Poker Privacy & The Role of Cryptocurrency
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With everything now on the internet reachable through a few expert clicks and keyword searches, keeping your data private has never been more important. Simply by searching your name, prospective employers, friends, or even potential romantic partners can find out more or less everything — from your elementary school to your favorite color. And if everyone can find this information, then your online habits can come back to haunt you, even if they’re perfectly innocent.
Admittedly, this is also the tame version of events. Poker is followed by a social stigma that sometimes extends into the government itself. This means that some authoritarian governments could have a problem with adults gambling, giving you all the more reasons to protect your privacy. Here, we go through a few basic ways in which you can still play without worrying about whether your private information will be compromised by anyone.
Bitcoin, the original cryptocurrency, was born out of the libertarian idea that governments (along with financial institutions) exert too much control over people’s lives, especially the way people spend their money. This is why one of the cryptocurrency’s purposes has always been to add a previously unimaginable amount of privacy to every user (however, Bitcoin is not anonymous, but pseudonymous, which should be kept in mind).
The biggest advantage of using cryptocurrencies instead of your own fiat bank account is that your name does not have to be tied to your crypto wallet. As long as only you have access to your private keys, your funds are safe regardless of whether your private information is tied to that wallet or not. There is no need to identify yourself with anything other than the private key.
An additional perk to using cryptocurrencies to fund your online poker account is that it makes it that much harder for malicious actors to steal your money. It doesn’t matter if they have all of the information they need to impersonate you; they can’t gain access to your wallet without the private key (which you should never share with anyone).
As we have already stated, Bitcoin (and many other cryptocurrencies) is not anonymous, only pseudonymous. In order to keep the network safe and healthy, Bitcoin has been designed in a way that allows everyone to see any transaction ever made. This means that someone working diligently could, theoretically, tie your cryptocurrency transactions to your account, although they may never find out your identity in the physical world if you haven’t shared it anywhere. In reality, however, there is an almost zero chance that you have succeeded in remaining completely anonymous.
Still, there are ways to obstruct this diligent search, or at least to make it much harder to conduct. So-called cryptocurrency tumblers are one option. They are mixing services that are used to mix potentially identifiable coins with others in order to obscure their trail. Tumblers get a bad reputation since they’re often used to hide “tainted” cryptocurrency, for example, funds that have been stolen in exchange hacks—in other words, a form of money laundering. However, their original purpose was to improve the anonymity of Bitcoin and other cryptos, and this remains their most common use nowadays—and as long as your own funds are yours, there is nothing from the legal perspective to worry about. You will, of course, have to pay a percentage of the coins to the tumbler service, which tends to be between 1% and 3%.
What about KYC?
Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures are another tricky reality of the cryptocurrency world. Although one of the purposes of cryptocurrencies was for people to have more freedom over the way they spend their money, this does not often agree with regulatory agencies, so most major cryptocurrency exchanges force KYC checks upon their users. Those often include asking for your full name, your salary range, and the way you intend to spend your crypto — all of which negates the advantages of using crypto in the first place.
If your privacy is important to you, some online cryptocurrency poker sites like CoinPoker do not require you to identify yourself at all. All you need to do before you start playing is verify your account’s email address and prove you’re not a bot, and then deposit funds into your new account. This means that no amount of googling your name and other identifying information will bring up the fact that you use CoinPoker — unless you decide to use that information to create your username.
One of the biggest differences between cryptocurrencies and legacy finance, in general, is that the former is decentralized. That means that there are no more central authorities that can gatekeep your activities, including the way in which you spend your own funds. However, this comes with a hefty dose of responsibility: you have to keep your private keys extremely safe, there is no real way to retrieve your coins if you send them to the wrong address, and there is no single authority you can turn to if you run into problems. Luckily, the cryptocurrency community is very often willing to help, so you’re not necessarily completely alone. Still, you will have more responsibilities than simply using traditional finance.
On the other hand, the advantages often outnumber the slight hardships: You can play poker with like-minded individuals without worrying that anyone can find out and judge you for it. You can stay completely anonymous, without the risk of malicious actors figuring out your identity and leaking your information, or worse. Perhaps best of all, if you’ve been on a losing streak lately, cryptocurrency allows you to change your online poker persona once your debts are settled, and reenter the scene without facing any prejudice from the other players. In short, you can be the master of your own identity.
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