Although the internet is free to anyone and everyone, there are some restrictions that come with using it. For one, some websites block their content and services in some countries or make it only available for specific territories.
The same can be said for some online casinos, which makes an inconvenient and unpleasant playing experience for some players. So how does a VPN for online poker work?
VPN for Online Poker Explained
A virtual private network, or a VPN, is a service that tunnels your internet connection through a proxy that masks your identifiable information from prying eyes on the internet. In principle, a VPN gives you a virtual connection that assigns you a new IP address and spoofs your real location with a new one.
To better understand how VPN works, consider this flow of process:
- You open your VPN, the VPN then tunnels your internet connection through their servers
- The websites you visit and the apps you use would then see that your IP address is the one your VPN assigns to you and that you are from the virtual connection they have assigned you to.
- Depending on the VPN, the tunneling of your connection may be through one server only or through multiple connections.
How a VPN for Online Poker Works
How, then, does a VPN for online poker work? Due to the difference in gambling laws across different countries (the United States even has differing gambling laws per state), some online casino operators have restricted access to their games from some territories or made their service only available to a specific country.
This can be an inconvenience in some situations. If you are a traveling person, playing online poker may be available in your home country, but not in the country you are traveling to - which means you cannot play once you are there. This is where the use of a VPN comes in.
Your VPN would "trick" the online casino provider, through a virtual location and IP address, into thinking that you are still currently located in a place where they are not geo-blocked. This means you can play in a US-exclusive app/site, travel to Japan, and still be able to access the game, thanks to a VPN.
Reasons to Use a VPN for Online Poker
Here are some of the top reasons why you should use a VPN for online poker.
Protection From Hackers
Online gamblers are one of the most common targets for an online attack. The amount of usable personal data from them is huge, often including financial information like online banking access or credit card credentials.
Hackers gain access to your system through your IP address if you visit a site or use an app that is compromised by the attackers. Your IP address, once available to them, would then be used as a backdoor to eventually access devices and data within your network - this includes your other computers, your phone, TV, and any other devices connected to that IP address.
As a VPN is a secure connection that masks your true IP address, it prevents hackers from stealing your data.
Bypass a Jurisdiction's Restrictions
Sometimes, the issue is not about the geo-blocking of a website or an app. In some cases, it is simply due to the fact that online gambling may not be legal yet in a state or country. For example, countries like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Singapore still consider online gambling illegal.
Now, if you live in one of those countries, there would be no way for you to access an online poker room or any online gambling platform for that matter. Using a VPN to spoof your location to where online poker is available is the only way.
Access Geofenced Sites
Not every website is available in your location. Sometimes, the most exciting ones are the ones that are geo-locked whilst you are on holiday. And they can only be accessed from your home country. Through the help of a VPN, you no longer need to be physically in a specific location to enter those rooms. Just make sure you remain law-abiding by using a VPN.
Are you on a business trip in Asia, but you are looking to play online games on a geo-blocked site? Simply open your VPN, set your location to your home country, and the site would now think that you are located domestically and therefore allow access to their content.
Top 7 VPNs for Online Poker
Here are the top seven recommended VPNs you can use for online poker.
ExpressVPN is one of the best-valued VPN services you can get out there, for a monthly fee of as low as $12.95. Although it is a bit more expensive than the average cost of other VPNs, ExpressVPN doers come with a lot of selling points that give value to its above-average pricing model.
ExpressVPN, unlike others, uses the OpenVPN protocol, as well as their in-house protocol called Lightway, which uses an open-source wolfSSL cryptography library. The service also offers connections from numerous locations all over the world, and they take pride in giving their customers strong privacy and security features.
Another one of the most popular premium (paid) VPN services, NordVPN is known for using the WireGuard VPN technology and offering users multiple options in the tunneling of their internet connection. The service is also considered to be on the more expensive side, which starts with a monthly fee of $11.95.
NordVPN not only offers connections to locations all over the world, but they also offer multihop connections (changing your location randomly), split-tunneling (tunneling the connection of specific apps only, but keeping the connection of other apps to the real IP address), and even make use of Tor connections (that would allow you to access Onion websites that are not accessible using a normal browser and serer).
What makes ProtonVPN one of the most popular choices s that it is a freemium app. It has a base level of subscription which is free, and its paid plans are more affordable than the average premium VPN.
This VPN service, despite its low cost, offers most of the services that can be found from the more expensive ones such as multihop connections, and what they call Secure Core servers, which ProtonVPN describes as their "safes" servers you can use.
ProtonVPN's paid plan starts at $6.03, with the most expensive plan at $30 a month. Annual plans are often priced with a small discount compared to a monthly plan.
Seeing Surfshark's pricing plans, you may be discouraged from using it - it's a very expensive service. Plans start at $12.95 per month, although annual plans can go as low as $2.49 a month in equivalence (if you choose to purchase a two-year plan in one go).
Surfshark also offers the usual stuff you can expect from a paid premium VPN: locations all over the world, servees that they boast of being secure, and multihop tunneling options. Aside from that, a Surfshark VPN subscription also includes the functionality of having unlimited connections active at a single time.
