Bitcoin Poker Sites: The Ultimate Guide
If every online poker player would bother to learn how to use Bitcoin, deposit and withdrawal troubles around the globe would be solved tomorrow.
I hate to go all Ron Popeil on you, but if you’re a regular player, using Bitcoin at poker sites will change your life. Bitcoin’s got all the answers.
Got the declined credit card blues at your favorite purveyor of online poker?
Bitcoin will wash them away with the ferocity of a thousand fire hoses.
Nosy banking hucksters shutting you down because you had the audacity to deposit and withdraw your own money for your own leisure activities?
Bitcoin’s got you covered like a decentralized warm blanket out of the dryer.
Do you think moving your money from online poker to investing involves a suit-clad broker, management fees, and returns that need a microscope to measure?
Bitcoin will empower you with the blockchain-fabric cape, crushing middlemen like ants and effortlessly making you the smartest investor in the room.
Here’s the best part:
Bitcoin is as easy and as powerful as you want it be. Seriously.
Only interested in making deposits and withdrawals at poker sites like a boss?
Use Bitcoin like PayPal.
Totally embrace the tech, ready to take back power from The Man, and want to make money doing it?
We’re like Bitcoin brothers in the ether.
- 1 Bitcoin Poker Sites: The Ultimate Guide
- 1.1 Think Bitcoin is too confusing?
- 1.2 My personal experience with poker sites accepting Bitcoin
- 1.3 Bitcoin Poker 101: What is Bitcoin?
- 1.4 Speaking Bitcoin for poker sites
- 1.5 The Biggest Advantages of Bitcoin Poker
- 1.6 The Myth that Bitcoin Means Total Anonymity
- 1.7 “Normal” Fiat Money vs. Bitcoin
- 1.8 Bitcoin 102: Why Bitcoin and Online Poker Sites are a Perfect Match
- 1.9 How To Get Bitcoin Step 1: Get a Wallet
- 1.10 Bitpay: My Top Bitcoin Hot Wallet Choice
- 1.11 Electrum: A Bitcoin Wallet for Power Users
- 1.12 Blockchain.info: Risky Short-Term Storage
- 1.13 Ledger Nano S: Unhackable Storage
- 1.14 My Bottom Line on Bitcoin Wallets for Poker Rooms
- 1.15 How To Get Bitcoin Step 2: Actually Acquiring It
- 1.16 Option 2: A Bitcoin ATM
- 1.17 Option 4: Bitcoin Exchanges – The (mostly) Necessary Evil
- 1.18 Exchanges to Use for Poker with Bitcoin
- 1.19 A Personal Warning on Coinbase
- 1.20 Getting Bitcoin to Your Wallet before you deposit at the poker room
- 1.21 You’ll see it on the Bitcoin wallet immediately, but it isn’t ready for poker yet
- 1.22 Option 5: Getting Bitcoin from Peers
- 1.23 Step 3: Getting Your Bitcoin onto the Poker Site
- 1.24 Step 4: Withdrawing Money from a Bitcoin Poker Site
- 1.25 Step 5: What To Do With Your Bitcoin
- 1.25.1 Sell Bitcoin right in your wallet
- 1.25.2 Sell your Bitcoin at an exchange
- 1.25.3 Buy Amazon gift cards or other products
- 1.25.4 Get a Bitcoin ATM card
- 1.25.5 Deposit Bitcoin at another poker site
- 1.25.6 Let your Bitcoin make you more money
- 1.25.7 Commit to a brave social experiment and live on Bitcoin alone
- 1.26 Bitcoin, Poker, and Investing
- 1.27 My Bottom Line on Bitcoin and Online Poker
- 1.28 Ask me anything about Bitcoin
Think Bitcoin is too confusing?
There’s a lot of lazy FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) out there when it comes to Bitcoin and online poker, mostly coming from lazy folks who don’t know a Bitcoin wallet from a hole in their pockets. Poker affiliates are some of the biggest offenders.
I’m confident I can show you everything you need to play online poker using Bitcoin by the end of this page and, perhaps, open your eyes to something that could change your life more than a food dehydrator.
Lofty goals, I know, but I feel like it’s my duty as a Bitcoin missionary.
The best way to deposit and withdraw we’ve ever seen is at hand. Learn it, use it, and you’ll never back.
My personal experience with poker sites accepting Bitcoin
Before I get into the nitty and cryptographic gritty of Bitcoin, let’s first get something straight: I only list Bitcoin poker sites that have earned my personal trust.
To be clear, I’ve personally used Bitcoin for multiple deposits and withdrawals at every poker site I even consider listing here. I’ve also done massive poker site reviews on each one of them.
Each Bitcoin poker site on this page has:
- Been in operation for 6-14 years
- Successfully processed multiple Bitcoin deposits for me without issue
- Sent all of my Bitcoin payout requests within 48 hours, and usually much sooner
The best analogy I can use is that Bitcoin is like a combination of gold and PayPal. Like gold, it’s a valuable commodity that has a limited supply. Like PayPal, you can use it to pay for goods and services, like deposits and withdrawals at Bitcoin poker sites.
Bitcoin Poker 101: What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, released in 2008 with the first open-source Bitcoin wallet launched in 2009.
It’s also the most successful and widespread cryptocurrency to date with a market cap exceeding $100 billion.
Unlike traditional government-issued currency (fiat), Bitcoin only exists in digital space. No government, company, agency, or individual controls the Bitcoin system, making it totally decentralized.
Bitcoin payments, including those used for poker sites, take place directly between users without a middleman. Bitcoin also doesn’t require any personal information to function.
It’s a Libertarian dream.
Bitcoin is both an asset and a currency
Bitcoin is both an asset and a currency, which, like traditional money, can be used for the purchase of goods and services. The value of Bitcoin can fluctuate significantly based on supply and demand, although it has risen exponentially since it was first released.
When you make a deposit or withdrawal at a Bitcoin poker site, it will be based on its US dollar value at the time of transfer.
Bitcoins are created and transactions are proofed via cryptography, hence its cryptocurrency moniker.
Each Bitcoin transaction is recorded publicly on a ledger, which is updated and mirrored on computers around the globe. This is what’s known as the blockchain.
Bitcoin was the first widespread implementation of a blockchain system.
Since its launch, the value of each Bitcoin has gone from a fraction of a cent each to an all-time high of $20,000. That’s an appreciation of over 20,000,000%.
Speaking Bitcoin for poker sites
Bitcoin is honestly only as difficult as you make it. You don’t really need to know all the terminology or even how it works in order to use Bitcoin, especially just for poker sites.
If all you want to do with Bitcoin is transfer money to and from poker sites quickly, it doesn’t need to be much more different than using PayPal. Take it from someone who’s dealt with Bitcoin almost daily for several years.
Still, let’s go into each piece a little deeper to explain what each piece of the Bitcoin puzzle means. You’ll have a leg up when you see these words around and, you know, for when Bitcoin eventually takes over the global economy.
Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, which is a type of digital money that uses cryptography to record transactions and complex math problems to create new units of currency.
Basically, a bunch of numbers and complex math formulas replace the banking records and printing presses behind traditional money.
If Bitcoin transactions are public, how can you make sure no one steals or tries to spend your Bitcoin? Every time Bitcoin is sent, it must be signed by its matching private key.
Private keys are automatically handled using your Bitcoin wallet. They’re like the ticket to spending Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is based on blockchain technology, which can also be called a distributed ledger.
Instead of using a central database that could be hacked, manipulated, or compromised, updates to a blockchain are mirrored on software records around the globe.
Unlike fiat currencies, which only lose their value over time as more of it is arbitrarily printed and released, Bitcoin’s value is constantly changing according to supply and demand.
In that way, Bitcoin functions more as a stock holding or commodity. Daily gains or losses can exceed 15-20%.
Overall, Bitcoin has increased in value more than 10x over the last 2 years.
A Bitcoin address is a long alphanumeric string that represents a destination. You provide your address to others in order to be sent Bitcoin.
