A recent service outage in Nevada caused many online poker players to be booted from both WSOP.com and UltimatePoker.com online poker sites, due to geo-location service providers’ inability to verify player locations. Unfortunately, this was not the first geo-location issue in Nevada, and it’s unlikely to be the last.
Fortunately, geo-location issues have been relatively minor in Nevada (yet very annoying for players having to deal with them). The online poker sites and the geo-location service providers have been working hard to correct any complications as they arise. But what they do indicate is that there is the potential for larger issues to arise in the future.
First day jitters
Even before Ultimate Poker dealt their first hand in Nevada, poker players, industry insiders, and regulators were anxious to see how geo-location verification would work in the state. The potential issue became a reality on Ultimate Poker’s first day of operation, when geo-location verification was unable to track Verizon and several other cell phone providers, essentially barring what should be authorized online poker players from participating in games at the site.
Ever since these first-day jitters, geo-location verification has continued to be a thorn in the side of the Nevada online poker industry, evidenced by the recent service outage, and issues have taken days to weeks to correct.
Verizon customers had to wait nearly two weeks before the geo-location service providers employed by Ultimate Poker were able to track their location, and there have still been sporadic complaints from players claiming they are inside Nevada’s borders but cannot be verified.
AT&T’s service outage
More recently, network maintenance by AT&T caused a disruption for both Nevada online poker rooms, eliminating their capability to track players via geo-location technology. The outages first occurred on October 21, when many Ultimate Poker and WSOP.com players found themselves unable to log into the software, or even worse, booted from the software mid-hand or mid-tournament.
A thread immediately popped-up on the 2+2 online poker forum as players helplessly watched as they were forced to “sit-out” and their stacks blinded off. The service disruption was so severe that WSOP.com was forced to cancel several tournaments and traffic at both sites plummeted.
During the outage, the sites were caught as off-guard as the players, and representatives from both Ultimate Poker and WSOP.com quickly showed up at the 2+2 poker forums and explained what occurred to the community:
Sincere apologies for your experience. When we received notification from our location services partner, we immediately posted to 2p2, and also Twitter, Facebook, and Google +, in an effort to reach as many players as possible. Unfortunately, we could not send an email in time.
Both sites have promised to address this issue to prevent a similar situation down the road.
As frustrating as these geo-location issues can be, there is a very valid reason these safeguards are in place; namely to prevent unauthorized users from playing on an online poker site by using a VPN.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows a person to effectively hide their location by appearing to be in a location they are not, by connecting to a proxy server. VPN’s have been used for quite some time, ever since online markets have become segregated, and are mainly used to circumvent online poker security, although some overly secretive types use them simply to hide their information.
VPN’s became a hot topic in the aftermath of Black Friday when US poker players no longer had access to sites like PokerStars. You can learn more about VPN’s and how they are used by disreputable online poker players at BillRini.com.
Sites have become much better at detecting VPN’s, but they are still in use, and geo-location verification is one of the most effective ways to detect the use of a VPN.