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Playing Online Poker in the State of Kentucky

Legal Online Poker in Kentucky
Kentucky State Seal

If you're in the mood to play Kentucky online poker for real money, the situation is not great, but it's a lot better than it could be. You can certainly partake in online poker in Kentucky without worry because it's perfectly legal on the players' side of things. It's only those running the online rooms that are at any risk.

You see, Kentucky in the past has been antagonistic towards online sites, but this has abated in recent years after The State of Kentucky tried, and failed, to slap PokerStars with an $870 million dollar judgment. Since that time, Kentucky hasn’t tried to take any action against gambling sites, and there are currently no state laws on the books making it illegal for players to play online poker. Because of this history of taking legal action against offshore real-money gambling enterprises, some online card rooms have decided not to offer their services to residents of Kentucky.

Luckily, players in Kentucky still have a few different options when looking to play Internet poker in the US.  Some sites have decided to not service this state, but many have decided to stay available to those players, and the number of options for players from Kentucky is not insignificant at all.  This means that players can take advantage of fast payout times, good bonuses and great game selection despite external circumstances that do make things a bit more difficult than they need to be.

 

What Online Poker Sites Can I Play in Kentucky?

Despite the fact that a few poker organizations have elected to exit the Kentucky market, there are still a number of trustworthy rooms for you to play at. We've done all the work involved in gauging their relative levels of traffic, evaluating their promotions and bonus offers, and observing their payout processing speeds. We've selected the best of the best and presented them below so that you don't have to do any guesswork.

 

    Ignition Poker

Positive Ignition features graphic

Ignition Poker is not just the largest place for poker online within the Commonwealth of Kentucky; it actually holds this same distinction with reference to the United States as a whole. You may have heard of this room by its old name, Bovada, under which it made its reputation as a solid place for American online poker games. When you open up a new account at this PaiWangLuo Network partner, you'll be treated to a 100% up to $1,000 poker bonus along with an identically sized offer to use in the attached casino.

 Play Now cta for Ignition Poker

The bonus funds will release to your account at prestated intervals, and the entire $1,000 is equal to 30% rakeback on your tournament and SNG fees while being worth a bit less in ring games. In reality, the initial parts of the bonus clear at a much faster clip than the subsequent portions, so if you can't make a deposit sufficient to max out the bonus amount, you'll still do pretty well because of the speedy bonus clearing. Whatever sum you decide to fund your account with, you'll be able to play from either a Mac or a PC on the download version of the software, and you can use the responsive web client to access the games from your cellphone or tablet. However, the mobile poker solution only supports cash games, not sit-and-goes or tournaments.

The cash games at Ignition begin at $0.02/$0.05 and climb as high as $10/$20, and you'll find plenty of action in NL Hold'em and PL Omaha. There are additionally tables of PLO/8, LO8, and LHE present, so you can still play if big-bet Texas Hold'em isn't your game of choice. You might have to mix and match table stakes and sizes though if you wish to multitable any of the "other" games. If sit-n-goes are what you're after, then you'll be pleased with the range of buyins available: $1 + $0.05 through $200 + $14. Tournaments are spread at a wide array of price points, and the highlight of the week is the $150 + $12 buyin $100,000 guaranteed event every Sunday afternoon. Several times per year, Ignition runs special tourney series, like the Black Diamond Poker Open, that contain a plethora of MTTs in various formats of poker, often with sizeable guaranteed prize pools.

When discussing the games at Ignition, we'd be irresponsible if we didn't tell you about the unique features that differentiate them from the tables at competing sites. The most noticeable difference is the fact that they're anonymous: No player is identified by username or any other personal info. This means that you can play without worry that some shark is looking up your stats or tracking your long-term tendencies; such tactics are impossible here. Another non-standard element at Ignition is the Zone Poker pools. In Zone ring games, you don't sit at a single table but instead join a pool of players. Whenever anyone in the pool folds his or her hand, that person is brought to a new table immediately to begin another hand. There's non-stop action in Zone, and you can see hundreds of hands per hour as opposed to a normal game where you'd be lucky to reach 100 in an hour.

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To play at the busiest poker site for Kentuckians, click the banner above and create your Ignition Casino Poker account today. You can instead read our comprehensive Ignition review to gain a more thorough understanding of its offerings before joining up.

