Is Online Poker Legal in the USA? And What State Laws Allow You to Play Internet Poker

Is Online Poker Legal in the USA? And What State Laws Allow You to Play Internet Poker?

While each jurisdiction is different, the short answer for most of the country is Yes, it s OK to play poker online for real money in the USA. There exist no federal rules or statues that criminalize playing poker on the internet.

The two major exceptions where playing online poker is an illegal activity are in the states of Washington (where playing is a felony) and Utah, (where it s a class B misdemeanor).

On the opposite side of the coin are three states that fully embraced the legality on online poker: Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. These three states have fully licensed, sanctioned, and regulated legal online poker sites offering games to their respective residents.

Believe it or not, in the history of the United States, no one has ever been charged with playing internet poker not the online whiz kids who have made millions nor the middle aged amateur playing 10 cent limit hold em games (guilty).

What IS illegal is for a person to accept or process wagers or financial transactions for an unlawful internet gambling site.

In 2011, of course, headlines were made when the United States Justice Department went after famous poker players like Chris Jesus Ferguson, and Howard Lederer. The charges, however, centered on their ownership of an illegal gambling site, (, as opposed to their well-document history of playing online poker games.

So if playing poker online is not against the law in the United States, why aren t there sites and games available to residents of all 50 states?

An acronym for the Unlawful Internet Enforcement Gambling Act, the bill was an attachment to an anti-terrorism bill (the SAFE Ports Act), snuck in at the last minute and signed into law in 2006.
While it mentioned nothing about making the playing of internet poker illegal, UIEGA did make it illegal for businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.

In other words, you could play on an online poker site, you just couldn t own one. It also carved out exemptions for horse racing, fantasy sports, and intra-state approved online gambling, which is why individual states like Nevada are allowed to establish fully legalized poker sites within its boundaries. It bears repeating that nowhere in the UIEGA bill does it state that playing poker online is a crime.

In fact, two United States Senators asked the Department of Justice for clarification as to whether or not internet poker was illegal, specifically with regards to a 1961 piece of gambling legislation called The Wire Act. The DOJ responded in an opinion letter that stated the Wire Act covered only sports bets. The DOJ s opinion thus opened the door for each state to act on its own with regards to the legality of playing poker on the internet. (By the way, I m not a lawyer just a U.S. citizen with an opinion and internet connection).

Nevada launched the new era of online legal poker in the USA, when Ultimate Poker opened to real live money play for Nevada residents on April 30th, 2013. A subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment,, opened a few months later.

Delaware and New Jersey opened their doors to online poker in the fall of 2013, and numerous other state legislatures are considering poker legislation that would clear up some of the cloudy legal issues surrounding the game.

So why it s a common misconception, playing poker online does not violate any federal law. Reputable online poker sites are not readily available and to the vast majority of Americans currently, however the societal trend is clearly moving (albeit slowly) towards a mainstream, regulated nationwide online poker environment. What Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey started, most of the rest of the states will soon to follow.

Currently, there are several offshore online poker rooms that accept both deposits and players from the United States. These sites are operating outside of United States law and are theoretically subject to prosecution and fines, similar to what happened on poker s Black Friday, when the Department of Justice seized the domains of the five most popular poker sites and indicted many of the owners and payment processors. However, since these foreign websites do not end in .com, the sites are out of

the reach of United States government s intrusion.

Throughout the US s government s prosecution of the poker sites various owners, not one of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who played online poker were ever charged, or even pursued for that matter.

The government s lack of interest (or lack of legal standing), in going after players themselves indicated an admission from the DOJ that playing poker online is not against federal law. The matter has been left up to the states, and thus far, only Washington state and Utah have made the game against the law. (Although no one has ever been charged in either state).

So, in conclusion: is playing poker on the internet legal? I m not a lawyer, and this should not be considered legal advice, but unless you live in Utah or Washington state, the answer appears to be Yes.

Best Real-Money Poker Sites in the USA

Poker and the online gambling scene in the US go so far back that you can t talk about one without mentioning the other. A lot of poker aficionados out there are always looking for the best places to play poker online for money (USA) and put their luck and skills to the test. To help you out on the matter, I have come up with a list of the best online poker sites for real money. I will also talk about some important aspects of online poker, such as the legality of playing it and much more.

