Are you a US online poker player looking to play your favorite game on the virtual felt? You have come to the right place as we offer you a complete overview of the online poker industry in the US and all the legal poker sites and apps where you can play best online poker games.
Online poker has been in the US since its very inception, but in 2011 all the major operators were banned from the country for failing to respect the laws and regulations in place. It took a while, but in 2013 the first legal poker sites started to open their doors in Nevada.
Today, regulated US online poker sites are available in more than just Nevada, with several states creating the legal framework for such sites to operate.
In this guide to online poker in the US, we bring you a full list of states in which you can play online poker, the operators which you may have access to, and everything else you need to jump right into the action.
Keep reading to find your way to the best online poker sites in your state and feel safe playing poker for the first time since the Black Friday.
Picking Your Online Poker Site
Poker players in the US are presented with many options to play the game online, with both legal and illegal offshore sites offering their services. Of course, we always recommend playing at a regulated poker site for many different reasons.
Here are the main things you should look at when picking the online poker site to play at:
- Regulated in Your State: Each state issues its own licenses, which means each operator must be licensed in every state in which they wish to offer services. Make sure the site you are looking at actually has an operating license in your state before proceeding to choose it.
- Games & Player Pool: Playing online poker at different sites is not the same. Check out the games that are on offer and find out just how many players the site is able to bring together. Some of the biggest sites in the US offer much more traffic than the others.
- Bonuses & Rewards: Online poker operators reward their players with a variety of bonuses and promotions that add value to their play. Find out what promos are available at each site you can play at before you pick one out as your favorite.
What Makes Legal Poker Sites Better?
Since online poker sites are still so few and only available in a few states, you may be wondering why you should go through the trouble of finding one. After all, you have heard of people playing at offshore sites and having a decent enough experience. However, there are clear advantages to playing at regulated poker sites, and here are a few of them:
- Games are Fair: Every online poker site out there advertises that their games are random and fair, but is this really true? You can only really be sure with operators that offer their services under a proper gaming license, which means that only regulated operators who are audited by state regulators are guaranteed to be safe.
- Your Funds are Safe: One of the main problems players can face when playing at illegal poker sites is that their funds are used by the operators to fund their operations. At legal poker sites, players funds must be held safely segregated from operating funds, which means you are always guaranteed to get your money in case of the operator experiencing any problems.
- Major Brands: Playing at regulated poker sites in the US means being part of something big. Major poker brands like WSOP, PokerStars, and BetMGM are all present in the US online poker world and you can play with them, joining a player pool that includes famous poker pros and more.
- Player Safety First: Regulated poker sites must ensure the safety of their players at all times, and this means that responsible gambling practices must be in place. You can ban yourself from playing at legal sites or limit your deposits if you happen to be experiencing problems controlling your play.
- Right to Privacy is Protected: All online poker sites, legal or not, require you to share a lot of personal information, including the copies of your personal documents. While offshore sites have no obligation to keep those private, regulated sites are obligated not to share or sell your info in any case.
- Taxes Go to Good Causes: US online poker operators pay significant taxes on their revenue. Instead of going into the pockets of private companies or rogue governments, this money goes to help your community’s schools, improve social programs, and make the life in your closest environment better for everyone.
Finding Safe & Regulated Sites in the US
With so many different operators out there, and many advertising to be “the best US poker site,” how can you actually be sure which sites are regulated and which are not? Here are a few things to look out for in your pursuit of a legal place to play online poker:
- The Regulator’s Seal: There is one unmistakable way to find out an operator is legal and licensed in your state, and that is your state regulator’s seal. Each licensed operator will have this seal listed on their website, and you will be able to confirm their seal by visiting the regulator’s website and ensuring the site is truly licensed in your legal jurisdiction.
- No Available in the Entire US: Online poker is only legal in a handful of states at this time, which means that any operator that offers its services beyond these states is not operating legally. What is more, some regulated operators only work in one or two states, so you should inform yourself as to the site’s status before you sign up.
- Ran by US Companies: In order to acquire a license in the US, an operator must have a US based company behind it. This means that even the big international poker brands must create companies in the US to offer their services, and this makes them legally responsible for all their actions within the US.
- Live Casino Partners: In all states where online poker is regulated by law, online poker operators must have live casino partners to back their operation. These will be major casinos you have heard of and the partnership will help you trust your online poker brand more and feel more relaxed to play there.
- Phone Contact Available: Every US based and regulated online poker site will have a contact phone you can use to get in touch with the customer support representatives. This is not a common practice for offshore sites and is another recognizable feature of legal poker sites.
- Loyalty Programs and Rewards: While offshore poker sites also offer loyalty schemes and player rewards, those offered by the legal US poker brands are different. You will be able to tell from the quality of the programs and their common association with major casinos in the US that these are US companies with a proper gaming license.
