Bitcoin is one of the newest and fastest growing financial instruments being used on the internet today. The integration of Bitcoin into the world of online poker has made for some fantastic benefits for recreational and serious players. If you’re brand new to the concept and are looking for a first-time or new online poker home, we’re going to break everything down for you today.
By the end of this article, you’ll be an expert on Bitcoin and the pros and cons of using it for online poker.
What are Bitcoins?
Before we talk about the integration into online poker, we need to make sure everyone understands what Bitcoins are. If it’s a brand new concept to you, don’t worry you are not alone. The technology has been exploding onto the scene over the past few years, but many people still haven’t heard much about it or done much research into what Bitcoins actually are.
Bitcoins, in the simplest terms possible, are a new type of virtual currency. They’re effectively like money that you can use on the internet to purchase goods and services. You may be asking yourself, why not just use a debit card or something like that for your online purchases and monetary transactions? The reason for this will be discussed more in the benefits section, but for now, we can say it has a lot to do with ease of transactions, transparency, and in some cases the encryption capabilities of the currency.
Bitcoins are not actual tangible coins that you can hold in your hand. They are highly technical data pieces that are constructed through a process called ‘mining.’ It takes immense amounts of computing power and time to mine a Bitcoin, and they continuously get more and more difficult to mine as more are finished.
Eventually, it will not be possible to mine anymore Bitcoins, and they will be capped at around 21,000,000 Bitcoins. This helps to limit the supply of Bitcoins which allows them to have value. The actual value of a Bitcoin is only the amount that someone is willing to pay or give goods or services for at that value.
Here’s a great analogy. In prison, cigarettes are limited in most facilities. There are only so many that can get into the system from the outside or through the commissary. Cigarettes themselves have a very low value if you were to try and sell them for their intended purpose. Prisoners, though, have decided that they are going to use cigarettes as their form of currency. Because everyone in the system has decided they are valuable and recognized them as a form of currency, they are much more valuable than just a plain old cigarette.
This is a lot like our actual money. The paper that you have for money isn’t actually worth anything if you tried to sell it as paper. It gets its value because people have decided to recognize it as having value. All we’re really seeing here is the birth of a new digital form of currency.
Bitcoins can be purchased with real money through online exchanges and e-wallets. The process is actually simple and straightforward. As with any currency, the value is able to fluctuate. Over the past few years, the value of Bitcoins has gone from a few dollars to over $1200 a coin! As more and more companies and governments begin to adopt and recognize the currency, the value should continue to rise. Again, we are not currency experts, but this is the prediction of a lot of financial experts.
Bitcoins bring a lot of new advantages for players looking to get involved or continue playing online poker. It’s important to point out that at the end of the day you are still playing the exact same game of poker. Nothing about the rules of the game or how it is played is changed. Everything is the exact same as other online poker sites that do not offer Bitcoin options.
All Bitcoin pertains to is the way you fund your account and the way you withdraw your winnings. Nothing else is affected. For this reason, there a lot of sites that offer Bitcoin as well as other deposit and withdrawal options. Some sites, because of the benefits, handle all of their transactions in the new currency. Let’s talk about those benefits now and how they pertain to online poker.
Transaction Speed and Size
If you’ve ever played online poker before, you know that there are always limitations on the speed and size of deposits and withdrawals. Some sites limit the amount you are able to deposit in one transaction, and it can take a while for the transaction to post. These deposits can also be held up by banks and credit card companies that need you to verify the transaction due to its size or the fact it is going to an out of country company. While you’re still able to deposit, this can be annoying and cuts into your playing time.
Withdrawals are also subject to limitations when using standard currencies. It is not uncommon to see withdrawal limits per transaction, higher fees on withdrawals, and time frames that can take a couple of days or more to receive. This is definitely not ideal when you want to enjoy the spoils of your victory on the felt.
Bitcoin helps to alleviate all of this. Because of the nature of the technology, online poker rooms are able to allow players to make much larger deposits and withdrawals in much shorter periods of time. Deposit times can be almost instant or just a few minutes allowing you to get right into the action. There are no banks of credit card companies to verify the transactions as you are given complete control to do as you wish with Bitcoins.
Withdrawals are typically processed for Bitcoin within an hour of being received by support. Most sites also offer significantly lower fees, if no fees at all on Bitcoin transactions. This is because they don’t have to use traditional financial instruments and third parties to process your requests. Everything is digital and can be handled quickly.
This is a major perk. Anyone who has ever played on an online poker site before knows this first hand.
