The Winning Poker Network’s (WPN) bold attempt to stage the biggest online poker tournament available to US players since the departure of PokerStars and Full Tilt lay in ruins on Sunday night and may have been derailed by a DDOS attack.
The WPN $1M Gtd. Poker Tournament, which had pulled in 1,937 players, was cancelled with just 45 minutes of late registration still remaining.
An on screen-message relayed the news to players as the tournament was abandoned 4 1/2 hours in, following a spate of disruptions.
“Due to circumstances out of our control, we have failed to provide a stable, fair gaming experience,” it said. “Many players timed out, while others remained connected. As per our terms and conditions, the tournament has been canceled and buy-in fees have been refunded to all participants.”
WPN is the fourth most-popular online poker room serving the offshore US market, and includes flagship site America’s Cardroom and Betcris Poker. The $1,000,000.00 Gtd. was designed to be a statement of intent, looking to build on the success of its recent Cage promotion, which has been billed as a “high stakes multi-table time-based cash game”
Fed by various affordable satellites, the Cage promo has proved hugely popular.
WPN CEO Phil Payton took to twitchtv, a video platform for gamers, to explain the situation.
“Call it conspiracy, call it whatever you want but a lot of online poker sites have had connectivity issues,” he said, “and when you have these issues you have to filter out the bad traffic that’s causing the connectivity issues and with that you filter out some good traffic, hence players get disconnected but the site stays online.
“For cash game players, that generally works, but it effects the tournament players significantly more. Last Sunday I made the call to just let all the tournaments run. After I say how everything went down I said ‘Wow, that sucked and a lot of people got screwed,’ so I gave about $250,000 in refunds. It was the right thing to do because I made a bad decision.”
Kudos to WPN, an operator unregulated in the US, remember, for refunding players’ buy-ins with zero fuss; even the players who had busted when the tournament was canceled got their money back. But the question remains, who disrupted the tournament and why?
Although he doesn’t go into detail, Payton clearly believes a hacker was responsible.
“Whoever was causing the disconnections was waiting for the Million because whenever it started, it started,” he said.
Many US-facing online poker sites have been experiencing disruptions to their servers recently, especially during large flagship events.
On November 23, the Carbon Poker Online Poker Series was severely interrupted by poor connectivity issues, and the site has experienced intermittent problems several times since.
But it’s not just the unregulated market that appears to be affected. Last September, market leaders in New Jersey’s fledgling online poker market Party /Borgata attempted to stage the most ambitious tournament series the regulated space had seen, the Garden State Super Series. Once again, major disruption forced the main event to be cancelled.
At the time, we assumed that these technical difficulties were the result of a relatively new infrastructure bending under the weight of an uncommon influx of players, but now it seems likely that there were more sinister forces at work that day.
Of course the US is far from alone in its issues with hackers; just last week, the entire country of Sweden lost its Internet usage from a reported DDoS attack as well.