All You Need to Know about Legal Online Poker in US
A few years ago, U.S. gamblers were only wishing for the best online poker sites to become available for them. However, the legislation prevented them from investing money to gamble online. Did that prevent them from gambling? Most players found a way around the regulations: they started using websites with foreign licenses. It seems like the legislators are finally coming to their senses.
At the moment, four states have regulated and legalized online poker on their territories: Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. We’re making small steps towards progress, but we’re getting somewhere. The good news is that if you’re located in any of these states, you can access legal online poker rooms and enjoy time playing against other gamblers. Do you want to learn more about legal poker in the United States? We’ll talk about the legislation, legal online poker for real money websites that are currently available, your ability to play via mobile, and the variety of games you can access.
What Are the Top Recommended Poker Sites in the US?
Currently, there are a few legalized sites that enable playing online poker for real money in the US. Not all of them are available in the four states that legalized online poker. Feel free to read our detailed reviews on each site. They will make it easier for you to make a choice. Three of these sites are the major players:
- PartyPoker – The service is available only in New Jersey. It gives a $25 no-deposit bonus, which is a nice opportunity to test the site’s features and improve your poker skills. This used to be the preferred site for NJ players during the early years of online poker. Lately, the company has shifted its focus on sports betting and other casino games, which it provides on an international level.
- WSOP – This is the World Series of Poker-branded online poker site. It’s available for gamblers from New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. New players get $10 as a free no-deposit bonus. This is the biggest brand in online poker. You get to enter real tournaments. The winner of the yearly Main Event wins a massive prize, which depends on the state of the prize pool.
- PokerStars – PokerStars is another mega-popular website. It’s available in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. It doesn’t have a no-deposit bonus, but its deposit matches are great. The advantage of this site is its huge selection of poker games and tournaments.
In addition to these websites, New Jersey has three other legalized websites: BetMGM Poker, Borgata Poker, and 888 Poker. In Pennsylvania, PokerStars is the only website that currently operates. But there are six other options expected to launch soon: WSOP, Party Poker, Hollywood Casino, BetMGM Poker, Parx Casino, and Rivers Philadelphia.
What States Have Legal US Online Poker Sites?
We already listed the four states that allow playing online card games for real money. Let’s talk about their legislation.
Delaware was the first state to legalize online gambling back in 2012. It may be a small market, but it’s a leader in the gambling industry. It took nearly a year for licensed websites to start offering their gambling services. The Delaware Lottery is the institution that regulates the industry and ensures the credibility of the games.
Nevada also passed an online gambling bill in 2013. Operator licenses are granted by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Ultimate Poker was the first site to show up in April 2013, but it’s no longer active. The current laws permit poker as the only form of online gambling for real money.
- New Jersey
2013 was a great year for U.S. gamblers. New Jersey also passed legislation for online poker in the same year. It has the greatest number of available websites. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is the regulating authority. NJ is the most liberal state regarding online gambling. All casino games are allowed, and the industry has generated over one billion dollars since it was legalized. That’s hundreds of millions in taxes for the state.
Currently, Pennsylvania gamblers can access a single website: PokerStars. New options are expected to launch soon. Why haven’t we seen other websites so far? The state imposed a $10 million license fee for entering operators, in addition to the 16% tax on earnings. Here’s something interesting: Michigan also legalized poker. In December 2019, the state introduced the Lawful Internet Gambling Act. However, it will be a while before we see any legit websites offering online gambling. It’s a process, and we have to be patient about it. West Virginia gamblers are in a similar situation. Online gambling was also legalized in December 2019, but the process of legalizing websites and offering online poker rooms for the players is taking longer than expected.
US Online Poker Overview: What’s the Deal with Poker in the Other States?
Why isn’t gambling with real cash allowed across the USA? Are there any federal regulations limiting our opportunities to play online?
