For more than two decades, players around the world have been able to play online poker for real money. The fun and ease of playing the virtual game helped launch the poker boom of the 2000s and grow the game internationally.
This page offers details and information related to online poker, where to play, how to get in the game, security measures and some of the history of the game. You’ll also be able to take advantage of some great poker bonuses exclusive to PokerScout.
Keep reading to learn how you can get in the action and what to expect when heading online.
International online poker sites
When it comes to online poker, a few safe and regulated online poker sites stand out in the market. These sites make use of thorough security protocols and follow local laws and regulations.
The countries where these sites are available vary, but you can feel secure depositing on these platforms and playing on them in legal jurisdictions for real money.
This is the largest site in the world, offering excellent software and thousands of players at any one time. Finding a cash game, sit and go or tournament is as easy as opening the app or software client to get started.
The site, which launched in 2001, regularly mixes in new games and promotions as well as well-regarded major tournament series like:
- World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP)
- Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP)
- Turbo Championship of Online Poker (TCOOP)
- Bounty Builder Series
- Micro Millions
PokerStars offers players a great site and stakes for every bankroll.
This is the fastest growing real money poker site in the world, and it has gained major traction in the last few years. Founded in 2014, the site welcomed large player pools in Asia in its early years and has expanded quickly around the globe.
The site’s regular events and series like the GGMasters and High Roller Week have made some headlines, as did adding Daniel Negreanu and Fedor Holz to the ambassador lineup in 2019.
The site made even bigger news in 2020 by partnering with the World Series of Poker. GGPoker first offered the first international Super Online Circuit Series in March 2020. That meant players outside the US could battle for a WSOP Circuit bracelet online for the first time.
The companies partnered again in the summer for WSOP Online, meaning players outside the US could also win a bracelet online for the first time. That expanded to the $10,000 Main Event in December 2020.
Players in the US were to play online at WSOP.com and international players at GGPoker. The final nine at each site were then to play live in Las Vegas and the Czech Republic, with the winner of each playing a $1 million winner-take-all duel in Las Vegas.
It was certainly a unique solution in the age of COVID-19. The partnership also shows how respected the site has become. There’s something for every player, from low rollers to those looking for nosebleed stakes.
You can expect plenty of action as well as numerous promotions and freebies. GGPoker offers a great real money online poker experience.
This company was founded in 2001 and is also among the most respected real money poker platforms. When it comes to software and player experience, this company also delivers.
Party offers plenty of cash games, sit and go’s, daily tournaments and major series. The site is regularly among the top five in terms of player traffic and is one of the biggest names in poker.
That also includes live events, many in partnership with the World Poker Tour. During the coronavirus pandemic, that extended to major WPT events that were run as if they were live events — including major payouts, a chance to add the winner’s name to the Mike Sexton WPT Champions Cup and much more.
Those events have been well-received and have been expanded. Partypoker also makes sure that its offerings appeal to players of all bankrolls and ramps up the satellite events during major series like POWERFEST and MILLIONS Online.
The site also greatly improved its software and mobile product in 2019 and 2020. That included improved graphics and mobile navigation. Partypoker is a site that caters to players and truly hopes to bring the party to the game.
This platform remains another major international online poker site, offering plenty of action and regularly finishing in the top 10 among traffic. The site is an official sponsor of the World Series of Poker and partners with the series in the US for online poker as well.
That partnership allows for players outside the US to qualify for live WSOP events each summer. The site even has its own WSOP tournament, the popular $888 Crazy Eights event.
The international platform offers plenty of Texas Hold’em and Omaha action, and the site underwent a major upgrade in late 2020. The new software and app is called “Made to Play” and comes with upgraded graphics.
The addition of portrait mode makes it easy to play with one hand on a cellphone. Players can also more easily multi-table on up to four tables. Other additions are meant to appeal to the growing number of mobile social gamers. Some of the highlights include:
- Options to throw things at opponents
- Cool avatars
- Gift drops
888 is also known for some excellent bonuses and numerous promotions offering big prizes for players. Players in the low- to-mid-stakes bankroll range will find some great action including in the XL Winter Series and Millions Superstorm.
Those events offer numerous ways to get in the action with qualifiers galore, many starting for just a penny. Those looking for a fun online poker experience will find 888 Poker as a great option.
When it comes to Unibet, the player comes first and the site tries to live by its motto: “By players, for players.” This site also underwent a software overhaul in 2020, with an improved software client. The app also received a tune-up.
