WPN Struck By Another DDoS Attack
If the FBI or Interpol or whomever wants to setup a sting operation to catch cyber terrorists, all they need to do is have the Winning Poker Network (WPN) host a large guaranteed prize pool tournament. This past Sunday, for about the billionteenth time, WPN was the target of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, a jovial event which messed with the network’s Million Dollar Sunday tournament.
Before we proceed (actually, we are currently proceeding – let’s say before we proceed to further discussion of the tournament), let’s take a moment to explain what a DDoS attack is. In a Denial of Service attack, a source computer, usually compromised against its owner’s will, floods a target machine with communications requests. These requests come so fast and furiously that the target computer can’t differentiate them from legitimate requests quickly enough and the machine just ends up bogging down. In a Distributed Denial of Service attack, the initiator uses multiple source machines to flood the target. Not only can this increase the volume of the communications requests, but because the requests are coming from different locations, they are that much more difficult to trace and, therefore, block.
Which brings us back to the Winning Poker Network, a U.S.-facing network which is inhabited by such online poker rooms as America’s Cardroom, Poker Host, and True Poker. September 13th was the first of five million dollar guaranteed tournaments the network will host this fall; the rest will take place in October. The DDoS created problems for players, freezing tables, disrupting connections, and just generally slowing things down. WPN management paused the tournament several times, particularly early-on, for about five to ten minutes as the DDoS attack was handled. Things eventually got taken care of and the tournament went through to the end.
WPN CEO Phil Nagy, who has not been shy about communicating with the network’s players when problems arise, went on Twitch to keep everyone informed about what was happening:
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 even….
He said the ransom request was $5,000, but considering he mentioned Bitcoins earlier, he probably meant to say 5,000 Bitcoins, which at the current exchange rate would be the equivalent of $1.15 million. He explained that the tournament might be paused occasionally so that his technical people could “mitigate” the issues, but that they had a handle on things so players should hang tight.
“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,” he added.
One big problem the DDoS attacks created for the Winning Poker Network was that they kept players away from the Million Dollar Sunday event. And as it had a million dollar guarantee, the network needed as many players as possible to show up. They didn’t. 1,549 players registered, and at $500 a pop, they generated a $775,500 prize pool. As such, the Winning Poker Network had to cover a $224,500 overlay.
For his part, Nagy said he never considered not paying out the guarantee. “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,” he said. “And I said, ‘Well what’s the point of having a guarantee when it’s not really a guarantee?’”
In December, it was a slightly different story. WPN’s Million Dollar Sunday got nailed by a DDoS attack that it had much more difficulty handling. The network paused the tournament multiple times, but Nagy eventually had to decide to just cancel it altogether. In that case, he felt that he could not offer customers a proper tournament experience, so everyone’s money was refunded.
The network did host a successful Million Dollar Sunday earlier this year and, as mentioned, has plans to host four more in October.
According to PokerScout, the Winning Poker Network is the thirteenth largest poker room or network on the internet, based on cash game traffic. WPN boasts a seven-day average of 575 cash game players, putting it in a tie with the Chico Poker Network. The two networks are the second largest U.S.-facing poker providers, well behind Bodog, which has a seven-day average of 1,700 cash game players.
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