Are you looking for the best US legal online poker sites or a real money poker app? If the answer is yes, then you came to the right place. This is one of our many online poker reviews where you can find more about the best online poker options.
Without further ado, keep reading to discover how to play the best online poker for money and how to form an online poker strategy. So, let’s get started!
Best Legal Online Poker Sites
Is online poker legal? It's not always the same as legal online casinos and legal online sportsbooks. All new players who decide to explore the vast universe of real money poker sites should know that federally, online poker sites are illegal. However, on the individual level, online poker is legal in some of the states.
Some websites such as Global Poker (which is a sweepstakes poker site) are allowed in 49 out of 50 US states. Only Washington does not allow it. At the moment of writing our online poker reviews, only four states offer legal online poker websites in the United States. These are the following: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.
For more information about some of the available sites, make sure to consult our Global Poker review.
US Legal Online Poker: State by State
Is online poker legal in your state? If the answer is no, keep in mind that the situation can change pretty quickly. Unsurprisingly, Nevada was the leader of regulated online poker. Once the ice was broken, the domino-effect followed.
One by one, many states tried or are still trying to pass the legislation. As you can see, some of them even succeeded. The last one to recently pass online poker is West Virginia, and we expect more legal US poker sites to be launched in the future.
When it comes to future predictions, we believe that chances are pretty good for some of the states to overcome all the legal obstacles and finally launch real money poker sites so their residents become able to play legal online poker.
Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, New York are some of the states that’ll probably make some innovations when it comes to the possibilities of playing poker online. These are the states that have active supporters of online poker in the state senate.
What’s more, regulated real money poker sites in neighboring states can only have a positive effect on public opinion. Additionally, within the borders of the aforementioned states, you can find a considerable number of land-based casinos.
Many of them come with the best online poker rooms where you can play various variants of poker, including the most popular one - Texas Hold’em. In other words, these poker offline options make it easier to launch legal poker sites and eventually start to offer legal online poker.
States Where Legal Online Poker Seems Like a Distant Dream
From this point of view, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah are just some of the states where we can see a certain legislative hostility towards online gambling. Therefore, we don’t believe that we won’t be able to play Texas Hold’em online there for quite some time.
Sweepstakes Legal Online Poker - Play Poker Free No Matter Which State You’re In
As said before, Global Poker, a sweepstakes legal online poker site, can be accessed in all US states except for the state of Washington. This legal online poker platform was launched in 2106, and since then, many players use its services. The virtual currency gaming business model is what makes it unique.
Instead of playing for real money, players play poker free, using gold coins or sweeps cash. That’s why Global Poker often appears when players search for “play poker free” or “play poker online free”.
To understand how sweepstakes poker works, let’s start with some poker basics and make sure to understand sweeps poker terminology clearly. There’s a difference between gold coins and sweeps cash, and there’s a reason for which “play poker online free” is actually a bit of a misnomer here.
Gold Coins are the name for the virtual currency in Global Poker, and they are equivalent to what regular legal online poker sites usually call “play money”. In other words, you can’t cash them out, but you can use them to play Texas Hold’em online or participate in some of the available tournaments with other players. On the other hand, “$weeps cash” is a promotional, virtual currency that can be cashed out through PayPal.
To sum up, you can buy gold coins that don’t have any monetary value and can’t be cashed out. “$weeps cash” is obtained as free of charge once you buy Gold Coins. Because of this virtual currency online poker model, Global Poker is not quite considered an online gambling activity. Therefore, it’s allowed in almost all of the US.
Where Can I Play Legal Online Poker in the US?
Pennsylvania is the last state where online poker had become legal when PokerStars was launched there at the end of 2019. Right now that’s also the only available option to play online poker for money in Pennsylvania.
If we don’t count Global Poker, which can be accessed in 49 states, all the other legal online poker sites come with pretty restricted access. For example, Pala Poker and PartyPoker are only available in the state of New Jersey.
However, they are not the only NJ poker sites one can access. WSOP, America's top legal online poker site, is available in the Garden State, and it’s also accessible to all Nevada online poker fans as well. Likewise, PokerStars NJ, available both independently and within the FOX Bet appClaim the WSOP promo code in New Jersey and Nevada to get a $1,000 signup bonus!
Where Can I Play Poker Live?
Most of the land-based casinos across different states include special poker rooms where you can play live poker. Playing Texas Hold’em online is definitely the most popular option. After all, poker is an American thing, so it’s no wonder to see it available in the vast majority of mortar and bricks casinos.
In fact, instead of listing all the states where you can sit back, relax and try out your luck with live poker, it’s better to list all those where you can’t play poker online. It’ll be easier to remember this list:
We must add that in Texas, private poker clubs aren’t forbidden. As long as no house makes a profit from the game, poker can be played in private places for fun.
