Poker is the most popular card game in the US, but only a handful of states legalize and regulate online poker. To make things worse, the law for online gambling is too ambiguous that it doesn’t clearly state whether enthusiasts in the US can play online poker. These factors add up to the growing misunderstanding and misconceptions about playing poker online.
Only four US states enjoy untethered access to online poker sites: Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Other states like Michigan and West Virginia have already legalized online gambling. The only thing these states need is for companies to start operating in their jurisdiction.
However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t play poker outside of these states. We’ll go through everything you need to understand online gambling regulations in great detail. We’ll even help you find poker sites that you can access even if you’re outside the states where online gambling is legal and regulated.
States Where You Can Play Online Poker Legally
If you’re living in Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, you don’t have to worry about playing online. These states have already legalized online casinos’ operations in their jurisdictions, making it possible for residents to play poker with real money.
After the successful run of online gambling, more and more states are seriously considering the legalization of online casinos. Michigan and West Virginia already have their framework for regulating poker sites and are only waiting for companies to build their infrastructures to start their operations.
Poker Sites You Can Access in These States
Although online poker is legal and regulated in these states, it doesn’t really put them far ahead when it comes to playing poker with real money. In fact, the options that residents have when it comes to playing online poker is less than what other enthusiasts have.
Here are four of the best platforms that you can access to play online poker when living in one of these states:
WSOP is one of the most prestigious series of poker tournaments in the US. On the other hand, 888Poker was one of the first poker sites to operate in the country legally. The partnership between the two has solidified both companies in the poker industry and ultimately gained the US’s most significant market share.
The partnership gave 888Poker access to WSOP satellites, while WSOP solidifies its foothold in the US online poker by accessing 888Poker’s massive pool of players from the US. WSOP / 888Poker currently accepts players from Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. Since these states agree to share their players, this partnership created the US’s most prominent poker site.
If you’re going to use this site to play online poker, you can use PayPal to deposit and withdrawal your earnings. Compared to other poker sites outside the US, it’s a far better option for players who want to play poker with real money.
PokerStars was one of the poker sites that suffered a devastating blow when the US banned online poker sites to operate in the US. However, they have strong support from players worldwide, keeping them afloat during their hiatus. They were even able to purchase Full Tilt Poker, returned their customers’ earnings, and gained Full Tilt’s players, making them an even more dominant online poker site.
PokerStars capitalized on its brand recognition outside the country to make its way back into the US market. It slowly gained back its market share and is currently offering the best poker cash games for players in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These are two of the biggest states in terms of online gambling activities but aren’t sharing their players. As soon as these two signed an agreement, PokerStars will be a far bigger poker site than WSOP / 888Poker.
PayPal users can also use their account to process deposits and withdrawals for their PokerStars accounts. New Jersey is a competitive state for online poker, but this payment processor makes it the best option for Pennsylvania players.
PartyPoker is another heavyweight in the online poker industry, and it solidified itself by partnering with two other online casino heavyweights: BetMGM and BorgataPoker. Although all three websites only operate in New Jersey, they all share the same pool of players, making them the biggest online casino network.
Besides PartyPoker’s partnership with other online casinos, they also partnered with one of the most prestigious poker tournaments—World Poker Tour (WPT). It helped them have more exposure to poker players and offer the best gaming experience for their customers. This network also provides the most secure and highly accessible system for online transactions.
PalaPoker is the result of a partnership between Pala Casino in California and Borgata Casino in New Jersey. These are heavyweights in offering exceptional off-site casino experience, but their collaboration made them one of the biggest competitors in the New Jersey market.
PalaPoker, despite having relatively low traffic for real-money players, still offers the best promotions for enthusiasts. It also provides exceptional security and encryption for their customers. So if you’re looking for bonuses that give you the best bang for your buck, this online site is one of the best options.
These platforms will allow players from different states to play online poker with real money and be safe with all the transactions they do while using the platform. Aside from this, they also provide the best signup bonuses for players within the state, making them the best choices for people who want to play online poker legally.
What Does a Legal and Regulated Poker Site Mean?
Like many gambling laws, the banning of online gambling sites led to confusion and misunderstanding among enthusiasts. Many think that a state where playing online poker is legalized and regulated is the only place for players to play with real money. It means that out of 50 states, you can only play in 4 US states with two others waiting for companies to start their operations.
However, this ban only applies to online casinos, which forces these companies to have their headquarters in the US before they can operate legally. For a company to start its operations and accept players, they also need to follow different states’ protocols. Aside from this, they pay taxes to the government, which was one reason for banning online casinos from operating in the US.
The law regarding the legalization of online gambling doesn’t apply to players. It means that playing online poker in the US isn’t illegal, but there are some guidelines that companies need to follow, which limits the options that are available for players.
One of the most significant advantages of playing at a poker site that legally operates in the US is security. If you’ve been playing with real money online, you may have noticed that PayPal doesn’t allow its members to use their platform to deposit and withdraw money to online casinos. However, being a platform that legally operates in the US makes them credible and safe for PayPal to establish a partnership and start processing their online payment transactions.
