A deep dive into the online poker market is a massive step for many individuals. This market has many operators, unique games, excellent tournaments, and many skilled players to compete against.
In the US, the option of state-by-state legalization restricts access to the poker market, but this doesn’t mean there hasn’t been significant progress in the industry. Many top operators like WSOP.com, PokerStars, Partypoker, BetMGM, 888 Poker, and Borgata Poker operate in the country.
Knowing the best sites to visit is crucial if you’re one of the lucky players living in a state where online poker is legal. We have a few recommendations for you, but you need to gather some crucial information regarding real money poker sites.
This guide provides information on how to pick the best sites, setting up a real money online poker account, payment options, tips for a better poker session, the benefits of legal poker real money sites, the cost to play, and more.
Poker Sites We Recommend
Playing Online Poker Legally in the US
The real money online poker industry in the US has been on a slow rise, with only a few states making it legal. Since the events of the Poker Black Friday on April 15, 2011, things have been quite rough for the poker community.
However, legalized online gambling brought a glimmer of hope to poker lovers, with three states—Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada—legalizing online poker in 2013. Pennsylvania would make headlines as the next state to legalize our favorite game, although it would take them five years. Michigan and West Virginia were the next states to do so in 2019, making it six states with legal online poker operations.
Each state has a regulatory body responsible for monitoring the operations of a poker site, and here are the regulators for each state:
- Delaware online poker – Delaware Division of Gaming Enforcement
- Michigan online poker – Michigan Gaming Control Board
- Nevada online poker – Nevada Gaming Control Board
- Pennsylvania online poker – Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
- New Jersey online poker – New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement
- West Virginia online poker – West Virginia Lottery
Top Real Money Poker Sites in the US
Playing online poker for real money is fun, and thanks to advancements in technology, you can now do this on your mobile and desktop devices. Some specific operators provide easy access to poker services via a mobile app and desktop site, and the top sites in the US include:
- PartyPoker – Available in NJ
- PokerStars – Available in MI, NJ, and PA
- BorgataPoker – Available in NJ and PA
- BetMGM Poker – Available in MI, NJ, and PA
- WSOP – Available in NJ and NV
Many poker players recognize the World Series of Poker name, which is where most professional players aim to play. Its services include multi-table tournaments, cash games, Sit and Gos, and more events.
This site has a partnership with 888poker and uses its software. Playing on the WSOP.com platform has many benefits, including access to a larger player pool thanks to shared liquidity and a chance to participate in the online bracelet events.
You can access this platform from New Jersey and Nevada, and there are several bonus features to welcome you to the platform.
This is another massive poker operator that has been operating in the US for a while. Veteran poker players know this operator from before Poker Black Friday, and it was great to see it relaunch in New Jersey in 2016.
The site is open to players in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, offering excellent tournaments and championships for players to enjoy. Players have a chance to enjoy free online poker sessions with friends by creating a private poker club on the platform. There are several bonus offers for players who choose to play on PokerStars, making it a great place to visit.
PartyPoker is quite famous for its MILLIONS online events, which are open to its players. The site offers a no-deposit welcome offer and deposit match bonus to new players on its platform. There are many payment options, so you don’t need to worry about making deposits or withdrawals on the platform.
For players who need help playing at the casino, there is an FAQ section with a library of valuable articles to help you get through any issue you encounter. It is one of the most secure poker platforms, using SSL technology to protect player information and other strict security standards.
How We Assess Our Top Online Poker Real Money Sites
Although we give our recommendations for the top real money poker sites, having a grasp of how to pick top sites is a skill you need. Here, we introduce some of the things we assess when selecting our sites, so you can use these to guide your decision next time you’re on the prowl for a great poker platform.
To play online poker for real money, you must be able to deposit and withdraw funds with ease. The best online poker real money sites offer a decent selection of payment options to cater to every player. Some popular options you can find are bank cards, bank transfers, e-wallets, PayPal, and cryptocurrencies.
To determine if the payment options on a real money poker site meet our requirements, there are specific questions that require a positive response:
- Can I make payments without additional fees?
- Do inaccurate conversion rates lead to hidden charges?
- Are my deposits on the platform secure?
- Does the poker site offer fast payouts?
- How many payment options are available?
Available Games and Variations
The best online poker sites offer an extensive collection of real money poker games and variants of these games. Certain titles are standard on most poker real money sites, and a few are available on only a handful of poker platforms.
These are some of the poker categories you should look out for:
- Sit & Go: These are the single-table tournaments that offer a fast-paced tournament experience. They are short and give you a chance to get a feel of what poker tournaments offer.
- Multi-table tournaments: These are poker tournaments that are larger than Sit & Gos. The payouts on these tournaments are great, and players have a set buy-in.
