When it comes to poker, including the online version, Canada has a deep history. From live games and tournaments to significant numbers of online players, the country has been a welcome haven for poker action.
That includes some of the biggest names in the game. Famous Canadian poker players include Daniel Negreanu, Kristen Bicknell, Mike Watson, Gavin Smith, Mike McDonald, Jaime Staples and numerous others.
A Canadian has even won the biggest event in poker. Longtime online poker player Jonathan Duhamel, of Quebec, took down the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2010 for $8.9 million.
The Canadian government has mostly taken a hands-off approach to online poker, and players will find some nice options to hit the virtual tables. Canada has offered such a nice poker-playing environment that many US-based players cross the border to play in major events at popular sites like GGPoker, PokerStars, partypoker and others.
This review offers everything a player might want to know about playing online poker for real money in Canada — from the best sites and bonuses to laws and the live poker scene. Here’s everything you need to get in on the action.
Canada online poker overview
Most global online poker sites are available to players in Canada, a prime reason many American poker pros moved north after Black Friday or still spend quite a bit of time in the country.
Online poker has flourished north of the border since its early days in the 1990s. According to the CBC, online poker falls in a legal gray area.
|Poker Site||Online||Cash||24 H Peak||7 Day avg||Last Week||Play Now|
In Canada, gambling is regulated on a provincial basis. As the CBC notes, the internet “doesn’t pay attention to provincial boundaries.” Many lawyers argue that there is nothing against playing poker online in Canada’s criminal code.
Major international sites accept action from Canadians, and the country’s laissez-faire approach makes playing a simple process. That includes depositing, withdrawing and taking advantage of bonus options and promotions.
Best Real Money Online Poker Sites in Canada
|Rank||Poker Site||Sign-up Offer||Reasons to Play|
|1||GGPoker||• 200% Deposit Bonus up to $1,000|
• $100 in Bonus Tickets with $20 Deposit
|• Excellent software
• Numerous promotions
• Major series like WSOP Online
• Large player pool, huge guarantees
|2||PokerStars||• £20/$30 Free Play|
• 100% Match Bonus up to $600
|• Highest traffic of any site in world
• Millions in tournament guarantees weekly
• Great promotions
• Excellent software
|3||888poker||• $88 No Deposit Bonus|
• 10 sign-up freeroll tickets
• Free £20 for UK players
• 100% Match Bonus up to $1,000
|• Best sign-ups bonus offers
• Only site outside US with WSOP satellites
• Big tournaments each Sunday
• Creative player promotions with value
|4||partypoker||• $30 free on deposit|
• Deposit $20 and get $30 spins tickets
• 40% cash back every week
• Up to $30 in SPINS tickets on first deposit
|• Nice mobile app play
• Excellent support 24/7
• Rakeback for every player
• Large player pool
Canada online poker laws
So, Canadian online gambling-related regulations don’t have a significant impact on the lives of players and Canadian poker sites. In fact, it’s very easy to forget they’re even there. The overall legal situation is similar to what US-based players had to deal with before the Black Friday events.
The only difference is the fact that in the case of Canada, a government crackdown seems highly unlikely, as no politician or government entity seems seriously interested in pursuing stricter regulations.
When in Canada, players can play from any of the country’s 10 provinces. The government has made no efforts to make it officially illegal.
Any operator looking to be based in the country, however, will have to officially seek licensing.
Where can I play poker online in Canada?
There are numerous options for Canadians to play cards online or even Americans looking to head north to get in on the action. Here’s a look at some of the best sites:
- This site built huge player pools before expanding in recent years.
- In 2020, the site began partnering with the World Series of Poker for the Online Super Circuit and the WSOP online bracelet series.
- GGPoker is known for excellent software that even includes the ability to stake other players.
- GGPoker made some news in 2020 by signing players like Daniel Negreanu and Fedor Holz to represent the brand.
GGPoker was founded in 2017 and has quickly expanded in recent years, regularly running among the top three sites in the world. The site has quickly built a loyal group of players, and its partnerships with the WSOP in 2020 only helped add more.
