Since the ominous events of Black Friday in 2011, American online poker players have been left with very few options. Those in Delaware, Nevada or New Jersey can play on the nominal ring-fenced virtual tables regulated by their respective states, while the rest of the country is left to take their chances with offshore operators, or simply not play at all. In that regard, the Winning Poker Network has soared in popularity, but the smiles quickly faded on Sunday when the network’s heavily promoted $1,000,000 Guarantee was suddenly cancelled partway through.
According to reports, disaster struck several hours into the massive online poker event when an alleged Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack was attempted on the server. A DDoS attack occurs when a hacker (or hackers) launches an assault on a network in an effort to cut users off from the server. That’s exactly what appeared to be happening two days ago when players began experiencing mass connectivity issues.
At the time the attack took place, compelling the online poker network’s officials to pull the plug on the tournament, a mass of players were already heavily involved in the action. Late registration was still open, and would have remained so for the next 45 minutes. Due to that fact, however, the Winning Poker Network’s policy states that, in the case of a necessary cancellation, all buy-ins and fees will be refunded, as opposed to a calculation of chips and proportionate dispersal of the prize pool.
The online poker event was being billed as the first $1 million GTD online poker tournament available to US players in over three years (post-Black Friday). Without the industry’s largest operators (PokerStars, Full Tilt, etc.), no offshore, US-facing poker site, nor any regulated US site, could realistically afford to offer such an immense guarantee. Thus it was no big surprise that a whopping 1,937 players had already registered for the immense tournament; likely destined to reach the required number of 2,000 to cover the guarantee before late registration closed.
Phil Payton, the CEO of WPN, was plainly aggravated by the events that led to the cancelation of the network’s heavily promoted guarantee. In a live stream broadcast on Twitch.tv, Payton reacted to the unfortunate incident.
“Call it a conspiracy. Call it what you want. A lot of online poker sites have had Internet connectivity issues.” He went on to point out that similar attacks were held on the network one week prior, but that they had been resolved days before the $1M GTD was set to take place. “Whoever was causing the Internet disconnections was waiting for the million,” said Payton. “The second that it started, it started.”
It took about an hour for the online poker network to make the call to officially cancel the event after the attacks began. Payton said that his staff tried to fight through the disruption but, in the end, they were forced to cancel due to unfairness towards players who may have lost connectivity during game-changing hands.
A large number of players were upset about the way the money was distributed after the cancelation. After nearly 5 hours of play, many competitors had been eliminated while some had swelled their chip stacks far above the average count. But according to policy, if registration/late registration is still open, all buy-ins and fees are refunded, even to those who already dropped out of the event. Again showing his frustration, Payton stated simply, “It doesn’t matter if you like it or not. It was fair.”