Addresses are automatically handled by your Bitcoin wallet software.
Your Bitcoin is stored, sent, and received using a wallet. There are dozens of software Bitcoin wallet options.
Addresses and private keys are automatically handled by your wallet. A backup phrase can restore your Bitcoin wallet on a new device if yours is lost or stolen.
Decentralization means that there is no central authority behind Bitcoin. No government controls Bitcoin, no conglomerate makes up the rules for Bitcoin, and no one server hosts it.
That makes Bitcoin invulnerable to government corruption or banking manipulation, which is commonplace in the world of “normal” currencies.
There are currently around 16 million Bitcoin in circulation and its maximum supply is 21 million, which will be reached around the year 2140.
That rate of “inflation” is minuscule compared with the amount of printed currency that is added in to bank reserves daily to prop up the traditional economy.
Unlike fiat, there is a limited supply of Bitcoin that can ever exist.
Head spinning already a little bit? Don’t worry… mine would be if I didn’t know a thing about Bitcoin either.
Here’s the best part:
You don’t need to remember much of the terminology to use Bitcoin and use it properly. That’s especially true if you just want to move modest amounts to and from online poker rooms once in a while.
Bitcoin can be intimidating – until you actually do it. It’s a learn-by-doing kind of thing. Once you do it, you’ll see how simple it can be.
Further Down the Rabbit Hole of Bitcoin
If you’re still interested in the mechanics of Bitcoin, this is a pretty well-written summary and here’s a decent ELI5 video:
The Biggest Advantages of Bitcoin Poker
Big brother isn’t watching
Dollars. Pounds. Euros. Yen. Quetzal. It’s all the same. Printed money controlled by a central government.
You’re under someone’s thumb and subject to whatever sadistic game of Simon Says they want to play on how you can spend it.
Bitcoin? It’s decentralized, meaning no one governs it.
Short of shutting down the internet, no one can yank your Bitcoin away from you, tell you how to spend it, or print more of it at will and decrease your value of it.
Your country doesn’t matter
The Antarctican government got you down again about the new online gambling ban? The Martian kingpins blocking your Visa Intergalactic again? Bitcoin’s got your back.
Bitcoin isn’t controlled by any one entity so no one can block its usage. In fact, you don’t even need to state your country or even your name to create a Bitcoin wallet and make Bitcoin transactions.
That often blows the minds of folks used to traditional banking.
99% more anonymous for online poker
Your bank might as well have a camera in your wallet. They know everywhere you shop, how much money you make, and everywhere you travel.
Do you want them to know you play online poker regularly?
With Bitcoin you are your own bank. Bitcoin wallets don’t need a scrap of your info to set up and transactions only exist as a long alphanumeric string.
At worst? Your fiat currency bank sees you doing business with a Bitcoin exchange – not an online poker site.
The Myth that Bitcoin Means Total Anonymity
The FUD and lazy reporting on Bitcoin mixed with online poker is real. I’ve seen plenty of Bitcoin poker pages (and even poker site operators themselves) try to sell players on Bitcoin because it’s anonymous. It isn’t, as drug-pushing scumbags have found out the hard and high-profile way over the years.
Bitcoin is pseudonymous, which is a helluva lot more private than credit cards, bank wires, or any other type of fiat transaction.
By nature, every Bitcoin transaction is public on the blockchain. That’s how Bitcoin ownership can be established and transactions can be confirmed. Fortunately, Bitcoin addresses are a long alphanumeric string, which is gibberish to onlookers. However, if a third-party can tie any person to a Bitcoin address, that starts the trail.
If James T. Nobrain posts his Bitcoin QR code as his Facebook profile photo, every transaction made to and from that address can tied to Mr. Nobrain. Anyone can try to fill in the gaps from there.
Hence, Bitcoin is as private as you make it. Each user is responsible for his or her own privacy. By its nature, Bitcoin transactions don’t need your name, address, birth date, or galaxy of residence. That’s a different world of money than most are used to.
The further Bitcoin transactions get from any wallet address that can be tied to you, the use of a VPN, and refraining from posting your Bitcoin address publicly all make your Bitcoin more anonymous.
“Normal” Fiat Money vs. Bitcoin
Printed money and coins issued by a central government
Examples: USD, EUR, JPY, GBP
- Easy to use
- Guaranteed acceptance within a country’s borders
- Familiar to everyone
- Value is usually only extrinsic as governments rarely back currency
- Relies on central agency to regulate inflation levels
- Susceptible to decisions made by government
- Only decreases in value over time
- Banks can block poker site fiat transactions
Cryptocurrency that only exists digitally
Bitcoin ticker abbreviation: BTC
- Can be used by anyone anywhere in the world
- Eliminates banks and government control
- Minuscule inflation rate
- May change in value significantly
- Poker site transactions cannot be blocked
- Value is only extrinsic
- Learning curve to use
- Acceptance is limited in the offline world, meaning you’ll probably need to convert to fiat first
Bitcoin 102: Why Bitcoin and Online Poker Sites are a Perfect Match
If I didn’t know better, I would assume that Bitcoin was created for online poker players. It all fits together that well.
Okay, so Bitcoin is awesome and the money of the future. Why should online poker players care? Because Bitcoin is tailor-made for the online poker market. Honestly, it’s a match made in cyber-heaven.
Your Bank Can’t Stop You
Sure, your government might forbid its banks from sending money to and from online poker sites, but guess what? Bitcoin doesn’t use banks.
When you send Bitcoin to a poker site it’s a direct transaction between you and the poker site using a currency they don’t control.
No fees to get your money from a poker room
Bitcoin poker sites love the king of crypto because they don’t have to pay anyone to charge your credit card or cut you a check.
They might be paying a lot on Bitcoin mining fees, but they don’t pass it on to the players. Compare that to $50-100 to get a bank wire or paper check from some poker rooms.
The lowest poker deposit and payout limits
Since it’s so cheap and easy to send and receive it, Bitcoin poker sites always give the lowest minimum deposits and withdrawals.
Think $20 minimum Bitcoin deposits, which is at least half of what you’ll see if you use an archaic credit card.
The fastest payouts from every poker site
Bitcoin poker sites don’t have to set up a check to be mailed out to you or hire a monkey paid in bananas to visit the nearest cash transfer office.
No reputable poker room takes more than 2-3 days to get your Bitcoin to you. The usual timeframe? Within 24 hours. No other withdrawal method can touch that.
Poker transactions safe from prying eyes
You could pay for poker and life with a credit card, PayPal, checks, or bank wires.
As soon as you make a deposit you’ve now told your bank or ewallet, “Hi, my name is John Q. Hackee. I play online poker. Please feel free to close my account whenever you feel like it and block any transactions on a whim.”
Even if you buy Bitcoin with your bank account, they never see any transactions with poker sites. Playing poker with Bitcoin never blocks anything. You are your own bank with Bitcoin.
How To Get Bitcoin Step 1: Get a Wallet
Who needs a Bitcoin wallet: everyone making any transaction with Bitcoin
Why you need a Bitcoin wallet: a Bitcoin software wallet is where you spend your Bitcoin from and receive your Bitcoin to. It’s what you’ll use to deposit to online poker sites and it’s where you’ll receive payouts from poker sites.
Josh’s Pro Tip
Warning: I do not recommend the Bitcoin exchange/wallet formula almost every other poker affiliate site and forum is recommending.
If you’ve read Bitcoin poker guides from any other poker affiliates (and even on the poker Reddit), you’ll probably see this combination recommended: Coinbase to buy Bitcoin and Blockchain.info to make the transfers. Yuck.
That will get the job done if you don’t mind making a deal with the devil, but they both have big flaws that people who aren’t very familiar with Bitcoin don’t even notice. Neither of them are my first choice – especially for poker – and I’ll explain why below.
