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Online Poker Legal in the USA? Learn why poker is NOT illegal to play in America

Playing poker online for real money is a vastly complicated subject especially as far as the legalities are concerned. This is an area that involves old laws that were never enforced, new laws that were snuck into the law books by unscrupulous politicians, underhanded land-based casino lobbyists, personal freedoms, constitutional rights, intrigue, and even murder!

It takes an expert to make sense of it all. is dedicated to this cause.

This is a thorough, well-researched guide. The compilation of this page required over a thousand hours of research, and the maintenance involved in keeping up with all the laws surrounding legal poker sites requires hundreds more hours every year. This particular page is devoted to poker legalities in the United States, but we have created a similar page covering Australia, so click over if you want to learn more about Australia online poker laws.

We are experts on the subject of online poker, and after carefully reviewing the legal landscape in the United States, we have concluded that online poker for real money is perfectly legal for almost all citizens as long as they're above the minimum age for gambling in their jurisdiction (18+ in most parts of the country).

We'll endeavor to educate you on the legality of online poker and its topsy-turvy, 20-year history. But if you're not really interested in the technical nitty-gritty and just want to get into a game, then check out our picks for the best online poker sites available to Americans for legal, real money play:

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The Legality of Online Poker in the United States

Falsehood: Online poker is illegal.

Truth: Playing online poker is not a violation of any Federal laws.

Online poker in the United States of America is a fairly complex subject. Many potential players mistakenly believe that it is illegal to play in the USA – a belief that is simply untrue! That is our conclusion after taking a look at the laws that have been drafted and the legal precedents that have been set.

But you don't have to just take our word for it. If you want to know the reasoning by which we arrived at our belief that online poker USA is legal, then keep reading for an explanation of the various state and federal laws that treat with the subject of poker as conducted over the internet, key court decisions on this subject, and other rationales for thinking that virtual poker is A-OK under the relevant statutes.

Few State Laws Exist

How can we be so sure of our opinion, you ask? Well, let us start with the most basic thing, the absence of prohibition. Any activity that is not specifically prohibited by law is, by default, legal to engage in.

If you take the time to read through the legal statutes in each state, you will find exactly what we, high-dollar gaming attorneys, and legal researchers have all found, i.e., an almost complete absence of law relating to the subject matter of online play.

You see, almost no states have laws on the books that cover online poker. As such, it is perfectly legal to play from the comfort of one's own home in almost every US state and territory.

The only state with a specific legal restriction regarding online poker is Washington State although this two decade-old law has not once been enforced and may not be eligible to be enforced due to legal desuetude. [1] The seriousness – or rather lack thereof – with which this statute is treated by the general public can be gauged by observing that a Washington high school teacher openly admitted in a legislative hearing to routinely flouting this law. [2] There were no consequences: He didn't get arrested, nor did he lose his teaching position.

Basically, what you have is a bunch of issues that have not been adequately addressed or have not been addressed at all by state and federal legislatures and lawmakers. Confusing matters even further, the statutes on the books often contain different text pertaining to horse racing, casino table games, slot machines, charitable bingo, social gaming, lotteries, and of course poker and other card games. Furthermore, most states have not updated their gambling laws in decades, and thus their laws were created before the internet was even invented!

Esteemed California gaming attorney Martin D. Owens, Jr., the man who wrote the book Internet Gaming Law, [3] has been quoted as saying:

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia don't even have a working definition on their own statute books of what gambling is and is not. Only nine even mention the Internet in connection with gambling at all. - Martin D. Owens Jr.[4]

Much of the public confusion stems from misinterpretations of existing laws. If you would like to educate yourself on the internet poker laws that are in effect in your state, then browse over to our individual state law reviews where you will find not just legal info but also an overview of the best sites available to you, a history of gambling in your state, a description of the live gambling options that are available in your location, and more.

Federal Level Anti-Gambling Laws

We've just demonstrated that the various state laws pertaining to internet poker are a patchwork quilt of obsolete and vague rules that almost certainly would be thrown out of court if any moralistic prosecutor were to actually try to bring a case against players. This raises the question of the Federal government and what powers they have to fight online poker.

