Alleged $700,000 seizure from partypoker Spins winner stirs controversy

PartyPoker Spins Overdrive
Haley Hintze Author Photo
Haley Hintze
Posted on: February 14, 2024 04:43 PST

Did partypoker seize over $700,000 from the account of a million-dollar "Spins" jackpot winner after discovering the winning player had submitted fraudulent documentation regarding his playing location? That's one of the core questions behind an intriguing thread on the 2+2 poker forum, started by a Romanian player who claimed to be in Ireland at the time. The player allegedly won the jackpot-style game's largest payout in October 2022 but withdrew only $300,000 in winnings before partypoker froze the account and confiscated its $707,000 in remaining funds.

However, in a tale that has more than a whiff of Churchill's famed "A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" quote to it, the player who launched an extensive tirade against partypoker's parent, Entain, has declined to date to post any physical evidence to support his claims, while admitting to sending in a utility bill over a year before his big win that may have been doctored to claim residency in Ireland.

The mystery player, posting as "Exodus944" on 2+2, first posted on February 6 with his tale of financial woe. According to his lengthy recap, he won the three-handed Spins jackpot sit-'n'-go on October 5, 2022, after moving to Ireland from Romania, where partypoker is not offered. However, in the following months, the player, who has not provided his screen name in any of his posts in the thread, claims to have been able to withdraw only $300,000 before partypoker determined that he had initially submitted some form of forged or altered documentation.

Backstory contains holes

Exodus944, who claims to be part of the Team 651 stable of jackpot-SNG players, posted a backstory about how the circumstances behind the October 5 Spins SNG played out. The poster admittedly submitted a utility bill purporting to show his residency in Dublin as of July 2021, which he reported as being accepted by partypoker at the time, and that he was "never asked to provide further documentation." Only after the big win, he claimed, did Entain (party's parent) look deeper into the documentation and determine that it was at least a partial forgery, and that the big win was illicit due to a terms-of-service violation.

The player claimed that Entain did not detail specifically what it was about the documentation that was deemed fake, though that a friend (perhaps a fellow stablemate) had supplied a utility bill with the Romanian player's name on it. Whether it was a simple PhotoShop-type job done by the friend isn't known.

During the months following the account seizure, the player claimed that he became "aware of and personally knew at least five other players who were in exactly the same situation as me. Accounts closed due to suspected (but not proven) faked documents, however, each of these five players was permitted to cash out their balance. One of these players was actually permitted to provide new documents and carry on playing. The only difference between my case and their cases was the value of the balance and Entain’s desire to turn poker network player funds into a P&L benefit."

The Exodus944 poster claimed that partypoker's refusal to allow him to cash out the full value of his winnings was illegal. He stated that he is planning legal action and claimed that parent company Entain has pocketed the $707,000 to juice its own bottom line. Exodus944 even claimed that Entain/party even offered him a reduced cashout as a settlement of sorts for the matter. Though that seems unlikely on its service, Exodus944 also claimed to have evidence of this, but declined to share it publicly.

Oddly, the internet itself appears to have no record of Exodus944's big win in October 2022. The first three players who hit for a million-dollar payout in partypoker's Spins games were honored with special celebratory posts on the site's prominent blog, with the last of those three coming earlier in February 2022. It's entirely possible, perhaps even likely, that partypoker could have removed a similar post made in connection with this player's win. However, not even the Internet Wayback Machine shows any trace that a post about Exodus944's win has ever existed.

Big scores often lead to closer examination of documentation

Other 2+2 posters wasted little time poking holes in Exodus944's tale and claims. The primary point many posters hammered home was that in initially submitting altered or fraudulent documentation, the Romanian player violated party's terms of service.

In online poker, it is not unheard of for account seizures to take place weeks or even months after a player lands what would otherwise be a life-changing payday. Another tale from recent history involved former WSOP November Niner Gordon Vayo, who lost a similar amount in an episode also involving forged documentation.

In a story first broken by this writer, Vayo sued PokerStars in 2018 over nearly $700,000 that Stars had frozen, the majority of Vayo's winnings in a SCOOP event several months earlier that year. PokerStars, in doing its due diligence regarding major payouts, determined that Vayo had submitted poorly forged documents asserting his presence in Montreal, Canada, during the 2018 SCOOP event, when he was in fact playing from the Los Angeles area.

Vayo's attorney dropped him as a client after being presented with evidence of the subterfuge, and Vayo was quickly forced to drop his lawsuit against PokerStars. The incident demonstrated a truth about online poker that has reappeared in this recent Exodus944 / partypoker tale: If you win a huge payday online, your documentation is very likely to be reexamined for authenticity. Online sites can't do much more than glance at most submitted documentation for new accounts to see if it appears correct. However, in cases where major payouts and possible redistribution of prizes are at stake, such accounts can receive a far more thorough review.

Exodus944 doesn't really address VPN possibilities

Despite the length of his initial post and additional comments in 17 follow-ups, Exodus944 never fully addressed the possible VPN considerations. The player does not seem to have addressed whether he was playing prior to July 2021 via a VPN from Romania or any other country where partypoker is not available. One reasonable question is how the player would have somehow landed in Dublin and spent months "couch surfing," as he put it, unless he was already a well-known member of the Team 651 stable.

There's also the possibility that he used a VPN after July 2021 as well. Exodus944's "backstory" began with this, which also doesn't explain how or why he ended up in Dublin if he didn't have a pre-existing friendship or relationship with other online players, whether or not that involved partypoker's Spins SNG games:

"I was a large volume Spins grinder on Party Poker, playing as part of the Team 651 stable of players, who were a large part of the players on Party Poker’s higher stakes Spins games," he wrote. "I was based in Romania originally and moved to Ireland. Whilst in Ireland I started to play on Party Poker, as part of the Team 651 stable. I also travelled around Europe playing online poker and live cash game poker. But still grinding Spins whenever I could. I spent a considerable amount of time in Dublin, staying with friends and people I met in the poker community there.

"By playing on Party Poker in Ireland, I was playing in a permitted country, I was asked to provide some documents to show I was in Dublin, I asked for help to get something, and my friend (who I was staying with at the time) said he had sorted it and provided me with an electricity bill for his premises, but in my name. In July 2021 submitted this in good faith to Party Poker, and it was accepted. If at this stage Entain had rejected my document, I would of course have rectified the matter immediately."

Several responding posters quickly noted that submitting the original altered utility bill was hardly an example of "good faith," whether Entain initially accepted it or not. It's even possible that the five other players also banned submitted a similarly altered utility bill showing the same physical address in Dublin, which would have made their discovery by partypoker security a far easier task.

Despite Exodus944's claims of illicit seizure by partypoker and Entain, the story as presented does not look promising for his recovery of confiscated funds. Entain has issued no statement to date regarding the player's claims.