As more states legalize online gambling, more sites offering the opportunity to play online poker for real money are opening to Americans. That leaves more Americans with a question or two about how online poker works, where to play, and, most importantly, if it’s legal in their state.
We’ll be covering all the above and more right here on TechNightOwl. Let’s start with the basics.
What States in the US Offer Online Poker for Real Money?
At present, there are only six states in the US where online poker platforms are legal: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia. Let’s run through how that came to be.
US Online Poker Laws
The Wire Act is a US Federal Law established in 1961 prohibiting wire communications in betting transactions. The main objective of this law was to reduce the possibility of gambling and poker games becoming a part of organized crime.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) took effect in 2006 when it became illegal for banks to transact with unlicensed online gambling platforms. The banks — not the players — became liable for any violation cited or observed.
These regulations shut down online poker platforms in the United States. However, both the Wire Act and UIGEA created gray areas in the law and were subject to misinterpretation. In 2012, it was one of those grey areas that led a New York federal judge to rule that the Wire Act of 1961 didn’t apply to poker because it was a game of skill rather than chance.
New Jersey Online Poker Platforms
New Jersey was one of the first states in the United States to legalize online poker for real money. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the legislation in 2013, less than a year after the 2012 ruling.
The requirements for any individual to play on a licensed online poker platform include:
- Age: Players must be 21 years or older
- Location: New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada entered into a compact that went live in 2018 that allows interstate gambling. You must be physically present in one of these states to play online poker for real money in New Jersey.
- Verification: Players who sign up for online poker platforms in New Jersey must undergo a thorough verification process to determine if they are qualified to play.
Because New Jersey is one of the earliest states to legalize online gambling platforms, this state offers more poker rooms than most other states, including:
- Pala Poker
- playMGM Poker
Players in New Jersey can also play on the Nevada-based poker site, WSOP.com, the primary interstate poker provider.
Delaware Online Poker Platforms
Shortly after New Jersey, Delaware also legalized online poker sites in 2013. Like NJ, players must be 21 years of age or older. Delaware also requires geo-tracking software to confirm your location.
The state currently has three online poker sites where you can play for real money:
- Dover Downs
- Delaware Park
- Harrington Raceway
All the above run on 888Poker software. Like in New Jersey, players in Delaware can also play on WSOP.com.
Nevada Online Poker Platforms
Nevada legalized online poker for real money right around the same time as Delaware and soon became a hub for interstate games, being the home-state of WSOP.com.
Currently, the only other poker platform in the state is Real Gaming. Ultimate Poker was previously also available in Nevada, but the platform failed in 2014.
State player requirements are similar to those in other states, with the minimum player age being 21 and geolocation mandatory, but they also add a few additional provisions:
- Player fund transfer is not permitted.
- You may only have one account on each poker platform.
Pennsylvania Online Poker Platforms
Pennsylvania was the fourth state in the United States to legalize online poker for real money with legislation taking effect in 2017.
Since Pennsylvania has one of the largest populations in the United States of over 13 million residents, online poker for real money established a massive player base. PokerStars is currently the only active online poker gambling platform in the state.
Pennsylvania has yet to join the interstate gambling compact, and so WSOP.com is not available, but efforts are in the works to change that. Numerous other land-based casinos have also been granted licenses to operate and may open platforms soon, including:
- Harrahs Philadelphia
- Hollywood Casino
- Parx Casino
- Rivers Philadelphia
- Valley Forge Casino
- Wind Creek Casino
Beyond restricting players to in-state games, the player requirements in Pennsylvania are the same as other states. You must be over 21 and allow geo-tracking software.
Michigan and West Virginia Online Poker Platforms
Michigan and West Virginia both legalized online poker for real money in 2019. However, neither state has any licensed operating poker platforms as of June 2020.
The Stars Group, operator of PokerStars, has already taken steps to obtain a license in Michigan and is a strong contender to be the first option open in the state. West Virginia has yet to finalize its licensing regulations.
What Other States in the US Have Plans to Offer Online Poker for Real Money?
The following states have plans to legalize online gambling platforms. Some even have ongoing legislative reviews about the pros and cons of legalizing online gambling platforms.
- New York
The Best Online Poker Platforms for Real Money
Now that you know which states you can play in and all the poker platforms available in those states, your next question is likely which should you play on—assuming you have more than one option. The best online poker platforms in the US include:
Let’s take a quick look at each.
As mentioned, WSOP.com is an interstate provider serving New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada. They are operated by Caesars Interactive Entertainment, a name you likely recognize if you’re familiar with the hotel gaming and gambling industry.
WSOP.com is the largest real-money online poker platform in the United States and is backed by the World Series of Poker. They offer fixed- and pot-limit Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Seven Card Stud, all with Hi/Lo options. There are roughly 50 tournaments daily, some with cash prizes as high as $50,000.
