A site designed with poker players in mind! The United States has seen a lot of changes to the online poker landscape over the years, and Best U.S. Poker Sites is your best resource for everything you need to know about regulated online poker – where you can play, how you can play and the best places to play.
The experts who provide content for this site have decades of poker experience and continuously track the goings-on in the U.S. poker industry to make sure you have the most up to date information. Bookmark this page and make your way back here often to get the latest news, reviews and tips!
A Brief History of Online Poker in the U.S.
When online gambling burst onto the scene in the mid-1990s, no one could ever have imagined the rollercoaster ride, it would take players and operators over the next 20 years. This is especially true of the online poker industry, which has grown to unbelievable highs and cratered to incredible lows in the U.S., leading us to where we are today.
The first online poker sites that the general public could access easily hit the Internet in the late 1990s, with a couple of Costa Rica and Antigua based companies leading the way. At this point, poker was still somewhat of a niche product, not yet having hit the mainstream, so there wasn’t really the liquidity for more than a couple of sites to be profitable. However, Texas Hold’em was about to have an epiphany, and the online poker industry would never be the same.
First, televised poker changed from a once-a-year event on ESPN to expanding to many events and multiple networks. More importantly, the introduction of the hole card camera in the tables gave viewers a never-before seen insight into the playing style of the professionals at these tables. For the first time, viewers could “learn” from the players they were following. This caused a significant spike in interest in poker as a whole, especially in the United States.
The tipping point for online poker was the young man from the Midwest Chris Moneymaker, who qualified on a fledgling online poker site for the prestigious 2003 World Series of Poker, going on to win the Main Event. This amateur outlasted the best players in the world, and with the logo of that site on his hat and the story of turning $40 into $2.5 million, the rest is history.
Online poker sites rose and grew exponentially over the next few years, with the majority of the growth seen in the U.S. market. Sites were handling thousands of players at a time, and prize pools were growing into the millions for many tournaments. Would-be professional players didn’t have to leave their homes in order to make money, and the land-based tournament scene continued to grow leaps and bounds with the introduction of online qualifiers.
However, all of this growth was happening in the face of potential drama. The Wire Act in the United States was written to protect interstate gambling (back then it was primarily sports betting), and online poker seemed to be right in the crosshairs. Many government officials wanted to put a stop to the growth of these offshore-based companies and found a way to at least cripple the industry by passing the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act in 2006. This sent the industry reeling with many companies leaving the space for fear of breaking this banking law. A couple of big players chose to stay in the space and for the next several years capitalized on the lack of competition to grow even more significant.
This did not make the Department of Justice very happy, and via a confluence of events, they were able to seize the websites of the remaining poker companies accepting U.S. players on April 15, 2011. This date is known as Black Friday in the gambling world and is the official start of the regulatory phase of the online poker industry.
Where is online poker legal in the U.S?
So, now that you have a history of how online poker became so popular and then was taken away from rabid players across the United States, let’s move on to how the regulatory process began. In the U.S., individual states regulate and oversee all gambling activities within their borders. That meant that in light of the federal shutdown of offshore poker sites, each state would have to pass its own legislation to start the industry back up again.
This, however, is no easy task. In many states, the lottery is the only form of gambling that is legal, and even though there are lots of land-based casinos and poker rooms across the country, managing online play is a very different animal and one that many states simply did not want to touch.
Our hope with this site is to provide players, operators, and regulators alike the information needed to make informed decisions about the future of online poker in America. We have pages dedicated to each of the states that currently offer or are about to offer online poker. They include:
Online poker is alive and well in Nevada. Home of the World Series of Poker, there are many online sites open to residents of the state but WSOP.com leads the way. Adding WSOP bracelets to their online events has driven up the popularity of the site, and as a result more Nevada players are joining other sites as well. With so much poker travel to the state, there are spikes of activity online from visitors to complement the play from locals.
While the fight to legalize sports betting continued in New Jersey, the state opened up a regulated poker market back in the early 2010s. Many sites now offer online poker to residents and visitors to the state, and while the land-based market isn’t as big as Nevada for the game, online, the state is driving significant numbers.
Despite being a very small state, Delaware has taken an aggressive stance when it comes to online gambling. The state is one of the few that allows online poker, and to combat the small numbers in the state, it spearheaded an agreement with Nevada and New Jersey to pool liquidity in a couple of networks.
In 2017, Pennsylvania became the next state to approve online poker sites for its residents. However, the application process is expensive and has taken some time to take shape, so online poker only launched legally in the state in November 2019.
There is good news coming out of Michigan, and as of December 2019 it appears that online poker will be legalized early in 2020. How many licenses and sites will be available has yet to be determined, but for now, indications are positive that residents of the state will be logging on and playing their favorite poker games very soon.
Sweepstakes Poker in the U.S.
Over the years, and especially since the collapse of the real money online poker market in the United States, companies have been trying to capitalize on the popularity of the sport. At first, social poker sites were all the rage, with companies like Zynga leading the way in providing poker tournaments where prestige was the most valuable commodity.
After some time, the monetization of those social players started to drop (people were wanting more than a new avatar for winning events). This was when the rise of sweepstakes poker came into play. One major player in the space, Global Poker, offered their games to players but giving them the chance to win prizes as opposed to social exposure. The site has continued to grow and today, there are thousands of American players on the site on a daily basis.
Subscription Poker in the U.S.
