Do US Poker Players Have an Advantage on Foreign Websites?

August 1st, 2019

Poker is a game of skill, and while there is an element of luck involved, the very best players have amassed hours of experience to familiarise themselves with all situations to enhance their skill level. The internet has given players all over the world quick access to competitive poker games, making gaining experience quick, easy, and convenient. However, as it stands in the United States of America, people can only engage in online gambling in Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania.

To gain access to the world of online poker, some Americans deploy programs known as VPNs (virtual private networks), which allow them to access websites in other regions which are otherwise blocked or unavailable to them in their state. It’s a method that professional poker player Daniel Negreanu approves of and has publically backed, but given the level of exposure that poker enjoys in the US, do American players using a VPN have an advantage?

Negreanu’s argument

Born in Toronto, Canada, Daniel Negreanu is the proud owner of six World Series of Poker bracelets and a total winnings pot in excess of $40.7 million. The 45-year-old has been on the poker scene for a long time and is a popular figure, but his latest Twitter poll proved to be somewhat divisive.

Through social media and his blog, the Canadian poker pro noted that he doesn’t think that others at the table are being cheated by a VPN user being in play. He continues, saying that once the cards are dealt, the VPN user doesn’t have an inherent advantage and that the only person who stands to lose anything is the VPN user if they get caught.

However, just being a poker player from the US in a pool of overseas players could be seen as an advantage in itself.

The edge of being an American poker player

Despite the lack of opportunities to binge poker games online, Americans still dominate the top end of the sport. In poker, the annual Las Vegas-based competition World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the epitome of the sport. However, despite starting in 1970, the WSOP didn’t have a non-American winner until 1990 with Mansour Matloubi from Iran. From then onwards, only 18 of the 60 winners and runners-up haven’t been from the US.

Poker remains an American game. While people all over the world play poker, it is in America that poker receives the most exposure and is much more widely played casually and professionally. US citizens experience huge doses of exposure from sports news, television shows following professional competitions, video games, DVDs, have access to the WSOP Poker Academy, and they benefit from many American-focused poker tips websites which foreign players will struggle to benefit from if they’re not fluent in English. As detailed in the New York Times, the sport is enjoyed by Americans of all backgrounds.

The sheer level of exposure that US citizens get to poker clearly has an impact on the nation’s chances of producing top players. In other countries, it takes a lot of dedication, often found via online poker, to get to a level of understanding that many US poker players can pick up with ease.

Along with the cultural aspects, American players who undergo the procedure of setting up a VPN and creating viable account details will tend to be the better, more experienced players. Only truly good players would take the risks and pay the costs of avoiding the US ban to win money at online poker in other jurisdictions, meaning that a very skilled player will be entering the lower-grade pool of players.

Using a VPN to access what are most likely foreign-based poker websites does give American players an edge, and while playing with tougher competition could result in those around the VPN user becoming better, in the short term, it may only result in the American raking in the chips.

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