Bitcoin Poker Sites Push Forward Amid Turbulent Environment
Recent developments on the Bitcoin front have fence-sitters wondering if the virtual online currency remains a great solution for online poker fans, even as Bitcoin’s fans and proponents continue a push toward their use. It’s been a turbulent few weeks since the last times we checked on sites planning to use the currency, or at least supporting it in reports, so let’s look at some of the latest headlines.
Bitcoins Spike in Price
Five months ago, a single virtual Bitcoin could be had for about $14. Today, the price is something like $195. This is great for those who bought (or mined) Bitcoins a ling time ago, and have the means to sell them, but in a more traditional sense, such classic value spikes indicate a bubble that often precedes a major setback in value. Click here to look at the spike in Bitcoin price in the last month or so, as tracked by bitcoincharts.com.
Robert Wagner at the Seeking Alpha investment blog wrote about this just yesterday, and in terms of buying into Bitcoins themselves as an investment — as opposed to using them as a transactional means to get funds onto an online poker site — the time to buy might already have passed.
Hacking, Manipulation Concerns
Bitcoins themselves might be a secure currency due to the interrelated way in which their value is determined, but that doesn’t mean that some of storage and transactional sites and other forms of manipulation and thievery can’t take place. Several Bitcoin-related developments have popped up in the last week or two, particular involving attacks on online wallets designed to store and access the virtual money:
- Coinbase user information was hacked into via Google page spidering results that rendered Bitcoin “Pay Now” online icons and related user accounts to be visible, allowing phishing attacks;
- Bitcoin online storage site Instawallet was hacked into so thoroughly the site remains offline while its owners attempt to restructure the site’s security;
- The Bitcoin price suffered a temporary dip of about $30 (despite the massive rise overall), because of a DDOS attack against Mt. Gox, the tracking site linked to above.
- A new Skype-based virus has even been discovered, which includes a trojan designed to transform victims’ computers into mining devices to collect more Bitcoins for the pirates behind the virus.
It’s all worrisome, and evidence that various criminal sources are seeking to extract value from Bitcoins’ existence and use. The DDOS attack against Mt. Gox is akin to what happened to Bitcoin poker site SealsWithClubs, which was itself knocked offline for about three days, some two weeks ago, after SWC suffered its own DDOS attack.
The report on the Mt. Gox attack indicates two possible motives: to destabilize Botcoins themselves, and to induce a possible wave of panic selling amid the larger spike, which would lead to further profit for the abusers.
Bitcoin Poker Sites’ Bumpy Ride
It’s all an interesting situation, and it leads into why the Bitcoins may remain largely unsuitable for online-poker use. Few players would want to win a significant online poker prize, then have it rendered worthless through a collapse in Bitcoin price or a theft or hacking of an online wallet where the Bitcoins were stored. To date the uptick in value has been good, meaning that early Bitcoin poker players have gained value even if they lost most of their deposits, but again, bubbles tend to burst. Here’s the latest on the online poker rooms who offer Bitcoin deposits:
- SealsWithClubs: Suffered a recent DDOS attack, but is back online. Open to worldwide players, including the US.
- WinPoker: This site on the iPoker Network has introduced Bitcoin deposits / withdrawals, but they are based on the dollar value of the online bankroll at the time of the transaction, and thus not subject as much to Bitcoins’ own volatility. Open to EU and other regions, but not the US.
- RedStar Poker: Offering a similar Bitcoin deposit/withdrawal as WInPoker, this is a small site on the Revolution Network using an independent cashier. Open to EU and other regions, but not the US.
- Infiniti Poker: Michael Hajduk’s promise of a site intermingling Bitcoin-based deposits and withdrawals for US players and other currencies for the rest of the world remains delayed many months after its promised rollout. (It’s available in play-money beta.) Infiniti’s never-ending delays may be partly due because, as a site that attempts to intermingle Bitcoins with other currencies, it therefore serves a cashier and repository for Bitcoins themselves, and is therefore subject to value fluctuations. A recent upward spike in value — as is currently happening — would put Infiniti at risk if a price collapse occurred after launch.
- Switch Poker: Costa Rica-based Switch Poker was the first to accept Bitcoins back in 2011, but its foresight was coupled with an utter lack of marketing, wasting the edge. Swicth Poker limps on, but with only a handful of players as tracked by PokerScout, and is largely nonviable.