Another model that tried to replicate real money poker when the Department of Justice shut down the offshore sites was a subscription-based platform. In this model, players would pay a one-time fee each month to access as many tournaments as they would like to play. These tournaments would award prizes (from gift cards to electronics all the way to land-based tournament entries). The one subscription-based site that managed to succeed for an extended period of time is ClubWPT. This site was buoyed by the fact that the World Poker Tour was still being broadcast across the U.S. and that the winners of some events on the site could then play in the televised tournaments. There haven’t been many competitors join the subscription space, and we do not expect there to be many in the future with the changes in regulation in the U.S.
Mobile Poker in the U.S.
One of the biggest changes in the poker industry since Black Friday is the way that poker is delivered to players. These days, we do almost everything on our phones and gambling is no different. Poker sites have been delivering a mobile version of their games for years, but in the last couple of years there has been some real innovation in the mobile experience. These days players can easily multi-table from their phones, which is a far cry from having multiple monitors on the wall or the desk.
In a regulated online poker market in the U.S., mobile is going to lead the way in distribution. However, there are some tweaks for those wanting to use their phone or tablet to play. Here’s a quick overview of each operating system.
- iOS Poker Sites
Although there are far fewer iPhones in circulation in the U.S. than other devices, we start here as Apple has been quick to accept the changes to gaming regulations. This is important to poker players as the company has been notoriously slow to adapt to change in the industry over the years. Today, as part of the regulatory process in any state, an online poker provider must submit their app to Apple for approval to be distributed in the App Store. While deposits still cannot be managed by Apple IDs, the fact that you can now download a poker app to your phone and play for real money is a huge step forward for players in regulated states
- Android Poker Sites
The Android operating system powers more phones in the U.S. than any other company, which means that it is critical to the success of the online poker industry to have the games played well on their devices. However, Google, who owns and operates Android, have been very slow to accept real-money gambling on its operating system. As to December 2019, the company does not allow any real money gambling apps, including poker apps, to be listed in the Google Play store.
This doesn’t mean that downloading an app to your Android device isn’t possible – it just means that there are more hoops to jump through. Many sites give the download link for the Android app and the instructions on how to bypass the operating system to be able to install the game. Once it is installed, it works just as it would if it were coming from Android directly. The hope is with the influx of regulated sports betting in the U.S. in 2020, Google will ease up on its app restrictions.
Poker Variants in the U.S.
At Best U.S. Poker Sites, we not only want to direct you to the best sites in your state, but we also want to ensure you have the best time at the tables. This means improving your play in games, you know, and perhaps starting to play other variants to switch things up. Our team of experts will draw on their experience to bring you the best tips and tricks for you to use at the virtual tables. We’ll be covering the basics in these poker disciplines.
- Texas Hold’em
Hold’em is by far the most popular poker game, and its massive growth can be attributed to online play. Players are able to play hundreds of hands an hour, and the majority of the tournaments seen on television these days in the U.S. are No-Limit Hold’em events. However, being the most popular game also means that many people have improved their skills, so it isn’t as easy as it once was to be a winner. Take a look at our Hold’em section to see what you may learn to improve your play.
Omaha is a very fun poker variant, with a lot of the same attributes as Hold’em. However, with barely 20% of the reach of NLH, Omaha still provides some great opportunities for profitability. The game has some nuances that you will want to learn about before you sit at the tables.
- Short Deck Poker
Short Deck poker has been growing in popularity since its introduction a few years ago. The game plays exactly like Hold’em, but you aren’t playing with a full deck of cards. This means that there is a much higher probability of making a big hand, but that also exists for your competition! Check out some tips and tricks about the game and then find a site that is offering this exhilarating variant that is no doubt going to continue to grow in the future.
Payment Methods for U.S. Online Poker
Another piece of good news for online poker enthusiasts who live in the U.S. is that payment processing is far simpler and more secure in a regulated environment. Those players reading this that have played or continue to play with an offshore site know the troubles of having to get money to and from a website. In this new environment, there is no longer the worry about whether or not your money is safe. Here are some of the payment methods you will find at regulated online poker sites in the U.S.
- Credit Cards
Credit cards have always been the payment method of choice for online gamblers. However, the UIGEA bill of 2006 made it illegal for U.S. banks to process gambling transactions. This hit the market hard, and while third-party processors like Neteller grew as a result, the extra work and the high cost of processing made credit cards less relevant. Now there is a resurgence of this method being used in states like Nevada and New Jersey, however due to transaction coding there are still a lot of failed transactions
- Debit Cards
A regulated online poker environment means that players can make deposits straight from their bank accounts. This is actually a preferred method for the industry, as the fees are smaller, and there is a lower chance of chargebacks. Setting up a debit transaction is simple and in many cases allows for faster payout times for those skilled enough to make some money at the tables.
- Many people reading this may not know that PayPal was at one time the largest payment provider for the online gambling industry. Before it was purchased by eBay, PayPal processed over 60% of the online gaming transactions coming from the U.S.
Fast forward to today, and the company is once again able to accept transactions from regulated gaming companies in the United States. The digital payment provider allows for speedy transactions to and from online poker sites.
- Wire Transfer
There are still some people who like to send bank wires, and the online poker industry still accepts them as a form of payment. While the speed of bank wires has improved over the years, there is still a delay in the transaction, so if you are thinking of using bank wire for either a deposit or withdrawal, you should take that into consideration.
- In-person Payments
Depending on the site you choose for your regulated online poker play, you may have the option of funding your account in-person. Many of the poker sites are affiliated with a land-based casino, which means you can head to the facility and fund your account. If this is the method you want to use, you will want to confirm that the option exists with the company you choose, as not every casino allows players to deposit or cash out at their facilities.