US Online Poker: Legal Poker Guide March
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Where is Online Poker Legal?
Online Poker is currently under state jurisdiction. There is no federally legal online poker, and in fact, the federal government has often taken steps to make sure that poker sites are not operating in the general United States unless legal in specific states.
New Jersey has been at the forefront of the iGaming and online sports betting scene as it was one of the big reasons that PASPA was overturned to allow sports gambling to expand in the United States. Currently, you can play with six different operators online, WSOP, BetMGM, PokerStars, 888 Poker, PartyPoker, and Borgata Poker.
New Jersey is part of the Multi-State Gaming Compact, which allows poker players to play against poker players from other states.
Michigan is on pace to have three operators of WSOP, PokerStars, and BetMGM Poker. This would give poker players a great trio of options from three of the best operators. Currently, PokerStars is affiliated with Fox Bet, and BetMGM has its own sportsbook and casino to partner with. However, WSOP still needs to find an operator or casino to join forces with to offer its product.
At this time, Michigan is not a part of the Multi-State Gaming Compact; however, this will surely come up in future discussions.
Nevada is a state within the Multi-State Gaming Compact, meaning that poker players can play against those in New Jersey, the other state within the compact that also has a WSOP site.
Pennsylvania has still yet to join in on the Multi-State Gaming Compact, so poker players cannot play with poker players residing in other parts of the country.
However, Delaware is a part of the Multi-State Gaming Compact, which is vital to the success of online poker in such a small state. This allows the player pool to be big enough for online poker to thrive.
Both BetMGM, who is already live with a sportsbook and casino, and PokerStars have plans to go live in the state. This would be huge for the poker scene in West Virginia as it would make it one of the bigger destinations for online poker enthusiasts.
One thing that could drastically increase West Virginia’s online poker appeal is joining the Multi-State Gaming Compact. The player pool is not massive in West Virginia, and being able to play against New Jersey poker players would be a huge plus.
The Best Online Poker Sites
Here are our favorite Online Poker operators that are currently licensed throughout different states in America.
BetMGM is currently live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. On top of this, West Virginia seems like a likely expansion state for the massive iGaming entity and its online poker platform.
The bonus for BetMGM online poker is tied to the online casino bonus of a $1,000 deposit match at a 100% deposit match rate. This means that your first deposit is doubled up to a $1,000 deposit! You also get a $25 free bet with no deposit required to try out BetMGM Casino and Poker.
BetMGM is partnered with Borgata in New Jersey, which allows it to run online poker. In Michigan, BetMGM is a partner with its own casino, MGM Grand Detroit. In Pennsylvania and West Virginia, BetMGM is partnered with Hollywood Casino and Greenbrier, respectively.
BetMGM offers both an iOS and Android application. You can find the iOS app on the Apple store and the Android download link on BetMGM’s website. On top of this, there is also a desktop application available for download for Windows computers.
The World Series of Poker is one of the biggest brands in all of poker, not just the online scene. In fact, many think of the World Series of Poker for its in-person tournaments instead of its online poker. However, WSOP.com does indeed offer online poker, and it offers one of the very best platforms for those looking to participate in large-scale tournaments.
WSOP is available in both New Jersey and Nevada, which both take advantage of the Multi-State Compact, and you can play in tournaments with players from either state when in New Jersey or Nevada.
The bonus that WSOP.com offers new users is, first off, $10 free without any kind of deposit. However, following that, you can go ahead and get a $1,000 deposit bonus that matches your first deposit dollar for dollar. That is right; you get a 100% deposit match up to $1,000 on WSOP.com. You also get another $50 free following the deposit. Make sure to use the WSOP code “LINEUPS” to unlock this offer.
The WSOP.com entity is owned and operated mainly by 888 Holdings. It is partnered with 888 Poker in New Jersey and Nevada. In Pennsylvania, WSOP has partnered with Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack to enter a partnership to offer its online poker to the Keystone State.
WSOP.com offers a platform on almost all major operating systems. You can play WSOP on your computer with either a Windows or Mac computer as there are both Windows and OSX versions of the desktop program. Then, on mobile, there is both an iOS and Android app available to wager on!
PokerStars has been a massive name for online poker in the United States for a very long time. However, PokerStars has run into many issues in its past as the United States cracked down on online poker that was not fully regulated and licensed. Now PokerStars operates a fully legal and licensed operation in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan!
PokerStars has two offers to choose from for its new users. You can either get $30 free on a $20 deposit, or you can get a 100% deposit match up to $600. It is clear that the second offer can be a much larger sum of bonus money, but if you are just trying out the poker site, the first might be tempting.