The site regularly offers bonus promotions and also has a generous loyalty point program. You’ll earn points online towards the Action Club Rewards Program for every game you play—win or lose. Points can be redeemed for cash.
The second-largest online real-money poker platform, 888Poker is only available in New Jersey and Delaware. Delaware’s platform is accessed via three racinos (listed above) rather than the 888Poker site directly. Nevada’s WSOP.com also runs on 888Poker software, but the two aren’t interconnected.
888Poker only offers Texas Hold’em and Omaha, but they do have a range of tournament and match offers, including SNAP, Blast, and Classic poker options. They have a mobile app but are also well-known for their instant-match, no-download games.
The site has many generous bonus promotions and is among the only online casinos left with a true no-deposit bonus. You’ll get $1 to spend anywhere on the site, 14 free 50-cent entries, and a pending $80 bonus. You unlocked the $80 by earning points for the platform’s rewards program (a cash-back offering similar to WSOP.com’s rewards). For every 100 points you earn, you unlock $10. You can earn those points using the initial free credits granted to you.
PokerStars is Pennsylvania’s only real-money online poker platform. They also operate in New Jersey and are likely to be available in Michigan soon. The site offers Limit Hold ’em, Omaha, and Seven-card stud, as well as 2-7 Triple Draw, HORSE, and Razz, though as these games are less popular, it may be harder to find a table.
There are multiple daily tournament options, including big-ticket hourly Sunday games with massive cash prizes. For instance, the Sunday Special held at 6 pm EST has a $200 buy-in and a $45,000 guaranteed pot.
Like WSOP.com and 888Poker, the site does have a rewards program. You can earn Star Coins, which can be used to purchase merchandise or free play tickets. They also match your first deposit 100% up to $600.
How to Choose the Best Online Poker Game for Real Money
With so many online poker games on the internet, it is wise, especially when the stakes involve real money, to choose the right gambling platform. Here are some factors we considered when choosing the best real-money online poker sites in the US.
Player Experience: An online gambling website or app’s aesthetic, functionality, and ease of navigation should all be excellent. Ideally, you want to choose a site that doesn’t make you jump through hoops to get to your desired page.
Game Selection: While not all players prefer to play multiple poker game types, we prefer sites that give you the option to do so.
Safety: Safety should be the utmost priority for any gambling, betting, or poker site. All the platforms we recommend are credible, have all the necessary licenses to operate in the US, and comply with all the regulations imposed by the states they operate in.
Bonuses: Some online poker sites provide attractive promotional and sign-up bonuses that can benefit players and give them a competitive advantage over their opponents.
What Is Global Poker?
For those who can’t visit states where it is legal to play poker online for real money, Global Poker is an option. Global Poker functions similarly to any online gambling platform. The catch is instead of dealing directly with real money, there are sweepstakes, and players get a virtual currency which they can “cash in” via PayPal. Thanks to this unique twist, it does not fall into the category of illicit activity, and anyone with an internet connection can access it anywhere within the United States.
How Much Does It Cost to Play Online Poker for Real Money?
The buy-in cost for online poker games ranges dramatically, but the average is relatively affordable. Around 50% of online poker games have an entry fee of $8 to $10. Players can even join online poker tables with buy-ins starting at $0.01 to $0.02 and $1 to $2. There are high-stakes games as well, with buy-ins closer to $100 to $200.
What Are the Payment Options for Online Poker?
There are a variety of ways to deposit money to play poker online for real money. Here is a breakdown of online banks that online gambling platforms you can trust:
|Payment Options||Canada||U.S. (NJ/PA/NV/DE)|
|Boku Mobile||Available||Not Available|
|iDEAL||Not Available||Not Available|
|WebMoney||Not Available||Not Available|
Essential factors to consider when making online money transactions, especially on online gambling platforms, include:
Privacy and Security: All licensed online gambling sites are required to encrypt your information and are held to strict privacy and security regulations. Dealing with an unlicensed poker site can put you at risk for identity theft and loss of funds. Never enter your financial information on a site that asks for banking details such as pin or password.
Support: Credible online gambling platforms have 24/7 live chat support to address any questions, concerns, or issues about your financial transactions. If a site doesn’t have readily accessible contact information, that’s a red flag. Avoid making deposits on these sites.
Play Poker Online for Real Money
There are many advantages to playing online poker for real money. Because online games generally have significantly lower buy-ins, you have more control over your bets. Wait times are also shorter because there are endless virtual tables.
The periodic bonus offers you can grab to gain a competitive edge over other players are just icing on the cake—but remember to read the terms and conditions.
You can play poker online for real money in the comfort of your home, which makes it a great way to pass the time—no more stuffy dress codes in brick-and-mortar casinos. You can play games in your pajamas if you like!
Of course, getting the most out of these benefits requires playing on a legal, reputable real-money poker platform—and that’s just what you’ll find reviewed on TechNightOwl! We regularly update our content to reflect the latest online gambling, betting, and poker regulations, as well as the best real-money poker platforms in the US.