Bitpay: My Top Bitcoin Hot Wallet Choice
- Very easy to use with a clean interface
- Incorporates excellent open-source Bitcoin wallet Copay
- Unlike an online wallet like Blockchain or Coinbase, nothing is stored on a server
- Very difficult to hack without physical access to your device
- Purchase of Bitcoin and Amazon gift cards right within the wallet
- Allows easy transfer to Bitpay debit card
- Allows a secondary required password to spend Bitcoin
- Bitcoin can only be accessed from one device
- Remote possibility your device could be hacked
What you need: An iPhone, iPad, Android device, Mac desktop, Windows desktop, or Linux desktop
Best for: Anyone new to Bitcoin who wants a one-stop shop or advanced users looking for a secure hot wallet
Download: Links to all platforms available on Bitpay’s website
On Bitpay for Bitcoin Poker Sites
The Bitpay app is my easy wallet recommendation for new Bitcoin poker users because it marries 3 essentials in one attractive package: a secure and popular open-source wallet in Copay, the ability to buy Bitcoin in-app, and the integration of the Bitpay ATM card.
Bitpay is also available on pretty much every desktop and mobile platform, so no matter what you like to use you can get it. Download it, follow the tutorial, and you’ll have a functioning wallet to send and receive Bitcoin in seconds.
The UI is designed well so that Bitcoin newcomers aren’t intimidated. If you’re buying Bitcoin somewhere else, simply click the big Receive button to see your wallet’s address and QR code.
My Favorite Bitpay Features
Create as many wallets as you want, name them whatever you want, and even choose different colors for them.
More advanced Bitcoin users can create multiple addresses and/or wallets to give to multiple poker sites at once, if necessary.
Bitpay is a hierarchical deterministic (HD) wallet, meaning it will automatically create new receiving addresses for each new transaction.
That also means a single 12-word recovery phrase can restore all your addresses within a wallet if you lose access to your Bitpay app.
The one-tap ability to reload your Bitpay card, get Amazon gift cards, and buy Bitcoin without going through an exchange are the cherries on top with this wallet.
Why online wallets like Blockchain are so dangerous
The best part of Bitcoin is also its most dangerous: With no middleman, bank, or government oversight, there’s no one who can get it back for you if it’s stolen or you make a mistake.
Anyone who can access your Bitcoin wallet can drain it.
That’s what makes Bitcoin wallets that are stored online (like Blockchain.info or your exchange) so vulnerable: they can be hacked and stolen from much easier than offline software wallets.
There are dozens of stories online about that very thing happening, but I still see poker players using online wallets in spades.
Also, if your Bitcoin is stored online, what happens if the wallet provider’s server goes down or the entire company goes under or gets hacked?
That exact scenario literally happens to Bitcoin providers several times per year.
Further reading: This excellent Forbes feature on the dangers and personal stories behind SMS verification.
How Bitpay is Different
Bitpay actually creates an offline Bitcoin wallet on your device, rather than making you log in to a third-party server. That means there’s no online account for anyone to hack.
You also should protect and encrypt your wallet with a “spending password” and protect any access with a required fingerprint scan on mobile devices.
You absolutely must write down your wallet backup seed phrase for every Bitcoin wallet you own.
You can find it in Bitpay by going to Settings-Your Wallet Name-Backup.
This allows you (or anyone with access to your phrase) to rebuild you Bitcoin wallet and its contents for each address if you change devices, lose it, or can’t access it for whatever reason.
Be careful – Bitpay is still a “hot” wallet
Even offline wallets like Bitpay aren’t truly hack-proof because they still live on a device that can connect to the internet. It’s what’s known as a “hot” wallet. Still, the possibility of your device being compromised by malware specifically targeting your Bitcoin is very low.
Instead of being stored entirely online with a wallet service like Blockchain and protected only by a username and password, Bitpay actually creates wallet files on your device. It would take a dedicated hacker specifically targeting your device and somehow breaking the encryption to rob you of your Bitcoins.
That being said, you absolutely shouldn’t ever store large amounts of Bitcoin or Bitcoin intended for long-term storage in a hot wallet – Bitpay included.
Josh’s Pro Tip
After being prompted to record your 12-word wallet recovery phrase, the first thing you should do with your Bitpay wallet is set a “spending password”.
Besides requiring a password before sending Bitcoin or exporting your wallet, this will actually encrypt the private keys on your device, which Bitpay doesn’t really make clear. That means that even if someone stole your hard drive, they couldn’t access the private key files without the password.
Electrum: A Bitcoin Wallet for Power Users
- Advanced functionality
- Does not store Bitcoin private keys online
- Is not dependent on a third-party server
- Private keys are encrypted on your hard drive
- Clunky interface
- Bitcoin can only be accessed from one device
- Remote possibility your device could be hacked
- No built-in way to buy Bitcoin
What you need: An Android device, Mac desktop, Windows desktop, or Linux desktop
Best for: More advanced Bitcoin users who want a secure wallet
Download: Links to all platforms available on Electrum’s website
Why Poker Players Might Choose Electrum
Electrum is one of the most popular and widely trusted desktop Bitcoin wallets, thanks to its open-source nature and appeal to power Bitcoin users.
I do not recommend Electrum for new Bitcoin users, since you’re likely to make a mistake, get confused by the ’90s-era interface, or both.
If you’re new to Bitcoin, I still strongly recommend just getting Bitpay. It’ll do everything you need.
Once you’ve been around the block and made a few dozen transactions, then I might recommend Electrum if you want to do things like import paper wallets, private keys, or set up multi-signature wallets.
If your eyes are starting to glaze over at this point, just avoid Electrum for now.
Electrum actually stores your Bitcoin private keys in encrypted files on your hard drive, so you aren’t relying on an online service to keep your funds safe, like the Blockchain.info online wallet service a lot of poker players settle for.
Your Bitcoin private keys are never uploaded anywhere with Electrum so it’s nearly hack-proof, but it’s remotely possible that a very targeted hacker could intercept them from your device. Electrum is still a “hot” wallet. That’s the highly-improbable risk with storing a wallet on any device that is connected to the internet.
Blockchain.info: Risky Short-Term Storage
- Nothing to store on your device
- Very easy to use
- No personal information required
- Can log in from any device
- Your wallet and private keys are stored online
- Vulnerable to hackers or server failure
- Notification system is buggy
- No way to recover its wallet on other wallet software
What you need: A web browser
Best for: Poker players who won’t keep Bitcoin in their wallets and want an easy setup
Website: You can sign up for an online Bitcoin wallet at Blockchain’s website
The number of poker players and sites recommending online wallets is staggering. They’re less secure, open to hackers, and transfers to poker sites could potentially be tracked.
Blockchain is the Lazy Bitcoin Wallet Pick
I used Blockchain for more than 2 years before I learned enough to realize it isn’t smart to store any form of Bitcoin private keys or logins online.
If you still want to go the online route, they’re easily the largest provider of online Bitcoin wallets.
They host more than 16,000,000 wallets and have raised more than $70 million in funding from some of the largest investment groups in the world.
All you need is an email address to sign up, so no personal information is required. It also has a very straightforward interface, which I think is extra important if you’re new to Bitcoin.
If you need to switch between multiple computers, phones, and tablets to manage your Bitcoin, Blockchain is easy to use since it isn’t tied to any device. You can log in to Blockchain from anywhere you have your credentials – and therein lies its fatal flaw.
The Fatal Flaw of Blockchain
The convenience of Blockchain is also it’s biggest flaw: it lives online.
Do you want to rely on a third party to store and protect your Bitcoin?
That means your wallet account could conceivably be hacked and drained of its Bitcoin contents as easy as your email account. If that happens, you’ll have no recourse since, by its nature, Bitcoin transactions can’t be reversed or reported to any law enforcement.
You absolutely shouldn’t even consider using Blockchain unless you set up two-factor with Google Authenticator or Authy, but, even if you do, what happens if there’s a system-wide hack of the entire wallet database?
That happens seemingly every day to massive companies in larger sectors than Bitcoin and, in fact, it has happened multiple times specifically to Bitcoin exchanges. Sometimes it has a (kind of) happy ending and other times it doesn’t.
