Daniel Negreanu Has No Problem with U.S. Online Poker Players Using VPNs

  • He does not believe playing online poker on sites that don’t permit U.S. players is cheating
  • Argues that the player who is most at risk is the VPN user in the U.S.
  • Says it is not the job of online poker rooms to police VPN users
poker pro daniel negreanu at poker table
Daniel Negreanu wrote that he has no problem with the ethics of using a VPN to play online poker in the U.S.

Use of VPN not unethical

Poker Hall of Famer Daniel Negreanu recently wrote on his blog at Full Contact Poker that he has no problem with online poker players in the U.S. using a virtual private network (VPN) to access sites that restrict U.S. players. Three-quarters of respondents to a poll he posted earlier on Twitter agreed with him.

He admitted that VPN use is technically cheating since it breaks the rules of the site, but he disagreed with it being deemed unethical. Once the game starts, a VPN user has no advantage over anybody else.

The only possible advantage, he said, is that someone in the U.S. will incur fewer expenses than someone who travels elsewhere to play.

The Gordon Vayo case

Negreanu mentioned the Gordon Vayo case as evidence that VPN users have a lot more to risk than players based in authorized jurisdictions.

Vayo, a professional poker player, won nearly $700,000 in the 2017 PokerStars Spring Championship of Online Poker. PokerStars had evidence that he was playing from the U.S. and did not pay him.

Negreanu pointed to this as a major disadvantage for players circumventing location restrictions. Vayo not only lost out on his winnings, but he was later counter-sued by PokerStars. The lawsuit was eventually dropped, but Vayo was almost out another $280,000.

Negreanu observed that a VPN user, while being most at risk, is not cheating other players in the tournament or the online operator. He concluded that:

There really is no victim here outside of the player using the VPN when he gets caught. He pays the ultimate price. No one else is affected whatsoever.”

Poker rooms tracking down U.S. players

A source of frustration for Negreanu is that poker sites are spending time and money going after players who use a VPN to play from the U.S. The online poker rooms obviously have no ethical problems with poker, he argued, and they should not be a law enforcement extension of the government.

“They bow down to the US Government and eat it,” he said. “Why? In the hopes of being able to re-enter the market if online poker is regulated in the future.”

Negreanu wrote that he is fine with sites saying they won’t accept U.S. customers, and he is presumably OK with poker rooms taking basic steps to actively prevent U.S. sign-ups. But that is where he feels they should stop. Beyond that, they are getting no benefit except the “pipe dream” that they can enter the U.S. market someday.