PokerStars has partnered with Fox Bet Sportsbook. This means that the sportsbook side of betting is provided by Fox Bet while the casino and poker are provided by PokerStars in each state that it operates in. In Michigan, PokerStars and Fox Bet are partnered with the Odawa Casino Resort, and in Pennsylvania, the duo is partnered with Mount Airy Casino.
PokerStars has a desktop application available for download that supports both Windows and OSX machines. PokerStars can also be played on mobile devices run by iOS and Android. The download links can all be found on PokerStars’ website, except for iOS, which will be on the Apple App Store.
Online Poker Quick Start Guide
Playing online real money poker is very straightforward if you are physically in a state where it is legal. As long as you are in the right spot, these four steps should get you to the poker in no time.
Download Poker App
The first thing that you will need to do is download your poker application of choice onto your device. Even if you are using the computer, you may need to download a program as many poker operators require that you use their software to check your location and make sure that you are playing fairly.
This means that you will need to head to the iOS App Store or to the operators’ website to find the download links and instructions. Once there, you will download the program and get everything installed and ready to play.
Sign Up & Use Promo Code
Next, you will need to make an account with your poker operator of choice. When playing online poker with real money, it is likely that you will be asked to hand over some personal information so that the website can see that you are of legal betting age. This information will include your birth date, address, and even the last four digits of your social security number.
Make sure that you use LINEUPS.com’s links and promo codes to get the best deal when signing up. You do not want to leave a major bonus on the table that you could have taken advantage of as a first-time user.
Deposit Cash into Your Online Bankroll
With the poker program downloaded on your phone or computer and your account created and verified, the next step is to fund your bankroll to play! This process is pretty straightforward as many of the major poker operators accept a wide array of payment methods. You can use credit card, debit card, bank transfer, PayPal, and more with most of the poker sites.
Join Cash Game or Tournament
The last step to playing is joining a game! There is Texas Hold’em, both limit and no-limit, as well as Omaha and more available. Each of these poker games will have tournament and cash options. You will find both tournaments and cash games on just about every operator’s site. You will need to make sure that you are joining the correct game type and competition type that you want to play when in the lobby.
The key to the expansion of the online poker market is the Multi-State Gaming Compact. This allows players in signatory states to compete against each other as opposed to players in one state only being allowed to compete against fellow residents. New Jersey has signed on to the agreement, adding a large population base. The impending addition of Pennsylvania will expand the total population pool of signatory states beyond 25 million. The growing common market will increase revenues within member states as online poker becomes more attractive in comparison with offshore entities.
Once momentum is established in the signatory states, it is likely that other states will want to legalize online poker. Several large states have had efforts to permit online poker that made some measure of progress before the bills ultimately failed. However, as online poker continues to grow in popularity, the revenue source for these states may become too big to forego. The key to further expansion of online poker is whether or not various stakeholders can cooperate in figuring out an equitable distribution of revenues and the participants in the marketplace. In several states, tribal casinos have blocked gaming expansion since it may threaten their hegemony over gambling in their respective states.
Beyond legalization, various new technological advances have made online poker more popular. A video platform named Twitch has facilitated connections and allowed top poker players to share tips and advice with players. Fans are able to watch live poker streams on Twitch. In addition, innovative content has made poker more accessible and understandable by average players.
Possible Future Expansion States
Here are some massive states when it comes to poker and their current and forward-looking outlooks in regards to online poker.
Types of Games
The most common games offered are Texas no-limit Hold-em, Omaha, and Stud. However, there are even more poker games available, depending on the operator. The two big categories of gaming really come down to whether you want to play cash or tournament games.
Cash games are probably the most popular way to play online poker as you can sit and play whenever you like, and you are not committing yourself to an 8-hour long game session like a tournament. One thing that is important to check out is the rake. The rake is how much the operator or house collects on each pot. Most sites effectively collect between 3 and 4.25%, which is actually pretty good compared to most in-person poker rooms.
Tournaments online can be a grind, but it can also be a fun way to make a good chunk of cash. Online poker has the same structure as any in-person tournament with breaks and levels; however, of course, it is all on your screen. You will want to make sure that you read the full details and see how much time you will need to commit to these tournaments before signing up. Many can take an entire day, at the very least, to finish up.
Cash Game Online Poker Tips
Online poker is fun, and it is not as widely different as you would expect from in-person poker. Obviously, the largest difference is live tells where someone may tip their hands or get overly emotional with a tough choice. However, here are three tips to keep in mind when playing for cash online.