- The Wire Act
The state of online gambling was regulated for a long time by this federal act from 1961. It forbade any bets or wagers through a wire communication facility. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice issued an opinion that this act was only relevant to sports betting. That’s when the states started introducing legislation to liberalize online poker and other forms of gambling. However, in January 2019, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a different opinion: The Wire Act applied not only to sports betting but to all forms of gambling as well. This is just an opinion. It’s not the law. However, it blocked the liberalization of online gambling in other states, and it makes the future of poker sites uncertain.
- The UIGEA
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was specifically meant to ban the entire online gambling industry. Online gambling is defined as accepting money for online games. If this federal law forbids it, then how can online gambling be legal in individual states? The legal system in the USA is complex. Although this is the presiding act, the states also have the right to make laws on their own territory. A few states already started making those steps forward.
Play Poker Online for Real Money on Legal Sites
The federal ban on online gambling is aimed at the services that accept money for games of luck. The gamblers, on the other hand, are not sanctioned for engaging in such activities. Offshore sites are also allowed to offer their services to U.S. players. That’s why so many gamblers turn to these websites with foreign licenses.
They fit in the grey area. But if you live in a state where you have the option to play on legit real money poker websites, we recommend you to stick to them. They are regulated by an authority of the State, so you get guarantees for secure and fair play. If online gambling is not allowed in your state, you have another legal option: sweepstakes websites. You won’t play with real money; you’ll purchase coins and you still have a chance to win.
What Real Money Online Poker Variations Can You Play?
- Texas Hold’em
You’ll find this version of the game in all online poker rooms. The dealer deals five cards face-up across the table, and two cards face-down for each player. Your goal is to make a winning five-card hand out of the two cards that you hold and the five open cards.
- Pot-Limit Omaha
The dealer deals five open cards, similarly to the Texas Hold’em version. However, each players gets four instead of two hands. They must use two of their own cards to make the winning combination of five, including cards from the open selection. In the pot-limit version of the game, the maximum bet to the amount that’s in the pot is limited.
- Seven-Card Stud
As the name reveals, it’s a game of seven cards. Each player gets one card face-up and two cards face-down. After the first round of betting, the players continue getting cards (seven in total). The point is to get the winning five-card combo.
It’s a strange game: you’re supposed to end up with the lowest hand of five cards.
- Omaha Hi-Lo
Omaha Hi-Lo awards both the highest and the lowest hands by halves of the pot.
- 2-7 Triple Draw
This is a game of limit poker, featuring a small and a big bet. Each player gets five cards. They can exchange any of those cards during the draw rounds. The goal is to get the lowest hand and win the pot.
- Five-Card Draw
This is the most basic online video poker for real money in the USA game. Each player gets five cards face-down. Throughout the hands, they can change any cards they want. The goal is to make the strongest hand.
- Chinese Poker
Each player gets 13 cards, and they should divide them into a setting of three poker cards (one containing three and two containing five cards). Then, the players announce if they will play the hands.
HORSE is a combination of different poker games throughout the rounds: Hold’em Limit, Omaha Limit, Razz Limit, Seven-Card Stud limit, and Seven-Card Stud Eight-or-Better Limit.
Each player gets four cards and a chance to exchange three of them with new ones during the hand. The goal is to make the best low hand. Some websites include video poker games, but that’s not a card game. It’s a video slot based on poker rules.
How to Play on Mobile Poker Apps
Applications are brilliant for those who want to play card games at any time. If you live in a state where online poker is legal, you’ll see that all sites offer downloadable apps for iOS and Android.
As an example, WSOP offers an app for both platforms. It uses geolocation software, so you can only access the tables if you’re located in a state where the service is legal. To play through a mobile app, you should download it according to the website’s instructions. Apple’s App Store allows applications of this type, but Google’s Play Store doesn’t. You can still download it if you allow third-party software on your device and install the application directly from the website. Then, all you’ll need to do is create a real profile and make your deposit. These games are perfectly tailored to suit the mobile screen.
Are There Any Online Poker Bonuses and Rewards?
