When you’re looking to play online poker in the US, the amount of options available out there can be quite overwhelming. Besides state-licensed poker sites, there’s a ton of offshore sites available in the US online poker market. But, don’t worry: We’ve done extensive research to cover all things you need to know before playing online poker in the US. After you read this article, you’ll know exactly what to look for in a real money poker site and how to find the best online poker sites.
A few key factors you should find out before taking a seat at a real money poker table include:
Why play at real money poker sites
Once you’re familiar with the basics of poker at play money tables, it’s time to jump to where the real action takes place in internet poker: real money poker tables. These are the most popular tables at legal poker sites. Reasons to play real money poker include:
Playing Poker in the US
US-facing sites are a bit more limited than European online poker rooms, but there are quite many legitimate options that you can access from most states. The gambling laws that concern real money online gambling, like casino games and poker, are mainly targeting the operators instead of players.
The largest US poker rooms include offshore sites that have acquired their poker license overseas. Most of these sites welcome players from anywhere in the world, including the USA. There are several advantages to choosing a large poker site. To mention a few, you have plenty of real money poker games to choose from at various stakes and buy-ins and bigger tournament guarantees. To find more info on a specific real money poker site, you can read our online poker site reviews on sites such as Americas Cardroom or Black Chip Poker.
There are some states that have banned online gambling, such as Washington. As long as you’re outside banned gambling states, you can play real money poker online. Let’s dive into factors that you need to consider when weighing your online poker real money options:
Which factors to consider when choosing a site for real money poker
While your needs might be different if you’re a recreational player or a professional player, there are certain factors that every player should consider when choosing an online gambling site for poker. Let’s walk through them one by one:
Comparison of features of different poker sites
Every poker site has its unique features that naturally come with pros and cons. Your pick for an online poker room might be different if you enjoy high stakes cash games than if you just like to play a few medium buy-in tournaments every then and now. What are some common features then? Most modern real money poker sites offer a mobile app version of their site so that you can play anywhere with a mobile device. You can choose any stakes from micros to high stakes as long as there’s a table running. The biggest online poker sites have massive guaranteed poker tournaments where you can win life-changing money at the final table.
How easy it is to win
This is perhaps one of the most important factors for serious poker players. As you know, poker is a game of skill and consistent winners choose a poker site where they can play with people who are less skilled than they are. Another aspect to winning in online poker is selecting the tables carefully to find weaker opponents, a task that is easier to do at larger poker sites where there are plenty of tables to choose from.
Online poker license for real money games
Playing at a licensed, trusted and thoroughly tested real money online poker room gives you many advantages. The licensing body is there to help you in case you come across any troubles with the poker site, such as delayed withdrawals. Online poker sites do their best to comply with the terms and conditions set by their license to keep their business running.
Banking options for US players
Common deposit methods for US players include credit cards, prepaid cards, money transfers through Western Union or MoneyGram, and Bitcoin & other cryptocurrencies. Depositing an initial bankroll on real money poker sites is easy and straightforward. In addition to above mentioned deposit options, many USA online poker site operators allow withdrawals through bank wire or a paper check.
We recommend you to check the banking options before starting to play, and to look for any possible withdrawal charges so that there’s no surprises along the way later on.
Poker site reviews
Instead of trying to find the best online poker sites on your own, do some quick research by reading poker site reviews. There’s a ton of information that can help you make the decision on where to play for real money. We recommend you to get multiple opinions on a poker site before deciding.
Poker bonuses and offers
Massive poker bonuses, free tickets for tournaments, loyalty schemes and 24/7 poker action are available within just a few clicks. Real money poker sites are competing hard for customers, and offering generous bonuses is one way to win them over. Playing poker online can be both fun and profitable, so make sure you take advantage of any bonuses available at your site when making real money poker deposits.
