Last Updated on 09/20/2022
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
Our team at TheGruelingTruth.com has studied the US online poker market for years, so we have in-depth knowledge of its inner workings. The industry’s legal history is quite elaborate, so players may find it challenging to identify the best legal online poker sites.
This guide will help you appreciate the convenience of playing poker online. We’ll then outline features to look for when searching for top legal online poker sites. You’ll also learn the history and current legal standpoint of online poker in the US. Our team added some tidbits to help you start playing poker without hassle.
Recreational poker is popular in the US and has remained legal in pretty much all states throughout the tumultuous times the real money gambling arena has faced. As such, most people know how to play the game in real life. But since Chris Moneymaker won over $2 million in an online WSOP tournament in 2003, online poker has continued to become a desirable gaming option.
The key selling point for online poker is convenience. With live poker, you have to prepare an acceptable poker-playing outfit and commute to a casino. You then have to check if any cash games or poker tournaments are running, then wait to get a seat. At the best legal online poker sites, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home. Even without downloading the best online poker app, you can play anywhere, anytime during the day, using mobile web apps.
Some players enjoy the brick-and-mortar casino experience—the sounds, smells, sights, and all. Other players, however, find these sensory experiences overwhelmingly distracting. With the best legal online poker sites, you can manage your environment and focus on the game at hand. Online poker players can play stimulating music or play in complete silence. If you don’t have a particularly convincing poker face, you don’t have to worry about other players calling your bluff.
With live poker, your expenses can quickly rack up. Food, gas, parking, tips, and rooms if you’re staying at the casino, all contribute to your bill. Online poker only requires your time, expertise, PC or mobile device, and an internet connection.
As you may already know, online poker platforms aren’t made the same. It takes a practiced eye to identify top legal online poker sites. Reading poker online reviews will undoubtedly help you eliminate average gambling sites. But to zoom in on the perfect online poker host for your gambling style, experience level, and skills, you need a tried and tested checklist. Being passionate players ourselves, we know which characteristics to look for in a great poker website. Here is part of our selection criteria for US poker sites:
First of all, we always recommend verifying if the online poker site you want to sign up with is licensed by a reputable regulator. Popular jurisdictions include Malta, Curacao, Panama, Kahnawake, and recently, local regulators like the New Jersey Casino Control Commission and the Division of. Gaming Enforcement. Without a regulator, an operator has free rein to enforce any unfair practices and should immediately be excluded from your shortlist. The best legal online poker sites also use impenetrable security technology to ensure that your personal and financial information is safe and secure.
Even after conducting your due diligence, signing up and making a deposit at a new online poker site is something of a risk. Claiming a welcome bonus somewhat reduces your exposure. Using bonuses, players can wager more than they could otherwise afford and get to explore the website. Different poker platforms offer different promos with varying sizes, as well as terms and conditions. As welcome bonuses typically expire within the first 30 days, the best legal online poker sites also offer ongoing promotions, rakeback, loyalty schemes, and more rewards.
The best legal online poker sites offer a broad range of games, from Texas Hold’em to Draw Poker, Omaha, Razz, and Seven Card Stud. Players can access an impressive diversity of cash games and tournaments. Competitive players don’t rely on luck, so it’s also crucial to align with an online poker hub that offers game stats, hand histories, and play analyses to give you an upper hand. Our team at TheGruelingTruth.com runs numerous benchmark tests to analyze each poker site’s game performance. You can rest assured that you won’t run into any technical glitches at the websites listed on this page.
The best legal online poker sites regularly host exciting tournaments. Because a small buy-in can result in colossal wins, these contests have fueled the online poker industry boom. You can find online poker tournaments with penny buy-ins and some that require as much as $100,000 for a seat. Prize pools at these competitions sometimes run into the millions.
Sit and go online poker tournaments open up the gaming space to players that can’t wait for hours to get an open seat. These smaller contests don’t have scheduled start times like the standard multi-table games. Instead, players sit, and when every seat has a taker, they start playing.
If you’re looking to play poker for real money online, you need to sign up with a site that facilitates quick and seamless deposits and withdrawals. Depending on your banking preferences, you’ll need to ensure that the operator allows eWallets, debit and credit cards. Ideally, deposits and withdrawals should be processed with low or no extra charges.
Before we recommend an online poker site, we always get the first-hand experiences of its current and previous customers. Any complaints regarding payment delays are a red flag. That’s also true with comments concerning the softness of the games. These typically suggest that the site has professional players and may be worth avoiding if you’re a newb.
On the whole, real money online poker is banned in pretty much most of the US. At the time of writing, six states had legalized local operators to offer real money online poker games. If you live in Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, or Michigan, you have a host of local legal online poker websites to choose from. But even in most of these states, players can only play against other players located within that same state. New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada, however, signed interstate agreements for online poker purposes.
While online poker is banned in other states, players aren’t prosecuted for accessing and playing at offshore online poker rooms. Some of the best legal online poker sites available to US players are based in foreign jurisdictions. These platforms are licensed by regulators like Curacao eGaming or the Malta Gaming Authority, so US lawmakers can’t stop them from taking customers anywhere. The flipside of this coin, however, is there aren’t many avenues for legal recourse if you feel aggrieved by these poker sites. As such, it’s crucial to only sign up with well-vetted operators.
