Is the use of virtual private networks to play online poker a problem?

The topic of VPN (Virtual Private Networks) has been doing the rounds on social media and the spark was recently rekindled by poker pro Daniel Negreanu. Negreanu voiced his thoughts on VPN usage in online poker on social media and his website.


Negreanu is known to stir up a lot of conversations thanks to his social media posts. The poker community chimed in, but as often the case on social media, the crux of the issue was lost among the talking points.


Here’s what’s going down:

The Negreanu perspective

Negreanu believes that violators who are caught should face a penalty in the form of confiscation of funds or something similar, purely because they are violating the terms and conditions of the site. However, he doesn’t feel sites should go out of their way to detect VPN use, because it’s a victimless crime.

Daniel places most of the blame for VPNers from the US at the feet of the federal government because he believes, prohibition should be enforced by the government and not fall at the feet of the operator.

He writes:

“The real puzzling thing for me is why do sites care to waste money and resources on policing this? The US Government isn’t spending a dime to do so, so why should a company outside of their jurisdiction be held to policing something they aren’t morally opposed to? Why is the onus on the company to assure that US players aren’t playing from the US? If the US Government doesn’t want its citizens to use a product, they should police it themselves. It’s absurd to put that on the service provider.”

 The Flip Side

 Drawing an analogy to the consumption of liquor and by that logic it’s akin to say that stores with liquor licenses shouldn’t need to card people. If the government doesn’t want underage people buying alcohol they should police it.

If a company wants to receive and retain licenses in jurisdictions that care about such things, it needs to comply with the rules that are in place. If a licensed online poker company (in legitimate jurisdictions) wants to stay licensed it has to abide by the laws of the country that issued it a license. In many cases, that requires the company to be in compliance in every country they operate in.

So, just like a liquor license, an online poker company has to take appropriate steps to make sure that it’s only serving customers it’s legally allowed to serve.

The Bottom line

Negreanu emphatically claims that VPN use isn’t cheating because it doesn’t impact game integrity.

However, it’s quite obvious that most people willing to risk playing via a VPN are good players who know people and can afford the several thousand dollars it takes to circumvent the US ban.

The people with the desire and means to circumvent the prohibition are pros, which makes VPN usage anything but a victimless crime, as it injects more winning players into the pool.