Best US poker sites
US poker sites ranked by traffic
|Poker Site||Online||Cash||24 H Peak||7 Day avg||Last Week||Play Now|
|WSOP/888 US||265||342||200||Play Now|
|PokerStars (NJ)||117||278||110||Play Now|
|PartyPoker NJ||161||54||135||55||Play Now|
WSOP/888 US is currently the only poker site that shares online poker players between all three legal online poker states. It’s currently the #1 US online poker site by traffic.
Poker Stars – Available in New Jersey but will be launching in Pennsylvania in Q1 of 2019
Party Poker – Available in New Jersey but will be launching in Pennsylvania in Q1 of 2019
Pala Poker – New Jersey and it’s unknown if they will launch in Pennsylvania.
US States launching soon
Pennsylvania Online Poker – We expect Pennsylvania to launch in early 2019.
US online poker overview
There are essentially two federal laws that govern online poker in the US.
The first is the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, aka the Federal Wire Act. The law essentially prohibits the operation of certain types of betting businesses using wire communications. Its original aim was to stop interstate gambling and end organized crime’s interest in the business.
The act passed decades before the internet or online poker even existed. However, since it governed the loosely-related act of betting or wagering using wire communications, many believed it had some jurisdiction over online gambling.
In September 2011, in response to questions regarding the legality of online lottery sales, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) released a formal legal opinion on the scope of the act. The opinion concluded that interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a sporting event or contest fall outside of its reach.
Interested states took it to mean the act did not apply to online poker or other forms of online gambling. Now, four of those states have passed legislation legalizing and regulating the activity.
The second law is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Congress passed UIGEA in 2006. It made it illegal for US banks to process transactions for offshore online gambling operators. The law effectively pushed a number of online poker sites out of the market.
Other sites stayed in the US. However, the DOJ forced the largest remaining sites in the industry, including PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet out in 2011. The DOJ charged them with various illegal gambling and money laundering charges, partly under UIGEA.
What is or is not legal in US?
Playing online poker is not strictly against any US laws. Therefore, a number of offshore sites continue to find creative ways around the banking issues created by UIGEA and continue to accept US customers.
In the years following the 2011 indictments, four states have also passed bills legalizing and regulating the activity in fenced-in markets inside state lines. Three of those states have also signed an agreement to share player pools.
In the meantime, Global Poker, which started accepting US customers in December 2016, uses a sweepstakes and virtual-currency online poker model. As a result, it is not considered online gambling, leaving it outside the purview of the UIGEA.
Where can I play poker online in the US?
The first online poker sites in Pennsylvania are not expected to launch until the second half of 2018. Therefore, outside of state-licensed online poker sites in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey, there’s really only one legal online poker site for US players.
Global Poker offers what amounts to real-money online poker to players inside the United States. The site launched in December 2016 offering a form of virtual currency gaming. The virtual currency can later be converted into real money on PayPal, but players don’t start out on Global Poker buying into tournaments and cash games with real dollars.
Instead, they purchase Gold Coins which come with bonus sweepstakes prizes called $weeps Cash. The $weeps Cash can be used to buy into $weeps Cash tournaments and ring games. Any $weeps Cash earned can then be cashed out through PayPal. There are also Gold Coin poker games, but no real money available down that road.
Global Poker uses its own custom-made poker software incorporating its patented sweepstakes technology. It’s glitchy, but serviceable.
The site is strictly No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha, but there are cash games, tournaments and sit and go’s. Global Poker runs various freeroll tournaments and promotional leader boards. All of the banking is done through PayPal.
Where can I play poker live in the US?
Poker is America’s game. As a result, most states have tribal casinos, commercial casinos or card rooms where you can expect to be able to play live poker.
In fact, it’s much easier to list the states where you can’t legally play live poker. Although, even in that list of states below, you likely won’t have to look too hard to find an underground game, or a casino in a neighboring state with a poker room tucked right up next to the border.
- New Hampshire
Individual states with online poker offerings
Up to and including January 2018, there are just four US states with laws legalizing and regulating online poker.
Delaware was the first state to do it, passing the Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act in the summer of 2012. It approved both online poker and online casino games.
In February 2013, Nevada became the second state to come on board, authorizing the issue of online poker licenses. Within a week, New Jersey became the third state to legalize online gambling. It authorized the issue of licenses to casinos in Atlantic City that allowed them to operate both online poker and online casino sites.