What if there’s a massive server outage or DDoS attack on Blockchain?
The mental loop of potential catastrophes for an online company holding the only access to your money is endless.
Josh’s Pro Tip
I wouldn’t even consider using Blockchain without Two-Factor Authentication and second password enabled. You’ll find them in the Security section. SMS codes are useless and can be easily hacked these days.
Use the authenticator app option and get Authy on your phone. That way, even if someone has your wallet ID and password, they can’t log in without physical access to your phone. The second password option also adds an extra password prompt before any Bitcoin is allowed to be sent.
Ledger Nano S: Unhackable Storage
- A physical device that cannot be hacked
- Stores Bitcoin private keys on a separate secure chip
- Built-in screen
- Recovery phrase is never shown on computer
- Up to 8-digit PIN must be entered to access Bitcoin wallet
- Extra work to send and receive Bitcoin
- Requires purchase of the hardware
What you need: A desktop computer with a USB port and the Chrome/Chromium browser for the wallet management apps
Best for: Long-term hack-proof Bitcoin storage
Security: Very High
Price: $80-100 shipped worldwide
Website: I may be paranoid, but I will only purchase these from Ledger’s official site
Why I Love The Ledger Bitcoin Wallet
The Ledger is the ultimate Bitcoin wallet. It’s a hardware wallet, meaning it’s a specialized physical piece of hardware only used for storing Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency private keys.
It’s about the size of a pack of gum and looks like a fold-out USB flash drive with a small screen and a couple buttons.
The Ledger Nano S is one of the most popular hardware Bitcoin wallets out right now along with the Trezor. I like the Nano S a little more because it’s a little less expensive, looks cooler, and never shows your recovery phrase on your computer screen.
True Cold Storage
The Ledger Nano S is true “cold” storage, which is technically the only safe way to store Bitcoin long-term. It’s cold because it doesn’t sit on a device that can be connected to the internet and the actual architecture of the chips inside it makes it impossible to hack.
Even if the Ledger could be hacked electronically (it can’t), you have to physically input your PIN (which can be up to 8 numbers) with real buttons on the device and accept transactions via a cool built-in screen with a blue LED to process them.
Ledger even states that you can use it on a malware-infected computer and it will still keep your private keys safe.
To access your Bitcoin wallet you insert a mini-USB cable into the Ledger Nano S and the other full-sized USB side into an open USB port on your Windows, Mac, Linux, or Android-based computer (think Chromebook).
You then use a Ledger Chrome (or Chromium) browser extension to access the super-simple wallet interface to send or receive your Bitcoin.
My ideal Bitcoin wallet combo: use Bitpay on your phone as your hot wallet loaded with “walking around money” and keep anything more than that on your Nano S.
Peace of Mind for Bitcoin Poker Players
I recommend the Ledger Nano S because I’m paranoid about security and it allows you to safely hold Bitcoin long-term. It also supports alt-coins like Ethereum, Litecoin, Ripple, and Dash among others once you get to be a cryptocurrency boss.
True, it’s a bit of a hassle to have to physically plug it in every time you want to send or receive Bitcoin from poker sites or other merchants, but the peace of mind is worth it to me.
If you plan to leave more Bitcoin in a wallet than you’re willing to lose, you need a hardware wallet offering true cold storage like the Ledger Nano S.
My Bottom Line on Bitcoin Wallets for Poker Rooms
Getting a Bitcoin wallet set up is the easiest part of the Bitcoin poker process. The one you choose is going to depend on what you want to do with it. My personal recommendation? Bitpay as your hot wallet and Ledger Nano S if you’re holding Bitcoin long-term.
A good guideline to keep in mind is that a Bitcoin hot wallet is like the real cash wallet you walk around with. You keep enough money in it to do business, but your life savings is somewhere safer. In the Bitcoin world, that’s cold storage.
Why don’t you walk around with all your money in your pocket? That’s an incredible risk. The same goes for a Bitcoin hot wallet.
If you only plan to use your Bitcoin wallet to quickly transfer modest amounts to and from poker sites, exchanges, and/or your Bitcoin ATM card, you’re probably safe with a “hot” wallet like Bitpay.
It’s like small amounts of cash going in and out of your worn leather wallet. If you get robbed, you’d be mad as hell, but not financially devastated.
If you want to HODL Bitcoin long-term and actually make a savings out of it, you’ll need to get a hardware wallet.
How To Get Bitcoin Step 2: Actually Acquiring It
So you’ve got a Bitcoin wallet set up now, but now you need to actually put Bitcoin in it to send to the poker sites. Fortunately, you’ve got a lot of choice on how you do that.
Option 1: Turn your existing online poker money into Bitcoin
Requires: Existing funds in an account at a Bitcoin poker site or the ability to get funds onto one using another deposit method such as a credit card.
Do you already have money at a Bitcoin poker site? If so, you’re standing on the precipice of the beautiful horizon of Bitcoin ownership.
No one really talks about this method, but existing online poker players can obtain Bitcoin perhaps easier than anyone.
Online poker sites hate to be used as “banks”, but they’ll never really know that’s what you’re doing if you don’t take it too far (e.g. making frequent credit card deposits, not playing, then requesting Bitcoin payouts).
Literally, all you have to do is:
Step 1: Create a Bitcoin wallet. More on how to do that here if you skipped that part.
Step 3: Type (or preferably paste) in your Bitcoin wallet’s receiving address at the poker site.
Step 4: Wait about 12-48 hours depending on the poker site and – BOOM – you’ve got Bitcoin in your wallet ready to go. You just turned your poker money into Bitcoin.
You just turned your online poker money into Bitcoin. You can now send it to another poker room or do whatever else you’d like with it. See my recommendations here for what to do with your shiny new cryptocurrency.
If you already have money at a poker site that supports Bitcoin, then you already have Bitcoin.
Can you still do this if you’ve never made a Bitcoin deposit at the poker site?
Your original deposit method at the poker site doesn’t matter.
You can still make a Bitcoin poker withdrawal directly to your chosen wallet regardless of if you used a credit card, cash transfer, or bottle caps as your original deposit method.
The poker sites would rather send you Bitcoin instead of a check anyway. It’s cheaper, easier, and unregulated for the poker room just as it is for you.
The Best Parts of Bitcoin Exchange via Poker Sites
You know what I like best about making the poker sites be your Bitcoin exchange?
You never have to create an actual Bitcoin exchange account, charge you bank account, wait for ID verification, or give away all your personal information.
Besides, using Bitcoin for online poker withdrawals is faster, more private, and more convenient than getting your money as a check, cash transfer, or wire.
You can deposit it right back to another poker site, withdraw it using a Bitcoin ATM card, make purchases with it, or hold onto it and make yourself money.
Which poker sites will send you Bitcoin this way?
This method will work at the following poker sites, which I’ve used for multiple Bitcoin withdrawals and trust:
Option 2: A Bitcoin ATM
- Turn cash on hand into Bitcoin immediately
- Buy price is 5% or more than average Bitcoin exchange rates
- Will probably require an ID
- May not be available in your area
What you need: A Bitcoin wallet on your phone and fiat cash
Best for: Players who need a modest amount of Bitcoin immediately
How to use a Bitcoin ATM
Step 1: You will likely have to confirm your mobile by giving the Bitcoin ATM your phone number in order to receive an SMS code. In the United States, you’ll also probably have to allow the ATM to scan your ID.
Step 2: Open your mobile Bitcoin wallet to the receive screen, which will also display the QR code. For mobile Bitcoin wallets, I prefer Bitpay or Breadwallet.
Step 3: Hold up your QR code to the ATM’s scanner.
Step 4: Choose how much Bitcoin you’d like to purchase.
Step 5: Insert your cash into the ATM. Your cash is exchanged into Bitcoin and sent right away to your Bitcoin wallet. It will likely complete confirmation is 15-30 minutes. Note: If you don’t have cash on hand, withdraw what you need from your bank account at a standard ATM first. which is probably right next to the Bitcoin ATM.