Our list of the best real money poker sites available, as of November 2021:

Best Online Poker Sites for US Players

  • Trusted by US Players Since 2001
  • Huge Bad Beat Jackpots
  • Fully Licensed and Regulated

Ignition Poker

Americas Cardroom

Intertops Poker


Juicy Stakes

US Real-Money Poker Sites

  • Excellent value for money
  • Safe and secure
  • Quick withdrawals

The US online poker market has a lot to offer, and it was challenging to create a list of websites that can objectively be considered the best online poker real-money sites. A lot of these sites will offer good welcome bonuses, a number of payment methods, and other features you are looking for from poker sites, but I wanted to narrow down the selection for you and present the very best sites to play poker for real money.

BetOnline Poker

BetOnline Poker is often regarded as the best place to play poker online and for good reason. BetOnline has been around the betting industry for over two decades now, and its poker room has been one of the most popular in the US ever since its creation in 2011. The BetOnline Poker room is available both for online play through the browser and as a downloadable dedicated app for Android and iOS devices, which means players can access their favorite poker games and tournaments on the go with ease.

As a top-flight cardroom, BetOnline Poker features multiple tournaments with different rules and betting limits. In those tournaments, as well as in regular poker games, you can find poker versions such as Texas Hold em, Omaha Poker, Boost Poker, Windfall Poker, and Six Plus Hold em, among others.

There are also many payment methods players can use to transfer funds to their accounts, including Bitcoin and other e-wallets and card payments.

Bovada Online Poker

Vying for the title of the best place to play poker online in the US is certainly the Bovada Online Poker cardroom. Bovada Online Poker has been active in the online poker world since 2004 and has managed to attract thousands of players to its platform. Bovada Online Poker offers Zone Poker, Cash Games, Anonymous Tables, Sit Go tournaments, and other poker game formats for Texas Hold em, Omaha, and multiple other versions of the game. You can access Bovada Online Poker via browser instant-play and downloadable apps created for PCs, Android, and iOS devices. You can also enjoy a wide array of poker bonuses on Bovada Online Poker that will help you start off your poker adventure on the right foot.

Americas Cardroom Poker

Americas Cardroom Poker is one of the largest poker card rooms in the world today, and maybe even the best place to play poker online. The site was established by Winning Poker Network back in 2001. It was rebranded to Americas Cardroom Poker in 2010 and it has not looked back since. It is one of the busiest poker rooms in the US and it boasts some of the largest guaranteed tournament prizes exceeding $1 million.

Players can enjoy a variety of daily and weekly tournaments in Americas Cardroom Poker, like Progressive Knockout, Sit Go, and Multi-Table tournaments in Texas Hold em, Omaha, and Stud poker versions. There are micro-stakes and high-stakes tournaments, depending on how much you are willing to wager. Add to that a decent number of payment methods and appealing bonuses, and you get a fully-functional online poker room for the ages.

Intertops Poker

For many players out there, Intertops Poker is the best place to play poker online. It is one of the oldest poker rooms in existence, and one of the few that still accept US players.

Intertops downloadable software allows you to play a number of different versions of Texas Hold em, like Pot-Limit and No-Limit Texas Hold em in a number of daily and weekly tournaments, as well as Omaha High Poker and Omaha Hi/Lo Poker. Intertops Poker also has lucrative bonus offers for new and existing players, which all good online poker sites need to have. All of this, coupled with the fact that Intertops now even accepts Bitcoin deposits and withdrawals, means it ticks all the right boxes.

Ignition Poker

If popularity is an indication of quality, Ignition Poker is the best place to play poker online in the US. Rumor has it that Ignition Poker purchased Bovada, which would account for the similarities in software and playing options. Ignition Poker offers SitGo and Multi-Table tournaments on both desktop and mobile devices. The main poker games at Ignition Poker are Omaha and Texas Hold em, with a number of different variants, such as Zone Poker, and Quick-Fold Poker.

State of Online Poker Real Money (USA)

The situation surrounding online poker is changing fast in the USA. While the future might seem bright, it wasn t always like that. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 put a stop to online gambling at the time, but things have changed since then. Now, individual states can decide whether they want to regulate online poker and allow online gambling. States that have already licensed and regulated online poker are Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. In these states, brick-and-mortar casinos partner with online poker sites to offer real-money online poker to US players.