- Cash games: These are the general poker games you find on any poker site. You can enter and leave whenever you want, and the stakes vary to cater to all types of players.
- Spin & Go: These poker games introduce an element of luck into poker games. Players spin a wheel before starting the game. It involves three players and has a fast pace.
- Texas Hold’em: This is a popular poker game that you’ll find on all of the top poker sites.
- Omaha: Omaha is an exciting poker game with a unique experience that you must enjoy when visiting the best platforms.
The online gambling industry doesn’t have a worldwide regulatory body, so most operators get licenses from certain jurisdictions. The Malta Gaming Authority, UK Gambling Commission, and Curaçao Gaming Authority are popular regulatory bodies that issue these licenses.
For players in the US, a poker online real money site with a license from a US regulatory body is more valuable than those with licenses from outside the country. Several US states have legalized real money online poker, so finding a poker site with licenses from US regulators isn’t going to be a problem.
The number of players on a poker online real money site significantly influences the quality of games and your overall experience. Since poker sites usually host tournaments, there should be a decent population to make the tournaments exciting. With a large player base, it is easy to find lower-skilled players, which will translate to more wins for you.
To cater to a large player base, the top poker online real money sites provide an extensive collection of poker games, including variants of specific titles. The prize pool also grows larger when more players join in.
Level of Competition
As a casual player, you don’t have to be at a table full of professionals when you try to play games on a poker real money site. To avoid this, the quality of players that visit a poker online real money site is an essential consideration for us. We focus on picking the best sites with poker rooms that have more recreational players.
If you play on poker sites where professional players make up 95% of the population, you will not be making profits anytime soon. However, you have soft competition on sites with more recreational players, which translates to more profits.
You can find many bonuses on poker sites, but the sign-up or welcome bonus is vital for new players. Many real money poker sites offer excellent welcome bonuses since this is one of the easiest ways to get the attention of new players. With so many poker sites available, most sites offer massive bonuses to outdo the competition.
With hundreds of poker online real money sites available, you have to dedicate a lot of time to assessing the bonuses from every one of these platforms. Since this is tedious work, there are lots of review sites that take care of this for you. Nonetheless, there are some simple things to note when assessing a welcome bonus.
A match bonus is common on welcome bonuses, and you may find a 10% match up to $3,000 or a 200% match up to $1,000. The first offer may seem attractive since there is a potential to claim $3,000, but you need to deposit $30,000 to claim this maximum amount. On the other hand, a deposit of $500 will get you the $1,000 bonus on the second offer.
With this in mind, you should understand that the percentage match is of more importance when picking a bonus. Another area we consider is the terms and conditions the poker online real money site attaches to the bonus.
The more realistic these terms and conditions, the better the redemption rate of these bonuses. The redemption rate or playthrough requirement determines how much you must play with the bonus before your bonus winnings become available for withdrawal. Generally, the less you need to play with a bonus, the better the bonus. In addition to the playthrough requirement, you should also learn about the bonus expiration, max bets, and more through the terms and conditions.
Poker Site Terms and Conditions
There are bonus terms and conditions, but these don’t encompass the terms and conditions of the online poker real money platform. Real money poker sites usually have a dedicated page for these Ts and Cs, so be sure to look around to find this page.
You can find a lot of helpful information when you visit this page, and some of the things we assess are the minimum withdrawals, weekly withdrawal limits, and bonus restrictions.
Player Reviews and Complaints
When performing your assessment, getting insights from other players who use a poker site is excellent. You can find these insights on sites like Reddit, where many players visit to discuss and share thoughts. You must understand how to separate useful red flags from the various comments from players.
Some players may say a casino is rigged if they don’t win on the platform, despite the issue being their lack of skill. You should look out for comments regarding the skill level of players on the site, withdrawal delays, and customer support.
Steps to Start Playing Poker Online for Real Money
Playing real money poker online isn’t going to be easy, but you need to build your experience. You may be fresh out of training, playing on sites that allow you to try out games without losing real money. However, the best way to test your strategies is to try out real poker games with small bets.
To begin your journey, you need an account on a poker site that offers low-limit bet options on its poker games. With many online real money poker sites catering to a massive number of casual players, you don’t have to worry about squaring off against professional players in most cases.
Take these steps as a guide to setting up your first poker account to play poker online for real money:
- Pick a real money poker site: You can pick a site from our list to create an account. The sites we recommend are those that pass our rigorous assessment process and feature many of the best poker games in the country.
- Create an account: Once you open the poker website, you should find a link to create your account. Click on this link and go through the registration process.
- Make your first deposit: The first deposit is the most important on any poker site. Be sure you meet the minimum deposit required to claim the welcome offer on any site you choose.
- Play with the welcome bonus: The welcome bonus you claim on the site is helpful for trying out games and getting a grasp of how the online poker real money site operates. It would be best if you also used the bonus early, so it doesn’t expire.