Transparency and Anonymity
One of the coolest features of Bitcoins is that every transaction is posted publicly. You might be immediately wondering why on Earth we mention anonymity if transactions are posted publicly. The reason we wanted to discuss these together is they work hand and hand, and everything is in your favor. Even though the transaction is posted publicly, the transaction itself is completely anonymous and is not tied to anyone in particular. This means that only you and the online poker site will know that a posted transaction involved the two of you.
Why would you care about any of this? Great question. The posting of the transactions is done to help dictate and protect the value of the currency. By people always knowing what it is currently selling at, it is able to hold and demonstrate its value. Besides being done to protect the value of the currency, it also allows you to monitor in real-time if transactions have been processed or not. Have you ever tried to make a purchase with a debit or credit card and had no idea if it went through? Your statements take a while to update, and you’re somewhat left in the dark. Bitcoin fixes this through complete transparency.
Even though the transactions are made public, the details of the involved parties are completely anonymous. This means there are no ways for the currency exchange ever to be tracked to anyone. This allows you to be protected in more ways than you are probably even aware of.
So How Do I Actually Get My Money When I Win?
This is a fantastic question and thankfully an easy one. When you cash out your winnings, they will be transferred to your e-wallet in the form of Bitcoins. You can then convert your Bitcoins into actual money in the currency that you actually use. You are always able to convert your Bitcoins to real money, and the process is quick and pain-free. It is important to point out that your Bitcoin will be converted back at the current exchange rate. Sometimes this can be a little bit more money in your pocket and sometimes a little bit less.
This is a lot like when you go on vacation and purchase a new currency before you leave. When you return, you convert all of your leftover money back into your normal currency. Sometimes you make a few extra bucks and sometimes not, depending on the current rate. The bottom line is that getting your money off of the site and converted into your preferred currency is a quick and painless process.
Recommended Bitcoin Poker Sites
If you’re ready to get started playing online poker at a Bitcoin supported site, you’ve come to the right place. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to compare all of the different sites options to pick out your new poker home. What we’ve done to help is put together a list of our personal favorite online poker rooms that offer Bitcoin deposit and withdrawal options.
We’ve weighed these sites based on trustworthiness, user-interface, industry reputation, security, and game choice. We’re confident that one of these options will be just what you’re looking for. The best part is they all have Bitcoin transactions which mean you’ll be trying your luck and skill on the virtual felt in no time.
Bitcoin-Only Sites vs. Bitcoin Deposit Option Sites
Some of the sites we mentioned use Bitcoin as a deposit method along with other traditional depositing methods. These sites only look at your money as Bitcoins when you are depositing and when you are withdrawing. They will convert your money to a traditional currency for use when you are playing at the site and then convert it back to Bitcoins when you get ready to withdraw your winnings.
This means that the limits, stakes, and buy-ins will be in traditional currency amounts. This means that if you play in a $10 USD tournament every week, that tournament will always cost the exact same amount of money when you buy-in. It will be $10 USD today and $10 USD next year.
Bitcoin only sites can be a little bit different. They recognize your Bitcoins as Bitcoins for the ENTIRE time the money is on the site. This means that they never convert your money into a traditional currency but just leave them as Bitcoins. This means that you will be subject to the variance of the currency while you are playing. This usually will only be small fluctuations, but as with any currency, they do have the tendency to fluctuate a bit more. Each site handles this a little differently, but for the most part, you probably won’t notice this.
If you do want to find out more information about how a particular site handles it, their support staff should be able to provide you with the specifics about when and how they handle the currency conversion.
Legality of Bitcoin Poker
The legality of using Bitcoin to play online poker is going to vary based on what part of the world you live in. In a lot of areas, the laws are unclear and are open to a fairly wide interpretation. We will do our best to give you as accurate of information is available and will update this section if anything changes. Remember, we are not lawyers and you should do your own research if you have concerns before playing.
In Europe, depositing and withdrawing with Bitcoins for poker is entirely legitimate. This falls in line with the legislation for playing online poker with traditional currencies which is accepted and legal in most regions. If you have specific questions about the country you live in, the support staff at the site you choose to play on should be able to provide you complete information and answer any questions you have concerning playing. As per the use of Bitcoin as a means of financial transaction, there are no laws against it that we are aware of at this time.
The United States also does not have any specific laws surrounding the use of Bitcoin to pay for goods and services. The currency is decentralized, anonymous, and under no regulations which mean it is 100% legal for you to use. It’s important to keep in mind that you are still required to follow your specific state or country laws as they pertain to online poker.
This has always been a gray area, but it is clear that playing online poker for money is not and has never been illegal. The gray area exists in how the government chooses to treat the operators and company owners that run the sites. If you’re not planning on starting your own online poker site anytime soon, you have nothing to worry about.