As consumers, we’re careful with where we choose to bank, live, and shop, among many of the other choices we make on a daily basis. The same should be true of which sites you choose to play poker at.
We, as players, are not only responsible for learning how to play poker, but also for where we should play poker online.
As poker players, there are many reasons why we choose only to play poker on regulated sites, and in this article, we’ll explore the top three.
Before April 15, 2011, online poker sites were like the Wild Wild West, exponentially growing rapidly and steadily to keep up with US online poker demand thanks to what many call the “Moneymaker Effect”. Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003 after qualifying via an $86 satellite tournament on PokerStars’ online poker room. He turned that $86 into $2.5 million. This inspired a whole new generation of players, flooding the market for live and online poker games.
This new burgeoning market came to a crashing halt with Black Friday, leading to the top reason players choose regulated sites. “Black Friday” for poker happened on April 15, 2011. It occurred after “a United States federal criminal case, United States v. Scheinberg, alleged that (multiple) defendants violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and engaged in bank fraud and money laundering to process transfers to and from their customers. (Approximately) 76 bank accounts in 14 countries were frozen, and innumerable players’ accounts were also frozen.”
Players had a lot of difficulty getting their money back from their accounts after “Black Friday.” After poker players either experienced this or heard of this, where they chose to play online became more about safety for their finances and their own peace of mind. The difference between regulated and unregulated became a vast chasm.
When consumers choose where to bank, most like to choose FDIC-insured ones. FDIC-insured banks protect up to $250,000 of a client’s balance per account, ensuring they never have to worry about that amount disappearing or becoming inaccessible. Regulated sites offer the same type of feeling of safety and security. This is invaluable to a player who trusts the site to be a good steward of their money.
The second top reason we should only be playing poker on regulated online poker sites is legality. Only certain states have regulated poker sites, and at the moment, players have access to legal online poker in Michigan, Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Online poker sites must be licensed and regulated to ensure oversight and easy access to recourse with any disputes. Nobody wants to go to prison for playing online poker, so playing on a regulated, legal site protects yourself and your money.
Cheating and Collusion
The third reason we should play exclusively on licensed and regulated online poker sites is the potential for cheating or collusion. A company that is constantly being monitored by that state’s gaming regulator — the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC), the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE), and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), to name a few — isn’t going to risk its license by tolerating any cheating.
Companies with popular regulated online poker sites include Borgata, PokerStars, BetMGM Poker, 888poker, and the most recognizable brand in the industry, the WSOP. Most sites direct you to the state where you are playing and give you directions from there. Geolocation is required, and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are not permitted. Thus, if you’re trying to log on and play from anywhere outside the state where online poker is licensed (even if you live in said state but are away from home in another unlicensed/unregulated state), you’ll be out of luck. For example, GGPoker is one of the most popular sites in the world but isn’t regulated in the US, so US players are not permitted to play on the GG platform.
These three top reasons share a common element — safety. Feeling safe about your deposits, withdrawals, the people you play against on the site, the ability to reach out if you have any issues, and knowing a state regulator has oversight all lend to giving you, the player, better peace of mind when you play poker. Trusting the companies whose sites you play poker on allows you to focus on why you’re truly there: the game.
Now that you know why it is so important to play on a legal, regulated site, it’s time to learn how to determine if a site is legal and safe to play on: How Do I Choose a Safe Online Poker Room? 6 Things to Look Out For.
Christina Bradfield is an author currently living in Las Vegas. Her love for poker began at a young age when her mother introduced her to Texas Hold 'em in a home game where she learned not to put her cash winnings in her pockets.