Poker sites often provide an easy registration process, which many players love, but this can backfire when you need to withdraw your winnings. The site will request certain documents for verification when you trigger a withdrawal. The poker site may request a government-issued ID, phone or utility bill, and other legal documentation.
Without the proper documents, the poker site will not pay out your winnings, as per regulations. You only need to provide these documents when processing your first withdrawal on the platform.
Issues with Real Money Poker
There are several benefits of real money poker games, but there are some minor downsides that you should be aware of. These aren’t to deter you from playing poker games for real money but to ensure you have a realistic approach to your gaming sessions.
You Lose Money
Poker, slots, roulette, baccarat, and other table games give you a chance to win real money, but you can also lose money. We always recommend you play with money you can afford to lose on any online poker site.
You may develop an excellent strategy to play poker games, but you shouldn’t expect to win every time. There is no strategy for online poker games that gives a 100% win rate.
GeoLocation is a Thing
Online poker sites keep improving with new technology to meet player needs and regulatory requirements. One technology that has become more effective is GeoLocation. With just a few states legalizing online gambling in the US, online poker sites must avoid offering their services to players outside of legal states.
To verify the location of players who want to bet on their platform, they use the GeoLocation feature. Since we don’t expect you to play outside legal states, we must inform you that the player population is significantly smaller due to this feature.
This will be an issue for players who want to take up online poker professionally. The number of professional players you’ll come across will be much smaller than you expect.
You Need to Sharpen your Skills
Poker isn’t a game of luck like slots, so you must develop your skills to improve your win rate. The only way to do this is to play poker games regularly. You need to dedicate a lot of time for this to work.
However, there should be a limit to the time and money spent playing poker games. It is easy to fall into an addiction when all you’re thinking about is honing your skills. We recommend setting deposit limits and time limits when playing poker games. If you feel you need help, there are professional support groups you can reach out to.
Making Payments on Poker Sites
Deposits and withdrawals on online poker sites are straightforward for all players, and you can learn more about the process in the site’s FAQ section. With many popular payment options within the gambling industry, you’re assured of safe and secure transactions.
To make payments on poker sites, here is a general step-by-step guide:
- Sign in to your poker account.
- Go to the “Cashier” section of the poker site.
- Find the button to fund your account and pick one of the available options.
- Follow the steps to complete the deposit transaction.
Most deposit transactions are instant, and you can also initiate a withdrawal request from the cashier page. There are certain payment options that you’ll find on most online casinos, and here are our recommendations:
Most individuals are familiar with bank cards since they use them daily. Visa, American Express, and Mastercard are popular card providers that support online gambling activities. They offer an easy means to fund your poker account or withdraw winnings.
To ensure your transactions are secure and not initiated by a third party, you’ll often get a unique code sent to your mobile device that you must input on the online poker site to verify/approve a transaction. Since these cards are secure, many players are willing to opt for this option regardless of the fees.
E-wallets are digital wallets that store funds for use in online transactions. Unlike bank cards with location restrictions, you can use e-wallets to transact anywhere in the world. Many popular e-wallets like PayPal, Neteller, and Skrill are available on poker sites.
To use an e-wallet, you must create an account on the e-wallet platform, verify your account, and fund the account. Once you fund the account, you can use it to make payments in different currencies. A few of these e-wallets support deposits in cryptocurrencies, which is excellent news for many players.
E-wallets are secure and usually offer 24/7 support, making them trustworthy.
eCheck, Instadebit, and iDeal are some options that enable bank transfers to your poker account. You can use wire transfer to move large deposits or withdrawals to or from your poker account. These options usually have a fee, but they are worth using.
The cryptocurrency market keeps growing, and many poker sites are starting to adopt this payment method. Although cryptocurrencies are new on many sites, some players prefer to make deposits using this option since it proves anonymity.
Other benefits include a high level of security and fast transaction speed. To make use of cryptocurrency payment options, a crypto wallet is necessary. You can read reviews to find the most secure wallets for your use. Popular cryptocurrencies that poker sites accept include Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, and more.
Cryptocurrency transactions are usually free, and if you’re lucky, you may find a site offering unique bonuses to players who use this option.
Payments at Physical Locations
It may be hard to believe, but many online poker for real money sites support payments from their physical locations. These are often partner casinos that you can visit close to you. If you’re more comfortable making payments over a counter, or you’re at the physical casino and think it would be great to top up your online account, then head over to one of the cages to make your payment.
Tips for Playing Online Poker for Real Money
There are many tips for playing online poker for real money, but we will introduce the most basic and impactful tips for new players who want to start playing this game. Here are our favorite tips for new players:
Go From Low Stakes to High Stakes
Low-stakes poker is the best way to start playing online poker for real money. This is an excellent idea for several reasons, so you mustn’t discard this tip. Playing with low stakes is a good bankroll management strategy that allows you to play for more extended periods without breaking the bank on deposits.
