How PokerStars deals with unexpected hardware failures
Yesterday, we had an interruption of our services from approximately 18:10 to 20:10 Eastern Daylight Time. During that time, our games were not accessible for most of our players.
First, I would like to acknowledge how frustrating it can be when you're unable to access games you would expect to play. Reliability is an important word for us and we always try our best to maintain services.
In this case, there was a hardware failure that required replacement before re-starting our servers and resuming our normal activity.
Tournaments are the game type most affected by such problems, and we have two main solutions to solve it, with either a roll forward or a roll back. A roll back cancels the tournament and refunds players as if the tournament did not happen (buy-in + rake), a roll forward splits the prizepool between the remaining players, including additional funds from PokerStars if the guarantee has not yet been reached. We usually use roll back if the tournament is at its early stage and we use roll forward if the tournament already had quite a few players eliminated, has been running for a couple of hours or getting close to the money. The full explanation about tournament refunds can be found here.
For the problems of 14 March, we rolled forward approximately 90% of the tournaments and rolled back the remaining 10%. However, for the same reason of this hardware failure, we could not pause the tournaments and some players could continue to play, taking chips from players that were sitting out. It is obviously not possible for the disconnected players to continue to play, but the situation complicates things, and means that we will need additional times to investigate tournaments and give additional refunds to players that were not able to defend their chips. We need to look into hand histories on a case by case basis. In the last occurrence it took us one week to completely solve this issue. If you think that you have been affected, you may of course email Support, but rest assured that such an email is not required because we will proactively credit every affected player as soon as we have finished the research. If you do decide to contact Support, please know that one email is enough, and sending multiple emails will actually slow down the response time.
Spin & Go, Sit and Go, KO Poker, Beat the Clock use the same roll forward formulas as scheduled tournaments. In this incident, 100% of the Spin & Go and Sit & Go which were running at the time of the trouble were rolled forward. For cash games and ZOOM, the issue is limited to the hands that were happening during the very early stage of the issue.
I would like to reiterate my apologies for this interruption. Being a player myself of multiple games, I have experienced these crashes and when one wants to play, there is nothing else than can help besides playing. When we face a new issue, we put in place a new security measure to make sure that it will be the only time that we face this particular issue.
Severin Rasset is Director of Poker Innovation and Operations for PokerStars.