Online poker is a popular game for gamblers of all types. The world of online poker is rapidly changing. New games and new online poker sites are launched regularly. Players in the USA have lots of options to choose from.
Presently, just four states have legal and licensed online casino gambling. They are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Nevada. In these states, players will find free online poker as well as real money poker.
Outside of these states, players can play legal online poker at sweepstakes casinos. Sweepstakes casinos get around state level gambling laws because they are technically sweepstakes contests.
However, players can still access all the classic casino games like online poker at sweepstakes casinos. The gameplay experience is the same as it is at other casinos. The main difference is that you can’t wager in the traditional sense. However, you can still win cash prizes. Free online poker is also available at all sweepstakes casinos.
Below we’ll break down the state of legal online poker in the USA. We’ll go over all the licensed options in legal states as well as sweepstakes casino options. Additionally, we’ll cover some poker basics and strategy.
Best Online Poker Sites
Overview in maintenance
Free Online Poker vs Online Poker Real Money
There’s a big difference between free online poker and real money poker. Obviously, one version of the game has some risk because players bet with real money. Consequently, player strategy is different for each type of poker.
In free online poker, there is no risk of losing money. As a result, players often play recklessly. Usually, players won’t fold in free online poker as long as there’s a slim chance they might win the hand. Free online poker gives no real incentive for players to play strategically.
Introduce some real money to online poker and things change quickly. Usually, it’s a bad move to play every hand when playing online poker for money. Sometimes folding is the best strategic move. Additionally, folding too often isn’t great either. This can make it easy for other players to predict your moves and exploit you.
The best move is to learn some basic poker strategy when playing online poker for money. We suggest that players learn how to play a position and analyze other player’s bets. It also helps to grasp a few concepts like odds and equity.
Free online poker is a great way to learn and practice. It’s a good tool for new and beginner players to hone their skills. However, online poker for real money is a much more exciting. Once you try it, you probably won’t want to go back to free online poker. You’ll still learn a lot with every hand you play in real money poker.
Legal Online Poker in the USA
Online poker is legal in the USA. However, laws are different for every US state. Today, a few states have legalized and licensed online casinos. Here, players can play online poker for money at real casinos.
Presently, there are four states with legal online casino gambling. They are Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. In each of these states, online casinos must partner with land-based casinos in each state.
Here’s a list of all the top online poker sites in these legal US states:
Additionally, more states are seeking to launch legal online poker soon. In fact, Michigan and West Virginia have already legalized the practice. However, it will take some time for these states to actually launch online casinos. You can expect legal online casinos in these states to launch by 2021.
A few legal US online gambling states share players for online poker. In Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, you might find yourself playing against players located outside your state.
Currently, only 888 Poker and World Series of Poker online poker rooms are involved with player sharing. On these online poker sites, you might play against out of state players. This can make for larger pots and bigger tournaments.
PA Online Poker Sites
Pennsylvania launched legal online casino gambling in 2019. This is still a relatively young industry in the state. Additionally, PA has launched legal online sportsbooks and legal online lottery.
Online poker is actually the most recent addition to the list of PA online gambling options. PokerStars was the first online poker site to launch in PA. It debuted in late 2019. More PA online poker sites are expected to launch soon. We expect World Series of Poker (WSOP) and PartyPoker to enter the fray in the next few months.
You can play free online poker or real money poker at PA online poker sites. Players can play poker online for money in a wide range of cash games and tournaments. However, Pennsylvania does not allow player sharing. You won’t be able to play online poker against players outside PA.
However, Pennsylvania has a relatively large population so this isn’t really an issue. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey all have much smaller populations than PA. Consequently, it pays for these states to share players.
Some of the top PA land-based casinos have online poker licenses. Presently, there are seven PA casinos with online poker licenses. A few major partnerships have already been announced. They include:
- Mount Airy Casino partnered with PokerStars
- Harrah’s Casino partnered with 888 Poker (WSOP branded)
- Valley Forge Casino partnered with PartyPoker
Legal Online Poker Sites in PA
PokerStars was the first legal online poker site to launch in the state of Pennsylvania. More online poker sites are planning to launch in the state very soon.
Many new PA online poker sites are now in the testing phase. They have launched in beta mode in order to work out bugs and get regulatory approval. These sites are regulated by the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board (PGCB) and must be fully approved before launching. Presently, the PGCB has said that it will not rush to get these sites online. Instead, the organization is focused on making sure everything works properly and aligns with the law.
Ultimately, we could see some new PA online poker sites launch by the end of this year. However, it could be a longer wait for certain sites.
