The state of California is home to over 39 million people and serves as one of the most significant jurisdictions for online gambling. It also accounts for the highest traffic of poker game lovers in the United States. The Golden State is a poker player’s dream, with various land-based poker gambling rooms and, recently, a few iGaming sites offering multiple poker game types.
Despite the vast population and the high popularity of poker, restrictions are blocking the development of poker in the state. Several bills have been introduced in the state’s senate from the 2000s. Yet, issues concerning the settlement of the native tribes with various gambling interests have failed to give a full green light on the legality of online poker in California.
Poker Sites We Recommend
While there are still current deliberations by lawmakers about the legalization of online poker in California, gamblers who want to play poker online for money in California casinos may not get a visit from law enforcement.
This in-depth review of California poker online will focus on critical issues affecting your poker gaming session. It answers questions regarding California’s online poker legal situation and the essential features of the best poker sites California to play on. We also delve into the history of online gambling and prospects for Californian gamblers.
History of California Poker
Poker in the Golden State has been available since the times of the Old West. Its dominance began in the 19th century and continued to expand with the gold rush of the 1800s. The development of this game was halted in 1879 when the state legislature banned all gambling activities in the state except for draw poker.
In 1891, another law was passed that banned other gambling forms, again leaving out draw poker. While poker was forbidden, its continuous development continued at a slower pace underground.
The government soon realized that the game of poker continued to progress and signed laws in the 1980s and 1990s. It has continued to grow significantly since then.
Is Online Poker Legal in California?
No. According to the laws of California—specifically, the California Penal Code—online poker is not entirely illegal in the Golden state. There is no specific law regarding the legality of poker. However, you may not find any legal online poker room that receives bets from players in California, as no law legalizes it.
Here’s a quote from Section 330 of the California Penal Code:
“Every person who plays or bets at or against any of those prohibited games is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punishable by a fine not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1000), or by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by both the fine and imprisonment.”
Although this section of the penal code clearly rules against certain games, online poker is not mentioned here.
As a resident of California, there are other options available to play poker online for money and win. You can either wager on offshore casino sites or enjoy different poker game types on sweepstakes casinos.
Several internet poker sites in locations like Curaçao, Antigua, Panama, etc., accept wagers from U.S. players. For most iGaming websites that block certain states from accessing their services, California is one of them. However, we recommend you carry out an in-depth analysis of their services before signing up and making a real money deposit. We have dedicated a separate section to showing you how to choose the best online casinos.
Gambling Laws in California
According to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, the federal government barred all online gambling operators from receiving wagers based on “unlawful internet gambling.”
However, this law targeted banks and credit card companies, not citizens. In recent times, particularly in 2018, the Supreme Court repealed another crucial federal law: the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Now, states, including California, can decide what aspects of gambling are legal and illegal within their state lines.
In 2011, the Department of Justice revised its decision on the UIGEA, stating it only affects online sports betting. Thus, no federal legislation or law outrightly bans online poker. With the power of PASPA, only the Californian government and state legislature can decide its legality.
In California, online gambling is yet to be fully legalized. As we stated, problems due to the settlement between native tribes and within the state’s senate have hampered the development of laws and regulations. This also includes different poker gambling room owners and operators with other objectives.
While online poker in California is still being deliberated on, the state’s laws regarding live poker gaming in land-based casinos remain the same. You can ultimately play poker in different offline game rooms. Some organizations can also arrange a “poker night,” which may include bingo games, yearly. However, all proceeds must be donated to charity. New legislation in 2018 after the Supreme Court’s overturning of the PASPA act sees native tribal casinos running these poker rooms exclusively.
Other states that have since made online poker legal have opened their services to players from California. Currently, any bill that seeks to legalize online poker gambling will need the go-ahead from at least two-thirds of the state senate, with an additional voters referendum.
When will Online Poker in California become Legal?
It might be a while before there is a green light allowing online poker to be available in California. The reasons stated above do not seem like they will be resolved soon. All efforts are currently focused on making online sports betting legal in the state. The earliest projection is around 2023.
For online poker, it is believed that all real money poker sites California may become available from 2024 or later. This doesn’t mean that stakeholders have no genuine interest in making it legal. Each year has seen the state’s legislature introduce bills to this effect, thanks to the many land-based poker rooms owned by different tribes.
It is hoped that the speedy authorization of online sports betting will fast-track legal online poker in California.