 

        Chico Network

Positive features image for Chico Poker

The Chico Poker Network and its leading site, BetOnline, used to be a fairly small operator, but it has grown to the point where it's now the third-largest place for U.S. online poker. It's not just a poker provider; there are also casino games, sports betting opportunities, a racebook, skill games, and many other gaming possibilities. You'll get a 100% up to $2,500 bonus for poker on your first deposit, and you'll be able to claim other promotions for the numerous other product divisions.

Play Now at Chico Poker

The bonus is equivalent to an impressive 33% rakeback whether you opt for ring games, sit n' gos, or multi-table tournaments. You'll also receive about 5% extra value from the comp points program, which allows you to buy into certain tourneys using your points rather than your real-money balance. As long as you play fairly regularly, you can additionally benefit from the $20,000 handed out each and every week through three leaderboards (cash, SNG, and MTT).

The tournament scene isn't all that impressive apart from the Main Event, a $90 + $9 contest that runs on Sunday and has a prize pool of no less than $50,000. On the final Sunday of every calendar month, the Main Event grows to a $100 + $9 buyin and a $100K guarantee. The rest of the schedule contains mostly tourneys that cost no more than $30 + $3 to enter. Things are different in SNGs, though, because they run from $0.05 to $500 + $25, and there's plenty of action up to around the $200 level. Cash games exist from penny stakes up to $5/$10, and most of the running tables are for NLHE and PLO. There is some PLO-8 going on too but much less than for the aforementioned game types.

One of the selling points of the CPN is its excellent mobile app. It's compatible with iOS and Android, and unlike the majority of poker apps out there, it delivers pretty much the full desktop experience without drastic cutbacks in features. You can even multitable easily because there's a bar at the top of the screen that shows your hole cards at all tables and allows you to switch between them with a single press. BetOnline is a great option if you enjoy poker on the go.

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If you're eager to sample appealing games and large bonuses today, then follow the above banner link to visit BetOnline. We've compiled a lot of extra data and have presented it in our BetOnline poker review, which you may wish to read. This poker provider has a sister site, called Sportsbetting.ag, that has an almost identical platform and games.

 

        Grand Network

Positive Attributes of Grand Poker and 5Dimes

Renowed internet bookmaker 5Dimes has already earned its reputation as a top-notch gambling site even before it developed the Grand Poker Network. While this is a fairly new room, having only began operations in 2014, the integrity and competence of the 5Dimes sports-betting organization have carried over into the poker room. The multi-platform compatibility of the poker software as well as the number and reliability of the existing funding methods will undoubtedly leave you satisfied.

The players here are an odd mix of poker newcomers, crossover sportsbook fish, and degenerate casino gamers. You might encounter the occasional grinder who knows what he's doing, but for the most part, the adversaries you meet at the 5Dimes poker room aren't very skilled at all. You can compete against them in cash games between $0.05/$0.10 and $1/$2, and unlike at most other sites, even the highest games running may also be the softest. One problem is that the total of people logged on at any given time is usually pretty small, so you may not be able to find a running game at exactly the stakes you seek.

You'll get a minimum of 50% rakeback paid out through AdvanceToGo sit-n-gos, which reward the entire field with 50% rakeback on the points they pay to enter, and the winner gets a full 100% RB. Other money-making opportunities at 5Dimes include a $500 freeroll on Sundays and daily micro-stakes tournament that don't charge an entry fee beyond the buyin, so every penny paid into these tourneys is returned back to the winners of the contests.

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Follow the link provided above to become a customer at 5Dimes and gain access to their casino, sportbook and poker clients. For further details on this relatively new poker option, consult our overview of the sites on the Grand Poker Network.

 

Nitrogen Poker

Fans of the digital currency Bitcoin are in love with Nitrogen Sports, and with good reason. This bookmaker is renowned for blazing-fast payouts and low-juice lines. With the addition of a poker room a few years back, Nitrogen rounded out its product lineup and gave card game lovers a place to play with BTC. All games are denominated in this crypto-coin; there's no USD, EUR, GBP, or any other fiat currency being used here. One chip is equal to 1/1,000 of a bitcoin.

Most of the tables with people actually sitting at them are for microstakes, but it is possible to get higher games to start if you're willing to sit first and wait for a little bit. There are freerolls aplenty as well as guaranteed events with considerable overlays, so if you're looking to run up a Bitcoin bankroll from scratch, this is the place to do it. You can look forward to rewards every now and again when you build up your balance of Nitro, a spendable currency that's awarded to you whenever you pay rake or tourney fees. You can exchange your Nitro for free credits to your account and complimentary bets to use in the sportsbook.