Finding a Bitcoin ATM
If you have the Bread Bitcoin wallet app on your phone (and everyone might as well, even if it isn’t your primary one) there’s a built-in tool under the Buy Bitcoin option to show you the nearest Bitcoin ATMs.
You can also use the map at CoinATMRadar to find the nearest one.
As you would expect, major metropolitan areas may have dozens of Bitcoin ATMs, whereas rural areas may not have any.
Thanks to the pervasiveness of Know Your Customer and Anti-Money Laundering (KYC/AML) regulations in the United States and other countries, you’ll probably have to either have your ID scanned by the ATM, have your fingerprint scanned, or both.
This will depend on the ATM type and how much you’re depositing.
Bitcoin ATMs and Awful Exchange Rates
Although Bitcoin ATMs are convenient to buy your poker funds, you pay a premium for it. The price you’ll pay for Bitcoin is about 5-7% worse than what you’d pay at a reputable quality exchange like Kraken or Gemini.
For example, .1 BTC would cost about $550 at Kraken at the time of this writing. You would pay $600-625 at a Bitcoin ATM.
That might be negligible for smaller Bitcoin purchases, but could be massive for larger amounts.
If you can wait a week or so to get your Bitcoin, it’s always a better deal to buy it from an exchange or from within a supported wallet like Bitpay.
Bitcoin ATMs scan your ID anyway. You might as well just send it to an exchange and get a better deal.
Option 3: Within Your Bitcoin Wallet
- Keeps things tidy by allowing you to buy and sell Bitcoin right from your wallet
- No exchange signup necessary
- Fair buy fees at 1% or less
- Most do not support credit card buys
- May not support sells back into fiat
- May not be available to non-U.S. residents
- What you need: A Bitcoin wallet that partners with Glidera such as Bitpay or Airbitz, a checking account, and your ID
Best for: Players who need to buy occasional Bitcoin at fair rates
How to buy Bitcoin from your wallet
Most Bitcoin users think of Bitcoin wallets like Bitpay, Breadwallet, Mycelium, or Airbitz simply as storage, but within the last couple of years they’ve picked up an incredible useful function: you can now buy (and usually sell) Bitcoin in-app. You can’t get much more convenient than that.
About a dozen Bitcoin wallets now use Glidera, which is now operated by one of my favorite Bitcoin exchanges – Kraken. Simply click the “Buy Bitcoin” button on the home screen or menu of your wallet to be guided through it.
After sending Glidera a scan of your ID, you input your banking details from an impressive list of partnering banks.
Currently, only ACH transactions are supported, meaning you cannot use credit cards. The fee is very reasonable at 1% and you should have Bitcoin delivered right to your wallet in about 5 days.
Bitcoin exchanges are the biggest Bitcoin parallel to PayPal. They’re regulated and used to link your real-world bank account to Bitcoin purchases and withdrawals.
Option 4: Bitcoin Exchanges – The (mostly) Necessary Evil
- Provides a direct link from your bank account to Bitcoin
- Allows large purchases of Bitcoin and withdrawals of Bitcoin back into fiat currency
- Can wire money directly back to your bank account
- Allows trading between multiple cryptocurrencies
- Reputable exchanges are regulated by government compliance agencies
- Bitcoin exchanges have previously been hacked or become insolvent
- Bitcoin private keys are stored with the exchange
- Requires a large amount of personal information for higher limits
What you need: A web browser, your personal information, and the ability to send in a photo of your ID
Best for: Players who need a steady option to buy Bitcoin and withdraw fiat right back to their bank accounts
What is a Bitcoin Exchange?
The Bitcoin exchanges I recommend are regulated companies who turn standard currency from your bank into Bitcoin. They also turn Bitcoin back into fiat currency (USD, EUR, GBP, etc.) and transfer it to your bank account.
Why are they necessary?
It’s one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get Bitcoin using your bank account. It’s also the only easy way to sell your Bitcoin back into traditional currency and dump it directly back to your bank account.
How do they work?
Very easily, although each one has a different interface and requirements. You sign up for an account, verify your identity, which is usually by sending in a scan of your ID, and provide a bank account to link. You can then move both ways between government fiat currency and Bitcoin.
Why are Bitcoin exchanges “evil”?
Because exchanges do transfers with banks, they require various amounts of personal information to use. It starts with what’s found on your driver’s license for small transactions and escalates from there depending on how much you want to transfer.
Exchanges doing business with Americans are also beholden to the IRS, FinCEN, and whichever acronym wants to know more about any of its customers for any reason. Bitcoin exchanges create a middleman and government meddling over a currency whose central culture avoids The Man like the plague.
The worst Bitcoin exchange offenders (i.e. Coinbase) regularly interrogate their customers and ask for documentation beyond what even traditional banks would require.
Exchanges to Use for Poker with Bitcoin
- Excellent personal experience
- Trading between 15+ cryptocurrencies
- Minuscule $5 fee for wire withdrawals
- Wires are sent within 1-2 days
- Interface could intimidate new Bitcoin users
- Requires multiple photos of your ID before you can buy or sell Bitcoin
- ID verification can take 2-3 weeks or more if your photos are rejected
- No Bitcoin buys from credit cards
My experience with Kraken
It was awful waiting for them to verify me, but it’s been smooth sailing since.
They don’t ask questions, don’t add markup to prices, allow me to trade between tons of cryptocurrencies, and their withdrawals are unmatched.
Learn their interface, wait to get verified, and don’t look back. Kraken is easily my main exchange.
- Easy signup and bank verification
- Interface is easy to understand
- Slightly less verification than Kraken
- Excellent same-day wire withdrawals
- Wait up to 2 weeks for them to verify a scan of your ID
- Other BTC and ETH available for trading
- No Bitcoin buys from credit cards
My experience with Gemini
I’ve heard Gemini mentioned by a lot of Bitcoin enthusiasts and decided to test them out as a secondary exchange to Kraken. Everything has gone smoothly so far.
Gemini has easy to work with and allow instant Bitcoin buys from your bank account once they check your ID. Their also unmatched with wire transfer withdrawal times. I’ve received some within hours and have never waited more than a day.
- Quickest exchange to just buy Bitcoin
- Interface is very simple
- Allows small credit card Bitcoin buys instantly
- Higher Bitcoin buy prices than almost anyone
- Egregious Bitcoin sell fees
- Random interrogations of customers
- Shares information with the IRS
- Will close accounts for transacting with poker sites
My experience with Coinbase
Unfortunately, I also see a lot of online poker players using and recommending Coinbase.
I’ve personally had an awful experience with Coinbase, which ended with me demanding they close my account just to wash off their stench.
I suppose it was a blessing in disguise, however, as it forced me to find better Bitcoin exchanges.
Josh’s Pro Tip
I recommend signing up and getting verified at 2 Bitcoin exchanges, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. That way all the ID garbage is done and you’re ready to cash Bitcoin out at a moment’s notice or buy it later if you need to.
Remember, you don’t need to buy Bitcoin to use an exchange. You can use them simply for turning your Bitcoin poker payouts into real-world money that gets sent to the bank.
A Personal Warning on Coinbase
If you’ve searched around about Bitcoin and poker you’ve no doubt run into the wolf in sheep’s clothing: Coinbase. Nothing beats them in terms of sharp interfaces, speed of verification, and ease of use. They even somehow managed to be the only Bitcoin exchange with a mobile wallet app that lets you buy Bitcoin directly using a credit card.
Coinbase is like the smiling stranger in a nice car, luring in the lost and inexperienced before fleecing them back at the lair.
A lot of poker players settle for Coinbase, which pains me.