Who Regulates Online Poker in California?
The issue of legalization for C.A. online poker has also been heightened with the continuous presence of online sports betting handlers. However, like most top states in the country, the Golden State also has a whole body that oversees all gambling activities, including online poker.
The California Bureau of Gambling Control is the government agency in charge of enforcing all gambling laws in the state. In addition to the Bureau, the California Gambling Control Commission is also responsible for issuing licenses to operators who meet the state’s requirements.
Both agencies are responsible for the regulation of activities for online poker in the state. They also coordinate with all native tribes to ensure continuous maintenance of interest between them.
Various Attempts to make California Online Poker Legal
There have been different attempts at making online poker legal in California, with the first try dated over a decade ago. The first recorded attempt was by Anthony Sandstrom, who ran a YouTube channel. His efforts were not successful, as he fell short of the required 430,000 signatures from voters.
Senator Lloyd Levine of the 2008 assembly was also recorded to have an unsuccessful attempt. He sponsored the California Gambling Control and Intrastate Poker Legislation Act. The significant opposition was the native tribes, who felt such legislation would destroy their land-based poker gambling business interests.
The next push came from two senators who co-sponsored the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act in 2016. The bill sought to make online poker operators apply for licenses with a validity period of seven years. While this was one of the best bills regarding online gambling, it was still rejected by most of the house.
Online Poker Sweepstakes Casinos in California
Since there is no clear answer to the California online poker legal situation, players can use other alternatives, one of them being sweepstake casinos. Also referred to as “social casinos,” sweepstakes do not require a real money deposit before you can enjoy a game of online poker. The differentiating factor here is the mode of gameplay.
With sweepstakes, you’re not playing to withdraw cash prizes. If you prefer to play for the sole fun of online poker and its variants, a sweepstake casino is a good option and is patronized by many Californian gamblers.
How Sweepstake Poker Casinos Operate in California
When you choose a social casino to enjoy online poker, you get free coins after creating an account. These coins replace real money deposits, which can be used to place bets on different poker tables. The winner is the player who gets the best hand and accumulates the highest value of coins.
Sweepstake poker casinos are available online on their websites. You can also access them through PC, mobile, or tablet. On mobile, you can enjoy them on either Android or iOS with a unique native app to download.
You can get the complete experience of poker on these sites, with an exact copy of the game rules and tables. They are also run by gaming companies that handle real money poker game sites. These operators get their revenue by adding in-game purchase options for poker table add-ons. You can win free coins and bets to further improve your betting experience.
Legality of Sweepstake Online Poker Casinos in California
All sweepstake casinos are categorized under social gambling. In the United States, federal legislation does not regard this betting type as real gambling, since players have no real money deposits at these iGaming sites. Hence, sweepstakes poker casinos are entirely legal in California and other states.
However, you must be 18 and over before you can proceed to create an account here and enjoy different online poker games.
Top sweepstake casinos for California Online Poker
There are several social casinos to enjoy poker online in California. Here are three of the top sites where you can bet on internet poker without receiving a visit from local law enforcement.
LuckyLand Slots Casino
While its name may suggest this casino only offers slot titles, Californians can enjoy various poker games here. They provide different poker rooms where you can win gold and sweep coins as rewards. It is available on mobile and PC, though players can download the native Android app but must make do with the mobile browser for iOS devices.
By signing up, you can enjoy up to 7,777 gold coins and 10 sweep coins as a welcome bonus. There is an in-game purchase where you get up to 50,000 gold coins to play any poker game type. It is open to all Californian gamblers aged 24 or older.
Chumba Casino is a reputable social casino in California. Like the LuckyLand Slots casino, you will receive gold and sweep coins after signing up on the site. This gambling site has geolocation features, so you must be within California or another U.S. state before registering an account. In addition to poker, you can also play video poker, slots, blackjack, and different types of table games.
While there is no mobile app for this casino, the official website is highly responsive on all types of mobile screens. If you prefer to wager with extra coins, there’s a buy-in feature to get extra coins and even a booster.
This casino is known for having several types of poker titles in its game collection. A unique feature here is the daily jackpot giveaway, where you can win good prizes, including game rounds. In addition, another jackpot offer is available every three hours.
The game collections include poker, three card poker, video poker, etc. You can also claim coins as welcome packages after registering on the website. There is no mobile app, but players can wager on different poker rooms through their mobile browser.
