Online Poker Sites Legal in US / United States

One of the most commonly asked questions is whether or not poker is legal in the USA. People hear about the UIGEA or Black Friday and think that it's not ok, possibly illegal, to play poker online. BUT, while online poker is definitely illegal in a few states, it's not illegal on a federal level. It is ok to play online poker for real money in the USA.

My goal with this page is to answer the most common questions regarding the legality of online poker in the United States, as well as show you what sites we recommend you play at. You'll find that list immediately below.

United States / US Poker Rooms

Rank
US Poker Site
Signup Bonus
Poker Room Highlights
Review
1
Ignition Poker
100% to $2000
  • Best software available for US players
  • Excellent VIP poker rewards
  • 100% to $2000 deposit bonus
2
25% cash to $900
  • New poker site offering cash bonus
  • Accepts US deposits & credit cards
  • 25% instant bonus up to $900

Commonly Asked Questions About the Legality of Online Poker in the USA

Here are some commonly asked questions about playing online poker in the USA.

Did the UIGEA make online poker illegal in the United States?

No. That's a common misconception.

The UIGEA only made it illegal for banks and financial companies to complete transactions for illegal online gambling. That's why it can be difficult to find a banking method that will work for deposits/withdrawals.

"Illegal online gambling" is loosely defined too. In other words, it's agreed upon that sports betting online is illegal, and things like fantasy sports and trading online is ok.

Games of chance is what the legislation mentions. However, poker isn't labeled as a game of skill or chance. So it's left up to the states to determine that, which has been an ongoing topic for the last several years.

What about Black Friday?

Black Friday had little, if anything to do with the legality of poker in the USA. It had everything to do with the UIGEA.

You see, since banks aren't allowed to process transactions, poker sites had to find other ways to make that happen. What many of these sites did (do) is create fake shell companies. It was these companies that the banks processed the money for, not knowing that it was actually for online gambling.

So the sites that were indicted on Black Friday were indicted of money laundering and bank fraud.

How do I find legitimate poker sites in the USA?

Finding a legitimate poker site that accepts US players is definitely harder now post Black Friday. It's not as if there aren't poker sites willing to accept US players -- there are -- it's that there are so many that you don't know what sites are worth signing up to.

The best way to find a solid poker site is to use our recommendations above. And read our reviews. If you're doing the research on your own, make sure the poker site is licensed and regulated, and has a positive history, however short that history may be.

And don't forget that much of the difficulty comes from the fact that many poker sites exclude certain states from signing up. There are even fewer sites that allow players from states like Washington, New York, Maryland and Kentucky.

What is "intrastate" poker?

Intrastate poker is the name given to poker sites that will operate on a state only level. In other words, if you live in New Jersey and sign up to an interstate poker site (when/if it happens), then only players from that state can play there.

At the moment the only states to have given licenses are Nevada and Delaware. Nevada is gearing up to have sites go live in early 2013, although that's not set in stone. (They were planning to start late 2012, so who knows how many more delays we'll see.) Other states have been in the process of integrating intrastate poker including Florida and New Jersey. They're not as far along as Nevada though.

Is it legal to play poker for real money in the United States?

Yes. There is no federal law making real money poker illegal.

However, there are state laws that make online poker (gambling) illegal. Washington is a prime example of this. It's a class C felony there.

That being said, no one has been convicted / arrested for playing online poker. But that's not to say it couldn't happen, though. So do your due diligence and weigh the risks before you get started online.