A server crash on the US-facing Merge Network and its lead skin Carbon Poker resulted in stories of hole cards changing mid-hand, as well as players being randomly logged into other players’ accounts, in what appears to be a new low for unregulated online poker in the United States.
Players on the 2+2 forums report being able to play with the real money balances of accounts the client gave them access to, as well as view the sensitive personal and financial information about the holder of the account.
The malfunction occurred during the recently concluded “Carbon Online Poker Series” and is an astonishing breach of security and trust that is bringing a firestorm of criticism upon the network.
Houston, We Have a Problem
Server crashes are nothing new to online poker players. If you don’t play on one of the major, regulated, sites it can practically be considered an inevitable cost of doing business.
What made this one particularly vexing, however, is that it came just as the main event of Carbon Poker’s online series – as well as several Sunday majors – were working their way down to the final table. With guaranteed prize pools of seventy-five thousand dollars at stake, players suddenly found themselves unable to access the game.
As people frantically attempted to reconnect, details began coming in of access being granted to others’ accounts. At one point, one poster reported gaining access to an account still sitting at one of the tournament tables – which he then subsequently used to win two hands for its true owner – in what can only be described as one of the sickest displays of variance in the history of poker.
Carbon Poker’s Initial Response Provokes Outrage
It appears that initially Carbon Poker hoped to quell the anger by attempting to downplay a massive security breach.
2+2 user “Justown” posted that he received this response from Carbon Poker support:
During a very brief window early this morning during a server restart, certain players using the auto-login setting were returned to another player’s session. You were one of the very few players affected. This view would have been visible only momentarily while the server completed restarting. We are confident that possible interaction with the account was limited, and we are taking measures to confirm that the situation is fully contained.”
Other posters stated that they also contacted Carbon Poker support about the possibility of a refund and were told that none would be forthcoming.
Carbon Relents; Offers Equity
However, a public relations nightmare for the site slowly developed as criticism continued to mount over the nature of the crash and the response by support.
At some point, the powers that be at Carbon Poker appear to have relented to the mounting condemnation and made the decision to change course.
Eventually, posters began to share emails from support confirming that they had ultimately received reimbursement for equity lost as a result of the crash. Others shared that they too were reimbursed after logging in and finding money missing as a result of someone else controlling the account.
While this news is being welcomed by players, many are also asserting that the real issue is how it could be possible for a third-party to be granted access to an account under any circumstances. Emails from Carbon Poker support do offer reassurances that the issue has been dealt with and will not occur again, but declined to elaborate further.
At the time this article was posted, neither the Merge Network nor Carbon Poker had released any kind of statement to its players addressing the situation generally or this issue specifically.
The Big Picture
In the broader context of the online poker industry in the United States, this incident makes two things crystal clear.
The first is that banning online poker is not going to stop people from playing online poker. The second is that by forcing the game into the shadows of the black market, player protections have dwindled down to more or less absolute zero.
This latest incident is just one more in a long litany of reasons why iGaming in the United States is in desperate need of legalization and the resulting consumer protections associated with it. The clandestine market that currently exists is harmful to players and does nothing to further the interests of state governments.
Until we see a broad, regulated, national market for the online version of the game, we can unfortunately expect to see more incidents like this in the near future.