Poker law is a funny thing in the US. Although there are no laws that make it criminal to simply play poker, there are numerous state and federal laws that regulate how and where people can play real money poker. But worry not; I’m going to break it down and explain everything in simple language.

One big thing to know is that there is no federal law in the US that outlaws the act of playing poker, either live or online. You can sign on to any poker site or get your friends together and play all the real money poker you want. You’re not going to get in trouble for simply playing poker.

State laws vary from state to state, but generally you’re fine in most states. Even if you want to play on the internet, you should be good to go. However, I do recommend that you check the laws in your state if you’re a cautious person by nature. The state of Washington does have a law on the books that criminalizes playing poker online, but nobody has ever been charged under that law.

Basically, you’re safe if all you want to do is play poker. It’s extremely unlikely that a bunch of cops will ever kick in your front door just because you wanted to play a few games.

Things change drastically if you get into the business of poker. What I mean by “in the business” is if you host your own poker games at home, run your own poker site or process payments for online poker sites. Those activities are much more likely to get you in trouble.

If you want to hold a poker game in your house, you should be safe as long as you don’t charge a rake. You and your friends can all play for real money, but you are not allowed to turn a profit as if you were the casino. Winning money is fine – you just can’t charge people to play in your house.

You’ll also get in trouble if you ever try to set up your own poker site or e-wallet that facilitates deposits to poker sites. People have tried before and gotten in trouble. It’s not even close to being worth the risk. Stay safe and be a simple poker player.


  • It’s OK to play poker in real life or online
  • You can host your own home poker games as long as you don’t charge a rake
  • You cannot run a poker site
  • You cannot run a business that processes payments for poker sites

What about the UIGEA?

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) has caused a lot of confusion among the general public. Many were led to believe that the UIGEA made online poker illegal. It’s understandable why this misconception persists, but it’s completely wrong.

The UIGEA didn’t actually target poker players. What the UIGEA did was make it illegal for banks and other financial institutions to do business with online poker sites. The UIGEA did make it more difficult to play poker in the US, but it didn’t actually change anything for the legality of just playing poker.


I’m not a lawyer so I recommend you talk to an attorney if you’re in need of serious legal advice. But what I can tell you from my own research and experience is that you can play all the poker you want. I have never heard of a single person in the United States get in trouble for simply playing online poker.

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