Now, you might be wondering what is going on with other states. The answer is simple. The entire legal framework surrounding online poker is actually quite complex. Players who wish to play in licensed offshore online poker rooms won t be in violation of any laws as technically they are not playing on US soil. Licensed and verified poker rooms such as BetOnline, Americas Cardroom Poker, and others accept US players who can play without any legal repercussions.

New Jersey Nevada Delaware Offshore Poker
WSOP NJ WSOP NV 888 US Ignition Poker
PokerStars NJ BetOnline
Pala Poker NJ Bovada
888 NJ SportsBetting
Party NJ Americas Cardroom
Intertops Poker

Is Online Poker Legal?

Online poker is legal and licensed in four US states: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Other states that are expected to legalize online poker are Michigan and West Virginia. It should also be noted that sweepstakes poker games are also legal in these jurisdictions, and many others as well.

As for other states in the US, their players need to go to offshore poker sites for any real-money poker action. This action is not deemed illegal as you are technically playing outside the US where the rules that apply to the US are not valid, so you are free to play online poker without any fear of breaking the law.

Legal Online Poker

Let me disperse any doubts you might have about the online poker (real money) in USA legal status. The legislation related to online gambling is formed on a federal and state level. On the federal level, the UIGEA and the 1961 Wire Act represent great obstacles as these laws ban payment processors from transferring funds to online casinos and poker sites, and prohibit the use of online communication for any kind of betting.

However, since 2018 and the Supreme Court s decision to revoke the PASPA act, the situation has changed and now individual states that weren t exempt from these laws in the first place, like Nevada, are at liberty to create their own laws related to online gambling. Some states, like Washington, still hold hard bans on online poker, but most others have lenient views of the game, not to mention Nevada, New Jersey, and other states that have fully legalized online poker.

The most important thing you should know is that no one was ever prosecuted for playing in offshore poker rooms like Bovada, Intertops, and others. The laws are more directed towards gambling sites rather than individual players. Of course, if you have any further concerns about the legality of playing online poker in your state, contact an attorney for more details.

Can You Play Poker Online for Money?

Playing online poker for real money is more than just a viable online gambling option for millions of poker fans out there. Poker players love the thrill of the game and the numerous forms of poker found in poker card rooms like BetOnline Poker, Ignition Poker, and others, and that thrill would never be the same if it wasn t for the real-money bets. Online poker rooms allow you to play poker for real cash and get a similar playing experience to land-based casinos. You can use various deposit methods to fund your accounts and start playing in a matter of minutes.

Online Cash Poker

When you think of online poker, what comes to mind are probably online poker cash games rather than free poker. Online cash poker sites allow you to play Texas Hold em, Omaha, Stud, and other kinds of poker games for real-money and partake in tournaments with considerable prize pools. The best poker sites for cash games also offer satellite tournaments that can be your ticket into the World Series of Poker. It was a $86 satellite tournament on the online cash poker site PokerStars that got Chris Moneymaker into the 2003 WSOP and its Main Event which he later won, thus becoming the first player ever to win the Main Event by qualifying through an online poker site.

On the other hand, you can also find a number of poker sites that offer free-money or play-money poker. Here, players can hone their skills using the poker sites money. These sites are great for developing a poker instinct, but since you can t win real money, they sort of take away from the essence of poker. However, there are some freeroll tournaments on these play-money poker sites where players don t need to pay a buy-in in order to play in the tournament and possibly win real money.

Online Poker Games for Real Money

In my long poker career, I have encountered a number of different poker games you can play for real money, but not all are great for every kind of poker player. The most popular type of online poker is Texas Hold em, but you can also encounter versions of Omaha Hold em, 7-Card Stud, and many others. Apart from the difference in the way these games are played, you will encounter differences regarding betting limits and other essential features.

Top Online Real-Money Poker Game for Newbies

Newcomers to the game of poker might feel most comfortable with Texas Hold em. Not only is this game variant the most popular in the world, but it is probably the easiest to learn. Each player gets two hole cards and has three rounds of community cards to use to make the best possible 5-card hand. You can explore a lot of poker strategies on Texas Hold em and prepare for more complex games like the 7-Card Stud Poker. New players should also enjoy Pot-Limit Texas Hold em as these games won t force you to make large bets and risk too much on your way of learning more about poker.

