If you are looking to play online poker in the US, you have come to the right place. US Gaming Review offers the most comprehensive guide to online poker sites in the US, including all the legal information you could possibly need. We help you find the best online poker sites, find the best value around, and enjoy the finest online poker games possible.
Online poker was banned in the US and for many years players could not enjoy the game legally. In 2013, online poker started to slowly come back to the US, and today a number of states offer legal online poker games. There is still a long road ahead, but we take a look where online poker is legal today and how you can play it.
This guide will teach you how to ensure you are playing at a legal site, what benefits such online poker rooms have over unregulated ones, and why you should always opt to play with a site that has an actual gaming license in your state.
The regulated and secure online poker sites we talk about here are your best option if you are a player looking to make it in the online poker world. Check out the best online poker sites in the US and start your journey to becoming the next online poker champion.
How to Choose a Legal Online Poker Room?
If you are going to play online poker in the US, it’s important you play with a legal and regulated poker site. When choosing the online poker room to play at, you should pay attention to a few key details, which we are going to explain in more detail further down.
However, here are the few most important things to look out for when picking your legal online poker room in the US:
- Geolocation: The legal sites available to you will depend on the state you are currently located in, not the one you live in. Players from all over the country can sign up to different legal US poker sites, but you will only be able to play when you are physically located within the state that the site is licensed in.
- Legal and Regulated Sites: You should make sure to only play at regulated and licensed poker sites. Doing so ensures your safety and gives you access to games that are 100% fair and random. Playing at unregulated offshore poker sites exposes you to a whole host of risks you don’t need to be taking.
- Bonuses & Promotions: Welcome bonuses and other promotions are an important part of the online poker experience. You should look at what’s offered by the different poker sites and make sure to sign up with those that have the best welcome bonus offers, loyalty rewards, and other promotional offers.
Why Choose a Legal Online Poker Room?
At this time, online poker is only regulated in a handful of states, but players in those states should always opt to play at legal online poker rooms for a number of reasons. Here are the main reasons you should be playing at a legal online poker room instead of an offshore site, and the perks that come with playing at legal sites:
- Fair Games Audited by US Regulators: Each state in which online poker is regulated has a regulatory body that oversees all online gambling activity. These regulators ensure the safety and fairness of all poker games offered within the state. This means playing at a licensed US poker site guarantees that you will be playing in a fair environment and that all games are 100% random, fair, and safe.
- Responsible Gambling: Regulated US poker sites are dedicated to responsible gambling, in cooperation with the state regulators. The responsible gambling measures include self-exclusion lists, deposit and wager limits, and more. Legal poker rooms will keep you safe from the dangers of problem gambling.
- Segregated Player Funds: Legal poker rooms are obligated to keep all player funds in segregated banking accounts by law. This means your money will always be available for withdrawal, even if the poker site you are playing with is not making a profit. This helps avoid the kind of fiascos that led to the Black Friday back in 2011.
- Personal and Banking Info Privacy: Playing at a regulated site also means that all the info you share with the operator will be kept 100% safe. Offshore sites may sell your personal information and your banking information may be exposed to all sorts of risks. At regulated sites, all information is encrypted and risk of hacks and theft is minimal.
- Benefits to the Community: Unlike unlicensed offshore poker sites, the ones that carry US licenses pay their taxes and take part in the local communities. Tax money collected from online poker sites in the US is used to fund all sorts of beneficial programs such as schools and homeless shelters, as well as programs that help those with gambling problems.
How to Identify 100% Legal and Regulated Online Poker Sites?
You now know why you should always pick a legal and regulated poker site over an offshore one, but how do you make sure that the site you are playing at is licensed? These are the main clues you can use to ensure you are playing at a 100% legal and regulated online poker site.
- State Regulator’s Seal: In each state where gambling is legal, there is a regulatory body that oversees all online gambling. These regulators issue their licenses, which are confirmed with a license seal displayed on the operator’s website. You can usually find these seals in the footer section of the poker site, with a link to the regulator’s website.
- Association with Local Casinos and Lotteries: In order to receive a gaming license in the US, online poker operators must partner up with local casinos or other live gambling institutions. Check to see which live casino the online poker site is partnered with to ensure you are playing at a legal poker room.
- Only Available in Some States: Online poker is only regulated in a handful of states at this time, and the legal sites will only accept traffic from states in which they hold a license. When you are playing at a legal site, it will clearly display which state the site is for, and players from other states will not be able to play.
