A $1 million poker tournament on the Winning Poker Network (WPN) was cancelled after a DDoS attack caused persistent connectivity issues for players in the event.
There has been an uptick in DDoS attacks recently, including a massive attack on Sweden’s Telia Network that affected the entire country after shutting down servers.
The tournament, known as the Winning Millions, was hoping to be the largest prize pool tournament for a US-facing poker site since the events of Black Friday nearly four years ago.
The tournament began at 3 pm Sunday afternoon, and in the early going, it seemed as though the event was going to be a big success.
It seemed possible that that the tournament would actually meet its lofty guarantee, as over 1,900 players had put in their $500 + $40 buy-ins while registration was still open.
Issues Begin Soon After Tournament Starts
But soon after the tournament started, it became apparent that there were serious issues unfolding behind the scenes.
According to WPN CEO Phil Payton, DDoS attacks have been an ongoing issue for the site, and while they had seemed to clear up in the days prior to the Winning Millions, that calm was broken almost immediately when the tournament began.
“Whoever was causing the Internet disconnections was waiting for the Million,” Payton said in an impromptu broadcast he streamed on Twitch.tv soon after the event was cancelled. “The second that it started, it started.”
Because of the scope of the event and the fact that the attacks hadn’t shut down the site completely, Payton initially tried to allow the tournament to continue as normal.
Eventually, however, he came to the conclusion that the tournament simply wasn’t fair for all involved.
The tournament was paused after about 4.5 hours of play (though this figure is in dispute: at least one poster on the Two Plus Two poker forums put it at closer to 5.5 hours), and players were presented with a pop-up message explaining what had happened.
“Due to circumstances out of our control, we have been unable to provide a stable, fair gaming experience,” the message read. “Many players timed out, while others remained connected. As per our terms and conditions, the tournament has been canceled and buy-ins and fees have been refunded to all participants.”
Payton Defends Controversial Decision
That decision was in line with WPN policies: because the tournament was still in its late registration period, all players simply got their money back, regardless of whether they were eliminated and with no consideration of how many chips they might have had when the tournament was stopped.
Since the tournament had been in progress for several hours, however, and somewhere around half of the field had reportedly been eliminated, this didn’t sit well with some players who felt that chip stacks should have been taken into account when deciding how players should be compensated.
Payton, however, said that the decision was one designed to be fair to all players.
“There’s a lot of sites that [would have said] let them push through it, and we make $80,000,” Payton said. “Well, you know what, I’ve got to sleep with myself at night, and I’m not going to do that. If it happened again tomorrow, I’d do the same thing.”
This was not the first DDoS attack against WPN, and such attacks have become more common across the online poker industry as of late.
Just last week, the Carbon Poker Network was targeted by an attack that some observers felt was designed to benefit a specific player in a major tournament. Payton referenced these issues himself when addressing players about his decision to cancel the Winning Millions.
“Call it a conspiracy, call it what you want, a lot of online poker sites have had Internet connectivity issues,” Payton said.