Poker is one of the most popular games in the world, and not just because of the cash prizes. It’s attractive to many people because it’s simple to learn but has an incredibly high skill ceiling.
That is, it can take a lifetime to master given the multiple layers of complexity present in every hand. While poker is usually a face-to-face game, online poker allows people to experience the freedom and flexibility of playing legal online poker in the US.
However, the US regulates online gambling strictly in general. It can be challenging to understand in which states online poker is legal. Some states offer regulated, legal online games, but most still only allow sweepstakes poker games for virtual coins.
The online poker market is indeed expanding and is likely to become even more varied in the future. Here we will go over where you can currently play online poker, where it’s likely to expand to next, and what kinds of poker you can play on the Internet.
Best Online Poker Sites In The United States
- WSOP.com – NV, NJ
- PokerStars – NJ, PA, MI
- partypoker – BetMGM, Borgata Poker, partypoker NJ
States With Legal Online Poker In The US
Best Online Poker For Cash Prizes (All States Except WA)
What States Have Legal Poker Sites Today?
Although poker is arguably one of the most traditional card games in the US, laws governing online poker are much stricter than you might think. Most states heavily regulate online gambling to the extent that several, like Texas, don’t allow you to play for money at all for most types of games.
One of the most highly-regulated games is online poker. At this time, there are only five states that allow you to play poker online for real money: Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Delaware. With some exceptions, it follows that players on online poker websites can play only with people from one of these five states, thereby limiting the player pool.
Three of the states (New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware) share online poker rooms because of deals struck between poker site companies. Michigan is the newest state to legalize online poker. It should be joining interstate poker pools later in 2021.
West Virginia also legalized online poker, but the launch of regulated poker sites is pending.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the states that allow online poker.
Michigan Online Poker
Michigan is one of the newest states in the United States to pass a bill allowing legal online poker sites and to launch poker apps. The first app launched in January 2021.
The law was signed into effect via the Lawful Internet Gambling Act in December 2019. This bill categorized interactive poker as an online casino-style game. It allows licensed gaming operators to pursue an online license for poker alongside other casino games.
The bill also specifically appointed the Michigan Gaming Control Board as the organization responsible for regulating online poker sites within the state. The board has constructed a timeline for meeting objectives so that it can properly regulate future poker sites.
Legal online gambling sites went live in Michigan on January 22, 2021. The MGCB announced the first online poker site, PokerStars MI, on January 29, 2021.
The Stars Group, partnered with Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority to launch the PokerStars App, alongside a FOX Bet Sportsbook App and PokerStars Casino app.
BetMGM Poker MI will also launch at some point, under the MGM Grand Casino license. That license has already launched a BetMGM-branded hybrid sports betting and online casino site.
New Jersey Online Poker
New Jersey is a great place to play online poker because it has a huge population of digital gamblers. In other words, it’s relatively easy to find full tables.
Furthermore, some poker providers allow New Jersey players to compete with players from other states that allow online poker. Gamblers in New Jersey are fortunate enough to be able to jump into games at almost any time of day without much effort.
- WSOP.com – Partnered with the Caesars Atlantic City organization, WSOP New Jersey shares player pools with WSOP Nevada and the 888Poker Delaware network. This merged interstate network features the largest player pool of any legal US poker network.
- PokerStars NJ – This latecomer to New Jersey’s online poker party, joining in 2016, is now one of the biggest online poker providers in the US. They’re a partner of Resorts Casino and have a pretty good site layout with innovative software and great table selections. Several sign-up bonuses make it an awesome deal for those looking to try out a new site.
- PartyPoker – PartyPoker is another provider in New Jersey. It offers new players a $25 no deposit bonus and a $1000 match bonus on the first deposit. It has a reputation for having lots of tables for both amateur and casual players. However, they also offer several more serious tournaments.
- 888poker NJ – 888 provides the software behind the WSOP NJ platform, but 888poker NJ also operates as a separate platform. 888poker NJ functions as a standalone site, with an independent player pool not linked to any other site.