US Online Poker Basics
When talking about the current status of legal US poker sites, there are two especially important laws that you should be aware of. Let’s take a look at these two federal laws that govern online poker in the country.
The Wire Act
The first one is the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, often called the Federal Wire Act. As you can see, it passed long before online poker or even the internet existed. However, it prohibits certain types of betting businesses to operate via wired communications.
In 2011, the US Department of Justice concluded that the scope of the act was limited to sporting events. Therefore, states, where online poker is now regulated, found that the bill didn’t apply to online poker nor other forms of gambling.
However, in 2019, the US Department of Justice reversed its opinion. The new opinion concludes that the Wire Act applies to all types of online gambling.
The other relevant law is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) from 2006. This law made it illegal for US banks to proceed with transactions for offshore gambling companies. That’s how they were pushed out of the market.
History of US Legal Online Poker
Online casinos started to appear back in 1994. They were usually situated in Antigua or the Isle of Man. However, the vast majority of their users were US-based customers. Two years later, in 1996, online gambling was also brought to the North American market soil.
The Kahnawake Gaming Commission was established just outside Montreal. They started issuing licenses, and pretty soon, it was possible to find hundreds of new online gambling websites.
Once again, two years later and again in Canada, the first-ever poker online website saw the light of day. Planet Poker was the favorite source of fun to thousands of Americans who were spending endless hours playing the first real-money online Texas Hold’em.
Over the next few years, thanks to technological advances, better online poker software was developed, while the number of websites kept increasing. These online poker operators also started to offer various tournaments and cash games and got a solid fan base all over the world.
The Industry Kept Growing & Then It Collapsed
Even though there were different interpretations of the law, especially of the famous Wire Act, the newly developed industry kept growing.
The year 2003 is especially important in the evolution of online poker. Using an account from Tennessee, Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker after participating in the event through an online satellite. In Chris Moneymaker's case, we guess, it's okay to say that name determines destiny.
This online poker strategy was live-streamed on ESPN. Suddenly, the whole nation knew about Chris's story. A good number of Americans were hoping to be the next. All of a sudden, poker was everywhere on TV. Live games were followed carefully, and commercial breaks had one purpose: promoting online poker for money and playing Texas Hold 'em online.
The great number of promoted sites were, in fact, offshore online poker sites. A lot of them disappeared from American browsers after Congress passed the above-mentioned UIGEA in 2006.
However, even though a lot of sites weren't accessible anymore, online poker couldn't be erased that easily. Some of the offshore gambling companies had found a way around the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, but not for long.
In 2011, some of the largest online poker operators, including PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet, were accused of violating UIGEA and money laundering. These websites were definitely excluded from the significant US online poker market, which seemed to come to an end at the time.
Legal Online Poker Sites Rise Again
Also in 2011, the DOJ released a legal opinion that the Federal Wire act exclusively applied only to one form of gambling: sports betting. A few states saw this as a possibility, paving the way to regulated online casinos and legal US poker sites.
In 2012, Delaware was the first state that managed to do just that. Then, in December 2013, Nevada followed the example of passing online poker legislation. A week later, the Garden State became the third to legalize online gambling, and plans for NJ poker sites were made.
The first-ever regulated US online poker site was launched in Nevada in April 2013. Delaware and NJ poker sites went live that same year, a few months later. In 2017, Pennsylvania became the fourth state to join this group. West Virginia is the fifth state where online poker was regulated in 2019. Probably, more states will try to do the same thing in the near future.
Which State is Next?
Is online poker legal in California or New York? This is one of the frequently asked questions that people search for in the USA. They also search for different terms of poker terminology that sound unfamiliar to them. However, that’s another question that we could discuss on some other occasion.
Let’s get back to our question of legal online poker sites and the possible new markets in the USA. Michigan has made significant efforts to legalize online gambling, particularly online poker, while California, New York, and Massachusetts also seem to be moving in the right direction.
Real Money Poker App: How to Find the Best Poker App
It doesn’t matter if you are a Pennsylvania online poker fan or a regular visitor of NJ poker sites, the good news is that you can play poker whenever you want, anywhere within the borders of one or the other state.
Many of the best online poker websites have launched a dedicated real money poker app that you can easily download and install on your device. The best poker apps are available for both iOS and Android operating systems.
In order to find the best poker app, make sure you visit one of the websites we listed at the beginning of our review.
Also, before you replace your poker offline adventure with the one that can be found on the internet, make sure to read some of the online poker reviews and get to know the poker terminology used by the players worldwide. After a brief introduction to the poker basics, it’s time to create your own online poker strategy and join one of the legal online poker communities!