Below you’ll find some info on PA online poker sites.
PokerStars has partnered with Mount Airy Resort and Casino to offer online poker in PA. In fact, players can use the cashier cage in the Mount Airy Casino to deposit and withdraw online funds.
PokerStars PA offers some excellent bonuses for new players. Sign up right now and you’re eligible to receive $30 in free cash with a $20 deposit. Additionally, you can get a 100% deposit match up to $600.
PokerStars is one of the biggest global online poker companies. Consequently, PokerStars has some of the best online poker software in the game right now. Players can access PokerStars on desktop web browsers, mobile web browsers, or even the PokerStars mobile app.
PokerStars offers some interesting twists on the classic poker formula. Players will find exciting poker variants like Zoom Poker and Spin and Go’s. Additionally, PokerStars offers some progressive knockout tournaments.
Click here to join PokerStars PA and unlock free cash bonus offers!
PA Online Poker Sites Launching Soon
WSOP.com / 888 Poker: This brand is another major player in the world of online poker. It uses the robust 888 Poker software with World Series of Poker branding. WSOP plans to partner with Harrah’s Casino in PA. However, unlike in Nevada and New Jersey, WSOP PA will not offer player sharing. WSOP will likely offer some exciting online poker tournaments as well as online poker real money games.
Party Poker PA: Party Poker is one of the original online poker providers. The company has been around the industry since the beginning. Consequently, Party Poker offers some of the best gameplay and most online poker options. Additionally, it offers lots of easy games for newcomers. In Pennsylvania, Party Poker will partner with the Valley Forge casino. Players will be able to deposit and withdraw online poker funds using the casino cage. New players at Party Poker will be eligible to receive some great bonuses. Check back here soon for more info on the Party Poker PA launch date.
Outside of these two major sites, there are a few other online poker companies coming to PA soon. However, the above sites will likely launch the soonest.
The Parx Casino has announced that it planes to launch an online poker room in partnership with GAN. This is new territory for Parx. However, it’s likely to be successful. The Parx Casino has a very active live poker room in its PA casino location.
Rush Street Interactive owns the SugarHouse and Rivers Casino in Pennsylvania. This large gambling company is also planning to launch online poker rooms via partnerships with both land-based PA casinos. Additionally, the Hollywood Casino in PA has proposed a new partnership with IGT to offer online poker.
NJ Online Poker Sites
New Jersey was not the first US state to launch legal online poker. However, it quickly became one of the most active online poker markets in the country. That’s thanks to its strategic northeast location and large, dense population.
888 Poker was one of the first online poker rooms to launch in NJ. However, by the end of 2013, other sites had joined in too. PokerStars is also now active in NJ. This site is one of the most popular online poker sites in NJ.
PokerStars might be a big name in NJ online poker, but it doesn’t have the most players. That’s because PokerStars NJ does not share players across state lines. Conversely, both WSOP and 888 Poker share players from NJ with Nevada and Delaware online poker sites. As a result, both these sites will have more players online at a given time.
There are a few other smaller NJ online poker sites that share players too. They include Party Poker, Borgata Poker, and BetMGM. However, these online poker sites only share players in NJ. You won’t find player sharing on these sites outside NJ.
Here’s some more details on the largest online poker sites active in NJ:
- 888 Poker / WSOP.com: 888 Poker launched quickly in NJ. In fact, it was the first online poker site active in the state. That’s because 888 has lots of experience in other US markets like Nevada and Delaware. In NJ, 888 Poker is partnered with the Caesars Casino Atlantic City. However, the actual 888 online poker site is the exact same site as used in other states. It looks and feels the same as 888 online poker sites in Delaware and Nevada. Players in NJ can get $20 free when they sign up at 888 Poker.
- PokerStars: This online poker site was one of the last to launch in NJ when it debuted in 2016. However, it’s been able to grow quickly in the state. PokerStars NJ now controls about 38% of the NJ online poker market. PokerStars NJ is partnered with Resorts Casino in Atlantic City. Players can use the casino cage there to deposit and withdraw online funds. PokerStars became well-known in NJ thanks to tournaments like the New Jersey Series of Online Poker. Today, new players are eligible to receive $30 free cash with just a $20 deposit. Additionally, new players can get a 100% deposit match up to $600 on their first deposits.