Pennsylvania Online Poker
Online gambling has been legal in Pennsylvania for some time, including casinos, lottery games, and sportsbooks. Online poker, introduced in 2019, is actually the most recent addition to the state’s collection of online gambling options.
PokerStars PA launched as the state’s first online poker site in November 2019. PokerStars operates with a monopoly on the Pennsylvania market for now, but WSOP and partypoker should launch Pennsylvania platforms soon.
Online poker in Pennsylvania officially became legal in October 2017 thanks to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf. This new state law allowed online gambling activities like casino games, sportsbooks, and poker. Brick-and-mortar casinos were able to then pursue different licenses for online play.
Pennsylvania online poker games allow you to play for real cash. You can join tournaments or single games with player pools derived from Pennsylvania and other licensed states. Since its legalization, online poker in Pennsylvania has exploded in popularity.
- PokerStars – PokerStars was actually the first online poker site in Pennsylvania, officially launching in 2019. It offers tournaments and several varieties of poker for online gamblers to enjoy.
- WSOP Pennsylvania (coming soon) – Online competitors will soon be able to play poker in Pennsylvania through WSOP, which will be supported by 888’s poker software. WSOP is a partner of Harrah’s Casino. It won’t have shared player pools and will be for use within Pennsylvania only.
- Partypoker PA (coming soon) – Pennsylvania gaming regulators approved partypoker to enter the state’s online poker market. Partypoker PA will launch under the BetMGM license eventually, with the debut of the partypoker PA platform pending.
Nevada Online Poker
Despite its notoriety as the home of flashy gambling capital Las Vegas, Nevada doesn’t have a whole lot of online poker providers. Currently, Caesar’s Entertainment offers WSOP.com as Nevada’s lone regulated poke site. Players can take advantage of online WSOP events running from May to early July every year.
The only downside is that Nevada itself doesn’t have a large population. WSOP Nevada does share player pools with WSOP New Jersey and 888poker’s Delaware network, however.
That said, Nevada’s online poker offerings are among the best you can find. There are cash games, sit and go’s, and many tournaments to participate in. As you’d expect, WSOP qualifier tournaments are also available. Nevada is a good state to play from if you want to take a shot at a WSOP bracelet.
Delaware Online Poker
Delaware is remarkably similar to Nevada in terms of its online poker offerings and population. It’s a small state, and only a fraction of its residents play online poker (especially for cash).
Delaware offers a trio of online poker skins that all link to the same network. 888poker powers the shared platform, which includes Delware Park, Dover Downs, and Harrington Raceway skins. You’ll be able to play with players from WSOP Nevada and WSOP New Jersey, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding full tables.
The interface here is similar to the one you find for Nevada sites and elsewhere. There are plenty of game options and modern software to keep the online poker experience smooth and user-friendly.
WHAT STATES WILL HAVE LEGAL ONLINE POKER IN THE FUTURE?
The above five states are the only ones in the US that currently offer legal online poker. Thus far, only one additional state has legalized online poker, but has not yet launched it. It is unclear at this point if any additional states will join.
West Virginia Online Poker
West Virginia operates as one of the few states that offers legal online casino gaming and online sports betting. Legal online poker is also approved, but no online poker sites are yet live.
The launch of West Virginia’s legal online poker sites could happen before the end 2021.
Partypoker could be a likely candidate to operate an online poker site in West Virginia. GVC Holdings, the parent company to partypoker, has a partnership in place with the Greenbrier (a West Virginia retail casino) to operate online gambling in the state.
3 Best Online Poker Sites For Real Money
The most prominent legal online poker brand in the US, WSOP.com launched in both Nevada and New Jersey in late 2013. The online poker client operates as an extension of the World Series of Poker brand, owned by Caesars Entertainment.
That tie-in allows the opportunity for New Jersey players to play in online bracelet events on the annual World Series of Poker schedule. The WSOP Nevada and New Jersey sites share the same player pool, which also connects to the 888poker Delaware network.
The WSOP.com platform runs on 888poker software. 888poker was approved for an iGaming license in Pennsylvania in September 2020, which likely precludes a Pennsylvania version of the WSOP.com platform.