888Poker, PokerStars, PartyPoker, and PalaPoker follow the protocols of different states, which aim to protect the players. Therefore, it creates the safest way for players to play online. State governments also hold these companies accountable whenever there are issues with any transaction in their system.
Why Were Poker Sites Banned in the US?
The banning of poker sites in the US results from the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). Many online poker sites left the country when it passed, which left a massive gap in the online gambling industry. Companies like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker quickly adapted and filled the void these companies left behind.
One of the reasons why the UIGEA passed was because many online poker sites operate in the US, accepting players from the country, but never paid taxes to the US government. Aside from that, they also don’t have the safety protocols that protect US players from fraud transactions, which puts a massive risk for their customers.
In 2011, the Department of Justice issued an indictment to PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. These sites immediately stopped offering cash games to players from the US, then eventually left the country. The FBI seized their domains but later agreed to release it as soon as they paid their customers back.
Of the three sites that suffered from this incident, also known as “Black Friday,” only PokerStars managed to survive and even bought Full Tilt Poker, which gave its users the chance to get their money back. It was the most damaging incident in the poker industry, and many people think that playing online poker won’t ever recover from this event.
In 2012, Delaware became the first state to legalize and regulate online gambling. Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania also started regulating online gambling in 2013. These moves began the framework for the protocols that companies need to follow if they want to operate in the state.
It gave online casinos the chance to operate within the state as long as they have a headquarters in their jurisdiction, and they follow the laws and regulations that govern online gambling. In turn, it creates a safer way for US players to play online poker with real money.
However, it also prohibits other online casinos from operating in the US, making it harder for enthusiasts to play poker. Besides this, the ban also prohibits players from different states, even if they are from the ones that legalize online gambling, to play against each other.
Today, more states consider having similar online legislation in their jurisdiction for online gambling sites to start operating in their area. Although it took some time to gain traction, playing online poker is beginning to get better and safer for US players. All of these started with the legalization of online gambling activities in some states.
Why Can’t Players From Different States Play Together?
The Interstate Wire Act of 1961, or the Federal Wire Act, is why players can’t play together. Initially, it was only to stop businesses from using wire communications and limit organized crime interstate gambling activities. However, it also prohibits friends from two different states from playing together in an online gambling site.
In 2015, Delaware and Nevada signed an agreement that allowed both states to play with each other. This agreement started the partnership between 888Poker in Delaware and WSOP in Nevada, creating the US’s most prominent online poker site.
In 2018, New Jersey joined the Multi-State Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), allowing WSOP Nevada, WSOP New Jersey, and 888Poker in Delaware to share their players’ pool. This move further solidified the market share of WSOP / 888Poker in offering online poker to US players.
West Virginia and Michigan are two other states that started the process of legalizing and regulating online poker. When this happens, online poker in the US will reach new heights, and signing the MSIGA also means many poker enthusiasts in the US can already play against each other.
Legalizing and regulating online poker sites may take a lot of time, but it’s only to ensure that companies will follow the regulations set forth by lawmakers. As more states follow suit, it’ll be more accessible and safer for poker players to start playing with real money and not worry about fraudulent transactions that may happen in the future.
Can You Still Play Online Poker in the US?
One of the misconceptions that players have when it comes to online gambling is that they can’t play online with real money if they aren’t from Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, or Pennsylvania. However, there are no laws that explicitly prohibit players from participating in online gambling activities.
Out of all the states in the US, Indiana and Washington are the only states where you can’t play online poker.
In Indiana, online gambling is illegal except for online sports betting. In Washington, playing online poker isn’t only illegal, but is also a Class C felony. It means that regardless of the site you access, and wherever they operate, you will be held liable for your online gambling activities.
If you are in other states, you can still access different online casinos and play poker with real money. However, due to the legalization of online gambling in some states, you won’t be able to access sites operating in Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Although relatively safe, playing online poker still has some issues because it operates in a grey area. It is entirely legal for you to play poker with real money, but it does very little in ensuring the safety of all the transactions you make while using the platform.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Playing Online Poker?
There are two sides to playing online poker: one side for players in states where online gambling is legal and regulated, and the other for players in states where gambling laws are non-existent. Both have their pros and cons, which can significantly affect the gaming experience that players will get.
Pros and Cons of States Where Online Poker Is Legal
Players from Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have better regulations that make it easier and safer for them to play online poker. It’s one of the most significant advantages that they have when it comes to online gambling. Here are other pros that players from these states will get:
- Mandatory fraud protection for players.
- Faster deposits and withdrawals.
- Best in-state real money players.
- Good signup bonuses.
Despite all of these advantages, playing poker from states where online gambling is legal and regulated still has some disadvantages. Here are some of the issues you’ll encounter if you’re playing poker from one of these states:
- A smaller pool of players.
- Regulations that limit your gambling activities.
- Inability to play with players from other states.
- Promotions are slightly lower than most poker sites.
Pros and Cons of States Without Laws for Online Gambling
Players from all US states except Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia can access poker sites outside the country. It’s still relatively safe for them, especially when accessing poker sites with a dedicated security department to monitor fraud transactions.
