TL;DR: As Italy was beginning to be ravaged by coronavirus, the country moved to nationwide lockdown, forcing more Italians online. That apparently caused a surge of interest in popular Texas hold ’em site, Blockchain Poker (blockchain.poker). Online players from the region became second only to the United States. It’s also a chance for card game enthusiasts to get acquainted with the hard money advantages of Bitcoin Cash (BCH), which is used by 80% of the site’s players. CoinSpice caught up with David Klakurka for an exclusive interview about the project’s growth.
Blockchain Poker Reaches Record Traffic, Powered by Bitcoin Cash
It cannot be much of a surprise more people around the globe are turning to online gaming during the pandemic. They’re looking for an emotional escape, of course, a break from what seems like continually worsening news. More traditional online gambling sites are undoubtedly seeing upticks in usage as a result, but they’re fraught with legacy banking trappings and frictions, requiring know-your-customer (KYC) identification and matching credit card.
— Blockchain Poker (@BlockchainPoker) March 29, 2020
The poker game of choice online is Texas hold ’em, which pits a table against all the players for a pot of money each contributes to. It’s ultimately a thinking person’s game, one not entirely based on chance or rolls of dice, in other words; skills like paying attention to how another player reacts to what is happening at the table are often dissected for advantage.
Movies such as Rounders and Casino Royale (of the James Bond franchise) dramatized the game’s lure, helping to increase its reach last decade. And, truth be told, there is money to make if a player can take into account a number of factors, from human psychology to Game Theory and economics. Again, it’s not just about luck. The online versions can be no-less interesting, and the advent of peer-to-peer electronic cash avails users of yet another possible lesson while playing: the value of hard money as represented by BCH, a fast, cheap, reliable cryptocurrency.
Interview with David Klakurka
CoinSpice caught up with David Klakurka to ask about the growing popularity of Blockchain Poker and the role P2P electronic clash plays in its development.
CoinSpice: How did Blockchain Poker come about?
David Klakurka: The project’s development started back in 2015 by a small group of poker enthusiasts who just wanted to build something that we’d actually enjoy using but that didn’t require jumping through a bunch of hoops to get into a game. We knew that Bitcoin would play a key role in making this work and committed to supporting it as the key value layer back in 2016.
What’s normal traffic like, give or take, nowadays?
We actually make some of this information available in-game under ‘Statistics.’ In 2017 & 2018, we’d normally have between 30k-50k hands played per month (about 1 per minute). We began to see some growth in 2019 as we started reaching out to people outside of the Bitcoin space, though, with nearly each month bringing in more activity than the previous. March has been our busiest month to date with over 900,000 hands total (>20 per minute).
What’s different about Blockchain Poker versus other sites of its kind?
Since 2016, the primary goal of the project has been to get Bitcoin (now Bitcoin Cash) into the hands of as many people as possible and to show people what is possible with true 21st-century money. The biggest difference people notice when they play for the first time is how easy it is to sit down and play. This is only possible because we give away free satoshis to all players, no strings attached, which gives them an easy entry point into the world of cryptocurrencies.
Experienced poker players will note the exceptionally aggressive rake schedule (less than 1% at higher stakes) and rakeback rewards (up to 50% back).
Since the pandemic have you seen an increase in traffic?
Yes, it’s had quite an impact as people spend more time indoors. Of course, this has since become a global event so the impact on the poker scene has become much more profound.
The Only Cryptocurrency That Has Both the Utility and the Network Effect
Is liquidity less of a problem now?
The community is big enough now that it’s become self-sustaining for the most part. Players no longer have to wait around as long to play at higher stakes. Bitcoin-only sites generally have smaller communities because of how difficult it is to get into but we don’t have this same problem as players are already given what they need to get started once they arrive.
What are you doing to handle the new traffic?
The team has been working for the last 2-3 years on platform scaling, so although there is still a lot more work to do going forward we’re able to handle the big change in community size without too much issue. Each month we try to strike a balance between adding new features and improving performance/scalability. In March, we’ve been more focused on the latter.
Does the site offer giveaways or promotions?
We already give away satoshis which is a pretty big draw and has been considered a kind of ‘no-deposit bonus’ to some.
In February, we launched support for active promotions which we run during events that we think are worthy of note. Most of the promotions we do are Bitcoin-focused. For example, we do rakeback bonuses when markets are down. In April and May, we’ll be running promotions during the halvings in an attempt to get more eyes on it as many from outside of the Bitcoin space are unaware of the economic rules built into these new digital currencies.
What role does Bitcoin Cash play in making the site a success?
Bitcoin Cash is the only cryptocurrency that has both the utility and the network effect to make a project like this work. At the time of writing, Bitcoin Cash makes up just over 80% of the activity on Blockchain Poker. We expect this ratio to continue to increase as Bitcoin Cash becomes more accepted globally, something we’re actively trying to help drive.
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DISCLOSURE: The author holds cryptocurrency as part of his financial portfolio, including BCH.