WSOP.com could eventually launch in Michigan and West Virginia, two states with legalized online poker.
The WSOP.com welcome bonus includes a 100% deposit match up to $1,000.
PokerStars operates as the largest online poker company in the world. The Stars Group, parent company to PokerStars, pulled the main PokerStars client out of the US market in 2011.
PokerStars returned to the states in 2016 with the launch of PokerStars New Jersey. That platform runs as a standalone New Jersey poker site, not connected to the PokerStars international client or any other US-based online poker network.
The brand added a second US market in November 2019 with the launch of PokerStars PA. The Pennsylvania version of the PokerStars platform stands as the lone state-regulated online poker site in the state, but WSOP and partypoker are both approved to join the Pennsylvania market in the upcoming months.
PokerStars launched in Michigan in January 2021, under a partnership with tribal property Odawa Casino. The welcome bonus for the US family of PokerStars sites includes a 100% deposit match up to $600, and a $30 free play bonus.
Like PokerStars, partypoker pulled its international online poker platform out of the US market for a time, but returned to the states in November 2013. The brand re-launched its US operations with partypoker NJ, a New Jersey-only regulated poker network.
The company rebranded the New Jersey platform as the partypoker US Network in January 2020. The network now includes partypoker NJ, Borgata Poker, and BetMGM poker.
Roar Digital, parent company to partypoker’s US operations, was approved for launch in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in October.
Partypoker US Network parent company Roar Digital has announced intentions to launch a BetMGM Poker platform is Michigan. The BetMGM MI Poker site will run on partypoker software and should provide a familiar feel to players with experience at partypoker.
Partypoker’s US sites offer a 100% deposit match up to $600 as a welcome bonus.
How Do Online Poker Bonuses Work? Are They Worth The Time?
Many online poker websites provide bonuses for new players or recurring players. These bonuses entice people to use the online poker site and get people gambling.
No Deposit Bonuses
No deposit bonuses are among the most common bonuses offered by online poker providers. In a nutshell, these bonuses are small free cash prizes that poker sites give you to test out real money games.
These bonuses are normally only for new accounts, and generally aren’t very large – amounts are often between $20 and $40. Players must wager several times before they can withdraw cash. Naturally, these bonuses are only available to states that have legalized online poker games where you can play for real money.
PartyPoker provides a no deposit bonus up to $25 for new sign-ups, at least within the state of New Jersey. This means that newcomers can get $25 for PartyPoker’s digital tables without any other strings attached. It’s a great way to start playing if you don’t have a lot of extra cash to spare right away. If you’re good enough, you could potentially even bankroll yourself for a long time only with your winnings if you make that $25 into more money through a few successive wins.
Deposit Or Match Bonuses
Deposit or match bonuses are industry-standard offerings. When a player deposits money on the site, the casino matches it by a specified percentage up to a certain amount. For example, let’s say a poker site offers a 100 percent match bonus on a first deposit up to $300. That means that any new player depositing $300 into their account will get an additional $300 from the poker provider. This total amount of $600 can then be wagered on online poker games. Some sweepstakes poker providers do this with Sweep Coins instead of cash.
A great example of this type of bonus is the kind offered by WSOP, which is partnered with Caesar’s Entertainment. They’re a particularly good option for poker players, as they are a staple poker organization and provide certain competitive brackets online. They run landmark events as well throughout the year. Their deposit bonuses offers a 100 percent match for a player’s first deposit on the site. So, new players essentially double their money when they’re first starting out.
What Kinds Of Games Do Online Poker Sites Offer? How Do They Compare To Live Poker Rooms?
The various available online poker sites offer several types of games for players to enjoy. These can be just as thrilling or engaging as live poker rooms depending on the other players and the interface.
Cash games are the most traditional type of poker game you can find. As you might guess, it’s a poker game where you can play for cash. This makes it more thrilling than many other types of games because there are real-world stakes hanging in the balance with every hand. The great news about online cash games is that they’re easy to find in states that have legalized online poker gambling.
