Tech issues result in 15-player Michigan online ring event

Haley Hintze
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Posted on: May 12, 2023 9:28 pm EDT

What one onlooker described as the “easiest ring win in @WSOP history” occurred on Wednesday in the opening event of the MI (Michigan) Online Circuit Series. Unexplained tech issues resulted in only 15 players being able to register for the event, and after just four hours of action, “AceHanlon” won the event and fully half of the $25,000 prize-pool guarantee, along with the gold Circuit ring.

The $300 buy-in event drew a total of only 20 entries, including just five rebuys. The $6,000 in paid entries left on the hook for a $19,000 overlay, with the top three finishers cashing. AceHanlon’s effort was worth $12,500, while runner-up “HappyMrsChkn” and third-place finisher “stozy007” collected $7,500 and $5,000, respectively.

Image source: Twitter / @MSetera

Yet the story wasn’t AceHanlon’s win, but that so few players were able to take part. Social media outlets and poker forums were sprinkled with anecdotal reports of people trying to play but being unable to log in.

The Michigan online series opener likely pulled in just enough entrants before it began to avoid being automatically canceled, while a parallel online event on the Pennsylvania site likely didn’t reach the minimum-entry threshold and thus never started. Why officials didn’t step in and suspend or cancel the Michigan event remains unanswered, as has yet to issue any statement on the unusual occurrence.

When combined with other outages at the same time that knocked PokerStarsUSA offline (Tweet about downtime below), some observers wondered if multiple DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks had been launched concurrently against at least two US-facing sites.

PokerStarsUSA has also not issued a comment regarding Wednesday’s “tech issues,” though the symptons online players reported on both networks — screens freezing, failed logins, etc. — are indeed typical of DDoS attacks. Many online sites also remain reticent about confirming active DDoS attacks, since most such attacks are extortionate in nature and the online networks rarely want to specify how their operations have been impacted.

Such organized DDoS attacks, if that’s what occurred, have a long, long history. They also tend to run in cycles, being launched against one online industry in a wave, then moving on to another. DDoS attacks are also just one of several online perils that companies can face. In April, Canada’s Gateway Casinos chain was crippled by a ransomware attack that forced the company to close all 14 of its Ontario casino venues, which are roughly half of the company’s casinos. The 14 impacted casinos were reopened one at a time after an average of two weeks’ downtime while tech-security experts slowly scrubbed the company’s systems of the ransomware.

Occasional DDoS and other attacks from malevolent actors remain a rare and unfortunate reality of the online-poker space. Though they occur very infrequently, they are still upsetting to consumers, who have little way of knowing in real time that a site is being attacked.

Feature image created via DALL-E