How to Play Online Poker in the United States
Online poker has had a rocky history in the United States, but it’s reemerged from the ashes and now you can play across the country.
Online poker popped up at the start of the millennium and exploded after 2003 when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker for $2 million dollars after qualifying for just $40 on PokerStars. That win sparked the Moneymaker Boom, an explosion of online poker in the United States.
Things kept growing until the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling pushed some sites, like Party Poker, out of the United States and left the rest of the market in ambiguous legal limbo. Then Black Friday made things pretty clear.
The Department of Justice seized the domain names of PokerStars, FullTilt, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, charged more than a dozen people with felonies and fined the sites billions of dollars.
Poker entered a dark area after that. Professional online players were forced to leave the country to keep playing or were forced to transition to live poker. But then in 2012, a federal judge ruled that poker was a game of skill, not chance. This opened the door for states to start legalizing poker.
As of March 2020, six states have legalized online poker and several others are in the process. But no matter where you are in the United States, you can now fire up your computer or phone and start playing online poker.
Check out your local state online poker laws
The first thing you should do is check your local state laws to see if online poker has been regulated by the local state legislature. This will determine what sites you can play on. Some sites let you play across the United States sites while others are available in certain states.
We’ve been keeping up to date on online poker regulations here, so click down on your state to see where online poker stands:
Alabama – Arizona – Arkansas – California – Colorado – Connecticut – Georgia – Idaho – Iowa – Kansas – Maine – Maryland – Massachusetts – Michigan – Mississippi – Montana – Nebraska – New Hampshire – New Mexico – North Carolina – North Dakota – Ohio – Oklahoma – Pennsylvania – Rhode Island – South Carolina – Tennessee – Vermont – West Virginia – Wyoming
Nevada, not surprisingly, was the first state to offer online poker after Black Friday. After that, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania all followed suit and now have regulated online poker markets up and running.
West Virginia and Michigan also legalized online poker but don’t have any sites up-and-running yet.
If you’re in a state with regulated online poker…
So, you’re in a state that’s ahead of the curve and has a fully legalized online poker market. The first thing you want to do is see what sites are live in your state.
Despite being the first state to legalize online poker, Nevada just has one site, WSOP Online. Nevada is also part of a shared player pool too, so you can play with players in New Jersey and Delaware.
- World Series of Poker Online
New Jersey has the most online poker sites to choose from. It was the first state to have PokerStars and Party Poker software. Other casinos have also launched their own sites. New Jersey players are also part of the shared player pool so they can play with players from Nevada and Delaware.
- PokerStars NJ
- WSOP / 888Poker NJ
- Party / Borgata Poker
- BetMGM Poker
- Pala Poker
Delaware is a tiny state, but it has some online poker options. While there are three sites offering online poker, they all run 888 Poker software. That means that no matter what site you play, you’ll be playing with the same player pool as WSOP Online players in Nevada and New Jersey.
- Delaware Park
- Dover Downs
- Harrington Raceway
Pennsylvania is the newest state to have legal online poker sites. There is currently one site going, but several others have been approved and are in the pipeline. Soon Pennsylvania will soon have sites like Party Poker PA, WSOP Online, Sugar House, betMGM, Penn National, Parx Casino and Wind Creek Casino. Pennsylvania is the most populous state to launch online poker, but they have yet to join the shared player pool with Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.
- PokerStars PA
Michigan and West Virginia
Online poker has been legalized, but the sites aren’t live yet. We’ll tell you when they are.
If You’re in a Different State…
Not in one of the states mentioned above? Don’t worry, you can still fire up a game of online poker. There are plenty of sites open to all US players and we’ve helped you out by doing an in-depth review of all of them. Check out our top sites below:
Having trouble picking out a site? Then check out our guide on how to pick a site that’s perfect for you.
Pick a screen name
Great. You found a site, now it’s time to decide how you’re going to present yourself to the world. You can’t change your screen name, so make sure you pick one that you don’t mind sticking by for the rest of your poker career. If you ever go pro, chances are people will know you by your screen name first. Big players like Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier and Tom “durrrr” Dwan are now forever linked with their screen names.
Deposit some money
When you find a site, the next thing you have to do is put some money in it. Luckily, it’s never been easier to deposit money onto poker sites. There are a number of options for you to deposit:
- Credit cards
- Wire transfer
Most sites accept most major credit cards like Visa and Mastercard and e-wallets include popular sites like PayPal and Neteller. Wire transfers require more details from your bank account and usually take longer than the other options.
Cryptocurrencies have also been growing in popularity as a way to fund online poker accounts. You can check out more details in our guide on the best ways to deposit from the United States.
Take Advantage of Sign Up Bonuses
Sign-up bonuses are a new player’s best friend. Sites literally give you hundreds of dollars for free when you sign up. Make sure you see what bonuses the site you’re signing up for has and don’t forget to use the right bonus code. For more information, head on over to our bonus section to check out some of the best bonuses out there.
Brush up on your online poker skills
The next thing you want to do is be at the top of your game so you can start crushing the table. If you’re new to the game, we recommend checking out our poker guide and also playing a few freerolls. As the name implies, freerolls are free to enter, but if you do well enough you can win a little bit of cash to get your bankroll started.
Hit the Tables!
Congratulations. You’ve picked your site, you got a killer screen name and your account is fully funded. It’s time to stop reading and time to start hitting the tables. Good luck out there!