But players might even prefer engaging with these types of games online as opposed to a regular casino. There are several table sizes available and you can play from the comfort of your own couch or favorite chair. Most cash games, too, are relatively low-risk, with buy-ins of about $25 or so. While the pots can get large after a while, it’s unlikely anyone is going to lose their life savings like they might at a Vegas casino.
Even smaller blinds are available across various online poker sites. Some cash games have blinds that are as low as pennies or a few cents. As a result, buying in to get a little cash poker action is possible with only a few dollars in your bank account. This is almost impossible in traditional casinos. Additionally, online cash poker games are frequently spiced up by special events or championship games, so there’s usually something cool going on.
Cash games can be found at all of the above-mentioned online poker providers in the legal states: Pennsylvania, Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.
Tournaments are another common type of poker game. They tend to be a lot more formal than relaxed cash games. Tournaments can vary dramatically based on their structure variations or their rule sets, so you’ll need to study up on exactly what type of poker you are playing before entering. Like with real-world tournaments, online poker tournaments will have you buy in to acquire a pile of chips. Everyone plays until the tournament is over and there’s a single winner.
Naturally, this drives the stakes up a bit higher and creates exciting tension even across digital screens. That being said, turning prizes usually aren’t too high, just like with the cash games. For instance, you can find plenty of weekly tournaments taking place online across the weekend (when most people will be available for a longer engagement). These feature winning guarantees of about $100. Many people find tournaments to be the best form of poker around. These games can demonstrate skill and expertise like nothing else.
However, many players prefer online poker tournaments because the human element isn’t as big of a factor. This means your analysis of player moves rather than more difficult-to-discern movements or habits is key. Additionally, online poker tournaments are a little easier to make over the weekend. Being all-digital, you don’t have to worry about physically making the engagement via your car if you had a busy morning.
You can find tournaments across most of the online poker providers we described before. PartyPoker in NJ, for instance, offers tournaments with small but guaranteed prize pools throughout most days of the week, although their most profitable games are across the weekend. Sunday Major events, for instance, have prize pools that often total $100,000.
Sit & Go’s
Sit & Go’s or (SNGs) are essentially small-scale poker games that have a fixed size of players (say nine seats). All SNG games begin as soon as the seats are full, instead of reserving spots for players who register for a tournament or adding people progressively until the table becomes too unwieldy to manage.
SNG poker games are advantageous for those who like to pop in for a bit of poker and then jump out as soon as they have another engagement. As a bonus, a majority of online SNG games pay multiple players, usually the top three of any given game. There are also lottery SNGs. These are games that are played across three hands only, offering rapid-fire poker action. Interestingly, many of these games have pretty high prize pools of up to 10,000 times or so of the buy-in price.
Online SNG poker games are often popular compared to their in-person or real-world casino counterparts because the quick nature of their format makes them a perfect complement for online play. You can engage with a game, end it quickly, and move on to your next activity all within a few minutes and without moving from your comfortable spot whatsoever.
Are Legal Online Poker Sites Safe And Fair?
If you haven’t enjoyed online poker before, it’s natural that you might wonder whether online poker sites are safe and fair for their players. You might even wonder this if you plan to use an online poker site in a legalized state.
Here’s the good news: so far, there haven’t been any real news stories about anomalies or hacking of the poker websites or provider databases. There’s no evidence to suggest that online poker providers are cheating their customers, either.
Let’s go through the reasons why you should feel safe using an online poker site one by one.
All Online Poker Sites Must Be Regulated
First and foremost, it’s a lot of effort for an online poker website to get started because of all the regulations. The legalization of online poker is already moving at a snail’s pace, so there’s a lot of effort involved whenever a casino does provide an online poker site. These poker sites are then regulated by state gambling boards, which take daily or weekly looks at the earnings of a given site or parent organization.
This results in every online poker site being carefully monitored most of the time. While it’s of course possible that an online poker site could try to cheat its customers, this is unlikely given the constant monitoring that most of these organizations are put under. It would also be ridiculous for an online poker site to go to all the trouble of getting licensure and adhering to regulation standards only to lose all their privileges and be fined heavily for an infraction.