Check out some of the recent fiascos involving Coinbase so you aren’t just taking my word for it:
- IRS Granted Authority to Demand Coinbase User Identities
- Coinbase complaints increase 4,700% in one year
- The Coinbase Reddit is dominated by complaints
- How Coinbase allowed a hacker to steal $8,000
A sampling of Coinbase’s ratings on customer review sites:
Coinbase doesn’t want or deserve poker players
Coinbase’s reputation among Bitcoin enthusiasts has never been lower and I hate to see them get a new customer, but they remain one exchange option if you’re desperate for simplicity and speed over privacy and better rates.
If you play online poker (and even if you don’t) and use Coinbase, you’re likely setting yourself up for future frustration, interrogation, and/or financial surveillance.
If you just want a “Buy Bitcoin now” button and can’t wait for ID verification at the better exchanges, then Coinbase is going to be it. They’re also the only ones that deal with credit cards.
If you’re going to touch Coinbase with a 10-foot pole, absolutely don’t even think about sending it directly to a poker site from them or any other exchange. Take 60 seconds and send it to your real wallet first.
If you want to just make a small Bitcoin buy, transfer it to your wallet, throw it on to a poker site, and then never use them again you’ll probably be fine with Coinbase. Anything more than that, however, and prepare to be interrogated, buy and sell at worse rates, and possibly have your trading history shared with the government.
Coinbase also is allegedly silently tracking customer transactions and specifically forbids its users from doing business with poker or any other gambling site.
It’s your call.
Getting Bitcoin to Your Wallet before you deposit at the poker room
Technically, you could send Bitcoin from your exchange wallet directly to a Bitcoin poker site as your deposit, but that would be like piloting a stealth fighter jet and never pressing the stealth button. Don’t get lazy. Amazingly, even poker sites like America’s Cardroom often skip this crucial step in its Bitcoin tutorials.
Sending your Bitcoin from your exchange to a real wallet before using it at a poker site is a critical step you can’t skip.
If you make Bitcoin transfers (to anyone, but especially online poker sites) right from your exchange, you’re voluntarily giving your transaction history to a company who is beholden to the government and knows everything about you short of what you ordered at Chipotle for lunch.
How to send Bitcoin from an exchange to your wallet
Step 1: Log in to your exchange, whether it be Kraken, Gemini, or the dreadful Coinbase. Each interface is different, but you’re looking for a “Send” or “Withdraw” button. On Kraken, which admittedly doesn’t have a great UI, go to Funding, Withdraw, and then choose Bitcoin from the withdrawal methods on the left column.
Step 2: Here is where you’ll copy-paste that long alphanumeric string shown in the receive section of your wallet, since that’s where you want to send your Bitcoin. If you’re using Bitpay, there is simply a big “Receive” button that will show you your latest receiving Bitcoin address and QR code.
Step 3: Few exchanges or poker sites allow you to scan a QR code for your Bitcoin receiving address, so I like to have both the exchange and my wallet open on the same device to copy-paste. From your wallet, copy the receive address and then paste it into the exchange’s withdraw field.
Step 4: Submit the withdrawal with the exchange and your Bitcoin should be confirmed in your wallet in as little as 10-15 minutes.
Josh’s Pro Tip
With modern Bitcoin wallets, every time you receive Bitcoin a new Bitcoin address will automatically be created for the next transaction. This is called an HD wallet.
That means that the long alphanumeric receiving address will be different every time you receive Bitcoin. This is essential to protect your privacy. Don’t worry – every single address that is created is stored in your wallet.
You’ll see it on the Bitcoin wallet immediately, but it isn’t ready for poker yet
When you send Bitcoin to your wallet, you’ll be able to see it there within about 5-10 seconds. Unfortunately, your Bitcoin isn’t really available to use for poker or anything else quite yet.
Bitcoin transactions have to be confirmed first by miners processing the Bitcoin ecosystem. That’s who the fees go to. This article by CoinDesk explains the Bitcoin transaction process nicely.
Now comes the anxiety for new Bitcoin poker users, as you’re probably used to a world where financial transactions happen instantly.
In a perfect cryptocurrency world, Bitcoin transactions would also happen instantly, but they don’t. The infrastructure around Bitcoin wasn’t really designed to handle the load that’s been placed on it in the last few years and how to fix it is a huge controversy in and of itself.
Keep calm and wait for the Bitcoin blockchain
What you need to be is patient and calm at this point. I’ve had Bitcoin transfers confirm in as little as 5-10 minutes and, in one weird instance, take about 48 hours. I would estimate 90% of my all-time Bitcoin transactions confirmed within 30 minutes.
The important thing to keep in mind is that, so long as you copy-pasted the address correctly, your Bitcoin isn’t being “lost” or stolen if it hasn’t been confirmed yet. Remember, there’s no one actually in charge of Bitcoin that could steal it.
You’ll see your transaction immediately in your Bitcoin wallet, which should give you peace of mind. It will also probably show up as “pending” or “unconfirmed”. Just keep checking back once in a while. It’ll get there and you’ll be ready to slice and dice on your chosen poker site in no time.
Once it’s confirmed, your Bitcoin is ready to be sent to a Bitcoin poker site or anywhere else you choose.
Option 5: Getting Bitcoin from Peers
- Alternative to exchanges if your country doesn’t support them
- Another option if you cannot purchase Bitcoin through other channels
- May not require any personal information
- Highest risk of getting scammed
- Relies entirely on trust
As a disclaimer, I’ve never used a peer-to-peer Bitcoin exchange service or purchased Bitcoin from a private party. However, I’ve heard from plenty of Bitcoin enthusiasts who swear by services like LocalBitcoins.
It’s essentially an eBay-like service, but for buying and selling of Bitcoin. There’s a feedback service to try to discourage scam artists. Some Bitcoin buyers and sellers go as far as to actually meet up physically if they’re both in the same area.
I would never personally trust such a Craigslist-y service, but just know it’s there if you’re feeling adventurous.
Trusted poker forum members
If you’re a veteran of a poker or Bitcoin forum, you could also ask for recommendations of a trusted member who might be able to do a personal PayPal or poker site transfer for Bitcoin transaction.
Step 3: Getting Your Bitcoin onto the Poker Site
If you’ve used an exchange to buy Bitcoin and sent it to your wallet, you’ve already practiced using Bitcoin once. You’re going to do the same thing with your poker deposit.
You’ve followed the steps up to this point and your Bitcoin is ready to go in your wallet. You’ve taken the onramp, changed into the fast lane by sending your Bitcoin to a real wallet, and now you’re ready to finally to open it up.
What’s next? The last step of the deposit puzzle, which is actually sending your Bitcoin to a Bitcoin poker site.
Let’s use Bovada Poker as the example site, as I’ve had excellent Bitcoin experiences with them in the past. However, this process will be identical on any other Bitcoin poker site.
How to make a Bitcoin poker deposit
Step 1: Open the poker software and log in. I’ll use Bovada Poker as an example since I think they do Bitcoin best.
Step 2: Visit the cashier and select Bitcoin as your deposit option.
Step 3: Type in how much you’d like to deposit in US Dollars. If you’d like to deposit your entire Bitcoin wallet balance, you should make this $1-2 less than you have to account for the mining fee. Let’s choose the minimum $25 for this example.
Step 4: The Bovada Poker cashier will then generate the exact amount of Bitcoin (BTC is the currency acronym for Bitcoin) you need to send based on the current exchange rate. You’ll also see the Bitcoin address (and QR code for that address) you need to send it to.
Here’s another example of what the Bitcoin poker deposit screen will look like if you’re playing on mobile. This is using BetOnline Poker.
You can’t scan a QR code with the same device you’re using, so if your wallet is on the same device you’re playing poker on just highlight and copy the alphanumeric address.
That’s what I’ll do here since I’m on the Bovada Poker desktop software.
I will be using my Bitpay desktop wallet. If you’re playing poker on a desktop and your Bitcoin wallet is on your phone, just scan the QR code with your phone in the next step.
Step 5: Open your Bitcoin wallet and set up a send transaction. Most wallets make doing this very clear. On Bitpay, for example, just hit the big “Send” button at the bottom.
