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Guide to Finding the Best US Poker Sites in 2019
Online poker used to be much bigger than it is now.
Before 2011 – before Black Friday – it was nothing special to see 100,000 or 150,000 players at PokerStars on any given day. Even closer to 250-300,000 players on Sundays.
Then Black Friday hit. PokerStars left the US. Everyone else went bankrupt. All US players had left were a bunch of 2nd and 3rd tier sites with a fraction of the traffic and games (not to mention a fraction of the trust).
And though we’ve seen progress on the legalization front, it’s nowhere near what we had prior to Black Friday.
But people want to play online poker now. They don’t want to wait for their state to legalize online poker. At the same time, they’re afraid of joining another Lock Poker.
We hear you. It’s hard to find a legit poker room that accepts Americans. So, we decided to do the work for you. Below you’ll find a list of the best US poker sites. We’ve already vetted each site – you can create your account now and feel good about it.
A common question we get is, how do you choose the sites on your list? What do you look for? What do all the best poker rooms have in common?
So, let’s start there. The following items are the first things we look for when vetting US poker rooms. These are listed in order from most to least important.
Reputation is everything nowadays. By this we mean, what are players, watchdog groups, forums and other websites saying about a room?
You can ignore the dumb stuff – things like ‘this site is rigged’ or ‘my aces were cracked 5 times by 72o’ – and things like that.
Instead, you want to look for answers to the following questions:
How long has the site been around?
The longer, the better, because you have more history, for one thing. And you can be sure the first 3 months of positive experiences wasn’t a fluke.
How do they handle player complaints?
Do they take care of their customers, or do they tweak terms, argue with them, lock accounts and childish other and/or roguish things?
Do they pay their players?
Has the poker had any delays paying their players? How have they handled those situations?
What companies do they work with?
Do they work with other reputable companies, or do they work with questionable or outright shady companies like FutureBet?
And you don’t want to stop here. Research the company thoroughly. Make sure you leave no stone unturned.
Now, the poker site doesn’t need to have a spotless record. Few legit companies do. In fact, you might be even more worried if a site appears to be perfect (what are they hiding?). You just want to make sure whatever issues they’ve had were temporary; that they took care of their problems and their customers.
The bottom line – if a poker site has a bad reputation, nothing else on this page will help you. Nothing else matters if you join a poker room capable (and willing) to screw you over.
The next thing I look for is traffic. And, like a site’s reputation, if a site doesn’t have traffic, nothing else after this will matter. You can’t play poker by yourself, and you’re going to have a hard time finding a game if a room only has 100 or 500 players at any given time.
Don’t believe me? Ask some of the poker sites, like Ultimate Poker, who tried to make it in a legalized market – then closed after a couple years.
It’s hard to say exactly how many players a site needs, but the more (real money players), the better. You’ll also want to pay attention to the specific games and stakes you want to play. The smaller the player base, the more flexible you’ll need to be; you’ll need to be open to playing different games.
We use Poker Scout to get a 30,000 foot view of a poker room’s traffic levels.
There are a couple of things you want to look for here.
First, you want to look for banking options. The more options a site accepts, the better. Because in the USA – thanks to the UIGEA – banking can be a pain in the butt. The more options they accept, the more chances you have to get a payment processed/approved.
Ideally, you’ll find a site that accepts credit cards, debit cards, and other forms of plastic (gift cards, prepaid cards, etc.). From there, bitcoin is another good option, as are money transfers (like Western Union) and bank wires.
This applies to both deposits and cash outs, by the way.
Next, you want to look at processing and delivery times. Because banking is more challenging in the USA, you should expect to wait a little bit longer to receive you money. It depends on the bank method, but anywhere from 1-4 weeks is reasonable. Any longer and you may want to consider playing elsewhere.
Most people who’re reading this aren’t going to be pros – they’re going to be part timers or recreational players. So, it makes sense to play at rooms that cater more to you than the professional.
Fortunately, this seems to be the trend most sites are heading towards anyway. The idea is to give recreational players a more enjoyable experience, a fair shot at winning some money, and some relief from being hunted down by better players.
A few things you’ll find from rec-friendly poker sites include:
Anonymous tables. Players are identified with numbers instead of screen names.
Limited note taking (to only that session).
Not being able to tag players (so you can’t find them later).
Limited multi-tabling (fewer tables).
No 3rd party tracking (like Holdem Manager or Poker Tracker).
No data mining.
Beginner only tables.
And so on. The more options like these a poker room has, the more rec-friendly they are.
These are the first – and most important – items we look at for every poker room on our list.
If you’re not interested in doing all that research, the easiest thing to do is either use our recommendations on this page -or- stick to the top 2-3 sites/networks listed on Poker Scout.
After we’ve researched the items above, we continue on to lesser important things on our checklist. In no particular order, we look at a poker room’s:
Most rooms offer deposit bonuses. We recommend you find a bonus that has a higher match percentage (150%, 200%, 300%, etc.) rather than a larger bonus overall. You’ll get more money, but with less risk (which is important to consider when playing at an offshore site). You also want to compare rollover requirements (taking the games/stakes you play into consideration) and how long they give you to clear the bonus.
Deposit bonuses are great, but they’re short-lived. VIP programs are better because the more you play, the more you can earn. If you don’t plan to stick at one poker site very long, you don’t have to worry about this. But if you plan to be around for a while, make sure the room has a decent cash back program at the very least, and preferably a multi-tier VIP program with lots of perks.