- Headquartered in the US: Licensed US poker rooms must have a registered company within the US, with headquarter on US soil. Any poker site whose headquarters are outside the US, and no offices are held in the US, cannot be licensed in any of the states.
- Customer Service Available by Phone: Regulated US poker operators offer customer support via dedicated telephone line, which are free of charge. These phone lines are American numbers and clearly displayed on the operator’s website.
- Customer Loyalty Programs: Licensed US poker rooms also offer valuable loyalty programs for their customers. Playing at a regulated US poker site means you will have access to loyalty rewards which only increase with every hand of poker you play.
- Big-Name Companies: Finally, the easiest way to recognize you are playing at a regulated poker room is the band name. Major online poker operators such as PokerStars, BetMGM, and WSOP.com all offer online poker in states where they are regulated, and would never offer their services to players in any other states.
Best Value — Welcome Bonus and Promotions
Playing with regulated US poker rooms means having access to some of the best bonuses and promotions the industry has to offer. Whenever you sign up with a new poker site, you will be offered a generous welcome bonus, along with many other promotions that follow. Here are the main things you should be looking for in terms of value at US poker rooms.
The welcome bonus is the first chunk of value you will get when you sign up at a new poker room, and it’s usually also the best one. Welcome bonuses at US poker sites come with as much as $1,000 in cash value, and are issued on first deposit.
Keep in mind that, unlike sports betting and casino bonuses, online poker bonuses are released over time as you play poker and accumulate loyalty points with your operator. Yet, poker welcome bonuses are amazing value, especially for poker grinders who put in a lot of hours. The more poker you play, the faster you will clear your welcome bonuses.
No Deposits Bonuses + Tournament Tickets
Many US poker rooms also offer some free cash or tournament tickets to new players, with no deposit or only a minimal deposit needed. Your operator might give you $50 to play with or offer free entry into low stakes poker tournaments to get you started. If you are completely new to online poker, this will represent great value and a great way to get your feet wet.
Player Loyalty Rewards
Over the long run, the majority of all value you will get from your legal poker operator will come through the loyalty program. Each online poker room offers a different loyalty scheme, but they all end up paying you back a percentage of all the rake you pay in real money games in some form.
At most poker sites, you will start out at the lowest tier of player rewards, only getting a small percentage of your rake back. Over time, as you prove your loyalty to the operator, you will receive more valuable rewards, usually in cash or tournament tickets.
From time to time, your online poker operator will offer you a reload bonus, either for a special occasion or simply to award your loyalty. Reload bonuses usually come with the same terms as the welcome bonus, although they are usually smaller in size. Expect to get a reload bonus when a major tournament series is running or during holiday season.
Advantages of Online Poker Rooms Over Land Based Poker Rooms
If you are used to playing live poker and aren’t quite sure about playing the game online, you should know that there are some advantages to playing online poker instead of live. Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest advantages and reasons why online poker rooms are better than their live counterparts.
- Convenience: Online poker is extremely convenient compared to live poker. To play the game online, you won’t need to dress up or even leave your house. In fact, with most poker platforms now available for mobile devices as well, you can play literally anywhere.
- Games Around the Clock: Live poker rooms usually only offer games at certain times of day. Online poker, on the other hand, is available around the clock, with players from all over your state flocking to play on their mobile devices all day long.
- More Value: Online poker rooms offer welcome bonuses, run regular promotions, and give a lot of value through player loyalty programs. While live poker rooms also offer some promotions, they can hardly reach the levels of value that regulated online poker operators can provide.
- Lower Rake: Live poker games are notorious for their high rake. Fortunately, you can now play poker online and pay significantly lower rake, while also getting a big chunk of that rake back through bonuses, loyalty rewards, and other promotions.
- Bigger Tournaments: Online poker tournaments run every single day and offer huge guaranteed prize pools compared to live poker rooms. A live poker room can usually only host one poker tournament at a time, while a whole schedule of events with a variety of buyins will be available at your online poker room.
- Easy Banking: Whenever you are looking to play live poker, you will need to carry cash around, get paid in cash, and expose yourself to all sorts of risks. Online poker banking is simple and fast, and guarantees that all your cash is 100% safe at all times.