Variety of game formats
The selection of poker formats available for players is essential when you choose where to play real money online poker. No-limit Hold’em players can get served on all top poker sites, but the more exotic your taste for poker variations is, the less viable options you can find. For example, 5-card Pot-Limit Omaha or Omaha Hi-Lo are offered by just a few online poker site operators. Remember to check out whether the online rooms are offering cash games and tournaments at your preferred stakes.
Complaints and red flags
For any site offering real money poker games, you can find tons of complaints about the site being rigged. This is mostly due to amateur online poker players complaining about their bad luck and not understanding that poker is a skill game in the long run, where the best players will win money. However, if you find complaints about collusion or delayed/canceled withdrawals, you should definitely pay attention to these red flags.
Poker rooms terms and conditions
Finally, you should check the T&C of a poker site before giving it a go for real money. This is very important especially if you’re wagering a large welcome bonus. Reputable & trusted poker rooms also have a policy for responsible gaming including self-exclusion options, and they share the contact details openly including a physical address and customer support number and/or email.
Software options for real money poker
There are three main poker software options when it comes to online poker for real money:
How to make a deposit at a real money US poker site
Your easiest option for depositing money on a poker site is by using your debit or credit card. Depositing through a card is almost immediate, whereas withdrawals take usually 1-3 business days to arrive. Other popular methods for depositing money include e-wallets and wire transfer. Wire transfers are most suitable for high rollers who want to make large deposits and withdrawals in a safe manner. Here are the steps for making deposit:
- Login to the poker client and click the cashier.
- Click buy chips or add funds.
- Choose your preferred deposit method.
- Enter the deposit amount click submit.
How to cash out quickly & safely
After winning a big poker tournament or accumulating plenty of money in cash games, the next step is to cash out your money safely to your bank account or e-wallet. Cashing out is easy as you just go to the cashier, pick a withdrawal method and press ‘Withdraw’. Most sites require you to use the same withdrawal method as you used for depositing. In case this is not possible, an alternative method is offered.
The fastest withdrawal methods offered by offshore US poker sites include e-wallets like PayPal and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum. Before making a withdrawal, remember to complete the ID verification process so that the withdrawal is handled smoothly & in a timely manner. At most online poker rooms, your withdrawal is verified in 1-3 business days.
How to take advantage of poker bonuses
As mentioned, there are a plethora of poker bonuses available due to competition between online poker rooms. Please make sure to read the terms of conditions as bonuses tend to vary in playthrough requirements and which games are available to complete the wagering. The most common types of poker bonuses include:
- No deposit bonuses: You can find some poker sites offering you free cash to play their real money poker games. A no deposit poker bonus can only be obtained by new customers and you need to wager it several times over at the tables before making a withdrawal. Some players have started the poker career through a no deposit bonus, so you should not underestimate them!
- Matched welcome bonus: The standard offer on most poker sites. Usually the matched bonus is only valid for your first deposit, giving you 100% match on your money deposited. When you play in a real money cash game or a tournament, your poker bonus is released in small chunks.
- Free tournament tickets: A common promotion for new depositors to try out their hand at the tournaments. You can also find freerolls available exclusively for new depositors.
- Loyalty schemes or VIP programs: You collect VIP points while playing to receive rewards through the loyalty scheme. It can be a flat rate or a progressive one where you move up tiers. Usually the VIP points can be converted into cash bonuses or tourney tickets.
- Reload bonuses: These work the same as matched welcome bonuses except you can obtain reload bonuses as an old customer.
- Other promotions: Can be anything that rewards loyal players with tangible prizes, such as rake races that give out cash rewards for the top finishers.
List of US-regulated and offshore-regulated sites
We compiled a list of every major regulated site available to US citizens, including state-regulated and offshore operators. While there might be some smaller ones that have just started up and are not included, this list is comprehensive in the sense that it contains all the sites that are safe & reputable.