Best US Online Poker Operators
Online poker is booming in the US, with new operators entering the market every year. Here is the list of the online poker operators that currently offer legal online poker within US:
|PokerStars||The world’s leading online poker operator is available in NJ, PA, and MI, and offer some of the biggest poker tournaments and a host of cash game tables across all stakes and game types.|
|WSOP.com||Hosting the online WSOP events in NJ, MI, PA, and NV, WSOP.com is one of the major online poker brands in the US. While cash games are also available, WSOP.com is most appealing to players for its variety in tournament options.|
|Partypoker||Powered by yet another one of the international industry leaders, partypoker is available in NJ, PA, and MI, with focus on both cash game poker and tournaments and major tournament series running on a regular basis.|
|BetMGM Poker||With a generous welcome bonus and plenty of regular action at both cash games and tournaments, BetMGM Poker is yet another big name fighting for liquidity in the three main markets in the US.|
|Borgata Poker||Available to players in NJ and PA only at this time, Borgata Poker is part of the big partypoker family and is backed by one of the largest live casinos in Atlantic City.|
Extra Value – Bonuses and Promotions
Regulated US online poker sites offer some of the biggest and most lucrative bonus offers and promotions in the world. As the sites compete for traffic and new players, welcome bonuses have never been juicier and players can benefit from a host of valuable promotions and reload bonuses as well.
The first thing to welcome players at practically every regulated US poker site is a welcome bonus. Often worth as much as a $1,000, welcome bonuses are a great way to start building an online poker bankroll in the US.
Online poker bonuses are generally issued to players as a form of rakeback, which means you will have to play real money games to get your hands on the bonus. As you play real money poker and accumulate loyalty points, your bonus will be released in increments of 5%, 10%, or more. In either case, expect a high return on any rake paid while your welcome bonus is active.
Sign Up No Deposit Bonuses
While getting a welcome bonus when you make your first deposit is a common practice around the world, no deposit bonuses have been less common outside of the US lately. At US poker sites, however, you can get some free cash or tournament tickets at most sites just for signing up.
These no deposit bonuses are given to every player who signs up as a chance to try playing real money poker without any real risk and a great opportunity to explore the site. If you live in a state where online poker is legal, you should look into the no deposit offers that are available.
Another great way to benefit from playing real money online poker in the US is through the various loyalty schemes and programs that the operators have in store for you. Loyalty points are awarded based on how much you play and the rake you pay, and they can be converted into cash, bonuses, and other real rewards.
Make sure you understand the loyalty scheme of the site you plan on playing at before you commit any significant funds to it. After all, the difference between a good loyalty program and a poor one can be a very big factor in your bottom line.
Online Poker vs. Live Poker – Which is Better?
Live poker is available across the country and no matter where you live there is likely a live poker room close to you. Now that online poker is also becoming more widely available, let’s weigh the pros and cons of playing at online poker sites and figure out what advantages you may get from playing online poker.
- Play Anywhere: To play poker in a casino or a live poker room, you have to actually get there first, which can be both time-consuming and inconvenient at times. You can play online poker anywhere within the state, without even having to put your pants on.
- More Action: Many live poker rooms only spread one live tournament per day or have only a handful of live poker tables running. Online poker gives you access to a whole range of different games and stakes that live poker rooms can hardly match.
- Available Around the Clock: What’s even more important, you can play online poker anytime you want. You no longer have to spend the long nights at the casino, as poker is now available at all hours of the day.
- Bonuses & Promos: Live poker operators do their best to reward their players, but the costs of running live poker are high, which makes it more difficult. Online poker sites, on the other hand, are happy to give away a big chunk of their rake back to the players in the form of various bonuses, promotions, and loyalty rewards.
- Big Field MTTs: Big live tournaments only run in a handful of places, while such events can be found online very often and without much trouble. You can now play tournaments with hundreds of players, and you won’t even need to leave your house.
- Less Rake: Another function of the lower cost of running games and more games running at the same time, online poker sites are able to offer games with lower take. This means you will be paying less to play in the same kinds of games offered in live poker rooms, which is a double win.
- Get Help Faster: Online poker sites offer customer support during business hours and can resolve any issue you have for you very quickly. Live poker rooms don’t always have the staff on hand to help with all player requests and can’t resolve all player complaints and issues in the first place.
How to Play?
Are you interested in playing online poker in the US and are looking to set up your first account? Here are the general steps you will need to follow to get started as an online poker player in the US.
- Choose Your Site: Each of the states in which online poker is legal offer at least a handful of poker operators. Pick the operator you want to play with based on the criteria we presented in this guide.
- Register for an Account: You will need to set up your player account on the site you have picked. Initiate the registration process, enter your personal details, and get your username and password to play with.
- Confirm Your Identity: Regulated poker operators are asked to make sure that players are playing under their real names and identities. You will need to confirm your personal details before you can start playing for real cash.
- Download a Poker App: Poker apps allow you to play online poker on your phone or tablet. If you are looking to play on your mobile, you will need to download the appropriate app to your device.
- Make Your Deposit: Once you sign up, you may be offered a no deposit bonus to test the site with. Yet, you will likely want to make a real money deposit to claim your welcome bonus package and get involved with some real games at your chosen operator.
