Online Poker in the United States

In the United States, a lot has happened in the online poker market over the past decade or so. This article will give a run down of the major events that have occurred in the US online poker market, and how these changes impacted online poker players in America.

First, there was the UIGEA bill (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) that was passed in 2006 by President George W. Bush at the last minute in an attempt to block banks and financial institutions from processing gambling related transactions.

The UIGEA came at a time when online poker was just beginning to flourish and one of the victims of the whole UIGEA fiasco was PartyPoker.com. In response to the UIGEA, they immediately left the US market, but there was still a huge demand for playing online poker in the United States.

The problem with the UIGEA was that nowhere within the bill does it mention whether US players could play or couldn’t play online poker., so there was a lot of confusion surrounding the vagueness of the law. Many people in the poker industry always considered the game of poker to be a skill game and not a game of chance, and hence the UIGEA didn’t apply to poker sites. As a result of this interpretation, there were a number of online poker operators that remained opened to US players following the UIGEA to meet the demand of the online poker playing community in the US.

Easiest Deposit Methods for Players in the United States

Due to the UIGEA bill, it did become more difficult for players to get money on and off their online poker accounts but not impossible. It no longer was possible to use convenient banking methods like e-wallets (Neteller, Moneybookers, Firepay, etc) credit cards and prepaid credit cards were a bit hit and miss but still work on some US-friendly sites. Other alternative deposit methods which players have turned to using include doing direct bank transfers, paper checks, and money transfer services like Western Union and MoneyGram.

Regardless of the difficulties with funding online poker accounts, the most encouraging thing was that it was still possible for hardcore online poker players to still get their fix and there was still a decent number of options out there so that US players didn’t have to sacrifice on quality when it came to picking a quality room to play on following the passage of the UIGEA.

However, a much bigger setback occurred five years later when Black Friday impacted the online poker industry in the United States in a big way. On 15 April 2011, the Department of Justice (DoJ) went after the three largest online poker sites that were still accepting US players, namely PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. These sites had their .com’s seized and the CEOs and payment processors that were doing business with the poker sites were charged with bank fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling offenses. The names of the 11 people who were indicted as part of the Black Friday proceedings included Isai Scheinberg and Paul Tate (PokerStars), Nelson Burtnick and Raymond Bitar (Full Tilt Poker), Brent Beckley and Scott Tom (Absolute Poker) and Chad Elie, John Campos, Ryan Lang, Ira Rubin, and Bradley Franzen (payment processors.)

US players could not access the funds from their accounts although PokerStars eventually came to an agreement with the DoJ and US players on PokerStars were able to withdraw the funds from their account weeks after Black Friday happened. Unfortunately, players on Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were not as lucky. Absolute Poker players are unlikely to ever see their funds and it took Full Tilt Poker more than 3 years for them to finally start paying back their US players.

Black Friday obviously cast a huge shadow across the online poker landscape in the United States. Even for the players that got their funds on PokerStars, it seemed inevitable that other US poker sites were going to be in the firing line, it was just a question of when not if that would occur.

Fast forward to 2014 and the DoJ hasn’t actually gone after other poker sites accepting US players, although the few sites that still remain have much fewer players and the guarantees on their tournaments aren’t as big. With that being said, some U.S. states now offer legalized online poker, including Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, providing a much more safe and secure online poker playing environment for players in these states.

On this site, we try and help you out by reviewing the best online poker sites that still accept US players so it would be in your best interests to look at the pros and cons of each site.