From the TAP July/August 2014 issue of Futures Magazine • Subscribe!

TAP: Bitcoin and Online Poker: The intersection between gambling and speculation

Bitcoin poker wagering is on the rise, creating a new class of speculators. 

As bitcoin evolves into a more stabilized currency market, the digital exchange should be on every poker player’s radar. One of our fascinations with online poker players using bitcoin is the intersection between speculation, gambling and optionality.

There has almost always been a connection between investors and gamblers. Although not identical, shared similarities in risk assessment, allocation of assets and an appreciation for outlier events are quite evident. 

That is why we wanted to provide an assessment of the growing use of bitcoin in online poker and gaming, highlighting the benefits and challenges for the road ahead and issues that poker-playing virtual currency speculators should consider in the future. We turned to our friends at PokerNews.com for an update on this growing trend.

The recent surge in online poker sites accepting bitcoin has created a wealth of opportunities for bitcoin speculators and gaming enthusiasts alike. Bitcoin offers the potential for appreciation in the crypto-currency’s value and profit potential from strategic play on the virtual poker felt. 

The nature of bitcoin’s highly watched value offers online gamblers a chance to become currency speculators thanks to the fluctuating value of bitcoin. This opportunity increases a player’s (investor) chances of maximizing their playing R.O.I. (Return On Investment) by wagering their current holdings in the hopes of increasing their poker bankrolls and profiting at an even greater clip because of bitcoin’s ability to increase in value.  

Poker players who use a bitcoin-driven site can see increases in the value of bitcoins based on the current trading price. This means that if you won or purchased a bitcoin when it was valued at $450 in April and then you sold it on July 10 the value would have jumped to roughly $620.

The ability to profit twice off one investment (a player’s poker bankroll) is an attractive offer for those that understand the digital currency and speculation. A player can make good money on the growing number of poker sites that accept the digital currency by winning bitcoins and watching their profit margin increase the same way a stock does.

The obvious goal for the speculative bitcoin poker player is to buy the currency on the cheap, win more bitcoins playing poker, and sit on them so they make money without having to risk the bitcoins already won at the tables. 

Of course, as with stocks, bitcoin could decrease in value. Like any precious traded commodity, the value of a bitcoin can change very quickly depending on numerous factors as seen with the dramatic highs and lows. This is best evidenced by the recent surge that saw it hit $1,000 per bitcoin and then several days later drop to $572 after the U.S. shut down a major website called Silk Road that also used the currency — except for more nefarious purposes.

There’s more than just profit potential for the bitcoin poker player, as the growing phenomenon must address other important issues like regulation, transaction times, anonymity, and, of course, criminal activity.

take the money and run

One of the most vaunted benefits to bitcoin poker is the ease of transactions when withdrawing winnings from the sites. Users are sites like SealswithClubs.eu, and the recently shuttered Satoshi Poker (slated to re-open in the near future under new management) see the benefit in using bitcoin.

Requirements for depositing and cashing out for bitcoin (BTC) sites is similar to playing on traditional online poker sites in the sense that an intermediary eWallet is needed to move money to and from a site. But that’s where the comparison ends. 

Depending on which non-bitcoin online poker site you use and how much you first deposit, moving money on and off a site can be easy or difficult, but according to the leading bitcoin poker site, Sealswithclubs.eu, players can make  instant deposits, and cash-outs take less than 12 hours. 

PokerStars is one of the more popular traditional online poker sites. Many consider the site to also provide the fastest and most reliable transaction times for non-bitcoin poker. 

PokerStars requires players to wait a minimum of 48 hours to cash out from their last deposits because of the company’s security policy, which is designed to protect players from collusion and fraud. You can only have one pending cash-out — requested, not processed — per payment method, whereas a bitcoin site has no limits. The slowest method to cash out on PokerStars is to receive a traditional check, and requires up to 15 days for payout.

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