It is sometimes said that online poker is unsafe. There is a reason that some have this perception, but in most cases, this is simply not true. Online poker is not a dangerous game.
Of course, there are sites that players should avoid, and that is why sites like ours takes the time to recommend the safest sites for US players. Our experience in and knowledge of the industry is what sets us apart from other “online poker review” sites. We won’t steer you in the wrong direction.
The perception of poker online as unsafe comes from a confusing history of US laws, created by legislators who usually did not have a complete grasp of poker as a skill game or the technology that can be used to make games online safe.
Nevada was the first state in America to officially legalize online poker. It was done to enable players within the physical borders of Nevada to play at sites that were licensed by the state, and geolocation technology was used to verify the location of those players. If they tried to access the site from outside the borders, they could only sign up for a site but not play real-money poker online. Once their IP address showed up inside Nevada, they were allowed to play. It worked, and there were no reports of people outside of Nevada playing on the sites. Delaware did the same thing, as did New Jersey. The latter did it on a more massive scale, with numerous different online poker and casino sites licensed for players only in New Jersey, and its geolocation technology worked, too. Pennsylvania will be using the same system when its sites go live in 2019.
In addition, the states with legal online poker also have regulations in place requiring the licensed sites to keep player funds separate from operating monies, meaning player funds are always safe, even if an operator faces mismanagement or fraud. Many online poker sites – even ones offshore, like the ones we recommend here – do the same, but the US regulated market makes it a requirement. This is yet another example of how regulation protects consumers.
If the US government passed a federal law to regulate online poker, it would have the same effect but work for all of the sites available to US players. This would be the safest way to protect the millions of Americans who want to play online poker.
Until that happens, the options for US players are limited. The four states with legal US poker have more options for their players, but there are several offshore sites that are safe for American players. Their many years of experience have shown them to be trustworthy, and they do maintain industry standards set by the regulators that issue their licenses, though they are currently outside of the US. We list the top recommendations for you here.
Top 3 Safest Online Poker Sites for US Players
1. IgnitionPoker.eu (previously known as Bovada/Bodog) –Ignition Casino/Poker is operated by Morris Mohawk Gaming Group, which essentially was built by Bodog. The company was owned by a large Canadian bookie, but it was sold to a larger operation – Morris Mohawk Gaming Group, which is based on the Kahnawake reservation in Quebec, Canada. While Bodog became a part of the Pai Wang Luo Poker Network, Ignition did as well, which means Ignition players pool with Bodog/Bovada players to create a larger player pool with more games and tournaments. The names involved here have been synonymous with reliability and safety, as players have never been defrauded, cheated, or scammed from any sites on this network. We have every confidence that this site will remain focused on serving its customers honorably. Withdraws are usually the fastest in the industry taking 2-10 days depending on the method, and there are several methods by which to deposit funds. Ignition’s customer service is also easy to deal with and very helpful.
2. Betonline.ag –Since BetOnline operates out of Panama they can legally accept players from almost every state in the United States, unlike Ignition Poker. Because of ambiguous US laws, the owner has remained anonymous so far, but the site has a long history of paying players on time and offering games that are free of bots and cheaters. It is one of the most trusted US poker sites on the internet today, and it continues to become more popular as players discover its soft games and ever-growing available poker options. The site also caters to a variety of players and offers multiple deposit and withdrawal options, with some like Bitcoin being the fastest and others like eChecks taking up to two weeks.
3. PokerStars.com – PokerStars has long been known as the most trusted (and largest) online poker site in the world. While it was ousted from the US market on Black Friday in April 2011, it made reparations and peace with the US government since that time. Not long after the New Jersey poker market opened up, PokerStars underwent a thorough investigation by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement and obtained a license there. It has also applied for a license in Pennsylvania. PokerStars is making its slow but certain comeback to the US market, which is great for players because of its stellar reputation for safety and security. The site is even more careful than ever before because it wants to obtain entry into many more regulated markets, so PokerStars adheres to the letter of every law. For players who can access PokerStars, it is highly recommended. For those yet unable to play on PokerStars, be patient, as it will be an option when the US market opens up even further.
Who to Avoid?
There are several online poker networks and sites that have gone out of business, but any sites claiming any type of association with them should be avoided at all costs. Lock Poker was on the Revolution Gaming Network, and while they seem to have disappeared (with all of the players’ money), any sign of them returning should send players running in the other direction. Full Flush Poker was another that shut down in 2016. It was part of the Equity Poker Network, another name that should be avoided.
Any sites on the Merge Gaming Network are not recommended. Carbon Poker is the most popular of the three major poker sites connected to Merge, but Players Only and Sportsbook.ag are also on the network. Not only have the sites increased their fees for transactions in the past year, payout times have increased to anywhere from two weeks to several months, with some players complaining that they have been refused payments. In addition, Carbon Poker has been shown to ban winning players. Finally, there are not even any bonus incentives to bring new players to the sites. Most players have left these sites or are in the process of doing so.
If there are sites that you find appealing but don’t see them recommended here, feel free to contact us for information. Another place to look for information is the popular online poker forums, where players tend to take their complaints about sites and post their bad experiences.
Are US Poker Sites Safe to Play at?
If you’re talking about sites licensed in American states? Absolutely. Those sites include PokerStars, 888poker, PartyPoker, Pala Poker, and WSOP run by Caesars.
If you’re referring to offshore sites, it depends. The ones we recommended above and in other places on our site are not only safe, but licensed, experienced, and proven to be trustworthy. The two that have always been at the top of our list are Ignition Poker and BetOnline.ag.