Geolocation Issues Lead to Party/Borgata GSSS V Ending in Shame

It was supposed to be the Party/Borgata Network’s shining moment of the year. It was supposed to be PartyPoker’s jab to the nose of PokerStars, its way of saying that it is not going to back down to the new, big kid in New Jersey. Instead, the Garden State Super Series V (GSSS V) was a disaster for Party/Borgata as technical issues led to the end of the series, its main event, just being canned altogether.

The GSSS V is the network’s premiere online poker tournament series. This one was to be the biggest yet: 75 events and more than $1.1 million in guaranteed prizes. Poker players are used to seeing much more lucrative series other networks and poker rooms, but keep in mind that this one was just for the New Jersey site; it was actually set to be the largest such series in the state until PokerStars recently one-upped it with the announcement of the New Jersey Championship of Online Poker (NJCOOP).

New partypoker logoThe Main Event and other tournaments ran on Sunday and at about 8:00 pm ET, geolocation problems resulted in loads of players being forced to sit out. In New Jersey, those who play on the state’s online poker sites must be located within state borders. Geolocation technology is used to verify where a player is situated at any given time and, for the most part, the technology has worked quite well. For whatever reason, though, it completely failed Sunday night and because players could not have their locations verified, they were not permitted to play.

The thing was, though, that the tournaments had already started; the Main Event had been going for three hours. And while a lot of players were affected, not everybody was. Thus, those who were still sitting stole blinds largely at will – all while the helpless victims of the geolocation problems watched.

At about 8:30 pm, the network paused the tournaments with every intent to solve the problem and get things back up and running. They were unable to take care of the issue, though, and had to resort to cancelling them before 10:00pm.

At about 4:00 pm Monday – long after the GSSS V tournaments, including the Main Event, when kablooie – the Borgata finally got around to issuing a statement on Twitter. The five-part message came together in one piece as follows:

We experienced a failure on our geolocation service which impacted all active players on our network, the failure resulted in the player locations not being verified. As a regulated provider in NJ, we had to adhere to the regulations and not permit wagering while a player’s location could not be verified. The technical support team worked tirelessly to identify the root cause. The issue was finally resolved late in the evening.

A couple hours later, PartyPoker provided an extended version of the statement to the poker community on both Two Plus Two and PocketFives. A representative explained why those who were affected by geolocation issues could not continue playing, saying, “As a regulated provider in NJ, we had to adhere to the regulations and not permit wagering while a player’s location could not be verified.”

The rep detailed what happened that night, though nothing was earth-shattering. We all knew the tournament was paused because of the geolocation problems and when it was determined that it was taking too long to solve them, the tournaments were cancelled. No specifics were given as to what was actually discovered about the technical problems, but that probably isn’t important for players to know.

PartyPoker then explained the process for distributing the prize pool:

At this time we will be settling the affected tournaments per our cancellation policy. This will award the full guaranteed prize money to the remaining players in the events. Players still in the tournament will be refunded the amount that would have been awarded to the next player to be eliminated from the tournament. 50% of the remaining prize pool will be distributed equally between the remaining players, and 50% will be distributed on a percentage basis according to each player’s chip count. The remaining players will also be refunded their entry fee.

This is a reasonable – and typical – policy, but many players objected to it, not because of what the policy is, but because how it was implemented. Payout calculations were being made based on when the tournaments were paused, not when the problems started. Thus, those who were having their blinds stolen were being credited for smaller chip counts than they should have.

The PartyPoker representative urged players who felt they were being shorted to contact customer service.

On Wednesday, PartyPoker announced that refunds had been processed and anyone whose payout was calculated at less than the tournament buy-in was topped off to make sure they broke even. According to the poker room, an extra $22,000 was paid out to players. That still is not likely to satisfy everyone, so Party is still accepting customer service requests.

A similar situation occurred with the first GSSS two years ago. At that time, Party/Borgata took the extra step of adding $50,000 to the following week’s GSSS events. Since this weekend was the end of the GSSS, that gesture is not possible.

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