That means full portrait mode in the mobile and website (quick play) options — perfect for those who like to play on a cell phone. The site can also now be played on Apple and Android devices.
Unibet regularly ranks among the top 15 in traffic. The site is owned by the Kindred Group, which specializes in online gambling and has numerous sites around the world. Players will find many “regular Joe” player-friendly options.
That includes mini and micro options in major tournament festivals like the Unibet Online Series. The site also takes no rake on events with a buy-in of €1 or less.
Another great feature for recreational players? You can change your username up to three times daily. That keeps the sharks from hunting certain players; the company’s goal is to keep the fun in the game for rec players.
Unibet has grown extremely popular in the United Kingdom, but is also available in other locations. The site offers a fun alternative to some of the more recognized sites. Taking a test drive can pay off for players.
This platform has taken a bit of a different turn than other sites mentioned here. Rather than one all-encompassing site, iPoker is a network of sites that pool players. The platform is owned by well-known gambling company Playtech and actually now comprises four networks:
- .com — the international network that most players can access
- .it — for the Italian market
- .eu — for players in France and Spain
- RAY — state-operated rooms from Finland and Austria
The site offers plenty of cash games and has ramped up some bigger tournament series in 2020 such as the €1,000,000 Guaranteed Series and the €300,000 Royal Series.
iPoker is no slouch when it comes to traffic and regularly ranks among the top 10. One of its more popular skins is Bet365, which offers some nice bonuses for new players.
Other popular skins include William Hill, PaddyPower, Titan Poker, NetBet, Betsafe and Grosvenor Poker. The iPoker network is a quality poker offering for those interested in a site catering to more recreational players.
Real money online poker by region
Countries allowing legal online poker vary by region and
Many countries in Europe allow legal, regulated online poker for real money. Players in the UK and Germany can generally play on most international sites, but other countries like Italy featured “ringed-in” markets.
While fenced-in markets (meaning players can only play others within that country) aren’t ideal, but players still at least have an option to participate. Other states face similar restrictions with partypoker and PokerStars offering separate platforms that pool players in Spain, France and Portugal.
Other major countries allowing legal online poker include Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and the Netherlands. Many Eastern European countries also allow legal online poker, and many players in these countries have found success.
This has been a hotbed of online poker in recent years and offers a major area of growth for the industry. However, the region’s largest country, China, has banned online poker in any form. Several others allow citizens to play, and major sites, especially GGPoker, have been adept at reaching these players.
GG even offered certain events during the 2020 WSOP Online exclusively during Asian time zones. Countries like Russia and India (some states) are growing markets where many players are getting into the game. Several other Asian countries also allow players to play online.
The United States is an interesting situation. The federal government virtually banned participating in the real money, international online poker market. That crackdown is known as Black Friday and came on April 15, 2011.
The news has been better in recent years, with the country at least allowing online poker on a state-by-state basis. So far, only New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Delaware have online poker in operation.
However, Michigan and West Virginia have also approved online gambling, including poker. However, neither state had gone live by December 2020.
Canadians have it much better than in the US. Players generally have access to the major international online poker market. Many major poker sites accept Canadian players, some of whom have become big names in the poker world. Americans have also been known to head north to play.
Like much of Latin America, online gambling generally falls in a legal gray area. Many Mexican citizens play on international sites, and it’s not seen by most as against current law. Many Caribbean islands and Central American countries also allow citizens to participate in online poker.
The continent’s most populous country, Brazil, has certainly seen more players making strides in major online poker tournaments in recent years. While live casinos and gambling are illegal, there is no law banning players from playing poker online.
This gray area tends to be the norm for many countries in South America. Other major countries where online poker is allowed include Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Chile and some others.
With more than 50 countries, gambling law varies widely on this continent. That includes the legality of online gambling and poker. Some of the continent’s most populous countries, such as Nigeria, Congo, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, allow citizens to play poker online.
In many other countries, such as Ethiopia, online poker falls in a gray area where it is not officially illegal but isn’t specifically mentioned in law. Other countries like South Africa have outright bans on online poker.
In 2017, the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill made online poker illegal in the country. This was not a popular move among the country’s players, and major poker sites quickly exited the continent.
What had been a strong market for the industry is now shut down. In New Zealand, online poker remains legal, and players don’t have to pay taxes on their winnings.
Best online poker sites
|Reasons to Play
|• 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
|• £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
|• $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
|• $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
|• €200 play-through bonus for a new account and first deposit.