Funzpoints casino is also known to provide regular poker tournaments for all Californian gamblers. Some of these include the Bounty, Omaha, Sit’n Go tournaments, etc.
Global Poker casino is another option and the most popular poker social site in this state. Players can easily create accounts and use virtual currency types to place wagers. With this casino, it is possible to convert your winnings to cash prizes.
There are two different ways to enjoy online poker: tournaments or cash games that you can play with casino currency. Tournaments are a popular option at this casino. Some regular tournaments include the Bonanza, Daily Hundo, Golden Scrimmage, Sunday Scrimmage, and Gold Rush.
Other top competitions to enjoy here are the Rattlesnake Open, Grizzly Games, Spring Carnival or Summer Ring Dash, and the Eagle Cup. Players can always check out the promotions page for updates on which competition or tournament is available.
Like the real money poker online casinos, sweepstake casinos also provide various reward and loyalty programs for their customers. It’s a great way to claim coins to be used at the different poker rooms.
Is Playing on Offshore Poker Casinos Safe?
Several offshore online poker rooms are available for California residents to play on. These sites are all located outside the country and may not be licensed by any U.S. gambling regulatory agency. Thus, do not expect them to have the permission of the state governor to operate, which may pose a risk to you.
The question of whether playing on an offshore poker site may be suitable for you or not depends on the site. As a gambler, there is no assurance you will get help when there is an issue with your account. Many online poker offshore sites may not be truthful in their dealings, offering tweaked tables where you can lose your funds.
In addition, these sites are not bound by California’s laws, regulations, or by U.S. legislation. Some may sell your personal information to the highest bidder, providing less security when you wager.
All poker sites operating in California are bound by law to resolve all issues faced by players. They are licensed and bound to act by rules laid by the regulatory body.
How to Select the Best Real Money Poker Sites California
If you are looking for online poker California real money sites, it is essential you get it right. So, how do you choose the best poker room to play and win at? There are certain features to look out for, and they will help you with the process of screening which offshore poker sites to wager on. The most critical factors to consider include:
Licensed Poker Rooms
This is perhaps the most important of all features when you look up a new gambling site. All sites offering poker games that are not licensed are unregulated. This means they do not answer to any regulatory agency and may not operate within the industry’s best practices. It is essential you take such poker gaming sites off your list.
To confirm the license of any online poker room, establish what type of license it has at the bottom of the homepage. Several notable online casinos also attach links so customers can confirm if their site is legit or not.
Legitimacy and Security
Another critical step is the confirmation of whether the poker site is legit or not. The license confirmation may not be enough to protect yourself from further future headaches. An excellent way to know if an online poker casino is credible or not is by reading online reviews.
There are several reputable sites where you can confirm if the site pays on time, has built-in mechanics to ensure game fairness, etc. The best way is to read fellow user reviews, giving you an idea of what to expect after signing up on the site.
The casino’s security is also essential. When we recommend poker sites for our readers, only online poker rooms with a high data-encryption protocol, especially a 129-bit protocol system, are selected.
Bonuses and Promotions
Real money poker online California sites offer some of the best bonuses, reward programs, and promotions for their customers. You can find several offer types, such as risk-free bets, welcome bonuses, weekly or daily reload bonuses, and other excellent incentives.
Don’t forget a VIP club that is strictly limited to loyal gamblers at the casino. They consist of top-rated specialized offers that may not be available to other members at the poker site. While you may love the free stuff, don’t forget to check out the wagering requirements or terms and conditions attached.
While a range of different incentives can be found on the promotions page, please read the attached conditions. You don’t want to be stuck, trying to lose on promotions because of a high and stiff condition attached.
Diverse Banking Options
Deposits and withdrawals are essential at any online poker casino. When confirming the authenticity of a poker room, an important feature to check out is the reliability of its payment methods platform.
The poker site must have different modes available to select from to promote convenience. However, they should be popular and trusted payment gateways. They should be safe and secure with enough positive reviews. A few popular options include e-wallets, bank cards, Paysafecard, e-wallets (Skrill, Neteller, PayPal, etc.).
It’s also a wise idea to confirm the minimum and maximum deposits and withdrawals and processing times for each offer.
Multiple Poker Game Types
One of the best features of playing online poker in California is the range of various poker variants to select from. All poker game types come with a twist to the gameplay and a nice pay table. The best poker sites have a collection of different kinds of poker games for you to choose from.
