If you are an ardent online poker player but still using fiat currency to transact, you my friend are in the dark ages! Blockchain poker is a new, safe, and ultra-fast way to load funds into your poker account from anywhere in the world. In fact, in a few years’ time, blockchain might be the only sensible way to play poker. It’s cheaper than most payment options such as credit cards, eWallets, bank wire, and it’s 100% anonymous.
Also, blockchain technology, in its very foundation, is suited for online poker gaming. Most online poker sites offer lucrative welcome bonuses for blockchain deposit, a slew of on-going promotions for regular players, lot of casino games and more. All these benefits of crypto poker make blockchain one of the best ways to deposit to your online poker account and play your favorite games.
In this guide, we will explain what is blockchain poker, the benefits of loading your poker account using cryptocurrencies, and outline the best blockchain poker sites of 2019, 2020, and beyond. However, for you to understand blockchain poker, we must start by defining two terms; blockchain and cryptocurrency.
What Is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a record keeping technology where online transactions of value (both financial and non-financial) are verified and safely stored in computers located in different parts of the world. It is a simple way of processing and recording transactions in a distributed, immutable, and transparent system. The first party to a transaction initiates the blockchain process by creating a ‘block.”
The block captures the crucial information about a transaction, let’s say the monetary amount, date, etc of your deposit to a poker site. However, instead of using the actual names of the poker players participating in the transaction, the block is assigned a unique digital signature, more like a username – called “hash.”
The block is then verified by 1000s of computers distributed in various parts of the world (in the case of Bitcoin over 5 million computers). The verified block is then added to a chain with million other similar transactions in a way that creates a unique record with a unique history. By the nature of blockchain technology, transactions, once added to the chain, cannot be altered or falsified in anyway. Tying to falsify the transaction would been changing millions of transactions in millions of computers stored in different parts of the world, which is impossible.
An even simpler way to think about it is digital information stored in a public database. This ledger is mirrored and updated in millions of computers around the globe, hence ‘public ledger’. Blockchain poker transactions are executed using cryptocurrency.
What is Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is digital currency that can be transacted online. Examples include the first and most popular Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, Neo and others.
So, What Is Blockchain Poker?
As the name suggests, blockchain poker is playing poker and transacting with your poker site (making deposits and withdrawals) using cryptocurrency. For the sake of this article, we will focus on Bitcoin, the oldest and most established form of cryptocurrency.
Why Blockchain Poker is the New Frontier of Online Poker
If you have been used to playing poker with fiat currency, it might be difficult for you to switch to Bitcoin without someone convincing you about its benefits. There are numerous advantages of paying for poker using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies:
It Keeps Your Activities Anonymous
One of the biggest advantages of playing poker using bitcoin is that, unlike debit and credit card, it is not tied to a bank. Whenever you use your credit card to deposit or withdrawal funds from your poker site, your bank can see the transaction you have made; the site you have paid, how much, when you paid, and so on.
But what if you want your online poker transactions to be private? Blockchain poker guarantees complete anonymity. Bitcoin transactions are recorded in a public ledger, but the records are in form of alphanumeric string of digits, and no one can trace the transaction back to you. Each transaction has its own unique ID (remember the “hash” we talked about in the definition of blockchain) but that’s more of username that can’t be used to identify you.
The only way someone can tie you to a bitcoin poker transaction is if you shared your bitcoin address with a third party. As such, it is your prerogative to keep it as anonymous as possible.
On the same note, creating a bitcoin poker casino account does not require you to open an account with your name, address or any other personal information. All you require is a bitcoin wallet. This also protects you from identity theft, because you never shared the information online.
Fast and Cheaper Transactions
A normal bank might take 2 working days to process a deposit or a withdrawal request. But because bitcoin is exchanged in a peer-to-peer system, funds are sent directly to the recipient, eliminating third parties and unnecessary delays. Blockchain technology ensures that the transaction is processed immediately. Gone are the days when you had to wait for your poker site to mail out a check. Most online poker sites make a payout to you within 24 hours.
It Is Secure, Your Money Cannot Be Stolen
We have much too often heard stories of people whose bank accounts have been emptied clean by hackers. By the nature of how Blockchain is designed, it would be impossible for a hacker to alter a block to manipulate information. Blockchain poker transactions are the safest you can make, safer than both banks and eWallets transactions.
Bitcoin is not controlled by any central authority
Bitcoin is not controlled by any government, its not hosted on any single server and no single entity regulates it. It’s completely decentralized which means you have total control of your money. The government, for example, cannot ‘freeze’ your bitcoin or stop your transactions. It cannot tax your bitcoin poker gains as it would a traditional transaction, and because bitcoin is not restricted to specific political boundaries, you can operate your account from anywhere in the world.
