Online poker was once a mainstream activity in the United States. Since Chris Moneymaker won the 2003 World Series of Poker main event after qualifying through a satellite tournament, online poker went on a huge roller coaster ride. Between 2003 and 2006, you could find hundreds of thousands of players at anytime on multiple poker rooms. After the government create the UIGEA law in 2006, the swell in popularity leveled out, but a majority of players were still participating in the real money games online.
Things started to go downhill once the government forced credit card companies and banks to stop processing online gambling related transactions in 2009. While there was still a lot of people playing online poker, the number began to shrink for the first time. This was matched with decreasing rating for the major poker tournaments on TV. PokerStars and Full Tilt could still claim almost 100,000 real money players, but a lot of the other poker sites were starting to dry up.
In April of 2011, the government stole the domains from dozens of online poker rooms and casinos that had continued to accept deposits from American players. It replaced their homepages with a Department of Justice warning that playing online poker was illegal in the United States. This was technically untrue because neither the UIGEA or the Wire Act which it was predicated upon described which gambling activities were illegal besides betting on sports. The only laws that are in place on a federal level makes it illegal for someone or a company to accept bets, not to place them. Therefore the only people that were breaking a federal law were the poker rooms and online casinos themselves.
That’s not to say that players couldn’t be breaking local or state laws that forbid online poker specifically or online gambling in general. Certain states, such as Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Washington state, have laws on the books which means the citizens of those states shouldn’t play online poker. However, for the rest of America, there is nothing that is stopping the average person from playing online poker for real money except for the banks and credit card companies that won’t process the gambling related transactions.
Regardless of the legality question, real money online poker in the United States took a serious hit as most players now shied away from any online poker sites. Only the most diehard poker players continued in spite of the warnings. Directly after the events of April 2011, the largest online poker sites that were still accepting Americans dropped to less than 10,000 players.
One thing that I noticed was that a lot of my favorite online poker blogs either went away completely or stopped posting new posts after 2012. The one year anniversary of the Black Friday event was when most bloggers gave up hope for full scale legalization and a return to the glory years of online poker. This was coupled with Google flexing their might and destroying the search results for a majority of blogs over the past two years which completely demoralized a lot of people.
We have had some recent victories as a few states have either legalized and regulated online poker on a state level or are at least mulling the option. Regulation on a federal level is unlikely to happen in the next 10 years unless a majority of states pass their own laws to regulate online poker and these states begin to share their state’s players amongst each other.
Where can I play real money online poker if I am an American?
If you are talking about playing online poker in a completely legal setting, you can only do so if you live in Nevada, New Jersey or Delaware. These are the only three states that have created a regulatory body to govern and regulate online poker rooms. The main problem so far has been a lack of players at some of these poker rooms because these states (Nevada and Delaware in particular) do not have a large enough player pool to draw from and create a poker room that we have all been used to playing.
However, there are poker sites still accepting US players. These sites are located outside of the jurisdiction of the US government and they no longer have a .com domain that can be confiscated by the feds. The main problem that most people are going to have is the process of depositing money into the player’s account at one of these sites. Most of the modern transaction methods (credit cards, debit cards, wire transfers, e-checks, online payment sites, etc.) no longer work. People are basically forced to do one of two options to fund their accounts: 1) Get a Visa Gift card and put cash on it or 2) use a person-to-person money transfer store. In order to use either of these options, you should contact the customer support of the website you are trying to play at for help.