Online Poker in Texas: Legal Sites in 2021

Texas, the birthplace of NLHE

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Yes, it’s perfectly safe to play online poker games, in Texas. While the state legislature has yet to pass any regulation concerning online poker, there are plenty of perfectly safe sites that accept poker players from all across the United States, including Texas.

These sites are licensed and regulated outside the United States and accept those from all over the world to play poker (whether it’s free poker games or real money poker). This means you can safely play on them from San Antonio all the way up to Amarillo, from Houston all the way to Fort Bliss.

There are no laws banning players from playing online poker, the only thing online poker legislation would do would be to allow the state to run Texas-specific online card rooms like there are in New Jersey and Nevada. These would be licensed and regulated by the state of Texas and only accept players from within the state unless they join an interstate compact with other states that legalized online poker rooms.

Best Online Poker Sites in Texas

Texas is a big old state with a number of sites to choose from if you’re looking to play online poker there. Here’s a list of our favorites:

Ignition

$2000 Bonus

Rating: 5/5

Min Deposit $20

2500+ Players

Rating: 5/5

$2000 Bonus - Rating: 5/5
BetOnline

$2000 Bonus

Rating: 4.9/5

Min Deposit $25

1000+ Players

Rating: 4.9/5

$2000 Bonus - Rating: 4.9/5
Bovada.lv

$500 Bonus

Rating: 4.7/5

Min Deposit $20

2500+ Players

Rating: 4.7/5

$500 Bonus - Rating: 4.7/5
Intertops

$1000 Bonus

Rating: 4.6/5

Min Deposit $25

900+ Players

Rating: 4.6/5

$1000 Bonus - Rating: 4.6/5
SportsBetting.ag

$2500 Bonus

Rating: 4.5/5

Min Deposit $20

1000+ Players

Rating: 4.5/5

$2500 Bonus - Rating: 4.5/5
America's Cardroom

$2000 Bonus

Rating: 4.4/5

Min Deposit $25

1500+ Players

Rating: 4.4/5

$2000 Bonus - Rating: 4.4/5
Black Chip Poker

$1000 Bonus

Rating: 4.3/5

Min Deposit $25

1500+ Players

Rating: 4.3/5

$1000 Bonus - Rating: 4.3/5

If you want to know more about each of these sites, their deposit bonuses, poker tournaments they run, and more, just check out our reviews page for more details and how we conduct our poker reviews.

Latest Texas Online Poker News

Texas is a pretty strict state when it comes to gambling, but it looks like it’s warming up to the idea of expanding gaming in 2021. In late 2020, Las Vegas gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson expressed his support to legalize land-based casinos throughout the state. There have also been steps in the right direction when it comes to sports betting. While there hasn’t been talk of online poker regulation, any move that expands gaming bodes well for online poker.

According to Legal Sports Report, Texas officials have been talking to lobbyists and other states that have legalized online sports betting. Local sports team owners have also expressed interest in legal sports betting. It’s never a bad thing to have Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks on your side. The owners behind the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Cowboys are also expressing interest. Texas has more professional sports teams than most states in the United States and they draw in billions of dollars in revenue every year. Not only are these teams financial bonanzas for states, but they also have millions and millions of fans. Anything with this kind of widespread support throughout the state would be hard for legislators to avoid for long.

Texas is a historically Republican state and that’s good for the push behind land-based casinos. Sheldon Adelson, a Republican mega-donor who died in January 2021 and donated billions to Republicans throughout his life and had a huge influence in the party, was a big proponent of opening up casinos in Texas. During the 2020 election cycle, he donated more than $4.5 million to Texas House Republicans running up for reelection. He also hired several lobbyists to descend on the state and push his casino agenda. While Adelson died on Jan. 11, 2021, several Republicans have already heard his pitch on expanding gaming in Texas and it could have an impact in the next few years.

On top of that, states all over the board are looking for new sources of revenue and jobs to help state coffers that were decimated by the coronavirus pandemic. This combined with other states around the country providing plenty of working programs that the state could draw inspiration from. If you see casinos and online sports betting takes hold in Texas, there’s a good chance that poker could be next on the docket.

Gambling and Online Poker Laws in Texas

Historically Texas has been a pretty strict state when it comes to gambling. Despite all the scenes of lone rangers bursting through a dingy tavern to reveal piano music, whiskey a few brawls and tables filled with salacious, mustachioed and mysterious figures all trying to out-do each other in cards. But somewhere along the line, the Wild West turned into a very rules-oriented and restrictive state when it comes to gambling.

You can find the current laws and their breakdown right here:

Legal Definitions and Gambling Laws in Texas
Texas Gambling Laws In Texas, gambling is legislated under the following penal and civil codes:

PEN.10.47; CIV.6

Legal Definition of Gambling Every state has its own definition of what exactly entails gambling. In Texas, that definition is:

A person commits an offense if he makes a bet on the partial or final result of a game or contest or on the performance of a participant in a game or contest; makes a bet on the result of any political nomination, appointment, or election or on the degree of success of any nominee, appointee, or candidate; or plays and bets for money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.