The more extensive or more comprehensive the games collection, the better the chances of winning higher cash prizes. This is also connected to having diverse odds, which means you can get higher potential cash prize offers with small wagers.
It doesn’t matter that all variants use the same conventional poker hand ranking system. You can have more fun as you play different game styles and rules.
Best Withdrawal Methods used California Legal Online Poker
Californian poker gamblers can expect similar withdrawal processes as other states with online poker. As we stated, there are many great options you can choose from. Here are some popular options used by online poker players and offered by online poker sites.
Cryptocurrency is an up-and-coming option used by regular gamblers. Its swift processes in addition to cheap transaction fees have made it a favorite for many. There are currently several crypto coins presently available. Top options include Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Dash, etc.
The increased acceptance of this payment method is due to the reduced restrictions associated with using it. Players do not need to release much financial information, and the administration fees are low. In addition, both deposits and withdrawals are processed within 24 hours, which is a great advantage.
The advancement of technological innovations has brought an exceptional banking option to the market for real money poker online California gaming sites. If you’re not a fan of cryptocurrency, you can select the e-wallet option. This is another fast and reliable banking method with fewer transaction fees attached.
Some renowned e-wallets include PayPal, ecoPayz, Neteller, Skrill, etc. The benefits are immense. It provides another form of security as you don’t need to list your financial or bank information on the casino site. The processing time is also impressive—it’s similar to crypto payments, which can take between 3 and 24 hours.
Californians who do not want to use a middleman can rely on the traditional bank card system to withdraw from their accounts. There are no middlemen required here. It is simple to take this approach since you only need to connect your debit or credit card details, and everything is set.
However, the transaction fee depends on the bank’s debit/credit card. The processing time is also different as it depends on the bank. Most Californian poker gamblers prefer to use this method since it means more security and less third-party involvement.
Legal Online Poker Sites in California
While the state’s legislation is against the licensing of any poker online room operator, its neighboring states also offer diverse online poker variants. Californian poker players can enjoy different games from different real money poker sites in California.
Even though the state does not license any real money poker site, many prospective players still wonder, “can you play online poker for money in California?” The answer to this is simple, Yes you can. Many top online casinos can still provide you with different poker games even as a resident of California.
Below are a few of the top online casino choices:
World Series of Poker (WSOP)
WSOP is a reputable online poker site that is based in Nevada. It also runs an intrastate online poker network that stretches across New Jersey and Delaware. Gamblers who choose to wager at WSOP poker sites will get access to different tournaments, including the famous WSOP bracelet competitions.
Its rules include an age restriction of 21 and above before you can access the site. Players from California will have to travel across the border to access the site. Registering an account and depositing funds in California is possible, but geographical limitations will stop you from accessing any online poker room on the site.
Ignition Poker has been around for a long time, offering services associated with high-quality poker gaming for Californians. The operator features different online poker types, and you can find titles from regular game rounds to special competitions and tournaments.
This operator was established in 2016 and ranks high among the best real money poker online California sites for residents. It is always available 24/7 and is operated by a reputable international gaming entertainment company.
Some of their popular competitions include the Monthly Milly, Knockout tournaments, etc. It is possible to enjoy their gaming from the comfort of your mobile device and tablet. Players can also log in and play on PC.
Regarding bonuses and promotions, Ignition Poker also has some of the best offers. This online poker room provides top incentives for its customers to claim.
The site is super responsive, with lots of game varieties to choose from. All the features and buttons are optimized for different screen types, with a minimal design framework, ensuring players focus on the task at hand.
If you consider its payment options, Ignition Poker performs excellently when compared to other operators. There are top and popular payment methods, including credit/debit cards, e-wallets, cryptocurrency (Bitcoin Cash, Bitcoin), etc.
The company is one of the biggest online poker rooms in California and is available at any time of the day.
Bovada Poker follows next among the best online poker real money California sites to try out. You do not have to worry about the legality of accessing this site as a resident. This includes a specially designed and highly optimized website available at any time.
As a top operator, it has an operating license from the Government of Curaçao, with special bonuses available for California online poker lovers. Players are not excluded from excellent incentives, from a dedicated welcome bonus to unique promotions and reward programs.
One of its well-known features is the anonymized table offer, where customers’ identities are limited to just “Player 1,” “Player 2.” This seemed controversial initially but has grown to become one of the best play styles, drawing players to the website.