Originally, under the Constitution drafted by the Founding Fathers, the national government had strictly limited powers, and it didn't deal with gambling, leaving such matters to the states. Of course, since that time, our foresighted leaders in Washington, D.C., have seen fit to expand their remit into all areas of our society, including gambling.

A couple of the pieces of Federal legislation that have been passed in an attempt to thwart various forms of gambling are the Wire Act and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). We'll discuss them below.

Wire Act

The Wire Act of 1961[5] was passed in order to give law enforcement additional tools to go after the Mafia, which at that time dominated the illicit bookmaking trade. It prohibits the use of any “wire communication facility” for certain purposes related to gambling that crosses state lines.

Robert F. Kennedy The Wire Act Was the Brainchild of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy

Once this law was on the books, it began to be applied to all sorts of situations not intended by its authors. The fact that certain sections of it were written in a convoluted fashion and were subject to multiple interpretations didn't help to resolve exactly what kinds of gambling it pertained to.

There's one thing that is certain about the Wire Act, and it's in fact so critical to a proper reading of this law that the first few words of the statute spell it out unambiguously:

“Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering…”

That's right – you have to be directly involved in betting as a business, e.g., as a bookie, casino owner, manager of a gambling site, et cetera, for the criminal penalties associated with this legislation to come into play against you. As an ordinary player, you have nothing to fear whatsoever from the Wire Act.

Early DoJ Online Gambling Wire Act Interpretation

When internet gaming came to be in the late '90s, it was a hitherto unimagined type of wagering that the framers of the Wire Act could not have possibly predicted. Nevertheless, the FBI and government prosecutors have attempted to use it to go after offshore gambling outfits based on the idea that the internet is a type of wire communication.

In August 2002, Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff explained the Department of Justice's views on the Wire Act in a letter to the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.[6] In this document, Chertoff claimed that: “…the Department of Justice believes that federal law prohibits gambling over the Internet, including casino-style gambling.”

Here we see the expansion, in the government's eyes, of the Wire Act to cover not just sports betting but also casino games and presumably every other type of gambling too. This question as to whether the Wire Act applies solely to wagering on sporting contests or encompasses a broader array of gaming activities has been revisited several times since then.

2011 Reinterpretation

The question of the Wire Act possibly covering forms of wagering online beyond mere betting on sports was of interest to several state lotteries. To be more specific, Illinois and New York were toying with the idea of selling lottery tickets online and were curious if their plans would be impacted by the Wire Act's provisions.

To obtain guidance on this matter, the two states sent an inquiry to the DoJ for clarification in December 2009. The DoJ issued its opinion two years later in September 2011.[7] Summarizing its memorandum, the Justice Department stated:

Interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a “sporting event or contest” fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.

Because the proposed New York and Illinois lottery proposals do not involve wagering on sporting events or contests, the Wire Act does not prohibit them.

Thus, we can see that, although not asked to comment directly on poker, the DoJ opined that the scope of the Wire Act is confined solely to sports betting. This decision was cheered by fans of real money online gaming because it meant that casino, poker room, bingo, and lottery transactions could be performed over the internet legally.

2019 About-Face

In January 2019, the Department of Justice revealed that it had changed its mind and reversed its 2011 guidance.[8] The Department found that all forms of gambling that cross state lines are illegal. Despite this document only becoming publicly available in early 2019, it's dated November 2018. This was bad news for state-regulated poker in particular because it meant that agreements to pool player liquidity among different licensing jurisdictions, like the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement,[9] would have been illegal.

Fortunately, lottery operators went to bat for the entire internet gambling community again. New Hampshire's lottery challenged the DoJ's new views on the Wire Act. The Federal government, when it announced that it would not prosecute anyone under the terms of its new Wire Act interpretation until 2020 or until a final resolution was reached in the New Hampshire litigation, was perhaps tacitly conceding the weakness of its viewpoint.

In June 2019, a U.S. District Court declared that the Wire Act only prohibits sports betting-related actions and has nothing to do with poker or casino wagers. The DoJ appealed this decision, but its efforts were for naught as the appellate court denied the appeal and upheld the original decision against the Department of Justice. In 2022, the Department of Justice lost another similar case, this time against IGT.