Here are some of the pros that you can get as a player from other states:
- A massive pool of players worldwide.
- Best signup bonuses and promotions.
- Accessible deposit and withdrawal options.
- Adequate fraud protection available for all players.
Although players can access other online poker sites, there are some consequences associated with using it. Since these websites don’t operate in the US, the protection that you’re getting is lower. Here are other cons that you will experience when you access poker sites that operate outside the US:
- No protection in case the site shuts down.
- A grey area operation could be an issue in the future.
- Slower deposits and withdrawals for US players.
- Players from states with online gambling laws are banned.
Both options can provide you with the best online poker gaming experience, but it doesn’t necessarily make one better. Needless to say that unless you are from Indiana or Washington, playing online poker is possible for you, and there’s nothing that legally stops you from participating in online gambling activities.
How to Stay Safe When Playing Online Poker
We’ve already established that using 888Poker, PokerStars, PartyPoker, and PalaPoker are the safest options for poker players. But what if you’re from a state that doesn’t have an existing law regarding online gambling? What are the things that you can do to stay safe while playing to avoid fraudulent transactions?
Since there’s money involved when playing online poker, the first thing you should always look for is their security. A reliable poker site should have its dedicated security department that monitors all the activities in their platform. You should only use sites that can guarantee your account’s safety and encrypt all the activities you have on their site.
Customer support is also an essential factor that you need to consider when playing in poker sites outside the US. They should be able to address any concern that you may have 24/7 via live chat, phone, or, at the very least, email support.
Regardless of its headquarters’ location, a poker site should have a license to operate that explicitly states the company is running an online gambling operation. Licenses guarantee that these companies follow the issuing country’s protocols, ensuring that it’s safe for players to use their services.
Poker sites should also process deposits and withdrawals directly on their platforms. Some poker sites today employ the services of other companies to handle payments. It means that aside from the payment processor that you’ll use to make deposits, they still have another company that confirms the transaction for them.
If you find a poker site that employs this method for processing deposits and withdrawals, it’s one of the tell-tale signs that you should avoid using their services. Working directly with payment processors creates an added layer of protection for all of your transactions because they also vouch for the companies that use their services.
Where Can You Play Online Poker?
One of the challenges for players in states without laws and regulations for online gambling is finding a safe way for them to play online. With all the options available and the things that they need to consider, looking for the best poker sites can be daunting for anyone.
So, to save you from all the troubles of finding a poker site where you can play safely, we created a list of the top 4 poker sites that you can use to play poker with real money.
Bovada Poker has been accepting US players since 2011, but it stopped its poker operations in 2016 for upgrades in their system and to accommodate more players. Now, it’s one of the biggest poker sites in the world. It also ranks on top of the list of poker sites that accepts US players for money games.
It operates under the PaiWangLuo Poker Network and has the broadest range of stakes that players can play. They have micro-stakes and ultra-high stakes tables for Hold’em and Omaha, making it a preferred choice for many players. Aside from this, they also offer deposit and withdrawal processes using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash.
Ignition Casino shares many features with its sister site, Bovada. It’s one of the poker sites that receive the most traffic from US money players and is a globally prominent online casino. It’s a well-funded online gambling company that operates worldwide, allowing it to have one of the most significant user bases.
One of the reasons why Ignition Casino became a popular choice for many players is because it has a platform for both casual players and heavy grinders. Whether you’re only looking for quick cash games or you’re trying to build your bankroll, Ignition Casino can provide you with better opportunities to be more profitable.
SportsBetting or SB Poker is one of the best poker sites that you can join if you’re a recreational poker player who wants to start quick games. Its game client is one of the smoothest that we’ve seen, and it’s not as cluttered as many poker sites. Aside from this, it also receives constant updates from the developers to keep it safe and secure for every player.
If you’re looking for fast and anonymous online poker activities, SB Poker is your best option. It has fast-fold Boost Poker that sets you up on a new table as soon as you fold your hand. The platform also offers the fastest processing for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Litecoin, Dash, and Ethereum, significantly improving anonymity.
Americas Cardroom is the preferred choice for streamers because of its tournaments and promotions. It also has a massive pool of global players, making it easier for you to set up your cash games. On top of all these, the company also hosts a $1 million tournament a few times every year, making it the best site for MTT players looking for the best ways to build their bankroll.
If you’re in the US, Americas Cardroom offers the most accessible payment options for you. You can deposit and withdraw using Visa, cryptocurrencies, Western Union, and MoneyGram. The processing fee for these transactions can go as high as 10 percent. However, Americas Cardroom waives it if you’re depositing more than $300, and you can deposit a maximum of $1,000 per transaction.
Playing online poker is legal in almost every state in the US, except for Indiana and Washington. However, the options you have to play with real money may be limited, depending on where you live.
If you’re from Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, you can only play in poker sites that operate in your area. On the other hand, players from other states can access poker sites outside the US, but not those in the US.
Don’t worry about the legality of playing poker in the US because the laws that exist today are only for companies. It doesn’t affect players who want to participate in online gambling.