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Join Nitrogen Sports Poker today by following the banner above. Or learn more about the site first by browsing through our thorough report on the poker room at Nitrogen.

 

SwCPoker

Reasons to Play at SwCPoker

After the closure of its ancestor, Seals With Clubs, in 2015, SwCPoker came to life, complete with a new software package that contains support for dozens of forms of poker. On top of the normal Texas Hold'em and Pot Limit Omaha games you'll find basically everywhere, you can also enjoy Seven Card Stud, Open Face Chinese, HORSE, Razz, Big O, 12-Game, and many other formats. Most of the game types present are listed in cash game, sit-n-go, and tournament forms, so there's plenty of diversity in poker variants at SwC.

Rewards come in the form of Krill, a tiered system that gives you higher rakeback the more Krill you accumulate, and table starter rakeback, which delivers a 50% rake refund to everyone who plays two- or three-handed. As a company that deals in Bitcoin and only Bitcoin, SwC is a leading destination for those who eschew having to send in documentation or subjecting themselves to the scrutiny of banks. With SwCPoker, your winnings and payouts are nobody's business but your own.

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Try out the many different games at SwCPoker for yourself by clicking the above banner. You can get a deeper understanding of what this site has to offer by reading our page on SwCPoker and how it operates.

 


 

Kentucky Online Poker Room Selection Criteria

As you've probably noticed by now, you do have quite a few sites to choose from when it comes to online poker in Kentucky. We won't say which one is best because we can't: The most attractive poker room for you will depend on your own individual situation and tastes. What we can do is present you with a quick rundown of things to think about when attempting to make your decision.

 

❗ If the size of a poker room is your primary concern, then you should be happy at Ignition becuase it's the largest site on our list.


❗ If you like the idea of using Bitcoin not just for cashier functions but also for all gameplay, then Nitrogen and SwCPoker will allow you to deploy your BTC at the tables.


❗ If the action-packed experience of fast-fold poker is something you're looking forward to, then Ignition is the only place to indulge your preference.


❗ If the size of your first-deposit bonus and the rate at which it's earned matters a lot to you, then Chico Poker's $2,500 offer is probably just right for you.


❗ If you'd like to take advantage of the highest possible rakeback percentage, then 5Dimes and its unusual 50% deal through rewards SNGs is likely your best choice.


❗ If you intend to play from your Mac or mobile system, then Chico, Ignition, Nitrogen, and Grand are your choices in roughly that order.


❗ If you wish to be able to choose from the widest possible assortment of poker variants, then SwC has you covered with almost every poker format you could think of.

 

Payout Report for Players from Kentucky

Money Bag

Players can expect no real difference in the payout times from Kentucky than the rest of the states in the U.S.A.  Ignition, Chico Poker Network, Grand Poker Network, Nitrogen, and SwcPoker all have Bitcoin withdrawal options that make payouts exceptionally fast. Other methods are also decently fast, but they do take longer than the bitcoin option, which is why we recommend that you use crypto-currency for both deposits and cashout requests. If you're unfamiliar with how Bitcoin works but are interested in learning how to use it, then check out our thorough guide to setting up a Bitcoin wallet and exchange account.

 

Quick Facts about Kentucky Online Gambling Law

Legal Book

To delve into what Kentucky law means for online poker players, we have to start with the state's rules regarding the game. There are no instances of the phrases “online poker” or “online gambling” within the Kentucky Revised Statutes. This isn't surprising because many states have laws in effect that date back to before the internet was even conceived of much less used for playing card games. There is one statute that does mention “poker” by name, but it deals with live, charitable gaming, not games conducted online.

We have to therefore consult the rules regarding gambling in general since there's nothing specifically pertaining to internet poker. Fortunately, most of the relevant information is contained within a single chapter: Chapter 528 Gambling. In 528.010, there's a definition of gambling for us to look over:

(4) (a) "Gambling" means staking or risking something of value upon the outcome of a contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device which is based upon an element of chance, in accord with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome. A contest or game in which eligibility to participate is determined by chance and the ultimate winner is determined by skill shall not be considered to be gambling.

