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Using A VPN Could Keep You From Ever Playing Online In The US


With Pennsylvania preparing to launch online poker in its own fenced-in market, there must be thousands of players across the country turning green with envy.

All that jealousy has to have some considering jumping the virtual fence and hopping in the online action. However, using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to play poker from a place where its still illegal is a terrible idea.

Not only is it unlikely to work, it could land you a lifetime ban from online poker’s most popular operators. Something that would leave you on the outside looking in, if and when these operators ultimately come to your home state.

The Black Friday fallout

Ever since April 2011, when the US Department of Justice laid charges against online poker’s top operators, effectively kicking them out of the US market, American poker players have been looking for a way to keep playing.

For some, that has meant giving up consumer protections and ignoring glaring security issues to jump onto illegal offshore sites that still serve the American market. For others, it has meant using a VPN.

A VPN is a service allowing users to access the internet through a routed connection. VPNs allow users to hide their location and all online activity.

VPNs work by encrypting data from your computer and routing it through the VPNs servers, before your internet service provider has access to it. Any site or service you’re ultimately accessing online sees the data as if it is coming from the VPN server and its location, rather than yours.

Hiding behind a VPN

VPNs were ultimately designed to protect a user’s privacy, and they do a pretty good job of it. However, many people use VPNs for a different reason entirely. They hide behind VPNs to access sites that may be banned or restricted in the place where they live.

Outside of online gambling and poker sites, Netflix is a good example of a site many people try to access using a VPN.

Copyright laws force Netflix to offers different content in different markets. However, some users who want to access the content in one market while inside another have been known to use a VPN to get the job done. Of course, Netflix frowns upon the activity, and blocks the use of most VPNs, denying users access to the content they’re after.

Unfortunately, online poker players caught using a VPN to access a site from a banned or restricted location face a much worse fate.

The terms and conditions on most online poker sites ban the use of VPNs. In fact, players caught using a VPN will often have their account banned and the money inside it forfeited.

You will get caught

If you think the sites won’t catch you, think again. The online poker sites use software designed to detect VPNs and they’re constantly updating it. Plus, they compile IP addresses of known VPN services and go after them.

Even if a player can circumvent these measures, if something as simple as a power surge resets the internet connection or VPN client software, changing the IP address back to where the player actually is, the jig is up.

Since legal and regulated online poker launched in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in 2013, numerous out of state players have tried and failed to VPN into these states to play.

The legal US online poker market

New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware online poker sites use geolocation software. Plus, they employ various wi-fi positioning and cell phone triangulation to determine a player’s location. This renders VPNs useless. Many sites also require the use of an application that detects remote software, like VPNs, running on a computer.

You can get a New Jersey, Nevada, or Delaware IP address with a VPN. However, it won’t get you past the other location security measures the online poker sites in these states use.

Many of the same online poker operators, using the same location security measures, will soon launch in PA. Therefore, playing from out of state with a VPN will be as difficult as it is in other states.

Even any PA online poker sites new to the US market will implement these location security measures. That will render VPNs useless. In fact, the laws authorizing online poker will force them to die out.

PokerStars, 888 Poker and WSOP.com

PokerStars’ policy is to immediately ban any player it catches using a VPN. Most of the time, it keeps all funds in the account as well. Other sites, including 888 Poker and WSOP.com have similar VPN policies. All three of these operators will launch in PA before long.

Using a VPN from out of state to play poker in PA will end badly. Plus, the same operators are moving into most online poker markets in the US. Therefore, using a VPN could ultimately lock a player out of online poker across the entire country.

Fortunately, players don’t have to be a resident of a state with legal online poker to play there. That means those desperate to play aren’t required to face the consequences of using a VPN to do it. Most just need a vehicle with a tank full of gas or a plane ticket.


Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.