Million Dollar Sunday Returns to WPN

After more than a fourth month layoff, the Winning Poker Network is bringing back the Million Dollar Sunday tournament on September 4th, 2016 at 4:00pm ET. The last Million Dollar Sunday was held in late April.

Winning Poker Network (WPN), one of the few U.S.-facing poker networks on the internet, is composed of about ten online poker rooms, including America’s Card Room, True Poker, and Poker Host.  According to PokerScout.com, WPN is currently tied for fifth with PokerStars.it and the iPoker Network in terms of cash game traffic with a seven-day average of 850 cash game players. While fifth is good, it’s not like WPN is a particularly large online poker network, which makes this tournament offering so ambitious.

The Million Dollar Sunday is a $540 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em tourney with a guaranteed prize pool of $1 million and $200,000 guaranteed to the winner. It is the most lucrative tournament available to players in the United States (ACR and WPN are not licensed in the U.S., but do still accept U.S. players).

$540 is a pretty steep price, but as is usually the case with high buy-in poker tournaments, there are satellites available with prices ranging from $6.60 to $66.

The Million Dollar Sunday tournament has had a rocky history. It debuted in December 2014, when WPN was only the 30th largest online poker network in PokerScout’s rankings. It was a big deal for the network at the time (and still is), as it was pretty crazy for this small network to put on such a high price-tag tournament; it looked like the goal was to cut into Bovada’s U.S. market share.

Unfortunately for the Winning Poker Network and its member rooms, things went horribly wrong. The tournament got off to a fine start, but soon technical problems developed. Tables were freezing, players were suffering from lag issues, and there were frequent disconnects. The tournament was paused and restarted twice before finally being cancelled after four and a half hours. Players were refunded their buy-ins and fees rather than receive a portion of the prize pool because registration was still open, a matter which frustrated many.

winning-poker-network-shuts-down-its-1m-guarantee-tournament-after-ddos-attackIt was discovered that the network had been victimized by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. In a nutshell, a in a DDoS attack, the attacker or attackers flood the target system with an unending barrage of communications requests to the point that the system gets slowed to a crawl or just freezes completely under the weight. Because so many requests are coming so fast and from so many sources (hence the “distributed” part), it is difficult for the system’s security to weed out the valid requests from invalid ones.

In the case of the Winning Poker Network, they inadvertently blocked legitimate traffic in the process of blocking the illegitimate traffic, which caused many of the problems players experienced.

Phil Nagy, the CEO of the Winning Poker Network, went on Twitch to explain what had happened, saying, “Well, I don’t even know where to start. This has probably – and like you care – been one of the hardest…the hardest week of my life.”

He said the network had been attacked a few days prior to the Million Dollar Sunday, but that they thought everything was under control. He apologized for letting the tournament continue for as long as it did

The tournament was rescheduled for February and ran just fine. In September of last year, though, the Million Dollar Sunday was again the target of a DDoS attack. The attack caused problems, but the network was able to power through and the tournament completed. Nagy again took to Twitch to discuss matters:

In the beginning of the tournament we had to pause the tournament for five minutes and then we resumed the tournament…and we’re getting some extortion messages where they want us to send Bitcoins to stop the attacks. Well, um…no. Not gonna do that. I just can’t imagine paying the terrorists to stop. That’s just the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

He added, “I literally had some people in my office that said this tournament is going to overlay so much that you have a great opportunity to bow out of it and blame it on DDoS. And I said, ‘Well what’s the point of having a guarantee when it’s not really a guarantee?’”

And there was a lot of overlay. Nagy and the network had to cover nearly a quarter million dollars of the guaranteed prize pool that was not funded by entries.

Another DDoS occurred in October 2015, as well.

Overlay was a recurring problem for the Million Dollar Sunday. It was not until late April of this year that million dollar guarantee was actually hit without overlay. In that tourney, 2,118 entrants created a $1.059 million prize pool.

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