Online poker started in the 1990s, with operators in offshore jurisdictions like the Isle of Man accepting US bettors. In 1999, the US Senate introduced the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which didn’t pass. Over the next few years, new sites launched worldwide, and online poker software improved. When Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 WSOP main event via online satellite, online poker’s popularity really took off. Millions of Americans wanted to be next, and TV ads were filled with offshore online poker platforms. In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which pushed some operators from the market.
On April 15, 2011, some of the largest poker operators, PokerStars, Absolute Power, and Full Tilt Poker were charged for various counts of money laundering, illegal gambling, and violating UIGEA. For some time, the local online poker market was effectively closed. However, it didn’t take long for online poker to bounce back.
In December 2011, the DOJ confirmed that the Federal Wire Act only applied to sports betting. Several states took the opportunity to license and regulate online poker. In 2012, Delaware approved both online poker and online casino legislation. Nevada soon followed in February 2013, and a week later, New Jersey became the third state to legalize online poker. The first legal online poker site went live in Nevada in April 2013.
When UIGEA came into being, it primarily affected the types of banking methods that players could use to make deposits and withdrawals. So, even when you were playing at offshore platforms, you were relatively restricted with how you could transact at online poker sites. Many banks blocked transactions to gambling platforms of any type. With these restrictions relaxed, players now have greater flexibility regarding how they move their gambling funds. The best legal online poker sites feature the following banking methods.
Credit and debit cards are ubiquitous features of the US banking system, and pretty much every American adult has one. It, therefore, makes perfect sense to use these banking methods to deposit and withdraw funds from online poker websites. You don’t need to create new accounts or acquire additional login information. When you sign up at the best legal online poker sites, you only need to punch in your Mastercard or Visa card number and CVV.
Some players aren’t comfortable sharing their bank details, but if you’d like to wager thousands of dollars at the best legal online poker sites, bank transfers may be your best bet. The transaction time frames aren’t the best, but you’ll save big when it comes to banking fees.
For the newer generation of players, bank transfers and credit cards are a bit old school. Instead, eWallets like Skrill, Neteller, and PayPal provide the most convenient online poker banking solutions. Once you have an eWallet account up and running, you won’t have to provide your banking details to poker websites anymore. Your email address and password are all you need.
Now that you know the ins and outs of how the best legal online poker sites in the US operate, you should be ready to start playing. The onboarding process is a walk in the park if you know what you’re doing. If this is your first time playing poker online, we’ve put together a quick step-by-step guide to walk you through the process.
Before you can play poker online, you have to identify a betting platform that suits your unique preferences. We’ve already provided pointers on how you can do this, but any of the top legal online poker sites listed on this page will do the trick. Once you visit the website’s homepage, you can proceed to the next step.
This step is a no-brainer. Once you click the Register or Sign-Up button, you’ll need to enter your email address, name, date of birth, and a few other personal details. You may also need to verify your identity and location by sending the operator copies of your ID and utility bills. This process only takes a couple of minutes.
To start playing real money online poker, you’ll need to fund your account using one of the banking options listed in the cashier section. If you’ve signed up with one of the best legal online poker sites, you should have a welcome bonus waiting for you in the promotions section.
By now, your account is up and running. All that’s left is to get a seat at one of the poker tables and start playing in any available cash games or tournaments.
Online poker is one of the most exciting casino games to play for real money. There’s no house edge, so skilled players can use advanced strategies to outwit competitors and win big. However, it’s crucial to sign up with the best legal online poker sites. There are many options out there, so it only makes sense to register with more than one. If you evaluate the 6 features we mentioned in this guide, you should land an operator that addresses your unique gaming needs. It’s also vital to go with an online poker platform that facilitates seamless deposits and withdrawals using banking methods you’re comfortable with. The websites listed on this page all provide exceptional online poker gaming opportunities. Whichever operator you register with, remember to set a budget and gamble responsibly.
To enjoy the best online poker experience, you need to sign up with top websites. Finding these operators is easier said than done. But if you know which features to look out for, half the battle is won. Our guides discuss in detail how players can find the best online gambling sites.
Signing up to a new online poker website is risky business. Even after conducting thorough due diligence, you never really know what to expect. That’s why players tend to look for bonuses that allow them to bet for pennies on the dollar. Our reviews describe the types of bonuses that an operator offers.
Playing online poker on your computer is well and good. But sometimes tournaments spill over into your work commutes or situations where you need to be out and about. That’s where a poker app with real money would be a game-changer. Fortunately for you, that’s one of the factors we consider when reviewing online poker sites. Our reviews always feature the mobile gaming options an operator provides.
Another crucial feature that we look at when choosing gambling options is safety. Players need to confirm that their personal and financial information is kept confidential. The risk of hacking has also become real. So, are online poker sites still safe? Our guides dig deep into the safeguards that the best legal online poker sites provide. We also offer advice on how you can maintain safe gambling practices.