- Party Poker, BetMGM, Borgata Poker: The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 was big blow to US online poker. Before this bill passed, Party Poker was the largest online poker site in the entire USA. Once UIGEA passed, Party Poker was forced to leave the US market. However, Party Poker returned in 2013. It’s now partnered with the Borgata casino in NJ. In fact, Borgata Poker and BetMGM share players with Party Poker in NJ. New players at Party Poker NJ can get $25 in free cash just for signing up. Additionally, new Party Poker NJ players can get a $1000 deposit match on their first deposits.
- Pala Poker: This online poker site is active in NJ. However, it was never very popular. Presently, Pala Poker NJ rarely runs new games.
Overall, NJ online poker sites offer a lot of low-stake and mid-stake games. The most popular NJ online poker sites typically attract about 250 real money players at peak times. Usually, many more players join during special tournaments.
However, the average number of players at NJ online poker sites typically isn’t enough for high-stakes games. Additionally, NJ online poker sites only offer a few variations of the game. That said, if you’re looking for low-stakes games like Texas Hold’Em at $1 or $2, you will have plenty of choices.
Usually, NJ online poker sites offer regular tournaments. These weekly tournaments offer small guaranteed pools throughout a given week. Then, on weekends, the Sunday Major tournament is held. This big event typically has a prize pool around $100,000. Certain events like WSOP qualifiers and the New Jersey championship offer even bigger prize pools. NJ online poker tournaments have some interesting formats. One popular variant is progressive knockout poker. In these tournaments, your bounty increases as you knock out more players.
All the biggest NJ online poker sites offer poker apps for Apple and Android devices. Many of these sites also offer desktop poker software for Windows and Mac computers. Both these dedicated online poker apps will give players the smoothest experience.
Nevada Online Poker Sites
The first online poker rooms in Nevada launched in 2012. This made Nevada the second US state to launch legal online poker. Before that, it was only Delaware.
Nevada online poker had a bit of a rocky start. One of the first online poke sites to launch in the state was Ultimate Poker. Unfortunately, this site did not last long. It closed for good in 2014.
However, other sites did gain traction and see success. In fact, Nevada was home to the first-ever World Series of Poker branded online poker room. This site uses the excellent poker software from 888 Poker.
The latest online poker site to be announced in Nevada is backed by South Point Casino. However, at this time, the site has not fully launched. It plans to offer online poker real money games, but it’s not available yet.
WSOP, 888 Poker, and Caesars Entertainment
WSOP.com (World Series of Poker) is partnered with Caesars Entertainment in Nevada. This major name in poker now offers its signature bracelet events online in Nevada. Usually, these events are part of yearly WSOP tournament events that run from May to July.
Presently, Nevada has a population of approximately 3 million people. This is relatively small by US standards. However, Nevada does get a ton of tourists each year thanks to Las Vegas. Visitors can legally play online poker in Nevada. Players need to be over the age of 21 and located within Nevada state lines.
Nevada’s WSOP online poker site decided to start sharing players back in 2016. Presently, WSOP.com shares players across Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. The combination of players from all these states has made WSOP.com the largest US online poker site.
WSOP.com Nevada doesn’t get tons of player traffic, but it does offer lots of options. Players can enjoy online poker real money games in tournaments and sit and go style games. Additionally, WSOP.com offers some new innovative online poker games like Blast! sit and go’s which offer random prize pools.
Players will also find plenty of qualifying tournaments for World Series of Poker on this online poker site. Advanced players looking to try their hand in high-level tournaments have plenty of options. Additionally, World Series of Poker will give new players a 100% deposit match bonus for their first deposits on the site.
US Online Poker Sites by State
On the surface, it might seem like all online poker sites are basically the same. They all seem to offer the same game options. You’ll find online poker real money games at all online poker sites. Additionally, tournaments, novelty games, and free online poker are common too.
However, there are some big differences across US online poker websites. Every one will offer different promotions and bonuses. Additionally, each one will use its own unique website and app.
Here are a few other things that differentiate US online poker sites:
- Partner Casinos: In US states with legal online casino gambling, there are strict rules. In each of these states, online casinos and online poker sites must partner with land-based casinos. For example, PokerStars is partnered with Resorts Casino and Mount Airy Casino in NJ and PA respectively.
- Shared Players: Some online poker sites can legally share players. Additionally, a few can share players across state lines. That means players in NJ can legally play against players in Nevada and Delaware. However, it depends on which online poker site you use. For example, Party Poker, Borgata Poker and BetMGM sites share players within New Jersey. On these sites, you play against other players in NJ but not outside the state. WSOP.com in NJ shares players with WSOP sites in Nevada and Delaware. In doing this, WSOP has become the largest US online poker site.