High Stakes Real-Money Poker Games

More experienced players usually opt for the No-Limit versions of Texas and Omaha Hold em games. What makes these No-Limit Texas Hold em, Omaha Hi, and Omaha Hi/Lo poker games special is the fact that there is no limit as to how much the players can bet in a game. Buy-ins for these tournaments can oftentimes be between $500 and $1,000 even, which means the pot sizes reach hundreds of thousands.

Most Popular Real-Money Poker Variants in the USA

Players in the USA prefer to play No-Limit Texas Hold em poker games in the form of cash games and poker tournaments like Sit Go. This format is the one that all online poker rooms offer, but that does not mean Texas Hold em is the only one. Americans love to play Razz, 7-Card Stud, Omaha, 5-Card Draw, and many others as well.

Where to Play Online Poker

The easiest way to find the best poker sites to play for real money is to know what you are looking for in a site when you decide to play real-money poker online. Also, you need to consider what kind of a player you are: are you a novice or an experienced shark , and how important is having fast payout options? Here s my list of the best real-money poker sites under these categories:

New Players

What is important for new players is to have generous welcome bonuses, a lot of low-stake tournament options, and a good choice of Texas Hold em poker games as the most popular type of poker. Here, your best choice would be Americas Cardroom and Intertops which offer considerable bonuses, freeroll and low-stake tournaments, and more.

Experienced Players

Experienced players are usually looking for poker games with higher stakes and tournaments with bigger guaranteed prizes. The No-Limit Texas Hold em played in Bovada s high-roller tournaments with a $150k in guaranteed wins for a buy-in as small as $1 is a perfect choice.

Fast Payout

If you want to have your winnings reach your bank account as fast as possible, you need to choose the best online poker sites for real money with the fastest payouts. Here, the crypto-friendly online poker sites like BetOnline and Intertops are your best options as their cryptocurrency payouts are usually processed within 48 hours, and fiat currency payouts are not far behind either.

For Practising

If you want to have enough time to practice your poker skills but not risk too much, you need to select a poker room with low minimum deposit requirements, like Bovada and Americas Cardroom which both offer BTC deposit as low as $10.

Do Any Poker Sites Accept PayPal?

PayPal is one of the oldest and most popular e-wallets in the world, and you might want to play in poker sites for US players PayPal supports. However, those only include legal state poker sites like 888Poker, which does business in Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada. Since the number of poker sites that use PayPal is rather limited, you should consider opting for poker rooms like BetOnline, Intertops, Poker, and others that offer worthy alternatives to PayPal, like Skrill and Neteller which are frequently hailed as the best e-wallets in the world.

Latest Poker News

Kristen Bicknell Steps Down from Team Partypoker

After four years together, Kristen Bicknell announced that she would be moving away from partypokerThe decision appeared to be mutual, with both parties praising each other on social media Bicknell has announced no further plans regarding a new sponsor, but the poker pro will surely get some tempting offers down the road Kristen Bicknell has decided []

  • Player

Matt Marafioti Story Ends Tragically with Suicide

Charismatic poker professional Matt Marafioti has died after jumping from the 28th floor in New Jersey The player was deeply troubled in the final weeks leading up to the tragedy and professed his love for his one-year-old son on social media Marafioti was caught in a custodial battle for his son and was saddened by []

  • Player

PokerStars to Run $100m GTD WCOOP Series in August

PokerStars to host $100m GTD World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP), as the biggest tournament yet The event has allocated over $970 million since it first launched in 2001, and has been running for over 20 years now PokerStars will offer various incentives that complement its tournament offer and add more opportunity for players of []

  • Poker online asia real money

    Real money poker apps Our big data neuro-network super cookie thing may store information about your personal data including location, age, gender,...

  • Poker room santa cruz ca

    California Online Poker California is both the most populous state and the state with the most poker rooms. In fact, America s favorite card game has a...

  • Texas holdem online play against others

    Play Texas Hold em Online Texas holdem online play against others Texas Hold'em is a betting game where players try to get the best five-card-hand from...

  • Top texas holdem poker sites

    The Best Poker Sites for Texas Hold em The Best Poker Sites for Texas Hold'em Texas Hold'em is the most popular poker variation in the world and it can...

  • What is the best online poker site for real money

    The Best Online Poker Site Reviews for 2021 Honest in-depth features on the best that real money poker sites have to offer will always be the centerpiece...