Legal Definition of Gambling Device Since Texas’s definition of gambling relies heavily on the word “gambling device”, that must also be legally defined. In Texas, that definition is as follows:

Any electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical contrivance that for a consideration affords the player an opportunity to obtain anything of value, the award of which is determined solely or partially by chance, even though accompanied by some skill, whether or not the prize is automatically paid by the contrivance. The term includes, but is not limited to, gambling device versions of bingo, keno, blackjack, lottery, roulette, video poker, or similar electronic, electromechanical, or mechanical games, or facsimiles thereof.
Legal Definition of Bet Now we get even more granular. The most basic element of gambling is the bet. If there’s no betting, there’s no gambling. So here’s Texas’s legal definition of a bet:

An agreement to win or lose something of value solely or partially by chance.

History of Gambling and Poker in Texas

Texas is of course the birthplace of the most popular form of poker in the world – Texas Hold’em poker. It’s also home to some of the most legendary players to ever hit the tables. There’s no official record or consensus on how exactly Texas Hold’em started, there’s a general idea of when and where it got started. It’s thought that Texas Hold’em originated in the early 1900s in Texas.

In 2013 the Texas State Legislature officially recognized Robstown, Texas as the birthplace of Texas Hold’em. Robstown is a city of just about 12,000 people in western Texas. While lots of places list Robstown on the Texas Hold’em birth certificate, there aren’t any photos, documents or details on the first table where the first hand of Texas No-Limit Hold’em was played.

We’d like to imagine it was a dusty-booted cowboy game in a dim-lit tavern and was a wild twist some cowboy drunk on whiskey decided would spice up the game. We’d also like to thank that mystery cowboy for creating a game that exploded to become the most popular card game in the world.

Robstown, Texas

Robstown, Texas

After the game started spreading and records started improving. The first recorded Las Vegas cardroom to offer Texas Hold’em was California Club in 1963. The game quickly spread there and continued growing and growing. It became the first game to determine the World Series of Poker Main Event Champion in 1971, since poker players voted for the first champion in 1970.

The game’s second big explosion was after the aptly-named Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event for $2.25 million after qualifying for just $86 online. Moneymaker was the first player to qualify to the WSOP Main Event through an online poker site and set off the biggest poker boom the world has seen. Online poker quickly expanded into a multibillion-dollar business with players from all over the globe.

But while the main form of poker was born in Texas during the Wild West days when outlaws like Billy the Kid, the state started veering in the complete opposite direction when Prohibition came along in the 1920s.

There were a few local governments in Texas that started outlawing gambling, alcohol and other vices before that, but when the 18th amendment was ratified in 1919. The amendment notably outlaws alcohol in the United States, reading:

After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all the territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

The law is also known to have failed spectacularly. Instead of reducing crime, it sprouted up a giant network of trafficking, organized crime and pushed millions into underground taverns and speakeasies. It’s no surprise that it was such a colossal failure they had to pass another amendment to rescind it. On Dec 5, 1933, after more than a decade of prohibition madness, Congress ratified the 21st amendment to repeal the 18th.

It was simple and blunt:

SECTION 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

But nearly 14 years of prohibition had burrowed the concept of outlawing vices deep into the psyche of legislators around the country. Many local and state governments continued with this kind of legislation. This included Texas, which till this day has some of the most restrictive gambling laws in the United States.

There wasn’t a strong advocate for gambling for a few more decades until Virgil Edward “Red” Berry entered the scene. Berry was a businessman, prolific gambler and was later elected to the Texas House of Representatives on a platform of legalizing parimutuel betting on horse races.

Despite being elected on that platform, Red Berry’s proposal initially didn’t get a lot of support from the rest of the legislature. Berry, who once had his own casino raided by police, proposed a number of wild solutions including splitting Texas in half and having betting be legal in South Texas.

There were even multiple referendums to try and expand gambling throughout the 60s and 70s, but they were defeated with the help of the Baptist Church. But Texans finally broke through and got parimutuel betting legalized in 1987. Some tribal casinos have also popped up in the state limits, but these are sovereign territories and not indicative of Texas laws.

There have been some other sneaky workarounds. There are casino cruises that leave Texas and then allow gambling on international waters. Texas also passed a national lottery in 1992, a little late to the game, but it’s grown substantially in that time. In 2020 Texas saw a whopping $6.7 billion in sales.

We hope we’ll be able to add more gambling developments in the state of Texas soon.

Famous Texas Poker Players

Doyle Brunson

Doyle Brunson knows a thing about the power of position

There’s no shortage of top-notch poker players from the state that gave birth to Texas No-Limit Hold’em. Currently, the top 15 players from Texas with the highest-earning tournament players from Texas are:

1st: Thomas John Cloutier – $10,443,473
2nd: Benjamin Tollerene – $9,515,346
3rd: David Williams – $8,788,464
4th: Keith Tilston – $6,417,409
5th: Doyle Brunson – $6,176,736
6th: William Perkins – $5,449,472
7th: Michael Dyer – $4,704,987
8th: David Benefield – $4,501,376
9th: John Bonetti – $4,188,332
10th: Aaron VanBlarcum – $4,140,804
11th: Ray Qartomy – $3,809,188
12th: Brian Green – $3,426,520
13th: Peter Vilandos – $3,261,787
14th: Adam Geyer – $3,186,599
15th: Phillip Hui – $3,121,761

State-by-State Laws

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