WSOP Online at GG became the first time players outside the US could win a bracelet by playing online. The site regularly features massive guarantees, and that only grew during the coronavirus pandemic.
Even when the site is not running major series, players will find plenty of big guarantee tournaments and juicy cash games. The GGMasters Sunday major features a $150 buy-in and $300,000 guarantee.
The site ramped up its Sunday tournament offerings in March 2020, with buy-ins ranging from $2 to $5,000. These range in guarantee from $12,000 to $65,000. In total, players will find 174 Sunday events with $2 million guaranteed.
Regular players will also find single table Spin & Gold tournaments. These feature buy-ins from $1 to $50. Players who get to play for a jackpot have a shot at an ultimate prize of $12,000 to $600,000.
Players who are big fans of these jackpot-style tournaments will find something extra at GGPoker. Spin & Gold challenges offer a chance at some bonus cash. Complete a “Gold Mine Challenge” and see some extra money in your account when the timer limit is met.
- This site, founded in 2001, is the largest online poker site in the world and regularly ranks as the top site in traffic by a wide margin.
- Players have come to love the software experience, which includes numerous bells and whistles.
- PokerStars is constantly innovating with new games, events and promotions. You will also find numerous game varieties on this platform.
- The site constantly offers players extras including tournament tickets and rewards for opening promotional chests.
When PokerStars was founded, the platform was built with poker players in mind and that spirit remains for the most part. As the leader in the industry, the site offers plenty of action no matter what time of day.
Cash game players will always find some action and there are numerous formats of poker offered including traditional Texas Hold ’em, numerous forms of Omaha, seven card stud and even more exotic games like Badugi.
Mixed games are also part of the cash game mix, with regular offerings like HORSE and 8-Game Mix. Cash players will find games ranging from micro to nosebleed stakes.
Tournament players are also in luck with huge daily multi-table events, Sit & Go tournaments and Spin & Go tournaments. The $215 PokerStars Sunday Million celebrated its 14th anniversary in 2020. The event remains the biggest weekly tournament in the world and features a $1 million guarantee.
There are numerous other daily events and weekly events. Tournament players will also find plenty of huge guarantees in classic PokerStars series like the Bounty Builder Series and World Championship of Online Poker — including spring and turbo versions. The Micro Millions series even offers some nice guarantees for low rollers.
Beyond the traditional poker client, players will also find a great experience making use of the PokerStars app on a phone or tablet. The company also hosts qualifiers for its regular live series, and that has included major events like the popular PokerStars Players Championship in the Bahamas in 2019.
In the United States, PokerStars also runs “fenced-in” platforms in the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
- Founded in 2002, this company offers plenty of action and regularly ranks among the top 10 in traffic.
- The site also offers some distinctive tournaments and promotions with plenty of opportunities to win some free cash.
- It offers numerous regular tournament series with a keen eye toward pleasing players of lower bankrolls.
- 888 offers international players a chance to qualify for the annual World Series of Poker events in Las Vegas.
While it may offer less traffic than some other sites mentioned here, 888poker goes out of its way to offer some creative promotions and events for players.
Series like the 888 Millions Superstorm offer players a chance to play for big guarantees each summer. Even larger tournaments regularly include lower versions with nice guarantees, and the site takes pride in offering qualifiers that start at just pennies.
In September 2020, the Superstorm included promotions like $1 million in giveaways in the form of tournament tickets. The site also threw in an added $1 million BLAST leaderboard during the series.
In a BLAST tournament, four players pony up for a shot at a random prize that could be up to 10,000 times your buy-in.
Players bet, raise and fold until a timer runs out, and then everyone is all in. The events typify the fun that 888poker tries to add to its platform.
Despite that, players at 888poker will be limited in game variations. There is mostly Texas Hold ’em with a bit of Omaha and seven card stud if you can find the action.
888 offers some nice incentives to players hoping to live a dream and head to Las Vegas for the annual World Series of Poker. The site is actually a partner with the WSOP in the US and provides software for WSOP.com.