Yes! The best online poker sites offer a no-deposit bonus, too. It means that you’re getting free cash just for signing up. When you do make a deposit, the platform will usually match it with a bonus. You can use these rewards like real money, for placing bets and winning games. However, keep in mind that there are tied to playthrough requirements. Unlike online casinos, poker websites don’t impose demanding playthrough requirements. They have a different policy: they slowly release the bonus amount into your account, as you keep playing and earning player points. For example, WSOP will release $5 of your first-deposit bonus for each 50 Action Player Points you earn.
What Are the Banking Methods for Playing Poker Online?
When you play on legal sites, you gain a serious advantage: you can use the online poker PayPal payment method. PayPal is restrictive to online transactions. It allows them only if you’re engaging in legal activities. That’s why it’s not available on off-shore sites. In addition to PayPal, online poker websites offer other payment methods, too: ACH e-check, credit/debit card, PayNearMe, and cash at the casino cage. Since the sites are usually associated to land casinos, you can make your deposit at the cage and withdraw your money there.
Sweepstakes Poker Sites: Are They Legal?
Yes; sweepstakes poker is legal. Technically, you’ll not be playing with and for real money. You’re playing for another type of reward: coins. With this model, you can still win cash prizes.
Global Poker is one of the best online gambling sites that follow the sweepstakes model. If real-money online poker is not allowed in your state but you really want to play, check it out!
Summing Up the History of Online Poker in the US
Let’s go through the most important points in history, which led to the current legal online poker status if in the USA:
- The first online casinos started appearing in 1994. They worked on an international level, and they all accepted gamblers from the United States.
- Planet Poker, a Canadian site that was launched in 1998, was the first online poker website.
- In 1999, the U.S. Senate tried to block all online gambling activities through the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. It didn’t pass the procedure, so U.S. gamblers kept using foreign websites.
- In 2002, the Court of Appeals decided that online gambling was not prohibited under the Federal Wire Act of 1961, since it was specific to sports betting. However, the Department of Justice issued an opinion that claimed online gambling was illegal under that act.
- In 2003, Chris Moneymaker, a U.S. poker player, won the Main Event of the World Series of Poker through an online satellite. That was a defining moment in history: everyone understood how big and important this industry was. Suddenly, online poker was in all the news.
- In April 2011, the three major poker sites (Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars) were accused of illegal activities and violations of the UIGEA. They were blocked for access from the USA.
- In 2011, the DOJ finally released another legal opinion: the Federal Wire Act did not apply to online casino games. From that moment on, the states started making their own legislation to legalize online poker. Delaware was the first state to allow online poker in 2012.
We are still writing history. Legislators across the USA are finally realizing that this is a productive industry that the states can benefit from. If they don’t regulate it and collect the taxes, gamblers turn to offshore sites.
Is online poker legal in the US?
- Yes and no. Allow us to explain: only six states have legalized Internet poker, and only four of them currently have operating US online gambling sites. You can play online if you’re located in Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. You’ll have a choice of a few licensed websites. Michigan and West Virginia also liberalized the industry, but we’re still expecting the first websites to appear.
What is or is not legal in US?
- It’s legal to play online poker on a licensed website from a location where such activities are allowed by state legislation. You should be at least 21 years of age to create a real-money profile and start playing. Each website will put you through a process to verify identification.
Do poker sites accept PayPal, PayNearMe, Skrill?
- Yes; real money sites accept a variety of payment methods. The banking options differ between platforms. PayPal and credit/debit cards are accepted on all of them.
Where can I play poker live in US?
- These are the most popular sites: PartyPoker, WSOP, PokerStars, BetMGM Poker, and a few others. Depending on your location, you’ll have access to different websites. As an example, WSOP is available in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware.
How can I get bonuses and play with them?
- You get bonuses just for signing up on some websites. As soon as you land on the website, you’ll see the promotional no-deposit offer. Deposit bonuses are also available. They usually match your first deposit by 100%, and slowly release the cash in your balance as you accumulate player points. Read individual reviews of the poker sites to learn more about their bonus policies. In addition, players should check out the bonus terms before they close the deal.