Wire Act Enforcement Strictly Limited

One of the oddities of the way the Wire Act is used in practice is that it's really only state-licensed online gaming sites that have anything to worry about. If they attempt to partner with their peers in other states, then the determination as to whether or not poker and casino play is excluded from the Act's remit is a very important one for their business prospects.

In theory, the same is true of offshore brands as well. However, in practice, these organizations are housed in far-off countries, and so they're beyond the reach of the FBI and other three-letter agencies.

Ironically, (or maybe not so much) the same entities that are doing their best to comply with U.S. law are those very actors who have the most to fear from a broad construction of the Wire Act. And as we noted earlier, regular players are exempt from the Wire Act and its penalties, so they can play at their choice of online poker site without worry.

UIGEA Myths and Realities

The other major piece of legislation that affects internet gambling is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, or UIGEA, which was enacted in 2006.[10] This is widely regarded by the media as a reason for online poker being illegal when, in fact, this perception is entirely mistaken.

Details About UIGEA

UIGEA makes the knowing processing of deposits to illegal online gambling sites forbidden for banks. UIGEA is in no way directed at private citizens. This legislation doesn't even identify what counts as disallowed online gambling, instead relying on other statutes to give it teeth – the same statutes that, as we have remarked about above, exist in a confused, disjointed, and unclear state!

The UIGEA was literally snuck into law on a “must pass” Safe Port Act[11] bill by two senators in the last hour before the vote. None of the other US senators who voted on the bill even read the UIGEA amendment, nor were many of them even aware of its addition to the Safe Port Act.

These two unscrupulous senators, Bill Frist (R, Tenn.) and Jon Kyl (R, Ariz.), were known to be taking large sums of money from the casino lobby. One well-researched article found in the pages of The Economist magazine characterized UIGEA as “a 2006 law, hastily tacked onto the end of unrelated legislation, bans American banks from handling money related to internet gambling.”

Note how the law has nothing to do with players or the operators and does not actually restrict the play of everyone's favorite card game online. A former US Senator who served two decades for the State of New York and is the current chairman of the Poker Alliance had this to say:

Online poker is not a crime and should not be treated as such. - Alfonse D'Amato
Behind the Scenes Maneuvers

The main goal of UIGEA was to underhandedly shut down real money online poker while the major US casinos played catch-up to their offshore brethren. We have written about UIGEA in great depth and you can read more about it here if you are so inclined.

Sheldon Adelson Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson Is Rumored to Be Behind the Passage of the UIGEA

You see, domestic casinos had greatly underestimated the potential market size of online gambling for real money. At the time UIGEA was passed into law, online gambling was a $30 billion a year industry, and online poker was quickly becoming a larger share of that pie with an estimated 10 million US citizens, or roughly 3% of the population, having tried their hand at the online card game.

They thought it was only a passing fad; the unscrupulous lobbyists needed a stop-gap measure in order to come up with plans to infiltrate this multi-billion dollar industry. UIGEA was their chosen tactic. Fortunately for us all, the casino lobbyists – with their underhanded tactics, deceptions, and attempts to infringe upon the rights of American citizens to engage in legal activities in the privacy of their own homes – have failed miserably.

UIGEA a Minor Inconvenience

Luckily there are plenty of reputable, offshore-regulated sites that still provide games to Americans like you. For example, Bovada is legal! While the UIGEA has proven to be an irritation to them, particularly as regards being able to conduct real money transactions with U.S. residents, its bark has proven to be much worse than its bite. Innovative payment solutions, like Bitcoin, have enabled international gaming sites to perform an end run around the moribund financial services industry.

If you're interested in our recommendations for the best U.S.A. online poker sites, then check out the following operators:

  1. Ignition Casino - Top overall pick due to providing the most cash games and the best mobile software.
  2. - Second place offers excellent Mac software and a superb mobile client as well.
  3. Bovada - Same poker games as Ignition but with a sportsbook and racebook attached.
  4. Intertops - 36% rakeback paid daily and frequent freerolls is their claim to fame.
  5. BetOnline - A large Bad Beat Jackpot and weekly cash and SNG leaderboards await you.
  6. America's Cardroom - Offers seven-figure guaranteed tournaments some Sundays.
  7. Juicy Stakes - Plenty of promotions and tournament overlays.
  8. BlackChip Poker - 27% rakeback and high tournament traffic.
  9. SWC Poker - The only site offering mixed games, Badugi, Badeucy, et cetera.
  10. Nitrogensports - Bitcoin denominated games with completely anonymous accounts.