Software Is Well-Designed
Similarly, no online poker site goes into things half-baked. They either come up with their own in-house software that they use for the majority of their games or they partner with real-life casinos who already have poker software under their control. Either way, the software used for these online poker tournaments, cash games and SNGs are all well-designed for stability and a smooth user experience.
This lessens the likelihood that any individual online poker game will suffer a glitch where everyone’s money suddenly disappears, or the records of individual hands are lost.
All Poker Games Are Tested
Furthermore, online poker sites always test their games before they bring them to live servers. This means that they play the games themselves or have regulatory employees from the aforementioned state gaming boards test out the games to see if they can purposefully break them before they hit the market.
This is all done to ensure that the users of online poker sites don’t experience any sudden loss of connection or feel that there’s something shifty going on behind the scenes. Games are designed to be transparent and easy to understand, too, so that people don’t constantly call an online poker site asking where their money is or how to work the controls.
Overall, the poker games that eventually do make it to a poker site are well-tested and likely went through several iterations before they were approved.
There Are Ways To Pursue Disputes
Finally, in the event that there is a monetary dispute, the regulatory boards for every state must legally allow ways for players to press claims or seek justice. You’ll be able to contact the online poker site in question and have an investigation performed, usually by the regulatory board for the state itself. Rest assured, if you do think there’s a problem with your money, the feds will find it.
How We Choose Which Online Poker Sites To List
When you’re looking for a new online poker site to visit or try out, keep these major factors in mind. You’ll have a better chance of finding a legit place instead of a scam site.
- Properly Licensed – All legal online poker sites will be properly licensed. This means you’ll be able to find a regulatory seal somewhere on the site (usually at the bottom of the screen) demonstrating their certification and license to provide gambling activities
- Reliable Support Channels – Most top online poker sites will have support channels you can use if there is a dispute with your money or another player. These sites should want to support their players for good business reasons
- Reputation – It doesn’t hurt to look around and ask about the reputation of an online poker site or any type of online casino. See what other folks of set about their services and games before deciding whether to give them a try
- Game Selection – Game selection is also important. The best online poker sites will have a few different varieties of the game to enjoy, plus some other gambling activities like slots or other card games
- Promotions and Bonuses – Lastly, see if an online poker site has several promotions or bonuses that you can take advantage of. This is a good way to break a tie between two top sites; see which will give you more to make an account and go with them!
Legal Online Poker In The US – FAQs
At the moment, poker isn’t legalized in the majority of states. This could be for several reasons, but it’s likely because existing anti-gambling laws are in place and necessarily apply to online gambling locations and organizations. Additionally, some states are wary of allowing for online gambling where money is at stake because of perceived flaws in digital security.
Your state might be in the process of easing up on illegal gambling laws at the moment. Check your government website’s local news and legislation records to see.
As with any service that asks for your Social Security Number, legal online poker sites ask for this information to make sure you are who you say you are. It’s an almost foolproof method for identification, which they can also then used to figure out where you’re browsing the website from. This is one of the ways that legal online poker sites prevent people from states outside legal jurisdictions from accessing their games.
However, SSNs can also be instrumental in tracking fraudulent players and prevent criminal activities on the sites.
The majority of online poker websites these days allow you to use their sites on your mobile device, including any smartphone. Some also include mobile applications that are specifically designed for use with smaller screens and touch-screen functionality. Check each gaming provider specifically to see if they provide an app for your phone’s operating system.
Some poker sites do. New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware can all share poker players between one another via the WSOP or 888 Delaware online poker sites. 888poker New Jersey currently operates as a standalone site, without linking to any outside player pools. Other online poker providers may provide this functionality in the future.
Any legal online poker operation needs your location to make sure that they don’t accidentally break the law by providing gambling options to those who reside in states where it’s still illegal. For instance, if someone in Arizona tried to access a Nevada-based online poker site, the Nevada site would be on the hook if the player did manage to play a game.
Some of them can get pretty big. For instance, the 2021 WPT Online Poker Open on the partypoker US Network offered a $1 million guaranteed prize pool for New Jersey players. The majority of online tournaments, though, are usually quite smaller, with prize pools that sometimes reach five figures.