Online Poker FAQ

Online poker is a far simpler undertaking than most new players think.  With just a bit of research and patience, you can learn everything you need to know about playing online poker from the United States in well under an hour.

In this US Poker FAQ you'll uncover detailed answers to over a dozen of the fundamental questions new American poker players have about getting started online. If you have a question and can't find the answer on this page, please feel free to contact us here. .

General Questions About Online Poker in the United States

If online poker is a completely new pursuit, review this section to find answers to the basic queries beginning players regularly ask when they're first starting to explore the world of US online poker.

What is Different About Online Poker?

Almost everyone in the US has played some form of poker at some point in their lives.  While the transition might seem a little jarring at first, moving from your personal poker experience to playing online is actually a far shorter leap than it seems.  The rules are the same, the deck is the same and it feels just as good when you get dealt aces online as it does when you're dealt them live.

The one big difference that new players tend to be unprepared for is the pure speed of the online version.  When you play at an online poker site, you're playing a game that is something close to four times faster than a live poker deal.  On top of that boost, you can play multiple tables at the same time.  It's possible to literally pack years of live poker into just a few weeks of intensive online play.  While this sounds great at first, the pace of online poker presents a unique set of challenges, especially to novice players who need a slower pace of play to make good decisions.

Are American Online Poker Rooms Secure?

Any online poker market will inevitably host a handful of rogue sites, but the majority of the legal options for online poker in the US are completely reputable sites with long track records of offering stable and secure products.  Secure US poker sites - such as any site we feature or review - will share a few characteristics, including:

  1. History of payouts:  We only suggest US poker sites sites with established histories of successful (and complete) player payouts.
  2. Licensed and regulated:  All of the United States online poker rooms reviewed on our site are licensed and regulated by a recognized jurisdiction.
  3. Secure channels for play and banking:  Any room we list for American players provides players with secure methods for handling financial transactions as well as totally secure environments for game play.

How US Poker Rooms Make Money

Poker rooms that accept American players make money the same way as just about any poker room, online or otherwise.  They make money by charging a fee - taken from the pot in cash games and as a separate entry charge for tournaments - called the rake.  You can review the rake of any US poker site on their webpage or by reaching out to support.

Is the Software Safe to Download?

Yes.  There is an extremely active online poker community for US players that is constantly monitoring the reputability of poker site downloads. The Windows and Mac poker downloads are safe. We are unaware of any incident whatsoever involving malicious software and an American online poker room, so you can feel safe downloading software packages from our suggested US poker sites. The no download poker sites are also safe to use, however, at the time of this review, non of the US sites offer a no download option.Back to the FAQ

Available Games For US Players

The dominant game at all online poker sites available to American players is Texas Hold'em.  Next in terms of popularity is Pot Limit Omaha, with stud games and other minor variants making up the rest of the lobby for a typical US poker site.

The Basics of Deposit Bonuses

You can't visit the homepage of an American poker site without seeing a deposit bonus advertised in big, bold type.  Deposit bonuses are a staple of all online poker rooms, and they work like this: You deposit a certain amount of money and the room gives you a bonus based on that deposit.  The bonus money is separate from your regular funds and is restricted - you can't cash it out or use it for play.

As you play at the room, you will gradually convert this bonus money to regular funds that can be cashed out or used for real-money play at the site.  The rate at which this conversion occurs, along with the size of the bonus you can get, differs from one US poker room to the next.  Terms of bonuses are analyzed in all of our US poker site reviews.

Are the Games Fixed Online?

Cheating is an unfortunate part of nearly all games.  Online poker is no different than live poker when it comes to this issue.  Fortunately for players, the major US online poker sites have developed sophisticated methods for identifying and putting a stop to cheaters in poker games online.

If you feel like a game isn't on the level at a poker site, your best bet is to collect all of the hand records you believe show evidence of fraud or cheating.  All online poker sites have dedicated security teams that will take your information, review it, and act accordingly.  While not every suspected instance of cheating turns out to involve actual cheating, the best policy for players is to report everything that seems suspicious to the room and let the professionals sort out which is which. Back to the FAQ

How Much Do You Need to  Deposit to Play US Online Poker?

The amount you should deposit depends on what games you want to play.  The great thing about online poker is that rooms can offer much smaller games than would ever be possible in a live poker room.  That means players can get plenty of mileage out of a small poker deposit.  In fact, even a deposit of $20 can allow a typical player to get weeks of play across cash games and tournaments at any one of our suggested US online poker rooms.