- Tournaments & Events: Some online poker sites offer lucrative tournament opportunities. These events have larger buy-ins, big guaranteed prize pools, and special promotions. For example, WSOP.com in Nevada offers bracelet events and PokerStars NJ offers the Championship of Online Poker event.
- Variety of Games: Presently, most online poker sites don’t get huge amounts of traffic. However, they do get enough to run regular games in the most popular formats. As online poker becomes more popular, you will see more sites offer new game varieties. We expect to see stud, draw and even mixed games and online poker sites soon.
- Level of Difficulty: Online poker takes skill and strategy just like live poker. To get good, you need to practice and compete against players above your skill level. Consequently, it’s important to pick the right table at an online poker site. Some tables will have strong player pools with advanced players only. Others will have weaker player pools. For example, PokerStars typically attracts advanced players while Party Poker brings in more casual players.
If you’re located outside one of these US states, you still have legal options for online poker. Sweepstakes casinos are available in almost every US state. These casinos fall under sweepstakes laws and are not considered true casinos. However, the gameplay experience will feel just like it does at licensed casinos. The difference lies in how sweepstakes casinos control wagering and prizes.
Global Poker is an excellent sweepstakes casino with tons of online poker options. Players can still get cash prizes using “sweeps coins” on the site. However, sweeps coins cannot be bough directly. Players must buy other currency to get sweeps coins for free, or get sweeps coins by playing games.
How Do Sweepstakes Online Poker Sites Work?
Sweepstakes casinos like Global Poker are legal because they fall under state level sweepstakes laws. They are not seen as true casinos. That’s because they offer free play options for all games. Additionally, players cannot pay directly for chances at winning prizes. Instead, earnings prizes via sweeps coins is seen as a sweepstakes contest.
Sweepstakes casinos cannot accept real money for gambling purposes. However, you can get sweeps coins in a bunch of ways. You can get them for free when you buy entertainment-only gold coins. You can use both types of coins to play online poker.
Each poker hand is considered its own mini sweepstakes contest. Players can earn sweeps coins by playing hands. Ultimately, these sweeps coins can be redeemed for prizes. Sweeps coins can even be exchanged directly for cash at a 1:1 rate.
Online Poker Bonuses
Just like in other industries, competition in the market has forced online poker sites to offer incentives to attract players. These incentives take the form of casino bonuses. Players can get free cash, deposit matches, and loyalty rewards at most online poker sites.
Just be aware that every casino bonus offer has its own terms and conditions. These terms tell you exactly how the bonus works. They will spell out any restrictions or requirements for the offer. Most bonuses will have wagering requirements before bonus cash or winnings can be withdraw. Be sure to always read bonus terms and conditions.
These are the most common online poker casino bonuses:
- No Deposit Bonus: This bonus will give new players free cash just for making an account! It’s offered at almost every online poker site. That free cash can then be used to play real money games. The catch is that you can’t withdraw the bonus funds or attributed winnings until you meet the wagering requirement.
- Deposit Match Bonus: With this bonus, the online poker site will match your first deposit up to a set amount. A common offer is a 100% deposit match up to $500. Let’s say you deposit $1000 and you use this offer – you’ll get $1500 in your account. The catch here is also that you need to meet a wagering requirement.
- Free Tournament Entries: Occasionally, new players at online poker sites will automatically get free tournament entires.
- Loyalty Rewards: Almost every casino, whether online or land-based, has a loyalty program. Players can get perks and prizes through these programs just by playing games. By playing, players will accumulate rewards points.
- Reload Bonus: The reload bonus is essentially a deposit match for returning players. It will give you a match on the funds you deposit. However, these bonuses typically give less free cash than welcome offers.
- Limited Time Offers: Online poker sites are always running one-time promotions. Usually, these only run for short periods at a time. If your timing is right, you can take advantage of these offers and get free tournament entries or free cash.
US Poker Sites with Real Money Poker Apps
Mobile online poker is a huge part of the online poker industry. In fact, most online poker games these days are played on mobile devices. Players can use online poker apps or play directly on poker mobile websites. Apps will offer a smoother experience. However, apps will also have fewer gaming choices.
These are some of the most popular real money poker app choices in NJ and NV:
- 888 Poker (WSOP-branded sites in NV and NJ)
- PokerStars NJ
- Party Poker, Borgata Poker NJ
- Pala Poker NJ
Deposit Funds at Real Money Online Poker Sites
The first step to playing real money online poker is depositing cash. Playing at legal, licensed online poker sites means that your money will always be safe. These sites will never risk their licenses. They are extremely careful to always follow the rules and treat players fairly. Otherwise, they risk loosing licenses which can cost millions of dollars each.
