Offshore US Friendly Poker Sites
Jurisdictions including Curacao, Panama, Antigua and the Kahnawake territory all welcome online poker rooms. You will find several big brands based offshore that welcome US players. One of these sites, Ignition Poker, only accepts players from the USA.
Here are the most popular, in order of size:
#1 – Ignition Poker - This site is relatively new, though is the largest offshore US site by a significant margin. Ignition Casino took over the poker room from Bovada in 2016 – instantly becoming the biggest site. This site has a unique approach to online poker. They use a ‘recreational player model’, which keeps the games easy by preventing 3rd party tracking tools (using anonymous play), and restricting multi-tabling. Ignition Poker are the only US poker site that offer a ‘fast fold’ poker variation, this is called ‘Zone Poker’.
#2 – America’s Cardroom - This site is part of the Winning Poker Network (WPN), they are commonly known by the acronym ‘ACR Poker’. While the software feels a little dated, there are plenty of options at this poker site. You will find lottery jackpot Sit N Goes (known simply as ‘Jackpots’), progressive leader board contests and a packed tournament schedule too. ACR Poker host the only regular $1 million guaranteed online poker tournaments, and also the popular ‘Online Super Series’ events.
#3 – BetOnline Poker - BetOnline started as a sports book, and moved into poker and casino gaming in 2011. They are still a big name for sports bettors, and you’ll find a lot of sports fans making their way to the poker tables. This keeps the poker games fishy. BetOnline is part of the Chico Poker Network. Games are shared with other members including Tiger Gaming Poker and Sports Betting Poker. This network does have poker tournaments, though it is not yet big enough to feature too many guaranteed prize pools.
Payment Methods for USA Poker Sites
With the UIGEA restricting regular bank and credit card payments to offshore poker sites, US based players need to come up with alternative methods. Fortunately, there are still several good ways to get your money onto, and back off from, the online poker rooms.
Visa, MasterCard and sometimes Amex do still work for making poker deposits. These payments get declined by banks on occasion, though are very simple to use when they do go through first time. You can buy prepaid cards which work for international payments.
Bitcoin poker is moving from something enjoyed by geeks, to a mainstream poker payment option. Once you have set up a wallet and used a Bitcoin exchange to fund it, your payment questions will disappear – you will have a go-to method which works at just about every offshore site.
Other alternatives include person-to-person transfer (using services like Western Union or MoneyGram, and, in the case of some sites, player-to-player transfer.
You should never deposit before you are sure that you know how to cash out again. A paper check, couriered to your door is the most popular method. Bitcoin, and P2P transfer can also be used.
USA Poker Sites – Federal Law 101
In 2006, the legal landscape changed significantly for US based online poker rooms. This year saw the passing of the ‘Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act’, often known as the UIGEA.
The passing of the UIGEA also led to a lot of misinformation about the legal status of online poker from the mainstream press. What this act does is make it unlawful for banks to send money to poker sites (all gambling sites are covered). Players are not covered in this act, and no federal law makes it a crime for an individual to play real money poker games or make deposits.
The effect of the UIGEA was to force many of the big and legitimate brands out of the US. These would soon be replaced by different poker sites. In 2011, the domains of several of these poker rooms were seized, in an event which became known as ‘Black Friday’. While some sites survived (some paying fines to the US authorities), others turned out to be rogue sites and were shut down.
As things stand for online poker, a new selection of poker sites has thrived. These sites are based offshore (mainly in either the Caribbean or Central America). The licensing jurisdictions argue that the sites are free to accept real money poker players from all over the world – citing global free trade agreements.
State Regulated USA Poker Rooms
In 2011, the Attorney General made a judgement clarifying the ‘Wire Act of 1967’. This act was originally designed to crack down on mob betting activities, stopping them using the telephone networks. This clarification separated sport betting, which the Wire Act covered, from poker and casinos – which it did not.
This paved the way for individual states of license their own poker rooms – which accept players from within individual state borders. There was a lot of excitement among poker players initially, however progress has been slow.
Delaware was the first state to offer residents online poker, followed by Nevada and New Jersey. Later, Delaware and Nevada agreed to share players between their sites. All sites are joint ventures between the international brands which left the US following the UIGEA, and local B&M casino operators.
There are currently discussions going on in several states, though progress at getting the regulations signed has been very slow.