It seems like every year I see headlines and hear rumbling about the state of California legalizing online poker.
Of course, supporters of online poker don’t always realize how headlines talking about making California online poker legal come across to many potential players.
If groups are trying to legalize something, it follows that it must be illegal now. Doesn’t it?
When you conduct your own research and learn what laws are actually in place and don’t rely on the media to do your fact-finding for you it’s clear that California poker players can play online currently.
I’m firmly in agreement with the push to make it clearly legal, but I also cringe every time I see a headline because it gives others in the media fodder to falsely claim that online poker is illegal and scares off potential players.
With Nevada and New Jersey making online poker clearly legal for residents, the poker community has been hopeful and optimistic that more states will follow, leading to the nationwide legalization of online poker in the near future.
Before continuing you need to be aware that laws can and do change, so please verify any information on this page before acting on it to see if things have changed since it was published. You also need to know that the author of this page and the owner of this site are not attorneys and under no circumstance offer legal advice. It’s 100% your responsibility to research the current laws and/or speak to a qualified lawyer.
The current California online poker laws are firmly implanted in the gray area that most of the United States are stuck in.
You won’t find any state laws that legalize online poker but you also won’t find any that make it illegal.
From the time online poker was introduced in the late 1990’s players in the United States have been playing without much concern for legal action being taken against them.
Even when the UIGEA was passed smart players quickly learned that it was about banking and operators, not about players.
It’s fairly common knowledge amongst the poker community that the US government isn’t interested in chasing or charging online poker players so if you can find a place that accepts your play and you feel safe dealing with them there isn’t much to stop you from playing.
Of course, the laws can change at any time, but California residents should be able to continue playing online poker without fear of arrest or retribution for the foreseeable future. One of the biggest problems is the lack of safe and quality places to play online.
See the section about where to play below for additional information.
If California poker players can play online now, why the big push to make it legal?
While I don’t have a problem playing online, the main reason I want to see laws specifically legalizing online poker in California and elsewhere in the US is that every state that legalizes it helps legitimize it.
It also forces the media to stop spreading lies and will encourage many players to start playing online that have been misled into believing it’s currently illegal.
If laws are passed making online poker legal in California thousands of players will try online play who haven’t tried it before.
Legalization also makes it much easier to move money into and out of online poker websites.
Predicting the future is always dangerous but I believe that eventually, California will enjoy legalized online poker.
Of the three main types of online gambling in California – poker, casino, and sportsbooks – it seems as if poker has the best chance to be first.
The tribal gaming establishments in California have a strong lobby to keep online gambling from being legitimized and every state in the nation except Nevada faces issues at the national level to legalize sports betting and sportsbooks in California.
Of course, predicting if California online poker is legalized in 2022 or later is impossible.
Where to Play
If you live in California and want to play poker you can visit one of the many poker rooms located in the state or you can find one of the online poker rooms that serves residents.
At this time you won’t find many sites with large player pools but if you play at low to medium limits you should be able to find full tables.
The largest California online poker site as far as player numbers is Bovada / Bodog, which also has sports betting and online casino games for California residents. The other fair sized options are members of the Chico poker network and the Winning poker network.
Members of the Chico poker network include BetOnline and SportsBetting.
Members of the Winning poker network include Americas Cardroom, Black Chip Poker, Poker Host, and True Poker.
Your other option is to establish a residence in Nevada so you can play on their legal poker network. Depending on how far you live from the state border and your desire to play in a clear legal state this may be a good option.
California has some of the biggest land-based poker rooms in the world and a large player base. While the online poker rooms in Nevada and New Jersey have struggled to attract a large player base it looks like when California makes it legal the authorized card rooms should be able to quickly fill tables.
If the states that legalize online poker could start sharing player pools and add new states as they come online it’ll quickly make a strong and stable player base.
Until California and other states pass legislation clearly making online poker legal and regulated the majority of players will be forced to play at online poker sites that have no regulation. No regulation means that players really don’t have any level of protection if an online room decides to do something criminal.