We generally suggest that players begin with small deposits regardless of what stakes they are interested in playing.  Small deposits allow you to take trial runs on sites without committing large amounts of money, and give you increased flexibility should you decide that a given online poker site simply isn't working out.

Online Poker Banking for Americans

For players who are familiar with the game of poker but aren't certain of how depositing works at United States-friendly poker sites, the following answers should provide useful clarification. Back to the FAQ

How Difficult is it to Deposit at an Online Poker Site?

A persistent myth has developed in some corners of the online poker community: Depositing at an online poker site from the US is difficult.  That's actually not at all the case, as depositing at most US-facing online poker sites is as easy as purchasing a pair of pants from a major online retailer.  There are a variety of choices for US players who want to deposit at an online poker site, and most involve little more than a few minutes of your time. If you play poker online in New Jersey, New York, Washington or one of the commonly banned states, we suggest you check out our BetOnline Poker review as this site has no problems accepting players from any one of the 50 states.

Choices for Making Poker Deposits

Our site offers extensive guides to all of the major choices US players have for making legal poker deposits/  We suggest players review any of our following guides in order to effectively compare and contrast the various choices for depositing at an online poker room open to US players:

  1. Depositing at US poker sites with Visa
  2. Depositing with MasterCard
  3. Using Western Union at US poker rooms
  4. Making MoneyGram Deposits at online poker rooms
  5. Prepaid deposit options at US online poker sites
  6. A few USA poker sites accept American Express

Banking Information Safety

While poker sites serving US players do provide secure channels for deposits and withdrawals, it still falls on players to ensure their own security.  We strongly suggest that US poker players use a dedicated credit card or bank account for all online poker transactions, and further that these accounts should be monitored actively.  The primary cause for concern is that US poker rooms do not handle most payment processing directly; instead, that job is contracted out to other companies, companies that may not be as reputable or established as the poker site itself.

Charges for Depositing or Making Withdrawals

Before the UIGEA and Black Friday, poker players from the United States never had to worry about paying a fee to deposit or cash out.  Now, the reality is that players may encounter fees, sometimes substantial ones, while attempting to move funds to and from US poker rooms.  Each payment method charges different types of fees, but by reviewing our guides to the different options for making your deposit at the poker site you can easily identify the one that offers the best combination of ease and value for you.

Online Poker in the US: Legality

The legal environment surrounding US online poker is a complicated one, and the nuances of that environment are constantly shifting.  Arming yourself with some basic information regarding the legality of online poker in the United States is the best way for a player to make sound decisions regarding the choice to play poker online for real money. Back to the FAQ

Has Anyone Ever Been Arrested for Playing Online Poker in the US?

Based on our extensive research, we feel confident in saying that no one has ever been arrested or charged for simply playing poker online from the US.  It is difficult to definitively assess the legality of playing online poker in each and every jurisdiction within the United States, but players can definitely take comfort in the apparent fact that even if the act of playing does technically violate the law, players are not a target of law enforcement in the US.

Depositing Legally at a Poker Site From the US

While the legality of playing poker for real money in some formats may be an open question, the legality of making a deposit generally is not.  Federal law only covers the institutions that process the transaction, not the individual participants making the transactions.  You should not encounter any legal issues when making a deposit at a US-facing online poker room.

Paying Taxes on Online Poker Winnings in the United States

Money won playing at an online poker room is the same as money won at a live poker room, and that means that it is subject to all applicable reporting and taxes.  Players from the United States should definitely plan to pay taxes on any winnings from online poker sites.

In order to be in full compliance with tax authorities, players should keep a log of all of their online poker activity.  A log of each session, including times and overall results, is your best asset if there is ever an audit or similar process involving your online poker play.  If you have any questions about how to report poker income, your smartest play is to talk to a tax professional.  Depending on how much of your income is derived from poker, you may qualify for special tax treatment that can reduce the amount of tax you'll have to pay on your winnings from playing online poker.

Understanding the UIGEA

Poker players from the United States are often confused about the UIGEA.  We have developed a comprehensive guide to the UIGEA, but the short version goes like this:  The law, passed in 2006, directs financial institutions like banks to put procedures in place that block transactions related to illegal online gambling.  The law does not outlaw online poker or make players subject to criminal penalty for playing at poker sites open to Americans.

Can Americans Play Online Poker After Black Friday?

Yes.  While PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker no longer accept US players for real money online poker, several online poker sites still take American poker players.  In fact, thousands and thousands of US players are online at any given time playing poker at the top sites for Americans. 

Black Friday introduced no new laws or rules that changed the legal status of online poker in the US.  Much like the UIGEA, the charges were focused on financial violations and not at all targeted on individual poker players. Back to the FAQ