You won’t find a strong or impressive design here. However, the site responds well to different screen types. Currently, there is no mobile app for this online poker room.
Like Ignition Poker, Bovada also lists some of the best payment methods for their customers to take advantage of. Some of them include:
- Cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Tether, Bitcoin Cash). With an average processing time of 15 hours, Bovada Poker offers a payout every three days using this method. You can only use this option for withdrawal if used for depositing. There are no fees. However, the minimum allowed is $10, and the maximum is $9,500.
- Vouchers. Using this method has a processing time of 36 hours before it is finally approved. There are no limits for vouchers that can be processed per day, but the maximum amount allowed is $5,000. There are also no transaction fees for this payment method.
- Player transfer. The player transfer also has a processing time of 36 hours. You can use this option if you want to directly transfer funds from one account to another. With no transaction fees required, a maximum amount of $15,000 is processed per day, and the minimum is $10.
The deposit methods are almost the same as above. They also include Zelle and bank cards (Mastercard, American Express, Visa). All deposit requests are processed immediately.
BetOnline Poker is the next option available to try out. Its gaming processes are excellent and smooth, with easily downloadable software for mobile and desktop PCs. Californian poker players can jump on the different game types, including tournaments and instant cash prizes.
The site has a dedicated poker welcome bonus for all players, which can be claimed with bonus codes. All funds are released within 48 hours. The operator also has a dedicated VIP club for loyal customers. In addition, you will also find a reliable jackpot promo called the Bad Beat jackpot.
The types of poker games available on this site include No-Limit Hold’em, Sit-N-Go, etc. There are several banking methods available at BetOnline Poker. You can now enjoy cryptocurrency, bank cards, e-wallets, bank transfers, etc.
The minimum deposit allowed is $20, with the maximum amount processed being $500,000 (Bitcoin). This operator is licensed by the Panama government, with a strong security network protecting all customers’ information. Players need to carry out a KYC before making their first withdrawal request.
Top Real Money Poker Online Games
There are several game poker types to choose from. Each of them offers a different kind of pay table with excellent gameplay loved by many Californian poker players. Here are some of the top poker game types played in California poker sites.
No-Limit Texas Hold’em
California players enjoy this game type because of its enormous rewards for players. Also referred to as “The Cadillac of Poker,” it involves community cards and offers a set of game rounds for players to wager and win.
The rules are similar to all regular poker games. It involves a 52-card deck, requiring two players or more in a room. Californians love this game because there are no limits to the number of raises by a player, allowing them a greater chance of winning. Each player is dealt two hole cards, along with five community cards. Players can combine their hole and the community cards to make the best hand possible.
With its high pots, especially in online poker rooms, Omaha Hi-Lo is California’s next top-rated poker game type wagered. All players receive four hole cards, along with five community cards, dealt in a face-up position. Like Texas Hold’em, everyone is expected to build the strongest hand possible using three community cards.
In the end, the pot will be divided and offered for the top hand for high and the full hand for low. Hence, the name “Hi-Lo.” Its high popularity among Californian players has earned it the name “the California system” for hand ranking.
Among the rules for this game, a player will be chosen by the house to be the dealer. Gameplay starts in a clockwise manner from the dealer, with small and big blinds involved in the staking.
Other top poker game types popular in California include:
- Fixed-limit Hold’em
- Pot-limit Omaha
- Pot-limit Omaha
Is online poker legal in California?
No. There is no legislation or law that backs online poker in California. This is due to a conflict of interest among significant gambling shareholders in California and a low voting population.
Who oversees poker game activities in California?
There are two different government agencies responsible for overseeing all gambling affairs in California. The California Bureau of Gambling Control and the California Gambling Control Commission are both accountable for licensing, regulating, and enforcing all operators and laws in the Golden State.
Where can I wager on online real money poker?
There is no specific law that outrightly bans the activities of online poker in California. Players can comfortably select other options to play at different poker sites. They can choose from a number of offshore poker sites, sweepstake casinos, or other national poker sites. Each of these options has been covered in our guide.
Can I wager real money poker on WSOP in California?
Yes. You can comfortably play legal online poker in California through WSOP. There are various tournaments and competitions you can choose from. Playing on WSOP is still legal for California residents.
Is it illegal to play poker on offshore poker sites?
No. There is no Californian law that bans playing online poker at different offshore sites. However, we recommend sticking to the U.S.-authorized poker sites with a license.