This “element of chance” wording implies that poker is included in the definition of gambling because chance is involved in the gameplay. However, this raises the question of how much chance is needed before an activity falls into the category of gambling. Federal Judge Jack B. Weinstein found in 2012 that poker was a game of skill and ought to be excluded from legal frameworks that deal with games of chance. Setting this debate aside, we'll shortly see that it really doesn't matter for ordinary KY residents whether or not poker is considered gambling.

The passage that we cited above just handles definitions; it doesn't declare anything legal or illegal, nor does it prescribe penalties. In fact, there's nothing in the entire compilation of Kentucky laws that makes participation in gambling as a player illegal. You're entirely in the clear legally if you want to join a poker table or two online.

Now, you might be wondering: Why did the legislators even bother to define what gambling is if they aren't going to do anything to restrict it or proclaim it against the law? They might as well have come up with a definition of “umbrella“ or “kudzu” for all the good it would do. Well, the answer lies in the fact that while playing gambling games doesn't incur any punishments, the situation is different for those operating real-money gaming establishments.

Advancing gambling activity is penalized by the law as are promoting gambling, permitting gambling, possessing a gambling device, and other similar actions. Most of these infractions are misdemeanors, but the more serious ones are categorized as felonies. Some may feel that advancing gambling activity and promoting gambling are such vague phrases that prosecutors could easily claim that playing online poker falls under these provisions. However, the definitions statute that we looked at earlier makes it clear that this line of reasoning is incorrect. The explanation of what constitutes advancing gambling activity reads, in part:

A person "advances gambling activity" when, acting other than as a player [emphasis added], he engages in conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity.

Interestingly, arranging home poker games is deemed to not count as advancing gambling activity as long as the person hosting the event doesn't profit from it:

A person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with other participants does not otherwise advance gambling activity by performing acts, without remuneration or fee, directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises therefor and supplying equipment used therein;

The situation is more or less the same with promoting gambling. In the clauses referring to this crime, we find that someone is guilty of it when he or she "knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity." Turning back to the definitions, we find out that:

A person "profits from gambling activity" when, other than as a player [emphasis added], he accepts or receives or agrees to accept or receive money or other property pursuant to an agreement or understanding with any person whereby he participates or is to participate in the proceeds of gambling activity;

People who act simply as regular players are thus exempted from falling under the punishments delineated in these laws. To date, nobody has ever been arrested or charged with any crime for competing at online poker tables, and it's tough to identify any KY law that could, even theoretically, be used to charge individual players.

 

How Do Offshore Gambling Operators View Kentucky?

Pair of Binoculars

Kentucky, like most states, has pretty stringent laws against those who own and manage unregulated gambling companies. While most such laws around the country are usually not taken very seriously when it comes to internet poker, Kentucky actually endeavors to enforce them. In 2008, authorities in the commonwealth tried to seize more than 100 gambling-related domains, claiming that they were “gambling devices” and “gambling records.” The case dragged on for years with many appeals filed and conflicting verdicts rendered. A few of the sites reached settlements with Kentucky, but most of them were able to regain ownership of their domain names without having to pay any fines or charges.

In 2010, Kentucky sued several online gambling operators under an archaic law that allows third parties to recover gambling losses incurred by others. There was actually a judgment issued against Amaya (owner of PokerStars) in December 2015 for the gargantuan sum of $870 million although Amaya is appealing the decision.

These and other actions by the authorities in the Bluegrass State have caused some poker firms to decide that it's not a good idea to operate in Kentucky. This is why there are fewer options for real money Kentucky online poker than there are in most other states. Nevertheless, there still remain several who are willing to accept the risks of doing business in the state, and so you can play to your heart's content.

 

Kentucky's Gambling History

Book With Spectacles

Kentucky was a sparsely populated subdivision of Virginia at the time of American Independence from the British Empire, and so it didn't have a chance to build up the long colonial history of gambling that some of the other states did. Yet, it did hold its first lottery in 1792 – the same year that it became a state – and so it lost little time in catching up with its more established neighbors. Another fixture of Kentucky Gambling got started during this same era when the first organized horse race in the area was held in Louisville in 1783.