Step 6: Paste in the Bitcoin address you copied here. You can also scan the QR code given from the poker room if you’re using another device.
Step 7: Now make sure the amount of the Bitcoin being sent exactly matches what the poker cashier requested.
Step 8: If there’s an option to adjust the mining fee, I recommend leaving this alone for now. This has a direct effect on how long your Bitcoin transaction will take to confirm.
Most wallets calculate for faster (with slightly higher fees) confirmations by default.
It can be obnoxious to pay $5-15 for a $25 Bitcoin transaction, but that’s just the state of Bitcoin fees at the moment.
The good thing is you’ll pay almost the same thing if you send $2,500 or $25. It’s a trade-off I’m willing to make for all the benefits of Bitcoin.
Step 9: Obsessively check to make sure you’re sending to the correct address and send it away. Depending on the wallet you’re using and how securely you set it up, you should have to input a PIN, type a password, click a physical button on hardware wallets, or scan your fingerprint.
You enable that level of security to make sure that, even if the device with your wallet on it was stolen, no one else could spend your Bitcoins.
Step 10: Bovada Poker is pretty remarkable as they often credit your poker account within seconds rather than waiting for the Bitcoin blockchain confirmations.
At other poker sites there will likely be a 15-60 minute delay depending on how backed up the Bitcoin network is on confirmations.
Step 11: The Bitcoin poker site will credit your real money balance in US Dollars.
It may sound like a lot of steps, but essentially you’re just copying a Bitcoin address from the poker cashier to your wallet, choosing an amount, and sending it. As you get more familiar with using Bitcoin, you can perform this whole thing in under a minute.
Step 4: Withdrawing Money from a Bitcoin Poker Site
Bitcoin is easily the best withdrawal method for poker sites we’ve ever had, and that’s coming from someone who’s tried almost everything since 2004.
So you’re building up your bankroll, enjoying shooting some fish in a barrel, and you’re ready for a little profit-taking.
Have a check cut from the poker site, wait a week or two for Fedex, and deal with invasive questions from your local banksters? Voluntarily give the bed mates of the IRS more data on your finances? That’s, like, so 2008.
Bitcoin’s got your back. Here’s what you need to do:
How to get a payout from a Bitcoin poker site
Step 1: Visit the poker site’s cashier and click withdrawal. Again, I’ll use Bovada Poker as an example because they’re simply better at Bitcoin (and most things).
Step 2: Click the Bitcoin icon in the poker cashier. Let’s do a $45 Bitcoin payout.
Step 3: Open your Bitcoin wallet. If you don’t have one yet, see my dedicated section above on how to do that. It’s easy as pie.
Step 4: You want to find the “Receive” section, which is clearly marked in every sensible Bitcoin wallet. You’ll then see your wallet’s latest Bitcoin receiving address and QR code.
Step 5: Highlight and hit CTRL-C (or just click/tap on many wallets) to copy this alphanumeric address. Since I’ve yet to see a poker site cashier that allows you to scan QR codes (weird), I recommend having both the poker room and your Bitcoin wallet open on the same device so you can copy-paste.
Step 6: Paste your Bitcoin address into the poker room cashier, cross-check it, and submit it.
Step 7: Depending on the poker site, you’ll receive Bitcoin to your wallet in about 12-48 hours. This particular example from Bovada took exactly 16 hours.
You’re going to wait a lot less time for your payout
With Bitcoin, the waiting time from the poker site is cake compared to any other method.
If your Pavlovian response to poker payouts is to think “now the cryptic waiting time begins”, you’re in for a treat. I’ve never waited more than 72 hours for a Bitcoin poker withdrawal and the sweet spot seems to be about 18-24 hours. The best poker sites will even beat that.
You’ll receive the Bitcoin exchange rate of your fiat currency poker withdrawal, which will go straight to your Bitcoin wallet.
If you’re sending to a wallet on your mobile, I recommend having push notifications on so you know as soon as the poker site sends it over. You’ll also usually receive an immediate email from the poker room when they send your Bitcoin.
Step 5: What To Do With Your Bitcoin
Now that you’ve got that sweet Bitcoin sitting in your wallet, what can you actually do with it?
Here are the main routes:
Sell Bitcoin right in your wallet
If you used the Glidera service within a supported wallet like Bitpay to buy your Bitcoin, selling it is incredibly easy. Even if you aren’t, follow the “Buy or Sell Bitcoin” link in your wallet and follow the prompts to sign up with Glidera.
Once you’ve verified your ID and linked your bank account, you can sell your Bitcoin to Glidera and they’ll send USD directly to you within 2-3 days. It’s sort of a mini-exchange without all the extra bells and whistles.
Sell your Bitcoin at an exchange
This is the other option If you want fiat money back in your bank account as easily as possible. Log in to your exchange account and you’ll find an option for depositing Bitcoin.
Copy the address or scan the QR code into your wallet and send it over to your exchange account. You can then trade the Bitcoin back into USD or other fiat through the exchange and then withdraw it directly to your bank account.
I’ve done this numerous times with Kraken and have only good things to say about them. No holdups and received my funds between 4-72 hours. The fees are also tiny, with a $5 wire fee and fractions of a percent for the Bitcoin-to-USD trade. Compare that to possible interrogations and 1.5% or more from the putrid Coinbase.
Buy Amazon gift cards or other products
Another way you can immediately turn your poker winnings (via Bitcoin) into funds usable in the real world is through a gift card service such as eGifter.
They sell virtual gift cards and accept Bitcoin as a payment method. Most importantly, Amazon is on the list. You also earn about 5% back in rebates.
I’ve used eGifter for maybe a dozen Amazon gift cards paid for with Bitcoin and, while it may take up to an hour for delivery, it worked fine. If you use Amazon as often as I do, a gift card there is as good as cash.
If you use the Bitpay Bitcoin wallet, you can also convert it to Amazon gift cards right within the app, which is even easier. I’ve done it many times and it couldn’t be simpler. You also get your gift card voucher right away without waiting for Bitcoin confirmations.
There are also a number of of smaller online retailers that accept Bitcoin directly, with Overstock being the biggest name thus far.
Get a Bitcoin ATM card
Bitcoin ATM cards are a brilliant idea, providing a direct link from your Bitcoin to the “normal” financial world. It’s the perfect way to literally get cash or make purchases as soon as the same day you requested a poker cashout.
Bitcoin ATM cards give you a physical card you can use to withdraw cash, make in-person purchases at merchants, or use online.
My favorite provider of this is Bitpay. You can integrate right into your Bitpay wallet, which lets you load the card in seconds. The ATM limits are excellent, allowing you to withdraw up to $3,000 per day and $750 per ATM transaction. There are no extra fees for any of it, although you’ll pay about $1 in Bitcoin miner’s fees per transaction.
The only disadvantage is having to give your Social Security number to get the card (which can take up to a month to arrive in the mail), which is required for anyone issuing debit cards in the United States. Bitpay has also recently started incorporating mining fees into card loads, which is a big drag.
Need to get your poker winnings into a bank account ASAP? Skip the exchange and a couple of days. Just send it over to your Bitpay wallet, load it onto the card, withdraw it from an ATM, and deposit it into your bank account as cash. Easy peasy.
Deposit Bitcoin at another poker site
This probably goes without saying, but with Bitcoin loaded in your wallet you’re empowered to deposit with any other poker site that accepts Bitcoin.
That kind of tears down that mental wall of apprehension and dread that normal deposit methods create to stop us from trying something new.
With Bitcoin ready to go, you can poker site hop almost as quickly as you can copy-paste those address lines.
Let your Bitcoin make you more money
I’ll go into more detail on how investing with Bitcoin in the next section, but if you want to start earning the best returns that (almost) no one knows about, you literally don’t have to do a thing from here. This isn’t investment advice, but Bitcoin has increased in value more than 10 times in the past 2 years, blowing away returns on every traditional investment.
