Virtue Poker launched yesterday to much fanfare. The makers describe the platform as “a decentralized poker platform that uses the Ethereum blockchain and peer-to-peer networking to provide an online poker site that’s safe, honest and fun.”
With Phil Ivey, Brian Rast, and Dan Coleman on board as player ambassadors and advisors, the Virtue Poker ship is fronted by a recognizable and widely trusted set of players. Behind the scenes, matters are run by a team that includes NASA scientists — and one of the founders of the Ethereum blockchain as an advisor.
For a long time, the blockchain and poker have been intertwined. The link runs from the early days of grinders swapping crypto tips at the World Series of Poker to Doug Polk’s recent retirement projects. The lure of decentralization and misguided ideas about the off-grid nature of crypto appeal poker players. Especially online pros.
But apart from a few sites that accept crypto deposits, crypto and poker have always been separate worlds with an overlapping clientele. With Virtue Poker, that has changed. Virtue Poker comes with its own cryptocurrency, VPP. But the whole gaming system is decentralized in clever ways that echo some of the tricks and solutions built to make blockchains work. From the ground up, Virtue Poker is designed to please the cryptocurrency enthusiast.
But how well does it work in practice?
Ivey tweeted about the event, saying, “After working with the @Virtue_Poker team for over 3 years, glad to see the site launch.”
Well, the first hurdle for anyone approaching the software as a poker player rather than a crypto fiend will be depositing. The only way to get money into Virtue Poker right now is a transfer of Ethereum.
This is because you don’t deposit anything with Virtue Poker itself. Instead, you move your ETH to a side chain, where it’s held under a smart contract until you “withdraw” your funds. Even the cash-out process is decentralized.
All you need to deposit funds is a crypto wallet address. If you don’t already have one, Virtue Poker has a neat walkthrough on their site. Or, when prompted during login, click “No, let’s create one.”
Virtue Poker has a deal with FunFair technologies to help you complete the setup, without it being any more complex than your average sign-up to a website. It’s all very smooth and integrated.
The platform is offering $500,000 in prizes as part of their promotional effort. They tweeted the details in a link with the caption, “Virtue Poker is now LIVE on @ethereum mainnet! Want a share of $500,000 in prizes?”
Games and player base
Once logged in, you’ll find that the games are pretty limited so far. There are no tournaments scheduled, and the sit’n’goes don’t seem to be filling up.
The quick seat option offers just a handful of cash game stakes. At the time of writing, there are just three kinds of cash game hold ’em tables available: 6-handed 100/200 szabo , 6-handed 250/500 szabo, and 6-handed 500/1000 szabo. A szabo is 1/1,000,000th of 1 Ethereum.
The short-deck and PLO offerings are even thinner on the ground.
At a visual level, everything is stylish and seems free of serious bugs. The user interface is pretty to look at and runs smoothly. In fact, with its space-age blue-and-charcoal color scheme it is one of the more pleasant UI designs out there, modeled as much for style as function.
But as you might expect, it can take a little time to get the player-base up to self-sustaining numbers.
One imagines the experience will all change as the player pool grows and the site gets itself established. However, currently, the barriers to entry are higher than on some poker sites. And with the brand new tech involved, players may want to wait and see if the system is really as unhackable as all the publicity chatter claims.
However, it may take more than Ivey shilling for platform to get the momentum up and running. That said, with millions of dollars invested in the project, there are a lot of very competent industry professionals motivated to make Virtue Poker a success.
As an experiment, Virtue Poker is an exciting addition to the industry landscape. We’ll be watching with interest as the site develops.
Featured image source: Twitter