Explaining Online Poker in the U.S


The online poker industry in the United States has seen substantial growth in recent years. According to the World Poker Tour (WPT), there are approximately 100 million online poker players globally, with 60 million in the U.S. alone in 2021.

In the same year, Michigan state grossed $1.4 billion in total iGaming receipts, of which online poker was a portion. This is clear evidence that online poker is a booming industry again.

Whether for daily entertainment, improving strategies, or a way to relax while traveling, enthusiasts are quickly jumping on the bandwagon. If you want to know more, you’re in the right place as we’re going to look at online poker in the U.S.

History of Online Poker

Online poker for real money first began on January 1, 1998, when it was offered by Planet Poker. It didn’t gain widespread popularity until 2003, when a man named Chris Moneymaker qualified online for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event and won $1m. The news made headlines and ignited the poker boom of 2003 as people tried their luck in the game, with many aspiring to follow suit and win millions.

The poker boom lasted a few short years up until 2011, when the government shut down much of the online gaming industry, what became known as Black Friday. It’s been over a decade since the nationwide halt, and Americans are slowly regaining confidence in online poker, with many trying poker games for fun.

Online Poker Today

While some form of wagering, whether in casinos or lotteries, is legal in 48 states, online poker for real money is still heavily regulated, and you can’t play in every state. Across the U.S., online poker legalization has been slow, with lawmakers putting up bills for consideration and committees working at the speed of a turtle to move forward.

As of this writing, only five states have legalized state-licensed internet poker for real money. Those states are Michigan, Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania.

Poker legalization has also passed in two other states, West Virginia and Connecticut; however, there are still no licensed operators conducting business. This is evidence that even though lawmakers have already legalized online poker if the citizens have no desire to play, then no growth or development will occur.

For those that want to play online poker but live in states that don’t allow it, there are free-to-play poker apps and websites with play money, like Zynga Poker or PlayWPT. Or, you could always drive to a nearby real casino if you live close to one.

Online Poker in the Future

Even though the legislative approval process is slow, there are some states that might approve online poker in the imminent future. In 2019, Indiana passed legislation making retail sportsbooks legal, including mobile wagering within state lines; therefore, online poker could be next on their ballot. Florida, Illinois and Colorado currently allow live poker games in the state and have opened up discussions to legalize online poker, so they could also be next. It is possible that, as more states realize how much revenue can be collected from tax dollars, like that of Michigan, they will be encouraged to follow suit by legalizing online poker.

Online poker has come a long way, from a boom to a bust to another boom. Now, as different states are slowly opening up to online poker, you can play and have fun online, but check your state laws before going all-in.