US-regulated poker sites (for state-regulated poker)
Offshore-regulated poker sites
Tackling the fairness issue: Is online poker is rigged
You’ve probably heard the saying ‘online poker is rigged’ on many occasions. While there have been outright scams in the poker industry along the years, most of the trusted & reputable USA online poker sites operate in a fair manner. After all, they want to keep their business running healthily, which is much easier if they play fair. Poker rooms with a license are legally bound to have the RNG (Random Number Generator) audited by a 3rd party. This way you can feel safe as a player when hitting the real money tables.
KYC requirements at US real money poker sites
KYC (Know Your Customer) is an important part of keeping online poker fair and clean. The KYC process usually includes asking for proof of ID in the form of a driver’s license or a passport, a proof of address and backups for your deposit method, for example a photo of your credit card. By having KYC in place, online poker sites prevent underage gambling.
US Poker Sites FAQ
State-licensed online poker is offered in New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Delaware, and West Virginia. In most states, you can play legal online poker games for real money on offshore sites that are licensed elsewhere than the US. You can read more about the legal status of online poker in the US here.
Viable options for real money poker include Americas Cardroom, Black Chip Poker, Intertops, Bovada, and Ignition Poker. All of these sites offer you a nice welcome bonus once you sign up and start playing poker online.
Getting started with real money poker is very easy. You just pick a trusted poker site and open an account, go to the cashier and make a deposit with your preferred method, download the poker client and play some cards.
Due to UIGEA 2006, financial transactions to online gambling sites in the US are prohibited (unless the site is state-licensed). Therefore, many real money poker sites have set their location outside of the US to be able to operate legally. Make sure to check your state regulations before signing up on an online poker site.
For skilled poker players, online poker can be a tremendous source of income. If you make better decisions than your opponents, over time you will make money and grow your bankroll. It’s no easy job though, as you’ll have to continuously study and work on your strategies to keep yourself ahead of the competition.
Yes, most offshore poker operators accept Bitcoin as a payment method. Severa real money poker sites also have other cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum, Litecoin or Bitcoin Cash as a deposit & withdrawal option.
The three most popular formats are cash games, tournaments and SNGs (Sit-n-Goes). No-Limit Hold’em is by far the most popular poker variant in the US. Other regularly played variants include Pot-Limit Omaha, 5-Card Draw, Razz, and Stud. The bigger the poker site, the wider the selection of game formats is going to be.
If you stick to reputable and honest online poker sites, you’ll be safe at the online poker tables. There have been cases of scams and cheating on several poker sites in the past, which is why we recommend sticking to online poker rooms that have operated in a trustworthy manner for several years. Also, remember to always gamble responsibly and never play for money that you can’t afford to lose.
As long as you’re playing on a licensed site, you can make a complaint to their official licensing body to get paid. No poker site wants to lose their license over not paying a customer their money due, which means you have a good chance to get your money back. Again, you should check the T&C of each site before playing real money poker so that you don’t cross any lines in the process.
More and more states are considering legalizing online poker after several states did it successfully. In addition, offshore poker sites are not under US jurisdiction and have the right to accept players from anywhere in the world, including the States.
Poker rooms that can’t take real money deposits can give you free sweepstakes currency when purchasing play money coins. The sweepstakes currency can then be swapped for dollars in the cashier so that they become available for withdrawal to your bank account. An example of a sweepstakes poker site would be Global Poker.
In the US, any amount you earn from online poker or other forms of gambling are taxable income. Therefore, you need to report all winnings from poker as ‘Other Income’ when you file your income tax return. IRS also requires every poker player to self-report all off-shore winnings before the end of the year.
Yes, almost any real money poker site offers a downloadable app or a browser-based mobile poker client that you can use to play poker for real money online. For the best poker experience on a mobile device, a fast-fold format of poker is recommended.
Poker is a different game when the stakes are real even if it’s for micro or low stakes. There are less loose all-ins and calls as players are more cautious with their hard-earned money on the table. On the other hand, there’s a chance to take home real cash if you play well and the cards turn your way.
Over half of real money games occurring online have buy-ins of less than $20, making online poker affordable for most people.