Don’t Forget You’re Playing With Real People
This is a big one, as people forget that they are not playing against bots—these a real people with real patterns and real mistakes. Oftentimes, people play too rigid, as I will discuss in my next two tips. However, this tip is all about keeping track of these players. You need to get a read on if someone is a tight-aggressive player, a loose passive player, etc. This means that you need to be paying attention even when you are not playing your hand. These can be crucial notes that will help you take home more cash.
Mix Up Ranges
I think that due to the access of resources and the elimination of the in-person element, often times players play too rigidly and predictably online. You need to remember to mix up your ranges. Modern-day cash poker is all about expected range versus expected range, and you can create a massive advantage when you know what the other person has, but they have no clue what your range is.
This is not a license to play dumb, but a license to experiment and throw in some suited-connectors in your calling range from positions where you may not always do so. You want to make your hand unpredictable.
You Can Still Bluff
The last thing I think people forget is that you can bluff online. I believe that the idea that everyone calls everything stems from the free online poker scene, and due to this, people online do not like to bluff as often. However, you should be able to play very similarly to the way you would in person. If you are going to come home winning money, more likely than not, you are going to have to have some bluffs in your ranges and not be scared to fire and bluff against certain players.
The largest market for poker in the U.S. is California, which currently does not have online poker. Card rooms that feature poker take in north of $1 billion in revenue every year, and that does not even include revenue from tribal casinos.
With regard to the online poker states, New Jersey is clearly the largest market thus far. Online poker recently reached and surpassed $4 million in monthly revenue. Pennsylvania and Michigan both promise to be a sizable market once online poker is fully operational with all the major operators.
At the time of Black Friday, the revenues from the U.S. online poker market approached $1 billion. The present pales in comparison to what the future offers. Total online gaming revenues in the U.S. are expected to surpass $4 billion by the end of 2021, and a sizable part of that is online poker. There have been some estimates that a fully regulated online poker industry in the U.S. could yield revenues above $3 billion annually. Even if online poker is only legalized on the state level, the gaming agreement will serve to boost revenues.
History of Online Poker
Online poker dates almost as far back as the internet itself. The game has achieved immense popularity in a short period of time and has helped spur the popularity of poker in this country. Now, two decades after its introduction, online poker is poised to enter into a historic period of expansion in this country as more states legalize and offer the product. Online poker has come a long way since its beginning and the proliferation of mobile devices enables the product to reach far beyond its beginnings.
How Online Poker Works
Online poker allows players to compete against each other using the poker software. Players join games by locating them in the casino lobby. Generally, both cash games and tournaments are offered. The software provides the connectivity that allows the players to see the cards and send commands to play the game. The software provides the information to a user’s computer or mobile device. However, instead of a dealer, online poker relies on a random number generator to assign cards. Now, some new varieties of online casino games actually feature live dealers. Online poker sites make money by charging a rake, which is usually around five percent. Tournaments require an entry fee in addition to the buy-in. The major difference between online poker and the live version of the game is that online poker operates at a much quicker speed.
However, the halcyon days of the industry were about to end. In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. UIGEA went after the money flow that fueled online poker, making it illegal to process payments connected to online gambling. This drove many companies from the marketplace, although several of the top companies remained operational in spite of UIGEA. Eventually, after several enforcement actions undertaken by the Department of Justice, it became more difficult for players to fund accounts and withdraw money.
A series of events in 2011 put an extreme damper on the online poker marketplace. First, several executives from FullTilt Poker were indicted and charged with violations of gambling and money laundering laws. They were also charged with defrauding players out of $300 million. Multiple other indictments were unsealed on the same day that charged company executives and payment processors with various crimes. In specific, the indictments alleged that online poker operators duped banks into processing payments in violation of UIGEA.
The government seized the accounts belonging to the poker operators, which included customer funds. The government also seized the domain names for PokerStars and FullTilt but returned them once the two companies pledged to withdraw from the U.S. market. The indictments caused severe financial issues for the companies, such that they could no longer process withdrawals from customers. Black Friday had a predictably deleterious effect on these companies’ business. The companies that escaped indictment gained market share.
Move Towards Legalization
Black Friday, however, was not the end of online poker in this country. Shortly after Black Friday, states sought to fill the space legally with their own laws permitting online poker. Nevada was the first state to legalize online poker in June 2011 and issued the first licenses a year later. Soon after Nevada permitted online poker, Delaware followed suit, legalizing online poker under the auspices of the state lottery.
At the same time that some states were legalizing online poker, there was a federal effort to permit online poker. This push stalled amid concerns about states’ rights. At the heart of the matter is a tug-of-war between the Federal Government and the states, with each trying to preempt the other from regulating the market. In general, states want to have the ability to choose on their own whether to legalize and regulate gaming within their borders.
