BitCoin Poker – Is It Really a Thing?

It’s strange for an old-school guy like me to think that a virtual currency is being used to play poker.

I’m used to using what I’d consider traditional payment methods to fund my own action – cash, credit cards, and eWallets. A few months ago, I couldn’t have told you what BitCoin is if you’d sat down and patiently explained it to me for an hour first.

BitCoin poker is, really, a thing. A few poker rooms and other gambling sites are now accepting BitCoin as a payment method.

So what is it? And how is it being used to fund online poker accounts?

What Is BitCoin?
Bitcoin is a virtual currency invented in the year 2008 by a person going by the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto.” The first mention of the currency was in a document sent to a cryptography mailing list made up of just a few people. Not much is known about the person (or people) behind the pseudonym, and they left the project altogether in 2010.

It’s interesting that the project was first mentioned among a small group of cryptographers – BitCoin was invented to exist without the need for a financial middle man. Taking banks and fragile world governments out of the equation produces a more stable and equitable currency, and it means that BTC (the currency’s acronym) are immune from seizure or asset freezing. Or so the theory goes.

So what is a BitCoin? You can’t hold one in your hand, in the traditional sense. It exists in the same way that an email exists – stored in a digital cloud. One important thing to note, for those of us used to fiat money, there is no FDIC or other insurance for your BTC.

Why Use BitCoin?
Here are some popular reasons suggested by blogs and message board posts:

BTC is crypto-currency, which means using it is completely private and anonymous.
Yes, transactions are recorded in a public log, for accountability purposes, but names of people involved in transactions are kept secret, hidden behind a generic wallet ID. There’s a dark side to this – goods can be bought or sold online and authorities can’t easily trace the people involved. That means lots of people are participating in illicit activity (see the story of The Silk Road for a perfect example) using this currency.

BTC allows you total control of your money.
Its value can’t be manipulated by any outside entity. Essentially, using BTC turns you into your own bank. The currency’s lack of physical production costs and non-existent need for storage makes it even easier to handle at the end-user level.

Big companies are bringing it into the mainstream.
BTC wasn’t well known until 2011, when the mainstream press got word of its early and rabid adoption by the Technorati. Now, thousands of businesses all over the world accept it as a mainstream payment method, including some surprisingly big names. You can buy your next Dell laptop with BTC, or shop for a cheaper alternative at Overstock.com. Cities saturated with tech geeks now have ATMs where you can exchange cash for BTC, and the other way around.

How Does BitCoin Poker Work?
The reason BitCoin struck me as so strange initially was simple – I am used to traditional (known as “fiat”) currency. So is everyone reading this – it’s what we’re used to, so any alternative feels a little strange.

The first thing a poker player who wants to use BTC needs to do is exchange their native currency for their new virtual currency.

The popular method of purchasing BitCoin is to deal with an exchange or brokerage. Exchanges are places where buyers and sellers are matched based on their bid criteria, while brokerages hoard large collections of BTC that they sell on-demand at a variable rate.

Exchanges and brokerages are pretty much identical for the end-user. It literally takes a minute or two to complete the transaction.

The BTC are then transferred to you through your unique Bitcoin wallet ID. Think of it as a hyper-focused email address for virtual currency. What’s neat about that is you can send money to anyone in the world using BTC, the same way you can send an email across the globe in a second.

Your wallet ID (BTC address) will be a randomized string of letters and numbers, anywhere from 27–34 characters long. That wallet ID is also the place buyers will send cash – which makes the whole email address analogy easier to understand. BitCoins can be sent or received from anywhere, or even sold among friends or in person.

Now that you’ve got your currency in your virtual wallet, it’s time to transfer it to the poker room of your choice. After confirming that the room you want to play at accepts BitCoin, simply send the appropriate amount to their wallet ID. It takes anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours for the BTC to appear in the receiving account.

As an added bonus for poker players, transferring with BTC is totally free, thanks to the virtual nature of the currency. It costs nothing to send and receive virtual money, so you shouldn’t expect any additional transfer fees from your poker room’s cashier department.

Racing Awards, Medals and Customized Gear for Runners

Running, whether it be a 5k with the family, a 10k for an extra challenge, or a marathon for the elite runners, can be a very exciting and memorable experience. Running is a very personal sport to lots of people, as it can be great exercise and can make you look and feel very refreshed. Tons of awards are given out to winners at races each year. For people organizing these racing events, finding customized and personal running gear can be difficult, as well as finding unique prizes for running champions. When orchestrating a race, you want to have a memorable competition. Medals and unique prizes can help to make the race more exciting. Participants can keep prizes as souvenirs, and remember the experience better because of a keepsake.
The most important souvenir a competitor can take home is a winning medal. Those are worn with pride, and showed to family members and friends. They are often hung on walls, or shown off where they can be seen. Of course, medals need to be personalized, unique, and specific. You cannot award a running champion with a medal that doesn’t recognize what it’s for. It is often a perfect idea to find a company that will provide you with customized prizes for winners. Often, you can ask for customized medals that include the date, the name of the race, and the name of the company sponsoring and orchestrating the event. That way, when people proudly show their winning medal to others, the people who made the event happen will receive the credit and publicity they deserve.