• Sign up to earn four weekly €500 Welcome Freerolls and €20 in Poker Tickets (one €8 cash game ticket and three €4 Unibet Open tournament tickets).
|• Great site for recreational players
• Change usernames up to three times daily
• No rake for micro stakes events
|• Check out the skin Bet365 for nice bonus offers.
• Bet365’s Welcome Bonus awards up to $100 for players who deposit $5 or more.
• Welcome Mission offers tournament ticket package of: 2 Premium Steps tickets; 5 tickets for $100 Bronze Loyalty Tournaments; and one $1 Twister ticket.
• 10 free spins on a slot game.
|• Plenty of traffic.
• Nice tournament series geared toward low- and mid-stakes players.
• Numerous skins to choose from.
How to deposit and play real money online poker
Getting started at a real money online poker site is a simple and quick process. Players should use the links on this page first to make sure they qualify for exclusive bonus offers. You’ll need to offer basic information like name, address, phone number, email address and other details. You’ll also need to create a username and password.
Major online poker sites like those mentioned here offer safe and secure environments, so players can feel safe. Most of them accept many of the following standard deposit and withdrawal options:
- ACH/bank and wire transfers
- Major credit and debit cards such as Visa, Mastercard and Discover
- E-wallets like PayPal, Neteller or Skrill
- Other deposit options may vary by location/jurisdiction
Are real money online poker sites safe?
Real money online poker operators offer numerous safety measures to secure player funds and information. These poker platforms use extensive technology to prevent cheating and collusion as well.
Those efforts also go toward preventing the use of bots and other systems like HUDs (heads-up displays) that could offer certain players unfair advantages.
Poker sites are also regulated by the gambling authorities at the locations where they are based. For example, PokerStars is regulated and approved by the Malta Lotteries and Gaming Commission as well as gambling authorities in other countries. Here’s a look at some others:
- GGPoker — UK Gambling Commission as well as other countries’ gambling commissions
- 888 Poker — UK Gambling Commission and other countries
- Unibet — Gibraltar Gambling Commission and other countries
- iPoker Network — Owner Playtech regulated by UK Gambling Commission and Malta Gaming Authority
These bodies regulate each company to ensure game integrity and security for users. Those jumping into the action should feel safe when getting started at these sites with online poker.
History of real money online gaming and poker
Online poker debuted in the 1990s as a free game, but it wasn’t until 1998 when Planet Poker debuted as the first real money online poker site.
That site struggled with software issues, and Paradise Poker launched a year later. The site fared better than Planet and offered Texas Hold’em, seven card stud and Omaha. The industry continued to grow in the coming years.
In 2001, PokerStars changed the industry with a vastly improved poker client and software. Partypoker was founded the same year, and 888 Poker launched in 2002. All these sites offered players an improved user experience and saw considerable growth.
PokerStars quickly became the biggest in the world, and an unlikely poker win helped. Chris Moneymaker made use of an $86 satellite on the site to earn an entry into the World Series of Poker $10,000 Main Event in 2003.
His unlikely road to victory was captured by ESPN and helped launch the poker boom. Additionally, partypoker was a major sponsor and later an owner of the World Poker Tour. Online poker, the WPT and WSOP all combined to help grow the entire poker industry.
A newer player, GGPoker, launched in 2014 and found considerable success in the Asian market. The company has quickly expanded around the world.
In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic led to another massive surge in the online poker market. Players at home around the world began heading back online to play poker, which added some new momentum for the industry.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Is online poker legal?
Online poker is legal in numerous countries around the world. While local laws vary by jurisdiction, many countries allow players to battle it out at the online virtual tables for real money.
Online poker on a safe, trusted site can be plenty of fun and offers a shot at some real cash winnings.
Do I have to pay taxes on my online poker winnings?
This issue varies widely, so it would be best to consult a tax specialist when making these decisions. Some countries like the United States tax poker winnings as earnings, and players will expect to withhold a certain percentage either at the casino or file and pay that amount on their own.
In the US, that amount is 24%, while other countries like Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany and Russia don’t tax poker winnings. However, those who make their income as full-time poker pros may face some different circumstances.
Those playing poker as their full-time occupation may be required to pay income tax as any other citizen might. Again, it’s best to consult a tax expert.
If I’m heading to a country with legal online poker, can I set up and fund an account ahead of time?
Those heading to a different country and looking to play online can usually create and fund an account from other parts of the world. Once you land in that country, you’ll then be ready to jump into the action.
This may vary by country and financial institution, but it is a possibility in most countries. Use the links on this page to maximize your bonus opportunities.