In April 2013, the first-ever legal and regulated online poker site in the US went live in Nevada. The site’s name was Ultimate Poker. An offshoot of Station Casinos affiliated with the Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial arts organization ran the site. By November of that same year, legal and regulated online poker sites also went live in Delaware and New Jersey.
Pennsylvania jumps on board
Pennsylvania became the fourth state to authorize online gambling when it passed online poker and online gambling legislation as a part of a comprehensive gambling expansion bill in October 2017. The regulatory and licensing process for online poker sites in Pennsylvania is still ongoing as of January 2018.
Of course, a number of other states, including California, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois have all seriously considered various forms of legislation that would legalize and regulate online poker over the past few years.
Three states have introduced online gaming legislation that would presumably include online poker in 2018 already.
West Virginia has reintroduced a version of a 2017 bill. New York and Michigan both had online gambling bills carry over from last year.
The federal government has succeeded in pushing the largest global online poker site operators out of the US market. However, several offshore online poker operators still accept US players.
Additionally, an Australian online poker site called Global Poker began offering the equivalent of real-money online poker to customers across the US in partnership with Facebook and PayPal in December 2016. The site uses a patented virtual currency and sweepstakes model to skirt around US online gambling laws.
History of online poker in the US
Online gambling first hit the internet when online casinos started opening in 1994. The operators were mostly based in places like Antigua or the Isle of Man, but they still took customers from the United States and were only too happy to accept US cash.
In 1996, the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, a First Nations group based just outside of Montreal, Canada brought online gambling to North American soil for the first time. It set up a gaming commission and started issuing licenses to online casino sites. The Kahnawake Gaming Commission helped the number of online gambling websites around the world go from a handful to hundreds.
In 1998, a Canadian entrepreneur launched the first-ever online poker site. Planet Poker advertised in CardPlayer Magazine in the US prior to its Jan. 1, 1998 launch. The first ever real-money online $3/$6 Hold ’em game was filled with US players.
By 1999, the US Senate realized online gambling was widespread across the US and sought to do something about it. The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act was introduced, but it did not pass.
Over the next few years, sites introduced more sophisticated online poker software, and new sites launched around the world, offering cash games and tournaments.
In 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled the Federal Wire Act prohibits sports betting, but not necessarily online gambling. At the time, the DOJ disagreed, claiming online gambling was illegal, However, the industry kept growing.
The poker boom
In 2003, online poker’s popularity really took off. A Tennessee accountant aptly named Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event after getting into the tournament through an online satellite. Coverage aired on ESPN, and Moneymaker’s story became a national obsession. Millions of Americans thought they could be next.
Poker was suddenly everywhere on TV, as the advent of hole-card cameras made live games more watchable than ever. Most shows were branded, and the commercial breaks were filled with spots for offshore online poker sites. The productions sold the game to the American TV-watching public and they bought it.
Then, in 2006, Congress took another shot at taming the wild beast. It passed UIGEA, making it illegal for US banks to handle transactions with offshore online poker sites. It certainly pushed a handful of operators out of the US market, but it didn’t eliminate the market altogether.
Several sites still accepted US players and found ways around the banking issues. Online poker continued to grow until April 15, 2011.
On that day, three of the largest online poker operators in the world were indicted on various illegal gambling and money laundering charges, including violating UIGEA. The sites included PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet. Access to the sites from the US was shut down, and the massive US online poker market was effectively closed.
However, it wouldn’t take long before efforts to open it up again began.
US legal and regulated online poker
In response to questions regarding the legality of online lottery sales in December 2011, the DOJ released a legal opinion that the Federal Wire Act only applies to sports betting. Several states took this to mean they could consider licensing and regulating online poker and casino sites if they wanted.
Delaware was the first state to do it, approving both online poker and online casino legislation in 2012.
In February 2013, Nevada became the second state to pass online gambling legislation, authorizing the issue of online poker licenses. A week later, New Jersey became the third state to legalize online gambling and made plans to issue licenses for online poker and online casino sites.
In April 2013, the first-ever legal and regulated online poker site in the US went live in Nevada. Legal and regulated online poker sites went live in Delaware and New Jersey in November 2013. Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online poker when it passed a comprehensive gambling expansion bill in October 2017.
Now, as sites jump through the regulatory hoops to get games up and running in Pennsylvania, even more states are considering similar online poker legislation.