In addition to medals, running apparel and gear can be a great way to make the race more memorable. Unlike medals, gear is commonly worn and would be used often. Passing out swag, such as customized shirts, jackets, hats, and bags can be a great way to add to the excitement of the race. Races with their own gear are viewed as more unique, as they have customized logos and attractive designs. Shirts can be given out to families, and jackets can be sold at the finish line. Hats can be passed out before the race to keep the sun out of the athlete’s eyes. And, of course, bags can be kept forever and used for multiple occasions. Having the name and date of your race on these items can help to increase publicity and help the runners remember what a successful and memorable race it was. Customizing these mementos can help to define a great race, and will definitely help a race to be more exciting and enjoyable.

How Comps Are Distributed to Blackjack Players

So, you’ve sidled up to a standard blackjack table, slid your M Life or Total Rewards card to the dealer, and watched them scan it through to the system. Now what?

Well, that’s a mystery many blackjack enthusiasts are still trying to crack.

The Total Rewards website spells things out quite clearly for slots and video poker:
“You will earn 1 Reward Credit for each $5 you play on reel slot machines and $10 for video poker.”
But when you scroll down in search of table games like blackjack, the numbers aren’t nearly as clear – and in fact, Total Rewards doesn’t provide any concrete numbers at all:
“For table play, be sure to hand your Total Rewards card to the dealer or pit supervisor as soon as you sit down to play and ask to be rated.
Reward Credits are earned based on length of play, average bet and type of game.”
As you can see, Caesars Entertainment properties use a proprietary formula – based on how long you play, your average wager amount, and the type of table game played – to determine how many comp points you’ll earn. Obviously, this leaves quite a bit of wiggle room for the casino, while players never really know for sure how their blackjack session is being parlayed into points.

It’s even murkier over on the M Life website, which only provides the following information for table game players:
“Members must present their M Life Rewards Card to a table games pit supervisor prior to table games play.
M Life Rewards members must satisfy minimum betting requirements to be rated for table games.
Please see a table games pit supervisor at participating M Life Rewards destinations for such assistance.”
In this case, playing at an MGM Resorts property leaves you at the whim of a table games pit boss, along with an unknown minimum betting requirement.

Thankfully, the internet levels the playing field tremendously, and you’ll find plenty of blackjack forums and travel sites where players can discuss their own comp experiences. By perusing a few of these platforms, I’ve been able to come up with the following figures.

Whether you’re using the M Life or Total Rewards card, you’ll need to bet an average of $25 per hand just to get your play “rated” by the casino. For most recreational gamblers who bet the minimum of $5, or $10 when they’re feeling lucky, that threshold alone prices them out of the comp program.

But let’s say you pony up the dough and bet a green $25 chip on each hand (on average). Now, the next factor to consider is your hands per hour rate. Most industry estimates peg the average blackjack table at 80 hands per hour, so I’ll go with that.

If you’re betting $25 per hand and playing 80 hands per hour, you’ll have $2,000 in total bets on the table over that span.

The next calculation the casinos use involves their theoretical hold rate, or the number of dollars they can expect to win based on the game’s house edge. Depending on your skill level, blackjack offers a house edge between 0.50% (for basic strategy experts) and 1.5% (for folks playing by “gut instinct” alone). Knowing this, I’ll use a flat 1% house edge to make the math easier.

Having bet $2,000 in total over the hour, while facing a house edge of 1%, the casino’s theoretical hold stands at $20.

From there, you can expect to receive comp points equal to 10% of the hold, which comes to just $2 in this example.

REMEMBER
That was for one hour of play only, while most of us tend to stick around the tables for a few hours at a time. But for a general rule of thumb, assume you’re earning about $1 in comp points for every $1,000 you put at risk in a 60-minute period.

The big problem most blackjack players encounter is improper ratings by the pit boss. It’s their job to closely observe the action, entering your typical betting unit and your time at the table into the system. But if the pit boss sees you starting out at $10 bets to warm up, before you start firing the green chips, you might not ever get rated at all.

On the other hand, you might get your rating set at $25 bets from the outset, only to up the ante when you’re on a heater. At this point, you could be betting $50 or $100 per hand, all while the system continues to track you as a $25 bettor.

For this reason, blackjack players who value comp points should always take measures to clarify their play to the pit boss. That’s their job, after all, so you’re not bothering anybody by asking for a quick chat. Just let them know your name, that you’ve had your card scanned, and your plan for the game.

Something like “Hi there, I’m so-and-so, and I’ll be betting $25 and up for the next hour or two” should be sufficient. And if you decide to increase the stakes midway through the session, just give the dealer a glance and let them know to alert the pit boss about the new wager.

This can all seem like a chore at first, especially for casual gamblers, but it’s the only ironclad way to ensure that your blackjack play is properly rated.