Overall, most online poker sites accept credit and debit cards deposits. It’s as easy as making an online purchase. Players can also choose to use prepaid cards for deposits. Some online casinos offer their own prepaid debit cards with faster deposit and withdrawal times.
Most online poker sites also accept bank transfers. These methods include e-checks, direct deposits, and wire transfers. These methods take a bit more time to setup, but they are easier to use in the long run. Direct deposit makes it easy to send and receive funds right in your checking account.
The majority of online poker sites also allow e-wallet transactions. Popular e-wallets today include PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller. Occasionally, online poker sites charge small fees to use these methods. However, e-wallets do offer an extra level of security for the player’s cash.
There is also another common option called PayNearMe. This methods lets players deposit actual cash for online poker play. However, it can only be done from specific kiosks. Usually, these can be found in side 7-Eleven stores.
Ways to Play Online Poker Real Money Games
Online poker sites give players a range of options to access and play online poker.
The most fully-featured method is a full download. This method only works on desktop computers or laptops. Players must download a poker software package from the online poker site. This software will give players the fastest, smoothest playing experience. Most online poker sites offer Apple and Windows software.
For mobile online poker, the best method is a real money poker app. Again, almost every online poker site offers its own mobile app. However, mobile poker apps do have limited gaming options. Usually, players will only be able to find single-game format options. Apple users can download online poker apps right from the Apple App Store. Android users will need to download apps directly from online poker websites. Google has banned all gambling apps from the Google Play Store.
Players can also access and play online poker instantly via web browsers. Online poker sites support some limited gaming options directly from browser-based websites. Online poker websites are optimized for mobile and will respond to device screens. They will work on desktop computers as well as mobile devices.
Poker Versions Available
Overall, most online poker sites offer four types of online poker for money. Each of these main types includes multiple game variations, formats, and rules.
No Limit Texas Hold’Em is the most popular online poker real money game type. Second to that is Pot Limit Omaha. Other Omaha variants like Pot Limit Omaha 8 and Omaha 8 are also growing in popularity.
These are the main four versions of online poker real money games:
- Cash Games: This is a simple one. It’s the most common type of real money poker. Players use chips with direct monetary value. Overall, the majority of these games will have buy-ins that are $25 or less. Occasionally, players can find higher stakes games.
- Poker Tournaments: Tournaments are highly structured online poker real money games. The concept is simple. Players buy-in for a set amount of chips, then play until one player collects them all. Overall, about 10% of tournament players get a cut of the prize pool. The largest prize always goes to the overall winner.
- Sit and Go’s: Also called SNGs, this type of online poker tournament happens more frequently. SNGs are fixed in size and will start once a table fills up. Usually, these games are played at a single nine-seat table. Of those nine, only three players will get a cut of the prize pool.
- Fast Fold Poker: This version combines some elements from cash games and poker tournaments. Players are grouped into pools. Every hand is played with six to nine players from each pool. If you fold, you immediately join a new game with other players from your pool. This variant requires a lot of players. It has yet to become popular in the USA.
How to Cash Out Poker
Legal online poker sites will always payout exactly what players are owed. If they do not, they can be shut down for good.
Usually, online poker sites let you withdraw funds using the same method you used to deposit. If this isn’t possible, the site will offer you some additional choices.
The quickest withdraw method is usually an e-wallet like PayPal or Skrill. Just keep in mind that these methods might have some fees associated with them.
Players can also transfer money from the online poker site directly to their bank accounts. A bank transfer method like direct deposit will need to be setup for this to work. Additionally, paper checks can always be sent by mail if no other methods are acceptable.
Overall, most online poker sites require a simple ID verification in order to withdraw funds. Usually, this will take one to two business days.
Are Poker Sites Safe?
The honest truth is that legal online poker is never rigged. You can protect yourself by making sure you only play at legal and licensed US online poker sites. These sites are subject to strict regulations and oversight. Additionally, they are often backed by large corporations with deep experience and strong reputation in the industry.
Regulated and legal online casinos will use only certified random number generators. These generators ensure that every hand is totally random and fair to all players.
KYC Requirements at Legal Online Poker Sites
The Know Your Customer (KYC) requirement helps online poker sites protect themselves and their players. To satisfy this rule, online poker sites will often require ID checks.
Consequently, online poker sites will often ask players for backup documentation to verify their identities. This helps prevent fraud and money laundering.
Usually, proof of ID and proof of address are requested together. You can take a photo of your ID and a utility or credit card bill to satisfy this requirement.