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 the game from the United States in well under an hour.
In this US Online 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 US.
If you’re new to the game, review this section to find answers to the basic queries beginning players regularly ask when they’re first starting to explore the world of online poker.
What We Will Cover on This Page
Poker at the kitchen table may be a bit different from poker at a casino or in a World Series of Poker tournament, but the basics are the same. Moving online does require some adjustment, though, and a little time to become comfortable with the technology.
First, it’s faster than live poker. There are time limits on decisions in cash games and tournaments to keep the games moving. When you get used to the speed of the action, though, online games let players compete on several tables at one time. Multi-tabling is common for pro players and even some recreational players who want to play more than one tournament at a time.
Many players start at very low limits when transitioning to online play. Play for $0.01/$0.02 to get used to the table options, avatars, location of information on the screen, and the fast play. For tournaments, find a freeroll or two to get used to the timing and player tendencies.
Some things are more difficult online, like tells, but other things are easier, like the ability to play from home at almost any limit desired at any time of the day or night.
Any online market will inevitably host a handful of rogue sites, but the majority of the legal options for poker in the US are completely reputable sites with long track records of offering stable and secure products. Secure poker sites – such as any site we feature or review – will share a few characteristics, including:
- History of payouts: We only suggest sites with established histories of successful (and complete) player payouts.
- Licensed and regulated: All of the United States poker rooms reviewed on our site are licensed and regulated by a recognized jurisdiction.
- 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.
- Security teams: Sites like Americas Cardroom continuously add new security team members to monitor play and respond to customer concerns. This helps keep the sites free from bots and any type of player collusion.
- Player accountability: In a world of livestreaming and poker forums, poker sites today are on display. Players will document anything on a site that seems fishy, and the poker community as a whole will demand answers. This keeps the sites honest.
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 site on their webpage or by reaching out to support.
One way that poker rooms have increased the rake and the speed with which players pay it is to offer fast-fold poker. These are normally sit-n-go tournaments or all-in events that play very fast and allow for little skill. This increases the house edge, so players should be aware of this before playing.
Yes. There is an extremely active online community for US poker 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 poker room, so you can feel safe downloading software packages from our suggested poker sites.
Over the years, the downloads have improved with technology. Today, poker site downloads require little computer space and very little time (a few minutes or less). Some sites even offer poker without a download requirement, but the best poker sites still operate on downloaded software or specific mobile apps.
The game most familiar to players around the world is Texas Hold’em, which can be played as Limit or No Limit. Both of these versions of the game are the predominant game offered on all poker sites.
Pot Limit Omaha has soared in popularity in the past decade, and every poker site now offers some PLO tournaments and cash games. Within PLO, players can usually choose from Pot Limit, No Limit, or Limit. There are also many variations of Omaha, and larger sites do offer many of them. These include Omaha Hi/Lo (also called Omaha 8-or-better or Omaha 8, 5-Card Omaha (regular and hi/lo), Big O, 6-Card Omaha, and Courchevel.
As players have taken on more challenges and become more adept at switching games and playing mixed games, sites have also added some of these poker variants to their cash game tables and/or tournament options: Deuce-to-Seven Single Draw or 2-7 Triple Draw, 7-Card Stud, Razz, and Badugi.
The latest craze is Short Deck Hold’em. Many sites have recently added those games due to popular demand.
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 reviews.
No. There have been some instances of cheating, but games haven’t been found to be rigged.
Cheating is an unfortunate part of nearly all games. Poker is no different than live poker when it comes to this issue. Fortunately for players, the major sites have developed sophisticated methods for identifying and putting a stop to cheaters in poker games online.
More players, however, are concerned that the sites themselves are cheating players. They take some bad beats and believe the site must be rigged to make the players lose. This is simply not true. Reputable poker sites must produce RNG verification to obtain their licenses to operate. RNG verification is a certificate showing that their software’s RNG has been tested. RNG stands for random number generator and verifies that the cards at every table are dealt randomly and not subject to manipulation.
The amount you should deposit depends on what games you want to play. The great thing about 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 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 poker site simply isn’t working out.
A persistent myth has developed in some corners of the poker community: Depositing at a poker site from the US is difficult. That’s actually not at all the case, as depositing at most US-facing 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 a poker site, and most involve little more than a few minutes of your time.
The most common way to deposit into poker sites is with Visa or Mastercard. Occasionally, a bank through which the card is issued will block a deposit to a poker site. In that case, there are ewallets and other options for players to use, all of which are reputable and safe.
Many players are now using bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies more than ever before. Bitcoin is the most popular with players and sites, as nearly every site now allows deposits and withdrawals using bitcoin. It is typically faster than other banking methods and offers lower fees. Players who are new to digital currency will find help with the process through any customer service department.
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:
- Depositing at poker sites with Visa
- Depositing with MasterCard
- Prepaid deposit options at US online poker sites
- A few USA poker sites accept American Express
Poker sites serving US players do provide secure channels for deposits and withdrawals. Various encryption methods are utilized to ensure safe transactions. Players should obviously monitor their transactions – via bank statements, bitcoin wallets, etc. – to ensure that the transactions processed correctly, but there have been no complaints of improper processing by our recommended sites.
Sometimes, hackers try to lodge a DDOS attack against a poker site. That distributed denial of service attack is typically not an attempt to obtain player information but rather to simply disrupt the site’s operations. Sites protect player banking information at all costs, as one error could cause distrust that would doom an operator.
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.
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 legal online poker in every state, 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.
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.
Money won playing at a digital 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 poker sites.
In order to be in full compliance with tax authorities, players should keep a log of all of their 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 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 poker.
One of the most impactful yet misunderstood events to impact poker was the UIGEA – the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
Simply put, the law passed in 2006 to direct financial institutions to black transactions related to online gambling. While it does not specifically name poker, it has been applied to the game. However, it is only online gambling operators that need to consult with attorneys as to how to proceed with regard to American poker players. Playing poker itself is not illegal, nor is anyone who plays the game.
Check out of comprehensive guide to the UIGEA for more detailed information.
Yes. The sites we recommend accept American players and have done so since long before Black Friday.
Black Friday was the day that the US Department of Justice through the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York seized major poker websites. The US government seized PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and UltimateBet. They also indicted top executives from each company. That forced all of those companies out of the American gambling market, and only PokerStars remained in business afterward.
Since then, PokerStars and other sites like PartyPoker and 888poker have reentered the US market via individual states that legalized online poker for real money. Those states – Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania – restrict players to those within their state borders. Meanwhile, other poker sites continue to cater to US players, just as they did before Black Friday.
Americans should not be afraid to play poker whether it be online or at local games. Black Friday introduced no new laws and changed little from the player’s point of view.