For the past decade, playing online poker in the United States has been subject to numerous challenges. The legality of playing the game has varied according to each jurisdiction, but there are no federal laws that specifically forbid players from participating in it online, with the exception of the state of Washington,
While Europe and Asia have enjoyed a boom in iGaming activities like online poker and online casino gaming, the US has been slow to catch up. Although there have been a number of offshore poker sites targeting US players, the number of US eligible poker sites available has been dismal. However, moving forward into the new decade, online poker is finally on the rise again in the US.
The online poker landscape
There are now four states that have fully legalized and regulated online poker. In 2020, US online poker rooms are operational in the states of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Nevada. Nevada and New Jersey are the states in which online poker has been operational the longest, so there’s a lot of choice in both in terms of platforms and games. Three sites are operational in Delaware, and one site is operational in Pennsylvania, although it’s likely that this will change in the months to come, since the Keystone state has the potential to attract larger playing pools than Nevada or NJ.
Interestingly, players don’t need to permanently reside in the four states in order to play on the various platforms, but they do need to be within state borders to first sign-up for accounts. Additionally, two online poker brands operating in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have signed a shared liquidity agreement, which means that players in all three states can compete against each other in a combined player pool.
For players outside the jurisdictions of Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Nevada, subscription-based online poker offers a much more regulated and safer way to play than via offshore sites.
Subscription sites are exempt from the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006 because they don’t charge an entry fee (buy-in) for tournaments or ring games. The one drawback is that the software is not as complex as standard online poker sites, as they’re designed with the recreational player in mind rather than long-term online players.
What to look out for
The distinct advantage of the low number of regulated online poker sites operational in the US means that they’re easy to find. The major, licensed international gaming brands have launched platforms in the four states mentioned above, and subscription poker sites are often linked to well-known live poker organisations, so they’re well established and safe to play at for real money.
As far as criteria goes, usable promotions and bonuses, exceptional software, great customer service, and a wide range of gaming options should be top of your list.
Depending on how often you intend to play, and your current level of experience, you might want to look out for a site that offers a number of poker variants, including Texas Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, Caribbean Stud Poker, and Live or Video Poker. The larger sites also offer some of the more unusual variants, such as Bugatti and Pai Gow Poker.
There are also many different types of poker tournaments available online, so if you’re interested in exploring this side of gaming look out for a site running multi-table, sit & go, fast fold poker, and double or nothing tournaments for plenty of variety.