Betting with Bitcoin: all you need to know to get started

  • Bitcoin was originally created in 2009 and has since grown in application and value
  • Allows anonymity in online payments, ideal for small wager amounts and gives instant withdrawals

Unless you’ve been living under a rock large enough to block WiFi and 4G, you can’t have failed to hear about Bitcoin. The cryptocurrency is a big deal right now for a couple of reasons: its price has skyrocketed against the dollar since the start of this year and it’s increasingly popping up everywhere as a payment option at online casinos.

beginner's guide to bitcoin
Bitcoin has become increasingly popular – and valuable – over recent months, particularly at online casinos
ifferent to regular money. But like the many tools that come bundled with a Swiss Army Knife, there’s a lot to learn about Bitcoin if you’re to get the most out of it.

Today there’s just one facet of that knife we’re interested in exploring, namely the part that lets you bet with your Bitcoin.

In just a moment we’re going to detail exactly how you can go about using Bitcoin to bet and why you might want to. But first, it’s time for a little history lesson. Don’t worry though, this one’s way shorter and way more interesting than some of those you had to sit through in school.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin…

Bitcoin: the backstory

Stop us if you’ve heard all this stuff before, but the beginnings of Bitcoin make for a cracking story, one that’s worth retelling. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency and digital payment system created by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. The identity of Satoshi is still unknown, which has prompted much speculation among amateur sleuths as to who Bitcoin’s creator could be.

To date, none of the attempts at uncovering Satoshi have been successful and he (or she, of course) has remained AFK since around 2011, when Satoshi ceased actively being involved in Bitcoin’s development. Despite owning Bitcoins that are today worth hundreds of millions of dollars, Satoshi has never resurfaced to spend any of his or her fortune.

Cool story. But how does it all work?

Bitcoin uses a ledger system to record the whereabouts of all Bitcoins in existence. In the olden days, a ledger would have been a book that recorded, say, who owed what to whom. One townsperson would have been in charge of updating that ledger using a quill and ink, or later a pen.

Bitcoin uses a digital ledger, but instead of entrusting its upkeep to one individual, everyone has a copy and every transaction that happens on the Bitcoin network is updated in real-time, making it impossible for people to invent Bitcoins out of thin air or to claim transactions that didn’t happen.

There are a couple of cool – and important to note – things about a Bitcoin transaction that differentiate it from, say, sending €10 via bank transfer to a mate in a different country:

  • Bitcoin doesn’t require any central authority
    For you to send money by bank transfer, you need a bank and your mate needs a bank and you also need to rely on the bank to perform the transaction on your behalf. Because Bitcoin uses a peer-to-peer network, it cuts out the middleman and so is free from interference from governments, banks and anyone else who wants to meddle with your money.
  • Bitcoin doesn’t require you to provide your identity
    It’s been described as a pseudonymous currency – in other words one that’s semi-anonymous. On the one hand, all Bitcoin transactions are recorded on the public ledger that we mentioned earlier, which means that anyone who wants to can see which wallets all of the Bitcoins in the world are currently sitting in. To obtain that Bitcoin in the first place however, you don’t need to submit your name, address, date of birth and mother’s maiden name. Because your real world identity doesn’t need to be tied to ownership of your Bitcoin wallet, the cryptocurrency has been described as ideal for conducting the sort of transactions you wouldn’t necessarily like associated with your public persona, or certainly which you’d prefer to keep separate.

Like what exactly?

There are many reasons why you might want to send or receive Bitcoins anonymously. Perhaps you’d like to send money to friends overseas without incurring exorbitant transaction fees. Or perhaps you live in a country whose government surveils its citizens and restricts which sites they can visit. Purchasing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) with Bitcoin could be critical to allow you to browse the web uncensored and un-surveilled.

And then of course, there is using online casinos for betting. Whatever the reason, some like to keep their online casino use – and funds – separate from other aspects of their finances.

bitcoin beginner's guide image 2
Bitcoin gives you more privacy when spending online, is useful for smaller wagering amounts and allows for almost instant withdrawals

What are the benefits of betting with Bitcoin?

As we’ve established, Bitcoin gives you more privacy when it comes to any sites you visit or money you wish to use regularly online. You can bet your satoshis (the name for micro-units of Bitcoin, named after its mysterious creator) without third parties looking into your business.

Because a Bitcoin can be broken down into extremely small decimal places, the currency is also ideal for wagering tiny amounts and it also means that deposit and withdrawal limits are often low at online casinos.

Then there’s speed: although it can take 20 minutes on average for a Bitcoin transaction to clear, making it slower than credit card for depositing funds into a playing account, withdrawals are way quicker.

Most casinos take three working days to return your winnings onto your card; Bitcoin on the other hand usually clears instantly, meaning you should have your funds within 20 minutes.

What are the drawbacks to betting with Bitcoin?

Even a 20-minute wait may be deemed too long for players who are in a hurry to get straight into their online casino action. Besides, when the Bitcoin network gets extremely busy, as can occasionally happen, this figure can rise to 45 minutes or more.

Other disadvantages to using Bitcoin are that the number of casinos which accept it are still in a minority. The number and quality of these has improved greatly in the last couple of years however and if you search online you’ll find some great-looking Bitcoin casinos offering slots, live casino games, video poker and much more from top developers.

One other drawback worth mentioning: because Bitcoin isn’t regulated by any sort of bank or authority, you’re on your own when it comes to looking after your coins.

Send Bitcoin to the wrong wallet by mistake or have your account hacked, and there’s no recompense: it’s up to you to take care of your Bitcoin.

So how do I get Bitcoin?

In most countries there are two primary ways of getting your hands on some of the world’s most famous cryptocurrency: by visiting a Bitcoin exchange or by visiting a site called LocalBitcoins.com.

An exchange allows you to link your bank account before transferring funds to your exchange account in return for Bitcoin at the current market price.

In countries that don’t have licensed Bitcoin exchanges however, LocalBitcoins.com is a better bet. This site links you with local sellers in your area or country and enables you to purchase coins from them online.

You send funds (typically by bank transfer or PayPal) and the site holds the Bitcoins in escrow until the money has shown up in the seller’s account. Once that’s happened, the Bitcoins will be released into your account, whereupon you’re free to send them and spend them as you see fit.

This all sounds awfully complicated

Not really, though if you’ve never used Bitcoin before it can seem like a lot to get your head around.

Bear in mind that if you had to explain a credit card to someone who’d never used one before, they’d be equally miffed. (“What’s a CSV?” “What’s an issue number?”).

If you’d like to get a feel for Bitcoin, buy a small amount – $50 or $100 say – and send it to a couple of Bitcoin wallets you own or to the wallet of a Bitcoin-friendly casino you’ve signed up at. You’ll quickly get a feel for how it all works and once you’ve gotten the hang of it, you’ll never look back.

Oh, and one final thing: if you look up the price of Bitcoin, you’ll notice that it’s gone up in value by a ridiculous amount in the last few years. In 2012, one Bitcoin cost less than $5.

Today, at the time of publication, that same Bitcoin will cost you $2,243. While Bitcoin, like any commodity, can rise and fall in value, it might be worth buying some Bitcoin, betting with half and hanging on to the rest of it for safekeeping. Just in case.

So there you have it: everything you need to know about getting started betting with Bitcoin. Good luck and may the spirit of Satoshi bless you in all your Bitcoin betting.