It was supposed to be the biggest thing to happen to New Jersey’s nascent online poker market in its 10 month history. It was supposed to draw record breaking crowds to the Party Borgata Network. It was supposed to present the highest guaranteed payouts of any online poker tournament series the state has ever seen (in a legal sense, of course). The Garden State Super Series lived up to most of those suppositions, but certainly not in the way anyone could have expected.
In what’s been described as the most grievous ‘bad beat’ in the history of US regulated online poker, Party Borgata cancelled all three of its GSSS Main Events; not before they were scheduled to take place, but during play. All of the events were scheduled in three tiers; a low, mid and high level with corresponding buy-ins to accommodate all bankrolls. Event #11 was scheduled for Sunday, September 14, as a Main Event in all levels with buy-ins/GTD prize pools of LOW $50/$25,000, MID $200/$200,000 and HIGH $1,000/$50,000. Here’s what happened…
All three events got underway at their scheduled times of 4:30, 5:00 and 5:30 respectively. The highest GTD prize of $200k for the Mid stakes GSSS Main Event, which was still accepting late registrations, was coming up short by approximately $66,000 at 7:07pm; the exact time that all tournaments were halted. Note that Event #12 High, which was slated to begin at 7:00pm, did complete registration but never actually started.
With all tournament action paused, nothing happened for the next fifteen minutes until a pop-up message appeared, stating that the online poker site was experiencing technical difficulties and that they were working to resolve the problem. Then, at 7:55, all active tournament windows were closed. The day’s GSSS events had been cancelled.
As you can imagine, the response was not eloquent on the part of players in those events. The rules of the network state that a tournament cancelled due to technical issues would grant the buy-ins back to all active participants, and it was speculated by many that the network was simply refusing to play out the events when the highest guarantee was nowhere near being met. However, that clearly wasn’t the case when Party Borgata began issuing refunds.
The online poker network refunded the buy-in and fee of all players who were still active in those tournaments, as well as dispersing 50% of the prize pool to all active players, and the other 50% based on the chip counts of all active players. The prize pools that exceeded their guarantee were paid out in full, and the $200k GTD that fell short was also paid in full (meaning that Party Borgata still coughed up the extra $66k for the overlay).
Although the timing was terrible, a statement was finally released by Jeffrey Hass, Group Director of Poker for the network, who explained, “We experienced a major system failure last night between 6:50pm to 7:40pm EST on nj,partypoker.com and BorgataPoker.com that affected all running tournaments. This resulted in all running tournaments firstly pausing, but then, eventually leading to them all being cancelled.”
Haas went on to say that, “The technical team did all they could to resume play from the paused state, but unfortunately, due to the nature of this specific bug, there was no way to resume the tournaments.” He also noted that the system failure was related only to the poker tournament series, thus it did not affect the gameplay at cash games or SNG tournaments that were underway at the time.
In a later statement, Haas also informed players that, to help make up for the inconvenience of last weekend, next Sunday’s events will feature $50,000 in added prize money. Unfortunately, the online poker network has no intention of replaying the events that were cancelled on Sept. 14th.