Cryptocurrency is only for the strong-willed, but if you can leave it alone, the value of Bitcoin has only increased long-term.
For an idea of what to expect, read this excellent experiment by a Forbes writer who performed two stints of living exclusively on Bitcoin. It perfectly encapsulates the disconnect between rising Bitcoin values and stagnant real-world adoption.
Even though it was written in 2014, not much has changed in terms of actual businesses accepting Bitcoin.
In short, be prepared to hang around a big city, make friends, and risk skipping lunch if your Bitcoin payment doesn’t confirm in time.
Heck, who’s going to pay for anything with Bitcoin these days thanks to the exorbitant mining fees? I salute you if you stay off the mainstream financial grid entirely and I wish you all the needed luck in the world.
Bitcoin, Poker, and Investing
Disclaimer: I am not qualified to give investment advice. These personal accounts about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies should not be taken as financial advice. Do you own research and make up your own mind before investing in Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, or anything else.
As online poker players, Bitcoin is incredibly useful as a currency. It’s faster and more private than any other method to date. It’s perfect for deposits and withdrawals, which makes it easy to overlook Bitcoin as an asset.
That’s what’s unique about Bitcoin: it’s both a medium of exchange, like a $100 bill, but it has its own speculative value, similar to gold. Its one-day value fluctuations can trigger emotions ranging from hitting a one-outer on the river yourself to watching your opponent suck out on you with a runner-runner straight.
The Long-Term Returns of Bitcoin are Staggering
What Bitcoin has done long-term can’t be argued. If you’ve held onto Bitcoin from almost any time in the past, you’ve made money. If you’ve held onto it for a while, it’s a lot of money.
The first 3 companies that come to mind when I think of big-name stocks that have done well in recent years are: Amazon, Apple, and Google. Fair enough, right? Three of the most profitable companies in the world that have had exceptional recent years.
Look at the great performance they’ve had over the past 5 years:
Now take a look at Bitcoin:
Staggering, isn’t it?
The first documented real-world use of Bitcoin was a trade of $30 worth of pizza for 10,000 BTC. Today, that would be the equivalent of over $55 million. –New York Times
Bitcoin makes poker players the smartest investors in the room – by accident
To me, the most beautiful part of investing with Bitcoin is that online poker players can be and have been a part of it by complete accident. You just might be making some deposits and cashouts between sites, but that one day you decided to let your Bitcoin sit in your wallet? You became an investor, and probably a smart one.
Like it or not, there’s no way to separate Bitcoin from its change of value. If you have Bitcoin, your value is going to change one way or another.
Long-term? That’s been a one-way street.
Absolutely do not invest in Bitcoin if you can’t stand the heat
When I first started using Bitcoin for my poker cashouts, I dabbled in the market of it. I was absolutely awful at it.
My “strategy” consisted of letting my Bitcoin sit for a little while after it hit my wallet from the poker site. Sometimes I would have lucky timing with the Bitcoin market and it would be on a rally in the midst of when I got my cashout. I would watch the price, let it ride, and as soon as it went back down 1 or 2% I would sell it all and withdraw it.
Sure, I sometimes made a profit when I got lucky with the timing.
Other times, those crazy poker sites had the nerve to send my Bitcoin while I was sleeping. I would wake up and see I had lost 7% of my payout before I even know I had it, and panic-sell.
I was unwittingly “buying” high with my poker site cashouts and selling low more often than not.
My strategy was really just getting lucky or unlucky and poker players know what happens to those who rely on luck long-term.
It only took a month for Bitcoin to not only recoup the losses from the crash, but actually hit all-time highs. Bitcoin tends to do that. If you’re going to invest some of your poker bankroll in Bitcoin, you should be doing it long-term.
Each Bitcoin could be worth $100,000 within 10 years. –Financial analyst Kay Van-Petersen for CNBC
What I finally learned about making money with Bitcoin
Guess what I learned after a few of those curse-laden panic sells? Every. Single. Time. The price not only bounced back to what it was when I received it from the poker site, but then shoot way past it. The Bitcoin market moves in fast-forward so it literally usually only took a week or two to make me look like a fool.
Many Bitcoin wallets will actually show you how much your Bitcoin was worth at the time it was received and then, of course, what it is worth at current prices. If you do transactions over time, it can be staggering. I was tired of seeing the money I would have made by simply letting it sit there.
Finally, I woke up and had a long think looking at the lifetime value graph of Bitcoin. The darn thing was only going up since the crash in 2013, and going up significantly – even with individual days of 8-10% losses that caused people like me to panic.
Why not just try to go a week or two weeks without even looking at the Bitcoin charts and see what happens? Bitcoin’s value has always gone up over time.
If you’re the type I used to be: if an 8% or 10% loss in a day convinces you that it’s never coming back up, then you shouldn’t hold on to your Bitcoin. Just cash it out onto a debit card or through an exchange as soon as you get it. You’ll avoid the volatility almost entirely.
However, if you’ve got the nerve for it, simply holding onto Bitcoin could be one of the easiest opportunities for passive income you’ll ever see.
My Bottom Line on Bitcoin and Online Poker
Whew. Congrats on getting through all that with your eyes still open. You deserve an avocado ice cream and a few (hundred) satoshis.
I absolutely understand if you’re overwhelmed, intimidated, confused, or are enjoying a cocktail of all three right about now.
I get that Bitcoin is different.
It’s unlike any money system that we’ve grown up with and become accustomed to for our entire lives.
It’s got numbers and letters, QR codes, wallets, no government oversight, and its own lexicon with big words like decentralization and cryptocurrency.
I also get that Bitcoin is better for online poker than anything else ever.
I have a habit to overexplain things that I’m passionate about, but I’ve done it for players interested in playing online poker with Bitcoin because it’s that important to me. Bitcoin is that much better than any other government-controlled scam fiat system out there.
Bitcoin is 100% better for online poker sites than anything else we’ve ever seen. It literally solves every problem online poker has ever had with deposits and withdrawals. No one can tell you where to spend it, there’s no bank looking over your shoulder, and you’ll never see a declined transaction.
The Whole Bitcoin for Poker Process in 6 Steps
At the end of the day, Bitcoin for poker players is really as simple as: acquiring it in your wallet and sending it to a poker site using long codes you can copy-and-paste or scan. Want to cash it out? Send it back to your wallet and do what you want with it from there.
You’ll choose how you want to get Bitcoin, where to store it, and how to cash it out. I’ve gone into detail on options for each step so you can choose what’s best for you at each step.
Learning Bitcoin Poker is Like Riding a Bike
Learning Bitcoin is like learning to ride a bike or change a lightbulb for the first time. You can read all about it, but the only way to really learn is by actually doing it. Once you do it a few times, it couldn’t be simpler.
Spending a few hours of your time to get set up with Bitcoin will fix everything when it comes to your online poker banking and could open your eyes to a lot more. That’s a +EV use of a half a day.
A couple of years ago, a poker site told me that they would only give me my money in Bitcoin. I had never used Bitcoin in my life and, not mincing words, I was pissed.
But what choice did I have?
Today? I would rather have Bitcoin in my wallet than dollars in the bank. It turned this skeptic into a Bitcoin missionary.
Learn Bitcoin, embrace it, use it for poker, use it for everything, make money with it, and, yes, it might just change your life, too.
Ask me anything about Bitcoin
Have any question about Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, or how to use it at poker sites? Is anything still unclear? HODLing on your hardware cold wallet like a boss?
I could talk crypto-shop all day and, unlike the usual suspects like Reddit, no condescending elitists allowed.
Post a comment below and, if I’ve recently had a cup of coffee, you’ll get a response from me within a few hours.
A lifelong poker player who moved online in 2004, Josh founded Beat The Fish in 2005 to help online poker players make more-informed decisions on where to play and how to win once they got there. He hopes to counter the rampant dishonesty in online gaming media with objective reviews and relevant features. Tech nostalgic. Cryptocurrency missionary. Fondly remembers the soup avatar at Doyle’s Room.