Kentucky is most well-known for the horse racing industry, but while events like the Kentucky Derby hog all the press, there is an avid poker community in the state as well. While the games are hard to find inside the state, online poker helped bring the game to the masses. Today, there is still significant interest in games like Texas Hold’em despite the challenges of finding a place to play.
This page reviews all the Kentucky poker information – the status of online legislation, the locations you can find a game, and how you can improve your game from anywhere.
Online Poker in Kentucky
With sparse options for live poker in the state, Kentucky poker players were only too happy to join online poker sites when they became available in the early 2000s. From the start, it was apparent hat real money online poker was going to be a game-changer, but it was difficult to predict exactly how much of an impact it was going to have on the American gaming scene. Being able to pool millions of players meant that Kentucky residents were able to play in huge games and qualify for life-changing trips to events like the World Series of Poker.
The good times lasted for a few years before the U.S. government decided to step in. The issue at hand was the ownership of the online poker sites -they were all based outside the country, and as a result, it was unclear if any laws were being broken by accepting money from Americans. To clear up the situation, the federal government passed a law making all the banking transactions illegal, which spooked many of the major poker sites. About half of them left the market in 2006, while the other half continued to push forward with players from Kentucky and other states.
By 2011, the government had enough proof to indict the owners of the remaining large poker sites, and on April 15th, 2011, Kentucky residents woke up to find no online poker available in their state. The return of real money online poker to the U.S. has been slow – over the last nine years, only four states have gone live with legalized poker sites. Kentucky is still waiting to make its move, but with the increased discussions of legalizing online sports betting in recent years, there is some hope that the conversation will extend to include other forms of online gambling.
Land Based Poker in Kentucky
When online poker became popular in the U.S., it brought a massive number of new players to the game. As the poker sites started to disappear, these players went looking for places to play. In many states, the fallback was the live poker room, but for Kentucky residents, that isn’t an option. Kentucky has very restrictive gambling laws (aside from horse racing), and there are no live casinos in the state. This is the natural place to put a poker room, so outside of some private poker clubs and bars that offer games, there is no live poker for real money in the state.
Fortunately, many neighboring states offer land-based poker rooms. Take a look at our state pages for those states, and you will find a list of the available poker rooms to see if any are close enough to where you live to make the drive worthwhile.
Social Poker in Kentucky
Many Kentucky residents who play poker are playing solely for the entertainment and social values, as opposed to trying to bet and win real money. Those players were given an immediate solution with the introduction of social poker to the Facebook platform back in the late 2000s. Companies like Zynga built their poker models based on the idea that players would want to play for recognition and exclusivity, and that many would be willing to pay for that exclusivity as well. Their gamble paid off – millions of people play social poker every day, and a decent percentage of those players buy play chips with real money.
Sweepstakes Poker in Kentucky
Kentucky residents who are looking for real money online poker options will find a couple of variants available to them. The first is subscription-based poker, where a player pays a monthly fee for access to a site, which rewards them with sweepstakes entries to be used at poker tournaments. The leader in this type of poker is ClubWPT, which has thousands of members playing for cash and prizes every month.
Another twist on the sweepstakes model is rewarding a one-time purchase with sweepstakes tokens. Companies like Global Poker execute this strategy to perfection. You are prompted to buy virtual chips, which you can use at certain tables, at which time you are also given these sweepstakes chips you can use at specific tables. Any winnings of these sweepstakes chips can be redeemed for real money.
While these aren’t as straightforward as the original real money games, these are, at the very least, a way online poker players in Kentucky can turn their skills into cash!
Online Poker in Kentucky FAQ
When will online poker be legal in Kentucky?
We have no crystal ball, so you need to take our response with a grain of salt. We are realistic optimists at this site – while there haven’t been any substantive discussions about legalizing online poker in Kentucky to date, the government is talking about propping up the horse racing business with casinos and online sports betting. As these ideas move into bills, the opportunity exists to follow the path of states like Michigan and make the law comprehensive. No matter, we don’t think there will be legal real money online poker in Kentucky until 2021 at the absolute earliest.
My friend plays real money online poker from his house – how is he doing that?
This can be accomplished in two ways. First, it is possible that he is using a VPN to log into real money poker sites from other countries. This is not recommended at all, as if you are caught, your account and its balance are very likely going to be confiscated.
There are a handful of rogue offshore online poker sites that still accept players from Kentucky. However, these companies are not bound to any legal obligations, so every time you make a deposit (if you are lucky enough to get one through), it is at risk of disappearing without any warning.