Bitcoin (BTC) is showing new signs of life as its trading price has slowly increased over the last 12 months to regain a measurable portion of the valuation it had previously lost.
This holiday season two years ago Bitcoin reached its all-time trading high, the decentralized digital currency peaking at $1,242 on November 29, 2013, the day after Thanksgiving.
Billionaires Richard Branson and Bill Gates both expressed interest, Branson dumping some $30 million into the Bitcoin equivalent of PayPal called BitPay.
Hundreds of retailers like Subway began welcoming Bitcoin in exchange for $5 foot longs, Sears, Kmart and Home Depot also accepting the digital coinage.
But since then, the BTC market has crashed. The European Banking Authority and US Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have both warned consumers that investing in Bitcoins carries significant risks.
The currency has also been heavily linked to black markets, theft, and money laundering, all of which understandably scare away investors and patrons.
This holiday season Bitcoin still isn’t nowhere near its all-time high, but also nowhere near its all-time low. From its peak, BTC fell to $178 in January of 2015, but has since climbed to a respectable price of over $300.
Its stronger appraisal has led many in the gambling industry to wonder if a second coming of Bitcoin online poker is in the works for 2016.
Bitcoin’s most famous poker player is Bryan Micon, the former chairman of the popular Seals with Clubs (SwC) network. While Bitcoin had a tough 2014 and 2015, Micon’s was even more dramatic.
In June, Micon reached a plea deal and agreed to pay a $25,000 fine for operating an unlicensed interactive gaming system in Nevada.
The agreement meant the Bitcoin entrepreneur would avoid prison time and would only receive one misdemeanor charge.
Micon rebranded the network as SwCPoker.eu and the network has steadily gained traction among the online poker community for its smaller rakes and anonymous gameplay.
2016 Bitcoin Poker
As governments continue wrestling with how to regulate and tax online gambling and Internet poker, Bitcoin advocates are hoping to continue gaining market share.
In its early days, SwCPoker struggled to support even a couple tables, but today it’s routinely hosting over 100 players and a couple dozen tables.
Bitcoin growth has been considerable in 2015, however that might not continue.
Following the terrorist attacks on Paris in mid-November, Reuters revealed that several European Union countries were meeting to discuss how to “strengthen controls of non-banking payment methods” in order to better track potential threats.
With Bitcoin, users are able to move money around the world almost instantly and anonymously without third-part verification (aka a bank). That is of course worrisome to security officials.
Another threat to Bitcoin poker is if banks decide to create their own encrypted block chains, the special sauce to Bitcoin. “If big companies set up distributed databases to transfer dollars or euros quickly and cheaply enough, there’d be no need for digital currencies,” Bloomberg Business writer Zeke Faux recently said.
Until that happens, Bitcoin will continue to be an attractive alternative for Internet poker players, albeit a risky one.