Two major events kicked off on the unregulated, US-facing online poker site Americas Cardroom this week.
The first is a huge online tournament series offering as much as $10 million in guarantees.
The second is a series of Distributed Denial of Services (DDoS) attacks that has forced the cancellation of many of these tournaments.
Americas Cardroom turned to Twitter on Sunday, Monday and again on Tuesday to update players when separate DDoS attacks started.
Each message stated that techs were working to mitigate the issues and all tournaments have been paused. America Cardroom then claimed to have mitigated the attack and resumed the tournaments. Or, cancelled the tournaments and refunded buy-ins as per its terms and conditions.
In the case of the cancellations, players who spent several hours building up equity in the tournaments, suddenly saw it all disappear. The players got the buy-in back. However, it appears they were victimized by empty promises from the site in the form of tournament prizepool guarantees. Guarantees that turned out to be just advertising copy not worth much more than the paper they are printed on.
Americas Cardroom apologists, like many poker media publications that accept its advertising dollars, may claim those who perpetrated the DDoS attacks are to blame. Creating a network of bots infected with a virus and unleashing it on a victim like Americas Cardroom in a DDoS attack is indeed against the law in the US.
Americas Cardroom is susceptible to DDoS attack
However, like a drug dealer that gets robbed, Americas Cardroom can’t exactly notify the proper authorities. Hackers are definitely aware of this. In fact, its one of the reasons why sites like Americas Cardroom are often targeted for DDoS attacks and legal and regulated online poker rooms rarely are.
DDoS attacks essentially use groups of computers to send data to a site at a rate far faster than its servers can handle. Therefore, unless the site is the size of Facebook or Google, it is susceptible to DDoS attack.
DDoS attacks are hard to prevent, difficult to identify, and even harder to stop. They can render a site useless, and in the case of Americas Cardroom, a DDoS attack prevents players from maintaining a secure connection to its servers and playing in its tournaments and cash games.
Even websites with stringent security measures are vulnerable to DDoS attacks. However, Americas Cardroom is even more susceptible to DDoS attack because its unregulated offshore status leaves it nowhere to turn when it gets in trouble.
Underlying safety and security issues with Americas Cardroom
These DDoS attacks on Americas Cardroom effectively bring to the surface one of the many underlying safety and security issues with playing on an offshore online poker site that accepts US players.
Americas Cardroom comes in promising the kind of guarantees players in the US haven’t seen since before Black Friday, when the Department of Justice shut down the grey market’s top operators.
So, for any red blood American who remembers how great it was to play online poker tournament series with eight-figure prize pool guarantees from the privacy of your own home, it has to be pretty tempting.
Why not join the thousands of other Americans helping a scofflaw site like Americas Cardroom skirt around the nonsense that is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act?
In truth, there are several reasons, with the sites inability to protect itself from DDoS attack, or go after the perpetrators, being just one.
Your money isn’t safe
If one of the events carrying the big guarantees actually plays to conclusion, you could win big money on an unregulated online poker site like Americas Cardroom. However, you may never see a dime of it.
The DOJ could finally get around to actively pursuing operators like this at any time. When it does, it’ll shut them down, and there is nothing to guarantee US players will get their money back.
PokerStars paid people back when the DOJ did them in. Then it bought out Full Tilt Poker and made its customers whole as well. All because the company wanted back in the US market. Americas Cardroom might not. It could just take the money and run.
The site operates from an offshore location with zero US government oversight. That means zero consumer protection for US players. In other words, the money you have on there is completely unprotected.
The DOJ isn’t exactly making Americas Cardroom a priority right now. It must have better things to do than go after online poker. Unfortunately, PokerStars and Full Tilt players thought the same thing all the way up to April 10, 2011.
The truth is, even if the DOJ never makes a move against Americas Cardroom, that still doesn’t mean your money is safe.
The site has now proven itself susceptible to hackers, collusion and bot rings. Its security team, if there is one, does very little to combat these issues.
During these latest DDoS attacks, Americas Cardroom did send out a tweet encouraging players to contact its Customer Service department. It said they will be more than glad to help out. The department isn’t likely to be as helpful if something suddenly prevents the site from raking US customers.
Jeopardizing the future of online poker in America
You might be a gambler. You might not mind calling with a draw against a made hand. Perhaps rolling the dice with your money on Americas Cardroom gives you that little bit of extra juice you’re after.
Just be aware that while you’re doing something in the short term to relive the glory days of online poker past you may also be hurting the long-term growth of online poker in the US.
You may think its akin to taking a stand against unjust laws meant to prevent Americans from playing online poker. In fact, it just makes those who support such laws want to strengthen them.
Plus it does absolutely nothing to help the push for online poker legislation in states considering it. It may even hurt the cause. It gives those who would stand up against it more reason to make online poker operators look like some kind of bandits with no respect for the law.
Barring a change in the political will of the nation, it’s going to be a few more years before legal and online poker spreads across America. The process has started already with WSOP and 888 sites in three states. However, it will take even more time for new states introducing online poker to get together and share player pools.
Only then will they start regularly running major tournament series with $10 million in guarantees.
But if you really want to play on sites that can contact the proper authorities when a DDoS attack hits, please understand that accepting the way America Cardroom does business, and playing there in the interim, isn’t helping one bit.