Technical issues doom PokerStars $1M Sunday Storm 10th anniversary event logo
David Schneid
Posted on: July 19, 2021 10:50 PDT

A special edition of one of PokerStars' most popular weekly events, the Sunday Storm, ran into unexplained technical issues that forced the abrupt cancellation of what was to be a million-dollar prize-pool event. The cancellation occurred on PokerStars' global dot-com platform. The abrupt end disappointed roughly 25,000 players who had already survived several hours of late-registration play.

The 10th Anniversary Sunday Storm remained far short of its guarantee when cancelled. With a buy-in of just $11, the Sunday Storm's lure is to offer a six-digit payday for a very affordable buy-in. That payday didn't materialize this time.

Sunday Storm cancellation raises some players' ire

Several participants affected by the cancellation aired their grief on social media. Besides the loss of several hours invested in the event, many impacted players claimed PokerStars cancelled the special Sunday Storm because it remained roughly $350,000 shy of meeting its announced $1M guarantee.

However, such claims were false. Despite posted rules that allow for the site to avoid paying out a hefty overlay, PokerStars tried to make good, and announced a bonus payout instead, invoking its special "roll forward" rule:

PokerStars' also added a link to that "roll forward" rule, which the site didn't have to honor. Under this exception, surviving players received the initial $11 entry fee. Players who had already busted out got nothing. The remaining prize money — including the overlay — was then distributed by chip count. With roughly 25,000 players still alive, the average payout was about $40 each.

Giant-field events susceptible to server issues

PokerStars didn't detail the technical issues leading to the Sunday Storm's cancellation. The likeliest cause, though, was the event's huge turnout. Events with tens of thousands of entrants increase server load by orders of magnitude. The related issues have caused server and platform difficulties on many sites over the years, not just PokerStars.

The Sunday Storm being the only event cancelled also indicated that the problem was a server issue related to the tourney's big-field nature. No other tourneys were affected by what players reported as frozen tables or unresponsive betting buttons.

Since the action affected only this one giant-sized event, alternative explanations such as a DDOS attack were unlikely. Had PokerStars been targeted on Sunday, the slowdowns and table freezes would've affected all running events and cash games.