As we already know, the online gambling industry has got their eyes on the Bitcoin (BTC) industry and for good reason. The level of engagement ranges from reading articles about BTC to purchasing and investing in BTC to adding BTC as a payment method to an online gambling site to running a BTC-only online gambling site.
Lets start with BTC-only online poker, a niche that has been picking up momentum, especially within the United States where the options for playing the sport online are limited at best. I’ve even heard BTC online poker referred to as the new “Underground Online Poker Scene” due to its organic ‘word of mouth’ spread, tight knit community and edgy feel.
Grindabit.com is a four month old BTC online poker forum, watchdog and information site founded by online poker and Bitcoin enthusiast Steve White. White has been involved with the BTC online poker world since October 2012, all due to a tweet from Eric Mizrachi that recommended an online poker site using Bitcoin as its currency. What White finds most impressive about BTC online poker sites is the speed of deposits and withdrawals, a luxury that is most difficult to come by in current US online poker market.
“The magic of a deposit to a withdrawal like a cage in a live casino is basically what you have”, said White. “This method is deposit within minutes and withdrawals within an hour or two, at most by the next day. Pretty sick to think that you can do that in our online poker world”.
Unlike online poker sites as we know them, BTC-only poker sites are independent of the players’ bankroll. There is no need for third party processors as Bitcoin acts as its own processor. “If done right, [BTC poker sites] allow for the player to manage the wallet rather than the poker room. The poker rooms don’t necessarily act as a bank and they can charge very little rake because they don’t have processing fees”, explained White. “The poker room offers the site to play on and the way for managing the bankroll is up to the player- they can deposit, play and withdraw in the same day holding their own rolls in a secure and encrypted manner”.
White’s Grindabit.com was born in March 2013, an idea of White’s based a void he observed in the BTC online poker community. The main goal of Grindabit is to provide organization to the community, a platform to offer “deals” to BTC online poker enthusiasts and to serve as a “bulletin board for identifying scamming in the Bitcoin community”, according to White.
Grindabit’s steady growth is a pleasant surprise for White and a testament to the growth and popularity of Bitcoin in general. “Most forums tend to die on the vine getting traction and then are just left stagnant, but it is nice to know that [Grindabit] has only been growing and doesn’t seem to want to stop”, said White.
White’s efforts have also helped grow the BTC online poker community in general by raising awareness of the newer and smaller sites as they launch. According to White, the Grindabit promotions or “tourneys” that members can find at the forum are spread throughout the Bitcoin Ecosystem as opposed to focusing on just one BTC online poker site such as SealsWithClubs.com.
However, there is no denying that SealsWithClubs.com is by far the largest BTC online poker site to date and White claims one of the features that makes it most appealing is its chatroom.
“The chatroom on Seals With Clubs has an uncensored feel”, explained White. He also described the use of custom made “bots” in the chatroom, not to be confused with bots we sometimes find lurking at the online poker tables. “As you know, there are quite a bit of very intelligent people in the Bitcoin community mainly working in code and there are some great folks that have developed ‘bots’. Poker players have coded information coming from the games to communicate through the chat and perform certain tasks that frankly I’ve never seen anywhere else on a poker site”, he said.
For example, White cites the “bet” bot that is connected to SealsDeals.info, the games on Seals With Clubs and also interfaced with the chatroom. Within Seals chat the connecting variable to exchange is “#bet…” and the code to use based on the action you want to buy are identified on sealsdeals.info. “It engages the player to sell their action right from within the chat area…sealsdeals.info provides a unique code for the stakers to buy specific shares to that tournament…and [players can] purchase bubble protection 10 minutes into the game”, White pointed out.
Other “bots” allow for players to get real time BTC prices and BTC conversion to chips for USD, another allows players to “label” other players they do deals with as trustworthy or scammers, all within the Seals chat. “All these bots are developed from players. I like to say it resembles open source like linux and open source software. When people tend to complain, there are plenty of players that are creative and just develop solutions to the complaints”, said White.
What’s interesting about SealsWithClubs is that while the software is pretty average, the players love the innovation in the chatroom and the community that surrounds the site. “I believe upon the first impression of SealsWithClubs, [players] will see a minimal flash based game that seems rather “dinky”, but the magic is in the action inside of it”, White said.
In terms of putting SealsWithClubs in perspective, White compares its size to the player pool of Ongame or PKR and recalls some pretty expensive action. “Recently, I saw some rather high stake games where the ring game buyins where approximately 3K to 5K in just the buyin and up close to 15K. For a Bitcoin poker site small in its nature, that is pretty large and impressive in my opinion”.
Bitcoin Online Poker appears to be growing rapidly and in addition to earning the nickname “Underground Poker Scene”, White added that its also fair to call it “the wild west of poker”.
Similar to how the online gambling industry was run in Costa Rica in its infancy, the Bitcoin online poker community must look out for themselves and essentially “self-regulate” to keep out the scammers. “As a community, there is a strong niche to seek out the bad guys in poker who scam”, said White. “We have seen poker rooms come and go and throwing up shady software just to get people to deposit and then they run off. It is very difficult but as we have seen over time, we can keep our ears on the matt. The mesh of the community watches each others back”.