The New Jersey Garden State Super Series (GSSS) was set to be one of the first attention-grabbing online poker festivals in a regulated American market. The partypoker/Borgata tournament series was greatly anticipated and promised large guarantees over the spread of its 60 events. But the GSSS hit a major snag on Sunday, when technical problems caused the cancellation of several events, including the No Limit Hold’em Main Events.
Sunday Evening Tournaments Affected
The problems began around 6:30 pm on Sunday. Previous to this, four GSSS events had begun as normal that afternoon, including the three Main Events at low, middle and high-stakes levels. But when the mid-stakes version of Event #12 was scheduled to begin, players were seated but the tournament failed to begin.
By 7:00 pm, it was clear that something was very wrong. The high-limit version of Event #12 never began. Seven minutes later, all GSSS events that were in progress were paused, essentially stopping the series in its tracks. Minutes later, an apology pop-up appeared, letting players know that there was a technical issue and that the site was working to resolve it.
Finally, at around 7:55 pm, all tournament tables were closed and the events were cancelled. That led to some panic among players, though refunds for the tournaments were processed later that night. Players who were still in tournaments that were cancelled in progress received compensation based on a formula that considered how deep the tournament had progressed, as well as the number of chips they had when the tournament was stopped. Players eliminated in such tournaments, however, did not receive any refund.
“An Unmitigated Disaster”
By Monday night, bwin.party officials had taken responsibility for the problems and apologized to players who missed out because of the problems.
“Unfortunately, last night was an unmitigated disaster for us,” wrote bwin.party Group Poker Director Jeffrey Haas. “This resulted in the biggest and richest tournaments we have run in NJ all being cancelled and paid-out while late registration was still open for most events. Where guarantees had not yet been met, we still paid-out the guaranteed prize pools, including almost $70k in overlays.”
Haas said that steps had been taken to “provide a permanent fix for the issue.” He also announced that an additional $50,000 had been added to the prize pools for GSSS events taking place next Sunday as “an apology and gesture,” but that the cancelled events would not be rescheduled.
The GSSS features 60 events in total, including 20 at each of three different stakes levels. Low stakes events have buy-ins of $50 or less, the mid-stakes tournaments range from $10 to $200, and the high-stakes tournaments feature buy-ins of $50 to $1,000.
All of the tournaments in the series feature prize pool guarantees, but the biggest day was meant to be this past Sunday. The mid-stakes Main Event promised the most money of all, with the $200 buy-in tournament offering a guarantee of $200,000 to players. Prior to the disruption on Sunday, the GSSS had been exceeding most of the guarantees, including all six on the first day of the series.
The tournament cancellations may have come at the worst possible time for Borgata and partypoker. Not only was the site in the midst of its most ambitious tournament series yet, the high-profile technical failure comes when PokerStars looks increasingly likely to enter the New Jersey market in the weeks or months to come, potentially providing dissatisfied players with a new brand to move to.