Online Gaming Court Cases

We've gone over some of the important legislation that could intersect with real money online poker and have concluded that there's little to worry about at least from the perspective of the everyday player. Now let's examine a few of the court cases where these laws – and others – have been put to the test. Almost always, what the courts say takes precedence over what the Department of Justice and prosecutors think.

In Re: Mastercard

In one of the earliest decisions that tried to clarify the scope of the Wire Act, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals made a judgment in the 2002 case In Re Mastercard.[12] This situation involved a couple of online gamblers who felt that because their debts were accrued whilst engaging in illegal gambling, they didn't have to pay MasterCard back for the charges they had made.

A lower court dismissed the case, ruling that the debts were valid and had to be paid off. Upon appeal, the court of appeals for the 5th circuit upheld this decision. Pointing out that the types of gambling the plaintiffs participated in did not include sports betting, the court wrote:

Because the Wire Act does not prohibit non-sports internet gambling, any debts incurred in connection with such gambling are not illegal.

There are no two ways of reading that statement. It's an explicit ruling that the Wire Act is concerned only with sports gambling.

Lyons Case

The Lyons case from 2014[13] is worthy of mention because the First Circuit Court of Appeals found the defendants guilty of Wire Act and UIGEA infractions but nevertheless explained that the Wire Act only dealt with sports betting. What happened was that two men were convicted of booking sports bets across international boundaries from customers within the United States. They appealed arguing that the government had failed to establish that the wagers they accepted involved sports.

The court disagreed with them and found that it was clear from the evidence presented that the defendants had committed the crimes alleged. “The Wire Act applies only to 'wagers on any sporting event or contest,' that is, sports betting,” the court elaborated and then explained that such wagers were exactly what the accused were facilitating.

As an aside, what got Todd Lyons (for whom the case was named) and his co-defendant Daniel Eremian in trouble was that they were conducting their illicit business while located within the United States. This is what allowed the police to search their belongings and property in the first place and build a case against them. Had they chosen instead to avoid setting foot within the country, they likely would have gotten off scot free.

Kentucky Tilts at Windmills

In September 2008, Kentucky moved to seize more than 100 domain names of sites that it claimed were offering illegal gambling to its residents. They were some of the biggest names in the industry at that time, including such recognizable websites as, Full, and

After initial partial victories for Kentucky in lower-level courts, reversals at higher tribunals, questions about standing, appeals, and other legal minutiae, those cases were settled in favor of the gaming sites[14] in 2014 without any criminal wrong-doing admitted by any parties.

In another case involving The Bluegrass State, the authorities attempted to use an old law that provides for the recovery of triple damages for gambling losses to punish PokerStars. These legal proceedings began in 2010 and appeared to be successful with 'Stars ordered to turn over a whopping $870+ million in December 2015.

However, after delving into the complex history of the state's Loss Recovery Act, which goes all the way back to the English Statute of Queen Anne in 1710, the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed this judgment.[15] Among the reasons given by the court for overturning this verdict was the fact that the Commonwealth of Kentucky was endeavoring to collect damages based upon gambling losses suffered by residents of Kentucky without naming a single specific Kentuckian who had lost money at PokerStars. The entire action was dismissed.

Sportingbet Chairman Extradition Affair

In September 2009, Peter Dicks, chairman of the U.K.-based Sportingbet brand was traveling through New York when customs officials discovered that there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest from Louisiana. He was being charged with gambling by computer, which is a felony in Louisiana, despite the fact that he was not present within the state at the time this crime was alleged to have been committed.

Dicks was detained in New York, and Louisiana requested his extradition. However, Governor of New York George Pataki declined to extradite him to Louisiana.