That allows its international poker client to offer qualifiers for the $10,000 Main Event and other tournaments, including the $888 Crazy Eights, fittingly sponsored by 888poker. The site’s “Road to Vegas” promotion regularly offers winners a full travel package for the series in Vegas.
Beyond that, 888 also offers online poker in the American state-by-state legal online poker market. The company is the only operator of online poker and casino games in Delaware and also offers those in New Jersey.
In Canada, players can take advantage of the international site for some great bonuses and nice low- to mid-range stakes, even getting a bit larger on occasion. Play it right and you may even be heading to Las Vegas next summer with a shot at a WSOP bracelet.
- This is one of the largest poker sites in the world. Founded in 2001, the site has plenty of experience and works to please its players.
- Party has its own partnership with the World Poker Tour, which makes for plenty of nice live and online events coordinated between two of the biggest names in the game.
- Party attracts plenty of big-name pros with big bankrolls, but also works to cater to recreational players.
- The company has worked to greatly improve its mobile offering over the last couple of years, and that definitely shows with a cutting-edge experience.
This is one of the most recognizable brands in the game, and many poker fans may remember it as an early sponsor of the WPT. In fact, longtime tour commentator Mike Sexton was one of the company’s founders and served as its chairman for many years.
Partypoker has become one of the hottest sites in poker in recent years. Part of that has to do with its online offerings and considerable improvement.
The site has also earned significant credibility in the industry through its popular partypoker MILLIONS live events. The series features massive events at international hotspots with numerous ways to qualify online.
At the online tables, players will find numerous daily events and big weekend majors with large guarantees. The site offers nice daily multi-table tournaments, sit and go’s, and other events for every bankroll.
The site’s popular SPINS tournaments are quick-play events with only three players, perfect for mobile play. Players can win a random jackpot, which can reach as high as $1 million.
The partnership with the WPT expanded during the coronavirus pandemic. With live poker shut down, the tour partnered with partypoker for the World Online Championships.
For the first time ever, players could win a WPT championship playing online as well as earn complete travel packages to the Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas. That included allowing Canadian players in on the action.
- Focused on recreational players.
- Excellent bonuses for new players.
- Wide range of tournament bankrolls including for those with small bankrolls.
- Plenty of freeroll events to build a bankroll.
Unibet is another nice option for Canadian players. The site regularly boasts traffic among the top 15 to 20 sites in the world. That reached a five-day average of 500 players as of August 2020.
Over a 24-hour period, traffic can be as high as 900-1,000 players and possibly higher during major tournament series. Unibet is owned by the Kindred Group, an online gambling company founded in 1997 and based out of Malta.
Kindred and its numerous online gaming sites have become trusted brands, and Canadian players can feel safe using Unibet. What many like about Unibet is that the site works hard to appeal to rec players over pros.
That includes allowing players to change usernames up to three times daily and barring players from using poker tracking software. The site also offers numerous tournament qualifiers as well as plenty of low and micro stakes.
The site uses its own software, and players will find Texas Hold ’em and Omaha available. Unibet also offers several options for how you play, including a traditional software download, an app for mobile devices and tablets and a browser-based play feature.
The Unibet Open is a major tournament staple at the site, and there are also several Unibet live series throughout the year. Online qualifiers can start as low as $2. There are also numerous other daily and weekly tournaments.
Looking to get in the action at Unibet? The company certainly makes it worthwhile with nice bonus offerings. New players can earn some nice extras. That includes:
- €200 playthrough bonus
- Entry to four weekly €500 welcome freerolls
- €20 worth of poker tickets (one €8 cash game ticket and three €4 Unibet Open tournament tickets)
There’s no code needed for these bonuses; simply use the exclusive PokerScout bonus link here.
How big is the real money online poker market in Canada?
Luckily for players in Canada, all major online platforms operate in the country. Those in the country have no trouble getting online to play some poker.
The country’s history as a legal casino and gambling destination make it a nice market for the industry. Canada has a population of almost 38 million people. That’s just a bit under the state of California in the US, offering a nice number of players.