At this point, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Jersey have all legalized online poker alongside Delaware and Nevada. Currently, it still is up to each state whether or not to legalize online real money poker, and it seems that this will not change in the foreseeable future.
US Online Poker FAQ
- Is online poker legal in the United States?
- Can I bet with real money playing online poker in the United States?
- What states have online poker?
- What is the legal age to play online poker?
- Are online poker winnings taxable income?
- What kind of poker is offered on online sites?
- What are my deposit/withdrawal methods for online poker?
- Is there a deposit match with BetMGM Poker?
- Does California have online poker?
- Do all online casinos offer online poker?
- Can I enter online WSOP events in the United States?
- What is the average rake on online cash games?
- Do I need to be a resident of a state to play online poker in it?
- Can I play international online poker events in the United States?
- Can I play online poker from my Android phone?
- Can I use a VPN to play online poker?
Is online poker legal in the United States?
At this point in time, it is up to states to legalize, regulate, and license legal online poker. There is no federally legal online poker that expands across all 50 states. However, federal law also does not prohibit states from choosing to legalize it themselves.
Can I bet with real money playing online poker in the United States?
Yes, but only in states with licensed online poker. In these states, you can bet real money and win real cash just like a normal card room. You can do so while playing a ton of different forms of poker. There are also cash tournaments with cash buy-ins available.
What states have online poker?
The states that currently have online poker are Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and West Virginia. At this point in time, these are the only states with legal online poker in the United States. You cannot play licensed online poker anywhere else.
What is the legal age to play online poker?
Just like the legal betting age, in all states where there is legal online poker, you must be 21 years of age or older to play. With all licensed online operators, 21 is also the age at which you can make an account.
Are online poker winnings taxable income?
Yes, all winnings from iGaming, like online poker, are taxable income. This means that you need to report your winnings on your taxes if you had net positive earnings from online poker that year. You can check with your state regarding state tax on those winnings.
What kind of poker is offered on online sites?
The main kind of poker offered is Texas Hold’em, including no-limit, fixed-limit, and pot-limit. However, Omaha, Seven-Card Stud, and Hi/Lo versions of those games are also offered on the major online poker sites. There are both cash games and tournaments offered for these card games.
What are my deposit/withdrawal methods for online poker?
The banking methods on an online poker site will change operator to operator and state to state. However, you can usually expect some form of credit and debit card, like Mastercard and Visa. It is also normal to accept e-check, bank transfer, PayPal, and more, depending on the operator.
Is there a deposit match with BetMGM Poker?
Yes, BetMGM Poker runs through the BetMGM Casino brand. Therefore you get a $1,000 deposit match at a 100% match rate with your very first deposit. For example, with a first-time deposit of $200, BetMGM will match with $200 of bonus credits. This is valid for up to $1,000.
Does California have online poker?
No, California does not have any legal iGaming or sports betting within the state. However, California is currently the largest card room revenue machine in the United States. It is very likely that online poker could come in the future with a State Constitutional Amendment.
Do all online casinos offer online poker?
No, actually, a majority of the casinos currently do not offer online poker with the casino. Online poker is a separate license and is something that many casinos currently skip out on developing. You will need to find an operator that offers online poker to play.
Can I enter online WSOP events in the United States?
Yes. However, you can only play online WSOP events with WSOP.com, which is available in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. For now, those are the only three states to play in. Some states may join the Multi-State Gaming Compact, which may expand WSOP.com’s operations.
What is the average rake on online cash games?
When looking to play cash games, most formal rakes will be around a 5% rake with a $2-$3 cap. This averages out to a net rake that is slightly above 4%. Currently, PokerStars offers the best rake at a flat 5% and $2.00 cap per hand.
Do I need to be a resident of a state to play online poker in it?
No, you can visit any state with legal online poker, make an account, and get to playing. This means that you can visit any one of New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, or Delaware to play real money online poker.
Can I play international online poker events in the United States?
Some events held in Nevada and New Jersey include international competitors. The best example of this is massive events held by WSOP.com and PokerStars. These two operators host regular main events that have thousands upon thousands of players from the USA and abroad.
Can I play online poker from my Android phone?
Yes; however, the application may not be available on the Google Play Store. If this is the case, then you can head to the operators’ website and find a download link there for your Android device, alongside instructions on how to get the app installed.
Can I use a VPN to play online poker?
No, You will be unable to achieve a connection to the server. This is why many poker operators require some kind of downloaded software to allow you to play. If you want to play, you will have to visit a state with legal real money online poker.
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