Peter Dicks Peter Dicks of Sportingbet Was Detained on Gambling-Related Charges But Was Soon Released

According to the rules governing extradition, a person can only be remanded to the custody of a state requesting extradition if his supposed crimes took place within that state.[16]

Since Peter Dicks was not suspected of gambling-related violations while present in Louisiana, New York had no obligation to hand him over, and he was set free.

This incident shows the limitations of prosecutorial power when trying to penalize representatives of offshore sports betting outfits. When we consider that the rules against online poker, if they exist at all, are much less strict and that the penalties for individual players, again if they exist at all, are much less serious than for the principals of gambling businesses, we can see how troublesome it would be for officials to bring charges against citizens for playing poker online.

Black Friday Indictments

The law enforcement crackdown that perhaps looms largest in the minds of USA poker players is the Black Friday events of April 15, 2011.[17]

This is when three of the biggest online poker sites were shut down, leading to consternation and financial distress among a large part of the American poker playing community whose account balances were frozen.

Notice of Domain Seizure by the Department of Justice Message Shown to Visitors of the Seized Poker Websites on Black Friday

PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute/UltimateBet were the three sites targeted. Their websites were seized and takedown notices were displayed. Federal charges involving the UIGEA and banking fraud were levied against these companies and their executives.

Full Tilt and Absolute/Ultimatebet soon closed shortly thereafter while PokerStars remained in operation though it stopped accepting American customers. Later, as part of a settlement it reached with the DoJ, 'Stars purchased Full Till and revived the brand.

The events of April 2011 serve as potentially the most valid counterexample to our contention that internet poker is completely legal for the average Joe to play. After all, many players saw their funds seized, and it took several years before they were made whole. Though no online poker customer was charged with any crime as a part of Black Friday, having a substantial portion of one's bankroll seized is no laughing matter despite all these funds eventually being repaid.

More Online Gaming Crackdowns to Come?

When we dig beneath the surface, we see strong indications that the Black Friday indictments were a one-off that's unlikely to be repeated. First of all, the feds lucked out when they were able to use the threat of a long prison sentence to turn payment processing guru Daniel Tzvetkoff into their informant. Tzvetkoff spilled the beans on how offshore gaming sites were circumventing banking rules to bypass the UIGEA.

He wouldn't have been able to tell prosecutors anything much, though, if the poker rooms had been wise enough to avoid the U.S. banking system. Indeed, a major part of the government's case was that these operations were committing fraud by miscoding transactions for gambling as though they were other types of transactions, like clothing purchases.

Nowadays, offshore internet poker providers basically have nothing to do with U.S. banks. Instead, they send checks out of Canada or employ difficult-to-trace payment mechanisms, like Bitcoin. Therefore, the specific methods used to gather evidence in the run-up to Black Friday would likely be of little help to any bureaucrat dreaming of setting into motion a Black Friday 2.0.

Another key point is that the UIGEA was invoked in the first place because of the Department of Justice's mistaken insistence that the Wire Act covered poker games: a position that we have already exposed as fallacious. Not only do we in the offshore gaming industry feel that the DoJ's position was in error, but also many prominent individuals in the political scene, like former New York Senator Alfonse D'Amato, have expressed their view that the Black Friday legal actions were unwarranted.[18] Curiously, less than half a year after BF, the DoJ acknowledged that the Wire Act only applied to sports wagering although it has since flip-flopped on this subject again.

In short, the combination of poor industry practices and obfuscatory legal mumbo-jumbo that made Black Friday possible is not a favorite to repeat itself. While we cannot say 100% that the government will never try to shut down online poker sites again, it has been close to a decade now without an encore performance from the powers that be.

We therefore feel confident enough in the current environment to recommend trustworthy USA-friendly online poker rooms to our customers, and we're secure enough in the knowledge that our money is safe that we ourselves hold real money balances at all the sites we represent.

Poker: Skill Versus Luck

Another factor that comes into play with regard to the legality of poker is the debate as to whether it's predominantly a game of skill or luck. This is relevant because many of the state laws that prohibit certain kinds of gambling do so only for those games that are deemed to be mostly luck-based. This is why, for instance, athletes can compete for real money prizes even where gambling is strictly prohibited: Their endeavors are deemed to be contests of skill and thus exempt from most gambling laws.