Which States Offer Legal Online Poker?
- Nevada: The state of Nevada was one of the first to legalize online poker and offer first licensed poker sites. Online poker is alive and well in Nevada today, with new operators finally entering this relatively closed off market.
- New Jersey: One of the most popular American online poker markets, New Jersey was at the forefront of the legal fight to bring online poker to America. Today, poker players in NJ can enjoy playing at a number of reputable licensed poker sites.
- Michigan: With 10 million citizens, Michigan is bigger than the other states that offer online poker, and has quickly turned into the biggest online poker market in the US. The largest online tournaments and biggest prize pools in all of US are found in this great state.
- Pennsylvania: Since making online poker legal in 2017, the state of Pennsylvania has built up a massive industry around it, licensing several high-end poker sites and apps within its borders.
- Delaware: A small and unassuming state, Delaware was the first to make online poker legal back in 2013. Today, Delaware still offers online poker, but the small numbers of players make the player pools in tournaments and cash games somewhat limited.
- West Virginia: The latest state to adopt online poker, West Virginia made it legal in 2019 and has since begun to issue first gaming licenses to online poker operators. Today, final preparations are being conducted for the first WV poker sites to be launched and the games to finally kick off.
History of Online Poker in the US
The history of online poker in the US is as long as the history of online poker worldwide as some of the first operators launched in the US at their inception. Here is how we got from there to here in a few simple footnotes.
- Online Poker Launches: The first online poker sites launched back in the 1990s and they offered their services to anyone who would have them. US players could play at the original partypoker and Planet Poker, sites which operated without any real US licenses.
- The Moneymaker Effect: In 2003, the poker world was shaken up by Chris Moneymaker, American accountant who qualified for the WSOP Main Event at PokerStars and won it! Thousands of players sought to replicate his success, and the player pools at online poker sites grew rapidly, initiating the so-called Poker Boom, which started with Moneymaker’s victory.
- US Congress Passes UIGEA: Just three years after Moneymaker won the WSOP Main Event, the US Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which made online poker completely illegal in the US. Operators like partypoker and 888Poker exited the US market, while some others continued to offer their services to Americans.
- The Black Friday Hits: The US and international poker community were shook on April 15, 2011 when the US Department of Justice seized the domain names and physical assets of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. The sites were shut down for the US players permanently, and FTP players were left with millions in balances they could not cash out.
- States Begin Regulation: Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey all regulated online poker in 2013, paving the way for first legal poker sites and the future of online poker in the US. Yet, it would take a while before the ball got rolling and poker really returned to America.
- New States Enter the Fold: The state of Pennsylvania regulated online poker in 2017, followed by Michigan in 2019 and West Virginia followed that same year. Yet, no online poker sites have yet launched in WV.
- Interstate Poker Coming Next: A deal to make interstate poker a reality has been in the works for some time, and there are no further obstacles to it, which means interstate poker should become a reality very soon.
Interstate Poker in the US
The one thing US players have been dreaming off since 2011 is a shared liquidity pool in which they could play poker against other players from all over the US.
Recently, the DoJ decided it would not appeal the Supreme Court decision which stated the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, which now opens the door for online poker sites to share their liquidity between different states.
With many sites already operating in multiple states, it is only a question of time before the likes of PokerStars, WSOP.com, and partypoker will start sharing liquidity between their various sites.
With interstate poker finally looking likely to become a reality in the near future, the months and years ahead should be very exciting for all US players who have been waiting to experience the full scope of online poker they were used to in the pre-Black Friday era.
Is online poker legal in the US?
Yes, online poker has been legal in the US for almost a decade now. However, the game is not regulated on the federal level. States have the right to pass their own online poker laws and so far, only a handful of states have regulated online poker in the US, namely Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia.
Where can I sign up with licensed US online poker sites?
You can sign up with any US poker site by visiting the operator’s page and filling in the required details to open your account. While it’s possible to sign up from pretty much anywhere in the US, you should keep in mind that you will only be allowed to play for real money while physically present in the state where the particular room is regulated. So, for example, you can only play on PokerStars PA while in Pennsylvania.
Who regulates US online poker rooms?
Every state has a body in charge of licensing and regulating poker sites and other forms of online gambling. US online poker sites are regulated on the state level and there is no overarching federal body that would oversee their operations.
How can I know a poker site is really legal in the US?
The best way to know if an online poker site is legal in the US is by checking out their licensing information. This info is available on the page, usually in the footer, and it clearly indicates what organization is in charge of licensing and regulation. In New Jersey, for example, this would be the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE).
On top of this, regulated US sites are owned by well-known companies and do not cater to players from the entire country but rather from the individual state where the operator is licensed. Licensed US poker sites also do not accept bitcoins.
What are the best US poker sites I can play on in different states?
There are several major operators present in regulated US online poker markets in the country, including PokerStars, WSOP.com, BetMGM, Borgata, and partypoker. Not all of them are available across all regulated states, but you can rest assured these are your best and safest picks.
Latest News on US Online Poker:
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