There's not much information available about gambling in Kentucky during the early 1800s, so we imagine that it remained more or less present although perhaps frowned upon in certain quarters. In 1875, Churchill Downs was built in Louisville in 1875, and the first Kentucky Derby was held that same year. In 1891, a new constitution was drafted that prohibited lotteries. By this time, the number of lotteries in the state had proliferated wildly, and many of them were crooked or were outright scams, so it's understandable that the drafters of the constitution wished to curtail them. Over the next decades, this part of the Kentucky Constitution was used to declare many forms of gaming as a type of lottery and thus prohibited, but racetrack betting was never banned.

Churchill Downs Racetrack in 1901

Churchill Downs Racetrack in 1901: the Site of the Annual Kentucky Derby

In the 1920s and '30s, many underground gambling clubs opened up and did a bustling trade in Kentucky. So notorious did Newport, KY, become for these illicit doings that it became known as “Sin City” well before this nickname was applied to Las Vegas. In 1962, a reformer named George Ratterman ran for sheriff of Campbell County on a platform of cleaning up the gambling dens. Things looked grim for his campaign when he was found in bed with a hooker. Yet, the story took an unusual twist when his blood was found to contain a sedative – he had been drugged and placed in a compromising position by his political adversaries! With the revelation of the truth, their plan backfired, and Ratterman was duly elected to office. Through a combination of George's efforts, the increased allure of Las Vegas, and cooperation from the federal authorities, most of the remaining gambling enterprises shut down or relocated elsewhere.

In 1998, a referendum to institute a state lottery was passed, and the Kentucky Lottery duly opened up the following year. In 1992, the restrictions against charitable gaming were relaxed, allowing for bingo, raffles, and casino nights.

 

Regulation Chances for Online Poker

Blue Regulation Document

This is an exceptionally tricky question to answer, because the obvious answer might not actually be the correct one. It might appear that Kentucky would stand very little chance of regulating online poker, because it has been aggressive with online sites in the past and the state’s population is pretty conservative, which are both exceptionally true. What this ignores though is that the horse tracks within the state might decide they want a piece of the pie. Churchill Downs, which is one of the most well-known horse tracks in the world, has been active in the poker scene before with small behind the scenes purchases. If they decided to really put pressure on the state legislature to legalize online poker, it is possible that it could actually happen. Kentucky already has limited forms of online wagering, like racetrack betting, which has been running for quite a few years now. In 2016, the state introduced online lottery sales. While there is no indication that online poker legalization is going to happen right now, it’s not something that can be entirely discounted either.

 

Land-Based Gambling

Horse and Jockey

Kentucky has limited land-based gambling, but what is there is rather large. Pari-mutual betting is of course the most famous type of land based gambling available in Kentucky. Pari-mutual betting is the type of betting that the horse industry is based around, and this is one of the most noteworthy things about Kentucky as every year hundreds of thousands converge on Churchill Downs for the running of the Kentucky Derby. Past this most obvious land-based gambling, there is also a rather large state lottery, and charitable gambling is also present within the state. Social card games round out the menu of offline Kentucky gambling. Besides those types, there is no legal gambling in Kentucky, and the horse tracks do not feature full casinos, like they do in other states, which is important to note.

 

If Kentucky were to legalize online poker or online gambling, it’s not immediately clear which companies would become the main operators in the state. Without land-based casinos, there would likely be an arms race to acquire a horse track to get a foothold in the state. Harrah’s and PokerStars would be the most obvious candidates to do something like this with many others also trying to get their foot in the door. Churchill Downs would also attempt to use its famous name from horse racing to become a major player in the market. All of this is pure speculation though, and the way in which the laws would be written would likely determine who would become the largest operator in the state.

 

 

Conclusion

Playing online poker in Kentucky is completely safe because there's no law that says you aren't allowed to. The situation for operators is different, and so some of them have decided to stop serving the state, but there are still numerous sites for you to play at. Pick a dependable real money Kentucky online poker site and start winning your share of pots and tournaments!

 

 

Do you have an address in a nearby state?

Kentucky's Neighboring States

If you are lucky enough to have a secondary address in a nearby state, be it your business address, summer home, second apartment, family home, etc, you may have other online poker options available to you.  Here are a list of the states that border Kentucky and Professional Rakeback's review on each of them: Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.  If you didn't find what you were looking for in that long list of nearby states, then go ahead and take a look at our U.S. Online Poker Guide that answers the question "Is Online Poker Legal?"

 

Unfortunately there is a lot of ignorance surrounding the current legal status of online poker.  If you found this information helpful, please take a moment to share it with your friends and family so that, together, we can help keep the poker community alive and growing!