PokerStars servers crashed at 4:40 AM EST yesterday morning, freezing play and interrupting games across all of its network domains and around the world.
Lee Jones, head of corporate communications for PokerStars confirmed the outage in a tweet saying, “Hi folks we know that @PokerStars is down the software guys are swarming on it. We’ll update you the moment we know more. #HangInThere”
Perhaps the biggest casualty of the blackout was Dylan Herbert, a Welsh player who had invested more than nine hours making his way to the final table of PokerStars’ Big $2.20.
After navigating through 2,896 players down to just seven, play unexpectedly halted, leaving the finalists in a state of limbo. Two hours after the network went dark, PokerStars returned to full strength at 6:40 AM.
So what happens to Dylan Herbert, the other competitors seated at his table, and the thousands of various cash games players? According to PokerStars’ official tournament cancellation policy, events are either rolled back or rolled forward depending on the stage of play when service was interrupted. A rollback basically wipes out all previous tournament action as if the event never happened, with all player buy-ins and entry fees being refunded.
Roll forwards mean prize pools are distributed based on current standings, and often occur when players are in the money when problems arose.
For yesterday’s incidents, PokerStars decided to roll forward all tournaments. “Normal service has been restored, and tournaments that were running at the time dealing stopped have been rolled forward. Spin & Gos were rolled forward using whichever multiplier was drawn for that specific tournament,” Baard Dahl, PokerStars’ ring game manager said.
For the remaining Big $2.20 players, that means each will have their rake refunded and receive a percentage of the prize pool as follows:
Each player receives the minimum prize not yet awarded at the time of cancellation
The remainder of the award pool is distributed proportionally according to the chip count
Roll forwards are a sound way to handle unforeseen incidences out of PokerStars’ control. Awarding players for their current standing and performance is the best possible contingency plan.
Tuesday morning’s outage had some players wondering whether anti-online gambling proponents had finally gotten their way. Of course, it was nothing more than a technical glitch, albeit a substantial one to the Internet poker community. Network crashes and hacks are rare, but they do seem to be occurring more frequently:
September 13, 2014: The partypoker Garden State Super Series Main Event, an online event held in New Jersey, was abandoned following severe technical difficulties.
November 23, 2014: During the Main Event of the Carbon Poker Online Poker Series, network servers crashed causing dozens of tournaments to stall. Targeted attacks by hackers were later revealed as the culprit.
December 4, 2014: After six weeks of periodic gameplay interruption, 888poker added a “pause tournament feature” to temporarily suspend an event to fix server issues with the option to resume play following IT repairs.
December 16, 2014: Less than five hours into the Winning Poker Network’s Winning Millions, the tournament was canceled due to a cyber attack.
March 2, 2015: PokerStars crashes for two hours.