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Playing Online Poker In The United States

Since 2020, online poker has seen a massive uptick in players as online poker rooms grow in popularity. Whether looking to play online cash games or poker tournaments, online poker sites offer a great, accessible option for players. Although practically any American can find some way to play poker online, in the United States state and federal regulations means playing poker online can be a bit more complicated than in other countries. Today’s article serves as a resource for my students to find the best poker sites they have available as well as how to safely cash out when they bink a big one!

Important Note: Jonathan Little and PokerCoaching.com are not paid by any website or promotion. The goal of this article is purely educational. While some gambling websites or online poker rooms may be recommended above others within this piece, this article is purely the opinion of Jonathan Little and PokerCoaching.com, and should be interpreted as such. Please be aware of your state/country’s laws and regulations before engaging in any form of online gambling.

Where You Should Play Poker Online

Licensed and Regulated Poker Sites

If you have the option, the best poker sites are the ones that are regulated and licensed. The problem with licensed and regulated sites like WSOP.com is that they are only available in certain states in the United States. Many states do not regulate or simply do not allow online poker within their borders. WSOP.com is only accessible to players in the states of Nevada and New Jersey, meaning you have to physically be in those states to log in and play. Before attempting to play poker online for real money, review your state’s gambling laws, and if online poker is fully legal look into what sites are supported in your area. Below is a list of licensed/regulated sites accessible to American players in specific states:

  • PartyPoker
  • PokerStars
  • Borgata
  • WSOP

Unregulated Online Poker Sites

Preferably, you should always play on one of the licensed and regulated sites previously mentioned in this article, but if you are in a state where none of the licensed sites are available, you do have some options although they are less desirable.

Of the unregulated sites currently operating in the United States, America’s Cardroom (ACR), Ignition/Bovada, and Global Poker are the “best of the bad options” you have at your disposal.

Knowing The Dangers Of Playing On Unregulated Poker Sites

While we do not recommend playing on any of the unregulated sites mentioned in this article, we recognize that these sites will always have a willing player base, as poker players will always want to play poker and will find a way to do so. If you ultimately decide that playing on an unregulated site is worth the risk, be sure you know exactly what you are risking.

Your Bankroll Can Be Seized At Any Moment

By far the biggest risk that players playing on unregulated poker sites face is the fact the money in their accounts is never safe. Since these websites are openly breaking state and federal laws, the United States government has the right to freeze and seize all funds at a moment’s notice. Although you can never fully protect your funds, the best course of action to negate the risk of holding funds on unregulated sites is to leave as little money on them as possible. On a typical day of grinding online poker tournaments, if the most you usually spend in buy-ins is $100, only leave $100-$200 in your unregulated account. While these funds will be at risk of being lost forever, you would much rather lose $200 than $2,000.

Lack Of Oversight For Cheaters

Imagine you play on the Seattle Mariners, a Major League Baseball team. When the Mariners usually play, they have umpires on the field that manage the pace of play, make calls, and make sure that both teams collectively follow the agreed-upon rules. Playing a baseball game with umpires represent playing on poker sites like WSOP.com.

Now let’s say one day the umpires do not show up to the stadium, and the Mariners have to play the Houston Astros, a team known for cheating. While both the Mariners and Astros can agree to still play, without umpires there is no oversight from any regulating body making sure the Astros follow the rules. Playing a baseball game without umpires is like playing on ACR, Bovada, or Global Poker, while all players involved can still agree to play, they do so without any guarantee that all players involved aren’t cheating in some way. With the anonymity that comes with playing online poker, unregulated sites can be a hotbed for poker players willing to do whatever it takes to win.

Are you prepared to beat the online felt? Take the quiz that tells you

Cashing Out On Unregulated Online Poker Sites

If it is the only option at their disposal to play poker, we do not discourage poker players from playing on unregulated websites as long as they are aware of the risks they present. While these may be a suitable option for some players, what happens when you bink a big tournament, and want to withdraw funds from an unregulated site? Unlike regulated sites, it is not as easy as depositing money into a banking account or receiving a check (never accept physical checks from unregulated sites, as that clearly violates federal law and some banks will refuse to accept funds or gouge you with large fees). While it usually involves some additional steps, you do have options when it comes to withdrawing funds from unregulated poker sites.

Swapping Funds With Other Poker Players

The best option for securing funds won on unregulated poker sites is trading funds with other poker players. On most poker sites, you can send funds (within the site) to other poker players as long as you have the username of the other player. If you find another player willing to help you exchange funds, you can send them money within the site, and then they can pay you out for the same amount through whatever financial means both parties agree to. 

A common way online poker players find individuals to exchange funds with is through groups that operate through forums like Discord or Guild. While membership in these groups is heavily based on vetting and vouching, there have been cases where people have been cheated and ghosted mid-transaction, resulting in lost funds. Although this serves as an additional example as to why you may want to avoid unregulated sites, it is truly your best option when it comes to withdrawing funds from them.

Withdrawing Poker Winnings Via Cryptocurrency

If you don’t trust exchanging with a stranger and want a withdrawal method that doesn’t require working with another individual, cryptocurrency provides a secondary option for withdrawal and is often supported by most unregulated poker sites. The vast majority of unregulated poker websites support transactions via major cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin and Ethereum), if you have a physical or digital cryptocurrency wallet, you can withdraw funds directly from these sites. If you have a simple cryptocurrency mobile app like Coinbase, you can withdraw funds from unregulated poker sites straight to your digital wallet. 

Important Things To Know Regarding Withdrawing Poker Winnings Via Cryptocurrency

Although cryptocurrency provides some freedom for poker players wanting to conduct transactions with unregulated poker sites, there are some factors poker players should be aware of before “hitting send”.

Even though many unregulated poker sites advertise that they will complete cryptocurrency transactions within 24 hours, often times they will take longer, as there is no agency or method of oversight holding them to this promise. By not being legally obligated to send you the funds within a certain time frame, this can result in a poker player being transferred less money than they originally planned on receiving.

Any veteran within the cryptocurrency space knows that cryptocurrencies and assets like NFTs can fluctuate in value. While a “stable” coin like Bitcoin can be worth one price one day, days or even hours later it can be worth much less. If an unregulated poker site takes its sweet time in transferring you your money, it may end up sending you far less than you expected if the price of the specific cryptocurrency drops between the time you “hit withdraw” and the time the funds actually reach your wallet. Although these occurrences are occasional, they have been known to happen, serving as another example of why you must be aware of the risks before committing funds on unregulated poker sites.  

Even if you believe in the long-term value of specific cryptocurrencies, never keep the majority of your bankroll within any crypto, as the volatility of the market will always leave you at risk. Poker has enough variance already, so limit the risk of the game by storing your money where it will be safe.

Another Important Note: In the United States, gambling winnings but also income earned through cryptocurrency is subject to taxation from the federal government. Always report your earnings from gambling and cryptocurrency trading in accordance with United States government regulations and laws.

Conclusion

Although regulated poker sites are the preferred option, the vast majority of the United States does not have regulated, online poker available to players. While PokerCoaching.com does not endorse playing on unregulated poker websites, we recognize that many of our users rely on these sites as they are their only means of playing poker. If you choose to play on unregulated poker sites, please be smart and recognize the risks that come with doing business with them. Do not keep the majority of your money on these websites, as your funds are never 100% safe on unregulated poker websites. As with anything in life, online poker or otherwise, exercise your best judgment and it will prevent you from much unneeded stress in the long run.

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