Same Stuff, Different Day: WPN Hit by Another DDoS Attack

It’s October. Temperatures are dropping, leaves are starting to fall, football is in full swing. A new month gives us the opportunity to start anew, to put the problems of the old month behind us. That is, unless you are the Winning Poker Network (WPN). In a story that has become quite old already, another Million Dollar Sunday on the network was interrupted by a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, partially causing yet another massive overlay for the ambitious event.

To review, in a Denial of Service attack, the perpetrator sends an endless flood of communications requests to the target machine. There isn’t necessarily anything malicious about the individual requests in and of themselves, but the sheer volume of them causes problems. The targeted computer has trouble weeding out genuine requests from the invalid ones and can start bogging down under their weight and eventually seize up altogether.

Distributed Denial of Service attacks are even nastier because the communications requests come from multiple computers, usually from all over the world, which makes it even more difficult for the target machine to block them. The computers that service as the sources for the DDoS attacks are often compromised themselves, controlled by the attacker against the wishes of the owner.

Winning Poker NetworkAnd so we come to the Winning Poker Network, which has yet again been victimized by a DDoS attack, once again during its Million Dollar Sunday tournament this past weekend. Unlike previous incidents, the coast seemed to be clear at first, but by the end of the first hour, the player disconnections began. The network was able to get things under control and kept the tournament going, but the damage had been done. The DDoS attack caused enough problems that people had trouble registering, resulting in just 1,605 players being able to participate. Normally, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but when the guaranteed prize pool is $1 million and the buy-in is $500, that means (hold on a sec…carry the one…) 2,000 players were needed to meet the guarantee. Thus, the network had to cover $197,500 in overlay. If you factor in the $40 in tournament fees that WPN got from each player, that still leaves a $133,300 shortfall for the network.

Of course, this is not the first time the Winning Poker Network has had its Million Dollar Sunday targeted by wrongdoers. The same thing happened in December when the network first tried to host the big event, a tournament which featured the largest-ever guarantee for a U.S.-facing network in the post-Black Friday poker world. The network could not handle the DDoS attack back then and WPN CEO Phil Nagy made the difficult decision to cancel the tournament, refunding all buy-ins and fees. The tournament was rescheduled for February and was successful.

But then the Winning Poker Network decided to run a series of this million dollar tourneys, with one in September and then one every Sunday in October. In September, another DDoS attack hit the network just as the event began. WPN was ready this time and though there were paused, disconnections, and the like, the network’s security team was able to settle things down and the tournament ran to completion. But like this past weekend, the attack caused enough problems to make people stay away and WPN had to cover $224,500 in overlay.

While the attack was going on in September, Phil Nagy went on Twitch to explain what was going on, saying:

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.

To say he was pissed off was an understatement. He kept his cool while streaming, but he added, “What I really want to say is eff these guys SO much and there’s no possible way that I’m paying you or I’m giving in.”

Nagy also said that while the September DDoS attack was going on that some members of his staff suggested that he cancel the tournament like in December, as the DDoS attack was a great excuse to just cancel and not worry about having to pay the overlay. Nagy, though, would have nothing of it, saying, “Well what’s the point of having a guarantee when it’s not really a guarantee?”

The next Million Dollar Sunday on WPN, which includes America’s Cardroom, Poker Host, and True Poker among others, is scheduled for this coming Sunday at 5:00pm ET.


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