This is important because why else play if not for the games? Most games running will be at the micro and small stakes, which will satisfy most people. Large to high stakes will be hit or miss. The most popular game is holdem, followed by omaha. Guaranteed tournaments will offer a lot of value, especially if there are overlays, as will satellites and step tournaments.
And that’s it.
Once you’ve made your way through this list, you should have a good idea as to whether or not a particular room is worth signing up to.
A Few More Helpful Tips
Here are a few more tips that will help US poker players find the best sites.
You want to make sure the poker room is not on a .com, .net or .org domain extension – or any other extension the US Government can seize. You want to find a site on a .lv or .eu extension instead. This will reduce the chances of the US interfering with the site’s day-to-day operations.
Create 2-3 Poker Accounts
This does a couple things for you. One, if there’s a problem with one of the sites and you lose your bankroll, you won’t lose everything. Two, you’ll have a couple options for finding a game to play (that you also like). Just make sure you’re accounts are at different companies/networks so you’re truly diversified.
We mentioned this earlier, but it’s a good idea to have an open mind about the games you play. PokerStars spoiled us. You can play nearly any game, at any level, at almost any time. But nowadays your options are limited. You’ll have more options the more well-rounded you are.
Join a Couple Poker Forums
2+2 and Cards Chat are good options. This way you can keep your ears to the ground. You’ll hear of any new poker sites that pop up so you can be one of the first to try them. You’ll also hear of any problems a poker room may be having so you can prepare (aka get your bankroll cashed out ASAP).
Use Multiple Banking Options
The more banking options you can use, the less problems you’ll have funding an account. We recommend having 2-3 different credit/debit/prepaid cards, as well as bitcoin, as you can use it for both deposits and cash outs.
If you use these tips, along with our checklist above, you’ll undoubtedly have a safer and more enjoyable experience playing poker online.
You now have the tools and resources to find the best US poker sites. You can either follow our recommendations above, which is by far the fastest and easiest approach to getting started. Or, you can use our checklist and tips to find a room on your own.
US Poker Sites FAQ
Here are some questions we regularly get about playing online poker from the United States.
Is it legal for me to play at one of these sites? Will I get in trouble?
We’re not lawyers, so we can’t say for sure. It’s a good idea to chat with a lawyer about any legal questions or concerns you have.
We’ve not heard of anyone getting into legal trouble for playing online poker from the USA. So it’s unlikely anything will happen to you.
As far as being legal, that depends on where you live. In some states, like Washington, it’s a felony. But in others it’s not as clear cut.
The bottom line, the legality depends on where you live, though it’s unlikely you’ll face any consequences based on what we’ve seen in the past.
Can you tell me what the online gambling laws are for ___your state here___?
Yes, assuming you can create an account and make a deposit, you should have no problem playing for real money.
Do US poker sites offer free poker games?
Yes, nearly every site we’ve reviewed – and all the sites we recommend on this page – let you play poker for free. Just keep in mind your options will be limited, and in most cases, you won’t be able to win real money. On the bright side, you (probably) won’t be breaking any laws playing for free.
Are US poker sites safe?
They’re not as safe as, say, playing at an online poker site licensed and regulated in Nevada or New Jersey. In either of those states you’d have legal recourse if one of those sites tried to steal from you or do you wrong in some other way.
No offshore site is THAT safe.
But the sites WE recommend are sites that have been around for years OR are related to another site that’s been around for years. And in that time they’ve developed a good reputation for being a legit poker room you can trust – and one you know will pay you.
That’s as good as you’re going to get from any offshore poker site.
Do US poker sites offer mobile poker?
Some do, yes. You’ll want to read our reviews to find out for sure, as well as what games they offer to mobile users. Most offer a few cash games and a fast fold poker option, if they offer anything at all.
What is the UIGEA? I heard it makes online poker in the United States illegal.
This is a common misunderstanding. It’s not true.
The UIGEA stands for Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. And the general idea behind this law is this: it prohibits banks from processing payments to and from online poker sites.
That’s it. It merely covers processing and nothing to do with legality. You can learn more about it here.
Are US poker sites licensed and regulated?
Yes, but not in or from the United States. They’re usually licensed and regulated in the jurisdictions, countries and/or regions they do business from. And while they still have to follow rules to get and keep their license, these rules are often far more lax than the rules they’d have to follow if they operated from the United States.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to make sure the room is licensed and regulated, as it’s a small barrier to entry – it will keep the absolute bottom of the barrel, riff-raff out. But we don’t recommend you put a lot of weight into it, either.
You mentioned bitcoin is a good deposit option – why?
Bitcoin is a good option because it’s anonymous. You don’t need to give up all your information to have a bitcoin wallet. And, if you play at a poker site that only deals in bitcoin, you don’t have to give them much information, either.
The other benefit is bitcoin isn’t regulated (yet). Who knows if or when this will change. So bitcoin can be processed and shipped much faster than most banking options available to Americans – especially for cash outs.
How do I know which US poker sites to avoid?
The best way to spot a bad US poker site is flipping our checklist and tips upside down. In other words, a bad poker room will have:
A bad reputation.
Few banking options.
A .com domain extension.
No bonus or VIP program.
Unfair bonus terms.
Being guilty of some of these (no bonus, traffic or few banking options) doesn’t mean the poker room’s running a scam. But it DOES mean they’re not one of the best poker sites for Americans, and that’d you be better off sticking to one of our recommendations above.