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Winning Poker Network Tournament Director - Exclusive Interview April 2018

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We continuously monitor the online poker forums to see what other poker players have to say, and lately, there have been a lot of posts about issues at the Winning Poker Network. Users report their tournaments being frozen and canceled, an inability to register for certain events, service outages, and, in some cases, being unable to even log into the poker software. Our own experiences confirm that these stories are true. The reason behind these troubles is Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks targeting the network.

We reached out to the tournament director of the Winning Poker Network, and he was kind enough to give us an exclusive interview about the situation. You can skip further down this page to go straight to the interview or keep reading for some background info on DDoS incidents and how they have been affecting the Winning Poker Network.

DDoS Background

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A Distributed Denial of Service attack involves hundreds of thousands or even millions of computers attempting to access the websites and other internet infrastructure of an organization. The purpose is to overload the servers and other equipment so that legitimate users cannot access information, products, and services, disrupting the targeted group's operations.

DDoS activities are often coordinated through botnets – that is, networks of computing devices that have had their security compromised and are being directed from afar by hackers and other malefactors. Because the masterminds behind these attacks are using hijacked equipment, they don’t have to bear the brunt of the costs of launching such massive strikes. Poker sites have been getting hit hard by DDoS aggression - the Winning Poker Network isn't the only operator to be targeted.

In many cases, the purpose behind DDoS offenses is extortion. You see, many organizations that are hit by these attacks opt to just pay the criminals off rather than having their business activities upset. This works well enough in the short term, but in the long run, the consequences of rewarding DDoS instigators is that these malevolent offenses become profitable and thus more widespread going forward.

The Recent Outages at the WPN

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Over the past week or so, the Winning Poker Network has been the target of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which have affected its ability to properly serve customers. Below are a couple of recent examples of player-reported problems when trying to play at the Winning Poker Network:

2+2 Post About WPN DDoS Problems

Reddit Thread About WPN Recent Issues

The recent period of extended DDoS strikes against the WPN appears to have begun on Tuesday, April 24. They are merely the latest in a multi-year series of such attacks, which have previously interfered with the poker games being offered by the network. In most prior instances, the network has been able to thwart the efforts of the cyber-wrongdoers after a day or two, but the current wave of DDoS assaults seems more severe and persistent than past ones have been.

Exclusive ProfRB Interview With WPN Tournament Director

We sat down for a discussion with the tournament director of the Winning Poker Network to ask him about the DDoS attacks, the network's plans for dealing with them, and other matters unrelated to the attacks. You can read our questions and his answers below.

ProfRB: How serious are the current DDoS attacks against the Winning Poker Network? We know there have been similar attacks in the past; how severe are the current incidents compared those that have come before?

WPN TD: The current attacks are very serious. We do have protection companies that are working day and night to mitigate the hacker, and, as always in the past we have succeeded, I'm sure we will again.

ProfRB: Are all games affected (cash, SNG, SNG 2.0, Jackpots) by these attempts to overload the network's servers? Or is it mainly tournaments that are disrupted?

WPN TD:Everything gets affected. In tournaments, you see roughly 20 - 30% inactive, and that doesn't provide a fair gaming experience even if the majority is able to play with zero problems. I suspend and cancel if necessary in these cases. I don't like doing it, but it really is the fairest way. And I understand players who have the chip lead or played for X hours get frustrated, but it really is the fairest way, and that is how we always work.

ProfRB: Are there any clues as to the identity of the person or persons responsible for the attacks? What are the WPN's plans going forward to counter the DDoS attacks?

WPN TD: We don't know who is attacking, and we are always looking at the best ways to stop them from attacking us.

ProfRB: In September 2017, WPN CEO Phil Nagy said on Twitch, “I will never, ever, ever, ever, EVER pay an attacker. I won't pay a ransom. I won't do it.” Is this still the network's current policy?

WPN TD: Yes, it still remains the same. We will never pay these attackers.

ProfRB: Apart from service interruptions caused by the DDoS, how is the network's weekly tournament schedule performing? Is the Saturday Super Series here to stay?

WPN TD: The weekly schedule, as we found out with millions of overlay, was probably slightly too big to start with. I increased the weekly schedule by almost triple what it was in December 2017. We unfortunately are just not ready for that increase just yet; at some point we will be. Coming into low season, some tournaments have been removed, and some have had the guaranteed amount lowered. We will see what happens in August after the WSOP.

ProfRB: The first Live Cage debuted at the Taormina Hotel in Costa Rica in March. Were participation levels in line with what was expected? Is the Live Cage a permanent part of the promotional roster at WPN?

WPN TD: The Live Cage, having it been the first one we have run in my opinion was a great success and was great fun. I loved meeting some of the players from the site and also having local buy-ins. I imagine it will only grow every time we run it. It was also a learning curve, so we have some things we can do better, but it was a fun weekend.

ProfRB: The Americas Cardroom mobile client has expanded since its introduction from just $2 Jackpot Poker to now include more game types and buyins - and even multi-tabling support for up to four tables at a time. Will we see other games added to it, like regular six-max and nine-handed SNGs and perhaps eventually MTT tournaments?

WPN TD: With our new software once released, the plan is that the mobile client will have pretty much everything as the PC client. Cash games, MTTs, SNGs, et cetera.

That concluded our interview with the tournament director, but he had one final message to the players:

All I can say is during these times, I only hope the players understand we are doing everything we can. As frustrating it is for them, it is just as frustrating for us. We still expect huge things for the future of WPN, and it's what we are working towards. So stick with us during these times, and the good old days of poker will be back!

We thank the WPN tourney director for taking the time to chat with us and answer our questions. We wish him and the entire network the best of luck in combating the shameful DDoS intrusions that have marred the playing experience for the WPN's customers.