Do you want to access your usual online poker sites when outside of your home country? Most online casinos geographically restrict their services to prevent users from specific countries from playing. However, you can keep your activities private and prevent region-based blocking by connecting to a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
A VPN works by encrypting your network traffic, making it unreadable to your ISP, hackers, and anyone without the decryption key. This not only allows you to connect to geo-restricted sites, but it also means that nobody can prove you visited these sites at all.
While there are hundreds of VPN services to choose from, it’s important you find one that’s suitable for the task at hand. To find the best VPNs for online poker, we looked for services with the following characteristics:
- Extensive server networks with a particular focus on the US and UK.
- Not blocked by some of the most popular poker sites (PokerStars, 888Poker, PartyPoker)
- Strong encryption
- Minimal logging or better still, no logging at all
Disclaimer: The laws on online gambling are extremely complex and differ from one location to another. We do not encourage or condone illegal online gambling, or the use of a VPN to spoof geographic locations for the purpose of breaking local laws. It’s important to thoroughly research your country/state’s laws before using a VPN to access online poker websites.
ExpressVPN has servers in more than 90 countries and 15 different US states. This makes it an excellent choice for American users looking to bypass regional poker restrictions, for example, if you’re traveling outside of your home state.
ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption to keep your network traffic private. Users can also take advantage of its DNS leak protection, perfect forward secrecy, and kill switch. Because ExpressVPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, it isn’t required to log any of its users’ data, and accordingly, is completely log-free.
Apps are available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Manual installation is possible on Linux-based systems and specific wireless routers.
EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT: Readers can get an extra three months free here by signing up for an ExpressVPN annual plan. There’s even a 30-day money back guarantee, allowing you to try the service risk-free.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
One of the advantages of online poker is that you can play it anywhere. NordVPN allows six simultaneous connections, giving you the option to access poker sites from any of your devices. This provider has servers in over 60 countries (some of which are optimized for mitigating DDoS attacks), so there are very few poker sites that you won’t be able to use.
NordVPN provides several ways for its users to remain completely protected online. It can be paid for in bitcoin, doesn’t keep any logs, and includes an application-specific kill switch. All data is protected with 256-bit AES encryption.
Apps are available for Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android. NordVPN can be manually installed on Linux and selected routers.
Read our full NordVPN review.
CyberGhost has servers in more than 50 countries, including over 100 DDoS-protected servers in both the US and the UK. This means you’ll be able to find a high-speed server that works with the most popular poker sites, regardless of your actual location.
This service makes online security simple. It includes anti-malware and ad-blocking functionalities, and users can select a server optimized to fit their needs. With 256-bit encryption, no logs, and automatic HTTPS redirection, you can count on your traffic and information being kept private at all times. CyberGhost allows up to five connections at once, so you can remain protected no matter which device you’re using.
CyberGhost has apps for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. Manual configuration is possible for Linux and some routers.
Read our full CyberGhost review.
When there’s real money on the line, the last thing you want is to be disconnected or timed out.
IPVanish owns its servers, enabling it to provide above-average speeds and resolve problems more quickly than some of its rivals. These factors make it a strong choice for online poker.
IPVanish uses 256-bit AES encryption and comes with several optional security features including LAN traffic blocking, timed IP switching, and OpenVPN obfuscation. There’s also DNS leak protection and a kill switch to keep you as anonymous as possible.
Apps are available for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire Stick. Manual installation is possible for Linux systems and certain wireless routers.
Read our full IPVanish review.
PrivateVPN has fewer servers than some of its rivals but is a solid choice for poker players. It boasts its high speeds and offers servers in Nevada and New Jersey, two of the three states that have regulated online poker.
PrivateVPN uses 256-bit AES encryption, DNS and IPv6 leak protection, and a kill switch. It logs no personally identifiable information, you can rest assured that your activities will be kept private. With up to six simultaneous connections permitted, this service is ideal for those who like to play poker on-the-go.
PrivateVPN has apps for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. It can be manually configured for Linux and specific routers.
Read our full PrivateVPN review.
Can I use a free VPN to play online poker?
We strongly advise against using a free VPN to play online poker. Most online poker sites have taken steps to prevent VPN users from playing, so there’s a good chance free VPNs just won’t work. Further, these services usually have fewer servers and more users. This can lead to network slowdowns and unexpected disconnections; two things that can cost you real money if they occur mid-game.
Because free VPNs can’t profit directly from their users, they’ve been known to use shady methods to create income. Free VPNs are capable of injecting unskippable video ads into each page you visit, tracking your activities using cookies, and selling your browsing habits to unknown third parties without your knowledge.
Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There have been high-profile cases in recent years involving free VPNs that sold their user’s bandwidth, came packaged with malware, and misled users about the kind of logs they keep. To stay safe, we highly recommend choosing a trusted VPN service with clear policies.
Online poker and the law
Each country has different laws regarding the legality of online poker. The legislation is particularly complex in the US, thanks to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. Certain US states have passed laws regulating online poker, which makes things even more confusing.
The following is a very simplistic interpretation of online poker legislation. We are not legal professionals. We encourage our readers to further research the laws in their country before attempting to play poker online.
Online poker in the US
Currently, US citizens can legally play poker through any offshore site that accepts American players. Residents of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey can play on any site based entirely in their state.
Online poker in the UK and Europe
Online poker is completely legal in the following countries:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Channel Islands
- Isle of Man
- The Netherlands
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
Each European country not on this list has differing punishments for those caught playing online poker. We do not condone or encourage using VPNs for illegal activities.
If a gambling site permits users from a country that it’s not licensed for, it opens itself up to fines and possibly even legal action. As such, these companies have invested a lot of time and money into detecting VPN usage.
If an online casino realizes you’re using a VPN, you might find that you aren’t allowed to gamble with real money. In the worst cases, you’ll be stopped from playing at all, or find yourself unable to withdraw any of your deposits or winnings.
It’s definitely worth reading the site’s terms and conditions or contacting customer support before attempting to play online poker with a VPN. Depending on where you’re located, a VPN may not even be necessary and has the potential to complicate things instead of helping. However, if you choose to play without a VPN, your data will not be encrypted and your real IP address will be shown to the casino’s server.
VPN usage and funds
While most online casinos allow the use of services like PayPal, some require transfers to be made using a bank account registered in a specific country. This effectively blocks overseas users from playing even if they manage to access the site with a VPN.
There really isn’t much that can be done to bypass this restriction. Instead, it might be worth looking for reputable online poker sites that accept alternative means of payment, such as bitcoin.
Unfortunately, winning at online poker isn’t entirely down to chance or skill. Because the majority of these games take place in real time, even a small time lag can be the difference between a win and a loss. With this in mind, malicious third parties have begun targeting online casinos using Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.
These attacks flood the casino’s servers with requests, slowing the site down or taking it offline entirely. This could lead to players losing money or being unable to collect any winnings they might have accumulated. It’s highly unlikely, but depending on how the server handles connections during live games, an attacker could even find your IP address and attack you specifically.
So how can you protect yourself when playing poker online? The best bet is to use a well-established gambling site that doesn’t have a history of paying DDoS ransoms. After all, if an attacker knows they’ll be paid for their efforts, they’re more likely to hit the same target again.