Is Online Poker for Real Money Legal?
As with all legal questions, the main factor is where you are located – and so whose laws affect you.
One country where there is a lot of incorrect information in the mainstream press about the legality of online poker is the USA. While many people think that playing online poker has been outlawed federally – this is not the case at all. The law people point to, known as the UIGEA, only makes it illegal for US banks to transact with gambling sites. Players are not covered at all.
When you get to the state laws, some are more restrictive than others. Utah is an example of a state which explicitly prohibits its residents from playing real money poker online. Most states simply refer to gambling laws which were put in place more than 100 years ago. This explains why no individual has ever been indicted for playing real money poker online anywhere in the US.
I should note that 3 states have their own regulated real money poker sites. These are joint ventures between local casinos and international software providers. These states are Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. There is hope that other states will follow with their own regulation, though this is slow going.
Canadian players enjoy one of the most liberal sets of gambling laws worldwide. They are free to play poker for real money online. The only restriction is that the sites are not allowed to be based in Canada. Unfortunately, the US banking restrictions do make payments tricky at times.
Worldwide Legal Real Money Poker
Outside of North America, and we see a mix of approaches towards legal online poker. Some countries regulate poker, and also segregate their player pools. The main examples here are Italy, Spain and France. Players in these countries can’t play at the big international sites, and players outside of those countries can’t join in the games there.
Other places, for example the UK, require real money poker sites to be licensed. They do allow UK players to join the international player pools at the licensed sites. This model has been used by several other countries recently, including Denmark.
There are places where online poker for real money is not allowed. These include South Africa. More recently, Australia started putting restrictions in place. While some online poker sites pulled out, many more are still offering games to Australian players.
Online Poker is Legal, But Is It Safe?
By forcing US poker sites offshore, into Caribbean jurisdictions which allow gambling site operators, the US gave up on player protection. This means that you should do your own checks before signing up and depositing at any site.
Most of the brands, especially those that have been serving US players for many years, are completely legitimate. Now and again, you do get the odd rogue site. Reading the poker reviews here at IsOnlinePokerLegal.com will give you a great start in being able to find the safest site. I like to see a gambling license in place, as well as a clean reputation for handling payments (especially withdrawals) quickly and easily.
Worldwide, you will have fewer issues with rogue sites. Many of the big names are traded on the London Stock Exchange. Companies like 888 and Bwin.Party have spent many years ensuring that their reputations are strong.
What Kinds of Real Money Poker Games can I Find Online?
Once you have found a site which is both legal and safe in your jurisdiction, the next step is to find the poker format which works best for you. There are plenty of poker strategy articles here to help you win at the tables. There are 4 main categories of poker these days, each of these contains its own variation. On top of these formats, you can enjoy different types of poker game.
Cash Games: This is the basic form of poker, where chips have a value in real money. Every bet you make is the exact value of what is on the chip. You can find cash games in several different table sizes, ranging from heads-up (2 players) all the way to 10-handed at the tables.
Tournaments: Instead of real money chips, you buy-in for a set amount and play with tournament chips. The bet sizes go up in this format, forcing you to play hands. The winner is the player that ends up with all the chips – though 10% to 15% of the field typically get prizes. There are many variations include rebuys, knockout tournaments and speedy versions too.
Sit N Goes: These real money poker games are like mini-tournaments. The standard game is just 1 table, with 3 players getting paid. Multi-table Sit N Goes also run. These games do not have a scheduled start time, instead kicking off when there are enough players sat down. New forms of Sit N Go are super-fast, and have randomly allocated prize pools.
Fast-Fold Poker: This format can be used for both tournament and cash game play. Instead of sitting at a table, you join a large pool of players. Every time you fold a hand (even out of turn) you will be taken immediately to a new hand with players from your pool. This is an entertaining real money poker variation, which can be up to 4 times as fast as a regular cash game.