How to deposit and play online poker in Canada
Players in Canada can take satisfaction in being able to play on any of the major traditional real money online poker sites. The major well-established and respected sites offer plenty of cash games and tournament action for players from Vancouver to Montreal to Saskatoon.
Making a deposit on the poker sites listed here is a simple process, but you’ll want to make use of the exclusive bonus links and offers mentioned here to earn some free money for hitting the tables.
Those making a first deposit will need to provide some basic information, like:
- Phone number
You can then qualify for any no deposit bonuses and are also ready to snag some nice deposit bonus funds. After entering all that information to set up an account, players will then be able to choose the amount and method of their deposit.
Established and trusted sites like those outlined here make use of common and reliable deposit methods. You can expect those to include:
- ACH/bank transfers
- Major credit and debit like Visa, Mastercard and Discover
- Wire transfers
- Prepaid cards like PaySafeCard or Ukash
- E-wallets like PayPal, Neteller or Skrill
Not every operator will offer all of the above, but these are some of the favorites you will find at these legal, regulated online poker sites in Canada..
Have a nice night at the cash game tables or secure a big score in a tournament? These are also some of the ways real money online poker sites will pay out those winnings.
With proven sites that operate under gambling commission regulations, players can expect prompt and secure payouts.
Are online poker sites safe?
Those using the sites mentioned here can rest easy in the fact that their personal information will be secure. Unlike some offshore sites, these are all licensed and regulated by legitimate commissions. Those include:
- GGPoker — UK Gambling Commission as well as other countries’ gambling commissions
- PokerStars — Malta Lotteries and Gaming Commission and other countries
- 888poker — UK Gambling Commission and other countries
- Unibet — Gibraltar Gambling Commission and other countries
The regulations from these commissions ensure players can expect a fair game as they might find in a real casino or poker room. They also set standards and practices that make sure player funds are secure and not intermingled with business operating funds. That is real money in your account after all and keeping it safe is important.
This should be seen as a major plus for players. Not all international operators follow these standards. Slow payouts are a frequent complaint from some such sites. Other times, unregulated sites have folded, and lost player funds are never returned.
Where can I play live poker in Canada?
If you don’t want to play at any online Canadian poker sites, there are over 50 licensed brick-and-mortar poker rooms in Canada spread out across the country. So, finding a venue shouldn’t be much of an issue. Here’s a list of some of the most interesting locations:
- Playground Poker Club (Kahnawake)
- Casino Montreal (Montreal)
- OLG Casino Brantford (Ontario)
- Caesars Windsor (Ontario)
- Niagara Fallsview (Ontario)
- River Rock (British Columbia)
- Casino Nova Scotia (Nova Scotia)
- Northlands Park (Alberta)
What is or is not legal in Canada?
Gambling in Canada is regulated on two levels. Sections 201-206 of the federal Criminal Code render all types of gambling and betting illegal throughout the entire country. Only parimutuel horse race betting is
exempt from this general prohibition.
Section 207, which was introduced in 1985, allows all provincial and territorial governments to provide regulated gambling to Canadian citizens. This means that local authorities, such as the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission or the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, regulate local brick-and-mortar poker rooms.
The above limitations do not really apply to offshore poker operators. Neither federal nor local regulations explicitly ban sites like PokerStars or 888poker from offering their services to Canadian citizens. Experts tend to agree that such operations might be illegal and should be closed down. However, no
charges were ever brought against any foreign companies that accept Canadian gamblers. In fact, operators are free to advertise their Canadian online poker sites all over the country. The only exception is Ontario, where online-gambling advertisements have been banned since 2006.
It’s also worth noting that the Kahnawake Gambling Commission used to be a popular choice with US-facing offshore gambling operators, such as Bovada. In 2016, the Commission struck a deal with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, agreeing to force those sites to withdraw from the US market. As a result, Bovada relinquished its Kahnawake license voluntarily.
History of real money online poker in Canada
As mentioned above, Canadian players have always enjoyed unrestricted access to playing on online poker rooms for real money. Unlike United States citizens, they never had to deal with a major government crackdown. The aforementioned 2006 Ontario ban on gambling-related ads is the only case of a local government trying to interfere with online gambling.
