ottawa during the event in question. PokerStars originally accepted those submissions at face value, before later learning from an unnamed person with knowledge of the situation that each of the documents submitted had been altered in significant ways, and in the case of the bank statements, leaving numerous mathematical errors from unmatched transactions.

The utility bill submitted by Vayo (a general requirement for evidence of residency) also turned out to be a fake: It was the bill of a person surnamed “Kuo” with that name removed and Vayo’s name inserted as the account holder. PokerStars seemingly learned of the nature of the forgeries early last month, after being tipped off by someone with knowledge of the situation, who was able to correctly identify the institutions of the forged documents — Bell Canada Internet and First Republic Bank — without that info ever being made public by PokerStars. This excerpt from a court filing on November 12 offers further detail, including Fayer’s quick exit as Vayo’s attorney:

“After the Motion to Dismiss was fully briefed, but before it was heard, 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 documents 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.”

PokerStars has not identified the tipster nor the alleged forger in any of the court documents filed openly to date.

Vayo had originally sought $690,000 plus trebled and other damages from PokerStars. Stars, when it contacted Fayer about the forgeries, offered to drop the matter without seeking compensation for damages and legal expenses if Vayo dropped the case with prejudice, meaning he would not be allowed to refile it. Instead, Fayer (on behalf of Vayo) simply dropped the case, perhaps in the knowledge Vayo was obtaining replacement counsel.

However, according to the REEL filing, Vayo’s new lawyer did not respond meaningfully to at least four REEL inquiries regarding the forgeries. This led REEL to file its open motion for damages and expenses, for nearly $300,000 so far and likely more, as the prevailing party following Vayo’s dropping of the case. 

In fact, Gordon Vayo may not have provided the forged documents to Fayer, his own attorney. The filing by REEL includes this interesting note:

“Vayo relied on the forged evidence in his Complaint, claiming that he ‘provided evidence showing that he was in Canada during the entirety of his play in the SCOOP tournament’ and, therefore, REEL had no right to freeze his account. [] Not yet knowing that Vayo’s ‘evidence’ was fraudulent, REEL filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and, in the alternative, Improper Forum. [] Vayo’s Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss attached and relied upon his December 4, 2017 letter which had attached the forged records—though (in retrospect, tellingly) the forged records themselves were omitted.”

PokerStars remains in possession of roughly $690,000 frozen in Vayo’s account. In situations involving underage or prohibited-jurisdiction play, in which the illicit play does not target specific other players as a form of cheating, Stars’ longstanding policy has been to devote the funds to charity.

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