- Customer Support: Did you ever get into an argument with the dealers or the floor man at your local casino? This won’t happen at online poker rooms, as customer service is available around the clock and the agents have the time and the necessary resources to help every customer without things ever needlessly escalating.
How to Sign Up?
Do you want to get started with online poker in the US? Here are the basic steps you will need to follow to sign up for an account and play your first hand of legal online poker!
- Pick Your Poker Room: There is a whole selection of major online poker rooms available on this page. Pick the room you want to play at and follow the registration link.
- Create Your Account: Once you are at the poker site, click the registration button and a registration form will pop up. Enter all your real information and create your account.
- Confirm Your Identity: Now that you have created an account, you will need to confirm your identity. Your poker operator will ask for copies of your personal documents to prove your identity and your address.
- Download the App: If you are looking to play on your mobile device, you will need to download the appropriate app. iOS and Android apps are available for download on the operators’ websites.
- Claim Your Bonus: Making the first deposit with most online poker sites in the US will trigger your welcome bonus. Claim free money, tournament tickets, and start clearing your match deposit bonus.
Where is Online Poker Legal?
- Nevada: Nevada was the first state to legalize online poker back in 2013. The world’s capital of gambling is fully open to online poker, but only a handful of poker operators were handed a license thus far.
- New Jersey: New Jersey followed Nevada with online poker legislation shortly. Today, players in New Jersey can play online poker with multiple operators, with some of the biggest online poker tournaments and events in the US happening in NJ.
- Pennsylvania: Online poker has been legal in the state of Pennsylvania since 2017 when Gov. Tom Wolf signed HB 271. Players can join a handful of online poker sites and enjoy cash games, poker tournaments and more in PA.
- Michigan: Michigan was one of the states that adopted online poker legislation relatively late compared to NV and NJ, but is now home to some of the best online poker games around, with several poker rooms operating in the state.
- Delaware: Delaware is the smallest state with legal online poker, but was one of the first to make it legal back in 2013. Delaware is part of the interstate poker deal which allows players from NJ, NV, and DE to play in the same prize pool
Legal History of Online Poker in the US
Online poker has had a long and eventful history in the US. Let’s go down the memory lane and find out what major events marked the history of online poker in the US.
- First Poker Sites: Online poker came to America in the late 1990s, with poker sites like Planet Poker and Partypoker launching. These sites were not regulated or based in the US, but they took US traffic regardless.
- WSOP Satellites at PokerStars: Online poker sites like PokerStars started sending dozens of players to the World Series of Poker every year, with players winning seats for as little as ten bucks. It wasn’t long before one of them took home the champion’s title.
- Chris Moneymaker Wins the Main Event: In 2003, Chris Moneymaker, a player who won his WSOP Main Event seat through a PokerStars qualifier, won the ME and started the Poker Boom. Online poker exploded in the US and millions of players started playing the game over the coming years.
- UIGEA is Passed: In 2006, the US Congress passed the UIGEA, an act that many saw as making online poker completely illegal in the country. Many major sites like 888poker and Partypoker withdrew from the US market, while the likes of Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars continued servicing Americans.
- Push for Regulation Begins: With UIGEA in power but many offshore sites still catering to Americans, lawmakers started tinkering with the idea of online poker regulation. In 2010, an attempt was made to regulate online poker on a federal level by Senator Harry Reid.
- The Black Friday: In 2011, the US DoJ shut down several major international poker operators including FTP, PokerStars, and Ultimate Bet. The sites all had to exit the US market, but Full Tilt Poker was found to be lacking funds to pay out their players.
- Nevada Regulates Online Poker: As expected, Nevada was the first state to bring online poker back to the US following Black Friday, and in late 2013 NV players could once again legally play online poker games.
- Delaware and New Jersey Follow: Not long after Nevada passed its online poker legislation, New Jersey and Delaware also made online poker legal and started issuing licenses to online poker sites, with the likes of WSOP.com and PokerStars entering the new markets.
- Pennsylvania and Michigan Regulate Online Poker: In 2017, Pennsylvania regulated online poker, followed by Michigan in 2019. To this date, these are the last states to offer online poker licenses, with regulation pending in a number of other states.
- Interstate Deal in the Works: As state-by-state regulation of online poker continues to progress, a comprehensive interstate deal that would allow players from all the states to join the same player pool is in the works. While such a deal already exists among a handful of states, a more comprehensive legislation is still being worked on and is expected to come into power in the years to come.