Unlike in the case of United States, major online poker providers, such as PokerStars and partypoker, never had to flee the country. All in all, Canadian poker enthusiasts tend to have it even better than their European colleagues.
When it comes to locally regulated online poker sites, available options suffer from very poor traffic. This is mostly because, unlike similar poker rooms operating on fenced markets in the United States and Europe, they simply cannot rely on a lack of competition to boost their numbers. Official regulated sites such as Loto-Quebec (Quebec) and PlayNow (British Colombia) tried overcoming this issue by combining their player pools on a peer-to-peer network. Unfortunately, the results were rather disheartening.
Canada and poker-related taxes
While gambling companies operating on the Canadian market are considered suppliers of gambling services and products to territorial governments, the country does not recognize any industry-specific taxes. Gambling companies simply must comply with federal and local income tax laws, and that’s that.
For players, the situation gets slightly more complicated. If you’re a recreational player and poker isn’t your only source of income, you don’t owe the state any income tax on your poker winnings. On the other hand, if you’re a professional player, you are required by law to pay income tax .
However, for a person to be officially considered a professional poker player, it must be provable that they expect to receive a steady income and that said income was earned by an intentional pursuit of profit.
More on poker pro tax status
However, the Canadian Revenue Agency isn’t keen on pushing for such interpretations, as they would imply that all poker-related expenses incurred by the player suddenly become tax-deductible. This would include travel and accommodation costs, buy-ins, computer software, coaching, courses,
possibly rake, and more. Consequently, very few people officially achieve a “poker businessman” status in Canada. Even in cases involving highly profitable players, the situation is almost never clear-cut.
Both the Tax Court of Canada (2011, Cohen v. The Queen) and the Federal Court (2013, Radonjic v. Canada Revenue Agency) sided with poker players, determining that they aren’t conducting a gambling business even though they were consistently turning a profit from their poker play.
The bottom line is fairly simple: if you aren’t a WSOP Circuit pro, you don’t have to worry about taxes.
And if you do happen to sit down at the poker table with the likes of Scott Blumstein from time to time, you can always deduce your expenses from your income before you pay that 33-percent tax.
Legal gambling age in Canada
The legal gambling age is 18 or 19 in Canada, depending on the province:
- Alberta – 18
- British Columbia – 19
- Manitoba – 18
- New Brunswick – 19
- Newfoundland and Labrador – 19
- Nova Scotia – 19
- Ontario – 19
- Prince Edward Island – 19
- Quebec – 18
- Saskatchewan – 19
Canadian real money online poker players don’t have to deal with geo-location requirements on Canadian poker sites. ID verification requirements vary from site to another, but in the vast majority of cases, a photocopy or scan of a Canadian passport is more than enough.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Is online poker legal in Canada?
In Canada, gambling is a provincial issue, and while laws differ, there is no law making real money online poker technically illegal. The government has generally taken a complete “hands-off” approach to online poker in Canada for real money.
That means the industry has flourished in the country. Canada has produced some of the best players in the world, and even recreational players can participate in the action at some of the best and most trusted online poker sites in the world.
Can I play on PokerStars in Canada?
Yes, players can take advantage of the international “.com” site in Canada. That includes major events like the Sunday Million as well as major series like:
- WCOOP (World Championship of Online Poker)
- SCOOP (Spring Championship of Online Poker)
- TCOOP (Turbo Championship of Online Poker)
- Micro Millions
- Summer Series
- Bounty Builder Series
Along with PokerStars, players in Canada can take advantage of some other great international operators. GGPoker offers huge action, including massive weekend events and a chance to win WSOP bracelets.
Partypoker is also a proven global brand with massive series and live events. The platform also partners with the WPT for major online and live series. 888poker and Unibet also offer great platforms, especially for recreational players looking for some tournament series with lower buy-in action.
If I’m heading to Canada, can I set up an account and make a deposit ahead of time?
Many players may be interested in playing some poker while visiting the country or even heading north to play in specific online series. Depending on the site, players outside the Canada can make a deposit and then play when they’re in Canada.