We here at ProfessionalRakeback are not just advocates of internet poker; we're also avid players ourselves. It should come as no surprise then that we're firmly of the opinion that poker is unequivocally a game of skill although there are undoubtedly elements of luck involved particularly in short-term results.

We are not the only ones with such an interpretation. For example, in a long and detailed 120-page ruling, a Federal Judge elucidated that poker is a game of skill[19] and therefore not gambling or subject to laws about gambling.

Jack B. Weinstein Respected Jurist Jack B. Weinstein Ruled That Poker Is a Game of Skill

In other words, this Federal Judge ruled from the bench that poker should be treated as a skill game. A highly respected law firm hired by a D.C. lobbying group, Poker Player's Alliance (now called the Poker Alliance), also agrees that it is a skill game in this white paper.[20]

State-Licensed Online Poker Rooms

There's another type of online poker room that has emerged in the past decade: operations that have the full approval of state authorities in several parts of the country that have passed legislation specifically to achieve this. Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey already have licensed interactive poker organizations that have been running now for years. Pennsylvania and Michigan are newer entrants to the scene. West Virginia and Connecticut have enacted the necessary laws and are just waiting for the appropriate regulatory regimes to be set up and for companies to receive licenses.

There are certain advantages to these state-regulated i-poker organizations. Customers have a ready remedy in case of any malfeasance on the part of site management because they can complain to the local regulatory authority. Moreover, there tend to be convenient deposit and cashout methods, like PayPal, that are unavailable when dealing with offshore poker providers.

However, there's a downside too. Because the USA market for state-legalized poker is a small one, total player counts and therefore traffic at the tables is small. You won't see the bustling cash game lobbies or big-money tournament guarantees that are commonplace at international internet poker destinations.

Three states – Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey – have sought to remediate this situation by forming a compact amongst themselves to allow users in each state to access the same pool of tables and tournaments as those located in the other states. However, the effectiveness of this arrangement is limited because there's only a single operator that transacts in all three states and is therefore eligible to benefit from it. Michigan's impending entry into this agreement is expected to reinvigorate it.

Internet Gaming Compact Members The Three States That Have Agreed to Pool Their Online Poker Traffic

There's little chance that this limited form of interstate poker will have to come to an end because the Department of Justice lost the court case where it argued that such interstate poker arrangements are illegal. With this legal uncertainty resolved in favor of online gaming operators, the existing traffic-sharing compact may wind up attracting new adherents, like Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and/or Connecticut.

Despite the many attempts to legally shutter the vibrant online poker ecosystem in the United States, our favorite game is still available to play over the internet for real money, and this doesn't seem like it's going to change any time soon. Indeed, there are indications that we're seeing a renaissance in the field with shifting opinions both on the part of legal professionals and the lay public as a whole.

Pennsylvania legalized poker over the internet in October 2017, and West Virginia passed an online gambling bill in March 2019. Then in December 2019, they were joined by Michigan where Governor Whitmer signed internet real money gaming legislation in December 2019. May 2021 meanwhile saw Connecticut jump into internet casinos and poker with HB6451. These are the first new legalized online poker states after a hiatus of about half a decade since the initial roster of Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.

This thesis is bolstered even more by the decision in Murphy vs. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) [21] in 2018 which ruled in favor of New Jersey's governor, Phil Murphy, with regard to striking down PASPA (The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act[22]). Some legal scholars contended that this was the last possible Federal law that could have been construed to make sports betting, as well as online gambling in general, illegal. Now stricken down, the floodgates have opened, and as of 2020, over a dozen US states have moved forward with legislation allowing online gambling in several forms.

Supreme Court Judges in 2018 Supreme Court Justices at the Time of the Landmark Murphy Decision

It's hard to imagine a world in which sports betting – undeniably a form of gambling – flourishes with the blessing of state officials while skill-based online poker is given short shrift. Thus, we conclude that the Murphy decision, OKing sports betting in whichever states want it, augurs well for the future of online poker in America.


