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Should You Play Online Poker on Unregulated and Unlicensed Sites, or Not?

  • Marty DerbyshireMarty DerbyshireMo NuwwarahMo Nuwwarah
unregulated online poker


  • To play, or not to play? The availability of unregulated sites creates a tough choice for players.

To play, or not to play. That is the question that millions of online poker enthusiasts have to answer due to the constantly evolving online poker regulatory landscape.

Whether or not you have unfettered access to online poker is vastly dependent on where you live, since laws and regulation surrounding the game are constantly being added or amended. For those fortunate enough to live somewhere smart enough to legalize and regulate online poker, there is not much of a debate. However, in areas where online poker is restricted, there are more than a handful of sites which operate outside of the law and are unlicensed and unregulated.

While we at PokerNews certainly do not support unregulated poker rooms, we do realise that players will still take chances to play the game they love. But should they? We look at both sides of the argument.

Play if You Wish, But Be Careful

I'm not going to pretend you're not putting your money at risk playing on any of the unlicensed and unregulated online poker sites available to US players. Instead, I'm going to embrace the idea. After all, isn't poker all about taking calculated risks to begin with?

I'm certainly not suggesting you leave tens of thousands of dollars in limbo on these sites. For goodness sake, cash out large amounts as soon as you can. But if you like playing real money online poker for affordable stakes in the privacy of your own home while you wait for painfully slow legislators across the country to make it legal, these offshore sites the Department of Justice continues to ignore are your best bet.

After all, the chances that you run kings into aces for your entire bankroll seems infinitely greater than the sites cutting and running with your money, the DOJ finally getting around to shutting them down, or somebody hacking your account and dumping the cash into theirs. As long as you're being smart about it, and playing with money you can afford to lose, any one of these scenarios actually happening can simply be chalked up to another bad beat, and if you can't handle one of those, you shouldn't really be playing poker to begin with.

Last I checked, this was the United States of America: The land of the free and the home of the brave. When it comes to online poker, the average American's freedoms have been limited over the years, but this is a still a place where we're free to play on any online poker site we like until the DOJ comes knocking at the door. It's also a country where fortune favors the bold, and particularly in poker, those who take the biggest risks, reap the biggest rewards.

In what would have to be considered a worst-case scenario, the DOJ will finally get around to actively pursuing these grey-market operators and shut them down like they did PokerStars and Full Tilt. Despite some major hiccups, and a rather slow and arduous payout process, the majority of US players' funds were ultimately returned, and one would hope the DOJ forces these currently operating unlicensed and unregulated online poker sites to do the same should they be targeted. No matter what, ensuring you don't have the kind of money tied up on these sites that can have a major effect on your finances is key to being able to weather whatever storm comes.

The bottom line is this: Yes, you're taking a risk with your money when you play on an unlicensed and unregulated online poker site, and of course, you should act accordingly, and limit the amount of money you risk to an affordable number. But for those who want to continue to play online poker now, it's certainly a risk worth taking.

-- Marty Derbyshire

Just Stay Away from Unregulated Sites, It's Not Worth the Risk

I love poker. If you're reading this article, chances are pretty good you love poker too. People like us who love poker are often willing to take chances to play it. If you need evidence for this, look no further than the lofty perch Bodog/Bovada occupies on the traffic rankings at PokerScout.

Every day, thousands of people play poker on these unregulated sites. They risk their hard-earned dollars, heedless of the inherent and very real risks involved. Should they be doing so?

In a word, no.

It seems many poker players have memories about as sharp as that of the average goldfish. It was merely a little over five years ago that we all logged on to our accounts on PokerStars and Full Tilt only to find we were ordered to cash out on one site and had our funds frozen in limbo on the other.

So now, these other sites have popped up and are welcoming our money with open arms. It's not hard to see why people are biting. We all miss relaxing at home and firing up a tournament or sipping a beer while playing games like Omaha and stud that are hard to find even at most casinos that spread poker.

But players who give these sites their business are not getting the experience of PokerStars and Full Tilt of yesteryear. They're risking their money for crappy products from untrustworthy companies.

Take Bovada, for example. I have played on this site, and like anyone else who has done so, I can attest that its software is complete garbage. Software glitches and freezes are routine. Sometimes, whole tournaments get canceled, or worse, exploited.

This very situation happened to a friend of mine, who was deep in a tournament only to be locked out by a software freeze. He waited over an hour to finally reconnect, only to find some of the players had gotten in before others and were eagerly pillaging blinds and antes, building monstrous stacks at the expense of everyone else.

Did Bovada make things right? Hardly. With no regulators to answer to, why would they? At best, my friend received a tournament ticket as recompense, while those who attained an unfair advantage made off with thousands in prize money.

Even worse what allegedly transpired over at another unregulated site recently, where pro poker player Alex Foxen learned first-hand the dangers of having substantial sums on unregulated sites. According to Foxen, a scammer managed to hoodwink a poker site employee into thinking he was Foxen and cleaned out his account not once, but twice. Foxen claimed losses of $11,500 in the incident.

The wisdom of keeping sums like that on unregulated sites can certainly be questioned, but this is a tale of someone simply rattling off a few of Foxen's vitals and gaining instant access to his account. If that doesn't get you turning and running the other way, I don't know what will.

They say those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it and that's exactly what's happening to anyone who willingly places money on an unregulated online poker site. Instead of spending their time grinding on these sites, they should be lobbying lawmakers for regulated online poker for all.

Keep enjoying those online tournaments and cash games if you like, please don't holler about the inhumanity of it all when the Department of Justice beats down the doors of these scummy, bottom-feeding entities that have taken over the scraps from PokerStars and Full Tilt's tables.

-- Mo Nuwwarah

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*Please note that the thoughts and opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author and not PokerNews. PokerNews strongly advises players to avoid playing poker on unregulated sites. You can see a full list of regulated poker rooms in your area here.

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