Surfshark also includes access to Static Serves, which are servers that are used in accessing static web content.
CyberGhost is yet another premium VPN service that belongs to the "expensive but has value" group of subscriptions. It boasts of outstanding server speeds, add-on aside from a VPN service (such as an added antivirus feature), as well as the ability to handle up to seven connections running at the same time.
On the other hand, users have reported in reviews a number of concerns about CyberGhost. One is that it does not have a third-party audit yet. It may or may not mean anything, but an audit at least gives assurance that the service is safe and secure.
The monthly subscription for CyberGhost starts at $12.99 per month.
IVPN, just like most of the VPN services in this lit also features a secure multihop connection with a strong focus on privacy, too. What makes it a good choice aside from all of these features is the fact that IVPN is an affordable service. Starting at a price of $2 per week (if you need the VPN only for a short time), or for $6 a month.
However, the affordable service does come with a drawback. IVPN offers fewer choices for locations compared to other premium VPNs. On the other hand, it has impressive speeds that only reduce the main connection speed by only around 22-27%.
Another entry for the affordable category, TunnelBear is a VPN service that has its pricing starting at only $9.99 a month. For that price, the VPN service offers privacy, security, and annual third-party audits. This means a lot for a lot of customers, as it gives them the confidence that the service cares for its customers that they make sure their protocols, security, and servers remain on the top of the industry standard.
On the other hand, the drawback to all of these and the affordable price is that TunnelBear offers only the basic features and functions of a VPN and has fewer choices for locations, too.
Warning in Using VPN for Online Poker
While accessing otherwise inaccessible online poker service may be possible via VPN, there are some apps and sites that are against this method and has, in fact, taken action towards preventing players from using a VPN when playing real money games.
One good example is the online poker website PokerStars. Unlike a lot of online gambling sites, PokerStars is not accessible from outside the United States. Thus, the easy solution to play PokerStars from a non-US country is a VPN. Or is it?
While PokerStars does not straight up forbid the use of VPN, they have set clear parameters in using it for their site. For one, anyone can play a casual game (with no real money involved) while using a VPN. However, the site warns that using a VPN to play for real money might prevent some elements of the site from working.
It is not clear how a site such as PokerStars can detect the use of a VPN by a visitor, but some theories on how they can determine it include:
- They have a compiled list of IP addresses known to be used by VPN services
- They are able to detect that the IP address and location is somehow spoofed
- They are able to detect that multiple devices and users are connected to the same IP address.
Tips for Using VPN for Online Poker
Here are some of the top tips on using VPN for online poker.
Check the Terms & Conditions
A VPN service, just like any technical service and software that you use, comes with its own Terms and Conditions that you need to agree on before you use it and install the program on any of your devices. Make sure to read through these terms and conditions thoroughly, so you can be sure that the terms for that service are something you are comfortable with.
Play with Money You are Willing to Lose
Dealing with real money in an online activity always comes with a risk, no matter the security and privacy steps you take. Although using services like a VPN provides extra layers of protection against prying eyes and attacks, there is no way to be 100% safe online. So, make sure to deal only with moderate amounts of money that you can afford to lose.
Take Large Winnings Out Immediately
Let's say it's your lucky day and you hit the jackpot on something (not just on online poker). It's a huge amount of money, and you should take it out of your online casino wallet as soon as possible. Again, this has to do with the mindset that you are never 100% safe online.
Just like people say: better safe than sorry - especially when it comes to large amounts of money.
Pick a Service That has a VPN Kill Switch
A VPN kill switch refers to a function of the VPN that disconnects your phone or whatever device you are on if the VPN connection suddenly somehow fails. Normally, when this happens, your internet would simply go back to its normal state, or what VPN services call an "unsecured connection." with a kill switch, you are free from worries of losing security at all.
VPN For Online Poker: FAQ
Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about VPN for online poker.
Why use a VPN for online poker?
There could be multiple reasons why someone would use a VPN for online poker: to access otherwise geo-blocked sites/apps, to bypass gambling restrictions in their country, or for online safety and privacy reasons.
Are there benefits in using VPN for online poker among players in unrestricted jurisdictions?
Using a VPN is an added layer of security, privacy, and protection since it hides your real location and IP address.
Is there a difference between free and paid VPN for online poker?
Free VPNs usually have lower server bandwidth, resulting in slow connection speed. Also, there is no way to know if a free VPN is safe or even trustworthy.
Are there other uses for VPNs apart from online poker?
Other different uses of VPN include accessing online content not available on your location, such as streaming content, or for security purposes when sharing files online.
Can online poker sites find out I am using a VPN?
Although it is unknown how sites like PokerStars can know if a customer is using a VPN, their warning on the use of a VPN suggests that they have a way of finding out.
Are VPNs for online poker worth subscribing to?
If you really need to use a VPN to play and would not be able to otherwise, then a subscription is a must.
There are several steps you can take to either bypass restrictions online, or simply just keep yourself more safe and secure online. Always remember, if you're going to use a VPN for online poker to only use and install trusted and reputable software.
This article was published on October 11, 2021, and last updated on May 18, 2022.