The legalities of internet poker in the United States are not exactly clear-cut or straightforward. There have been a lot of setbacks over the years as well as unexpected victories for partisans of the game.

Throughout all of these legal maneuverings, however, one thing is abundantly clear. There are no punishments for ordinary players who frequent offshore poker sites. This has remained the case for decades, and it is as true now as it ever was.

If you feel the desire to boot up your PC and play a few rounds of poker, you have nothing to fear from a legal perspective. For more information on how to get started in this entertaining, and potentially profitable, pursuit, check out our guide to the best USA online poker sites.

Or click on one of the links below to go directly to the reputable online poker destination that most appeals to you:

» Ignition = Most Games
» = Weekly Leaderboards
» Bovada = Ignition Poker Traffic + Sportsbook
» Intertops = Fantastic Promos
» BetOnline = Bad Beat Jackpot
» Americas Cardroom = Big Tourneys
» Juicy Stakes = Rake Races + Reloads
» BlackChip Poker = 27% RB + Multiple Cryptos
» SwCPoker = Mixed Games
» Nitrogen = Bitcoin Poker

Frequently Asked Questions

In order to shed more light on the phenomenon of legal USA online poker, we have compiled below a selection of questions and answers pertaining to this topic.

Yes, although the companies that run the games are sometimes subject to the whims of overzealous government officials, you as an ordinary player are completely safe. To date, no one has ever been arrested, charged, imprisoned, or fined for enjoying online card games as a private citizen. As long as you're not managing, working for, or owning an illegal gambling enterprise, you can play without fear of the long arm of the government.

No, in fact, it has become fairly easy to move money around for internet poker. It's our opinion (backed up by most legal scholars) that the UIGEA does not prohibit transactions for online poker because it is not a form of illegal gambling. Nevertheless, some banks and other financial institutions block such transactions because they hold the erroneous view that they are illegal. Fortunately, there are alternative payment mechanisms that work just fine, from Bitcoin at the top of the list through prepaid debit cards and money transfer services. Whatever your personal situation, it's almost a given that there's one or more payment channels that you can employ for your online poker needs. Even many credit cards work notwithstanding that their issuers hold a grim view of online poker.

No, despite the fact that many legal researchers feel that online poker is totally above-board, the U.S. government believes otherwise. It has put pressure on international poker operators to not offer games to U.S. citizens. Therefore, many of the biggest rooms are now closed to Americans. You cannot play at PokerStars, PartyPoker, 888poker, Winamax, or the iPoker Network from within the United States apart from limited exceptions in regulated online poker states. There are a number of USA-friendly poker rooms, though, including Ignition Poker, Bovada, Americas Cardroom, and BetOnline. We encourage you to read our page about the leading internet poker sites for Americans to learn more about these organizations.

The most common poker game online is No Limit Texas Hold'em, which you will encounter in both cash game and tournament form. Pot Limit Omaha is the next most popular, and you will be able to find enough action to keep you happy unless you like to play multiple tables simultaneously for high stakes. If you're a devotee of more niche gaming variants, like Limit Hold'em, 7 Card Stud, or Limit Omaha/8, then the pickings are much slimmer; yet, there are still a couple of rooms that spread these formats.

Yes, you must report your income from internet poker to the federal authorities and pay whatever taxes you owe on it. Depending on the laws in your state, you may be liable for state taxes also.

Some may question why individuals must pay federal income tax on an activity that the government, or at least some parts of it, believe is illegal. But there's nothing surprising about this. The Internal Revenue Service expects to collect its share of illicitly acquired income from bribes, theft, and all kinds of other unsavory crimes[23]. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that they would also want to claim their share of your internet poker wins.

None of the offshore gaming sites that serve the United States provide win/loss or other tax documentation. This means it's up to you to keep track of your gaming income and report it honestly to the authorities.


  2. - testimony starts at around 1h 25m
  4. - quoted at 11m 15s.

None of the information on this web page should be construed as legal advice. While Professional Rakeback does its best to provide accurate and up to date information, new local, state, and federal legislation is being written, proposed, voted on, and passed into law constantly. It is ultimately the responsibility of the consumer to thoroughly research and comply with the laws in their particular jurisdiction.