Is There a Downside to Blockchain Poker?
As with any form of technology, using bitcoin to play poker has an element of risk. First, since there is no central authority that controls blockchain, if you run into trouble using it, say for example you send bitcoin to the wrong address, you have no recourse or customer support available to you. Your Bitcoins are gone and gone for good.
Also, the number of poker site accepting bitcoin are still quite limited and sporadic. The market value of bitcoin is highly volatile, sometime recording daily swings of 15%-20%. The unstable and unpredictable nature of Bitcoin sometime makes it confuse to transact, but they pale compared to losing all your bitcoins at once.
If you decide to store your bitcoins on a physical device, say a flash disk or hard drive, you can lose it all in just a matter of seconds. You need to physically access and use the storage device to transact. So, if someone smashes or steals it, you are done. You would jump from being a bitcoin owner to a poor man. The same would happen if the device crashes.
How do I get started with blockchain poker?
The first thing you need to start blockchain poker is a bitcoin wallet. Think of it as an online bank account from where you will be depositing to your online poker account and receiving payment. Technically, the wallet is a software that stores your public and private keys, enabling you to receive and transfer bitcoin. There are 3 types of cryptocurrency wallets, software wallets, hardware wallets and paper wallets. Let’s discuss them a little so that you can easily pick the right one for you.
Hardware wallets– a hardware wallet stores private keys on a devise such as a USB. Although you will make your transactions online your keys are stored offline making them quite secure.
Software wallets– software wallets are stored on desktop, mobile or online. Desktop wallets can be downloaded on a pc or laptop and are only accessible via the same device they are downloaded on. You can access your software wallet from any device, anywhere. The downside is that your keys are also stored online and controlled by a third party making them more vulnerable to hackers. Mobile wallets are mobile phones optimized and are convenient for storing small amounts of currency.
Paper Wallets– Paper wallets provide a high level of security. It involves printing your keys in form of QR codes and storing them offline in a piece of paper, then scanning them to make a transaction.
What to look for when choosing a wallet
There are many types of wallets available and choosing the one to use is as important as making the decision to start using bitcoin. Considering the three broad classes discussed above, here are some of the most important things you should look at when choosing a bitcoin wallet:
- Security– Security is paramount when choosing a bitcoin wallet. Settle for a wallet that offers two-step verification system on login. Two-step verification is a system that requires you to provide two levels of authentication factors to verify yourself. For example, you enter your password, followed by another code sent directly to your registered secondary verification method, let’s say smartphone or a second email.
- Hot or cold wallet– this is another important factor to consider. A hot wallet is one that is connected to the internet, and a cold one is not. A hot wallet carries more risk because its vulnerable to cyber criminals; just like all online technologies.
- Access to Keys– some wallets allow you to keep the access keys and some do not. Here is the thing, if you don’t have control over your keys, you are not in control of your Bitcoin. You might want to pick a wallet that gives you the freedom to control your funds.
- Functionality- is the wallet easy to use? Some wallets have complicated interfaces that are hard to navigate. Mobile optimized wallets work best for poker players who are always on the go.
- Multiple currency support- chances are you will not only use bitcoin but might want to use other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and others. If so, creating a wallet that is compatible with other altcoins is more convenient.
- Reputation- Before you settle on a wallet, visit online review sites and see what other people are saying about it. User experience can save you a lot of trouble by giving you the truth about various services.
Now I have a bitcoin wallet, what’s next?
You have now picked a bitcoin wallet that you are happy with and you are ready to play blockchain poker. The next thing you need to do is to acquire some bitcoin. There are several ways that you can use to acquire bitcoin.
- Buy from your online poker account – If you already have some money in your poker account, then you can simply go to the bitcoin button on the website, input your receiving wallet address on the site, and wait for the cash to be transferred to your account as bitcoin
- Withdraw from a bitcoin ATM– this requires finding a physical ATM. At the ATM scan the QR code from your mobile wallet, chose the amount of bitcoin you want, deposit the equivalent in cash and wait for your bitcoin to show up on your wallet
- Buy from a bitcoin exchange– a bitcoin exchange is a company that changes your fiat cash into bitcoin and vice versa. They often require documentation.
- Peer-to-peer exchange- buy from private individuals online. Be careful of fraudsters with this one.
When you send bitcoin to your wallet using any of the above means, the next step is to send it to your poker site. You will be able to do this in a few steps by following the prompts on the site. If you find it confusing the first time, do not be discouraged. You will soon be depositing bitcoin and withdrawing your winnings like a pro in no time!