With low stakes, you get a chance to try out several poker games and experiment with new strategies. If you recall, you must build experience to improve at real money poker. It would be best if you didn’t focus on getting one massive win but on how to gain enough experience to become a consistent winner.
If you know you’re incapable of handling massive losses, low-stakes poker games will give you a chance to maintain your concentration, even after a loss.
Finally, the early days of your online poker career are mainly to gain experience and adjust to the online poker software. You don’t want to lose a substantial part of your deposits without knowing what you’re doing. As you improve, you can slowly increase the size of your stakes.
Have a Poker Gaming Room
If you’re playing on an online poker real money site, then there is a high probability that you’re doing so from your home. This is a great idea, but only if you have a distraction-free room for your poker gaming.
Poker is a game that requires attention to detail, so you must avoid things that make you lose focus, like your phone or television. You can create a clutter-free zone in your home that lets you concentrate on your real money poker game, giving you a chance to pick minor details and play your hands correctly.
Poker is a game you should take seriously, and you should take cues from the professionals. If you do this as a recreational player, you will have an exciting time grabbing the win on most games.
Turn Off Your Emotions
Every time you log into a poker room, that’s the right time to turn off your emotions. Poker is a game of consistency, and you can build a massive bankroll with a great strategy. However, strategies don’t work 100% of the time.
When your strategy fails, it doesn’t mean you should toss it out of the window. This is the time to return to the drawing board and improve your strategy. Many players don’t understand this and end up giving in to their emotions after losing and blowing their entire poker account. This indicates that you don’t respect the time and effort you put into improving as a poker player and growing your bankroll.
Advantages of Playing on Legal Poker Sites
Prior to the legalization of online poker in the US, players had to risk playing on offshore poker real money sites, and many of these sites were fraught with danger. Some players didn’t get their winnings, which is a big deal when gambling online. With the licensed poker sites, there are several significant benefits you enjoy, including:
Identity Verification and Security
To play on a legitimate online poker real money site, you must provide verification documents. These include your government-issued ID, utility bills, and more. A significant advantage of this process is the restriction of underage gambling by the poker site.
However, many players worry about how their personal information is used. On legal sites, high-level security and encryption features are in place to protect player information.
These sites also follow strict regulations on data privacy, and they inform players how they use the information they obtain. If you have issues with how a poker site uses your information, you can always contact the regulatory body licensing the poker operator.
To earn a license from a regulatory body, one of the requirements a poker site must fulfill is to prove that its systems are secure and can store funds without issue. This requirement encompasses funds storage, winnings payouts, bonus payouts, and fast transaction processing.
As an additional layer of assurance, regulatory bodies usually issue licenses to poker sites with ties to a running brick-and-mortar casino. Unlike some offshore sites that fail to pay out without repercussions, legal real money poker sites can be brought to justice.
Cost of Real Money Poker Games
The buy-in cost to enjoy real money poker games varies widely, depending on the type of game you choose to play. Unless you opt for major tournaments like the World Series of Poker (WSOP), you don’t need to break the bank to enjoy a poker game. Here is a breakdown of what to expect on the best online poker real money sites:
- Tournaments: Poker tournaments offer an excellent opportunity for players to make money from online poker games. Popular real money tournaments you will come across include Shootouts, Turbo, Bounty, Multi-table, and more. You can make 10x or 100x your buy-in cost on these tournaments, but you have to prove yourself by beating many excellent players.
- Real Money Games: The real money games on a poker site are the regular games you find on these platforms. These are great for practicing your poker strategies before registering for tournaments. The buy-in cost for real money games is low, with some tables supporting $1 buy-ins.
The Sweepstakes Poker Model
Real money online poker is still illegal in many parts of the US, but there is a fun way to bypass this restriction and enjoy online poker games legally. This is through the sweepstakes poker model. The sweepstakes model is unique since it provides a legal means for players to enjoy online poker games in most parts of the US. Unlike real money poker sites, sweepstakes sites allow players to make bets using virtual coins.
On most sweepstakes platforms, there are Gold coins and Sweeps coins. You can purchase Gold coins with real money, but Sweeps coins aren’t available for direct purchase. However, you may get some Sweeps coins with every Gold coin package you purchase. When playing on sweepstakes poker sites, your goal is to play and win as many games as you can with your Sweeps coins. Most platforms allow players to redeem Sweeps coins for real prizes without breaching any online gambling regulations.
There are several sweepstakes poker sites to visit, and Global Poker by VGW Holdings Limited is one of the most recognized. The operator also has a tight grip on the sweepstakes casino environment, with sites such as Luckyland Slots and Chumba Casino.