US poker players have seen their online poker options dwindle since UIGEA legislation was passed in 2006, but there are still a number of high-quality US poker sites that cater to US players. However, not all US friendly poker sites are equal, and not just in terms of player traffic or soft games! It’s incredibly important that you choose a reputable poker site that will guarantee an honest game; offer numerous US deposit options as well as speedy transactions; and a support team that is fluent in English.
This page is quite long so for your convenience the links below will bring you to the appropriate section.
– Recommended US Poker Sites
– US Poker Deposit Methods
– US Online Poker Withdrawals
– Online Poker Legality and Restrictions for US Poker Players
– What Is The UIGEA
– Tax Considerations For American Online Poker Players
NOTE To Reader: Here is our list of the best US poker sites for US players. All these sites are completely legal for American players to play online poker, as well as being safe and reliable.
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Carbon Poker (www.carbonpoker.ag) makes our list of US poker rooms for three reasons. First, when it comes to reputation Carbon Poker is at the top of the industry. With an existence in the online gambling and poker industry for several years, Carbon Poker is one of the most credible and reliable online poker sites.
Secondly, as one of the most heavily trafficked US online poker sites Carbon offers some of the juiciest poker games on the Internet. The huge traffic numbers also make it exceedingly easy to find a game at any hour of the day, no matter what your game of choice may be; Carbon Poker is one of the very few poker site options where players who prefer games such as Omaha can find a table running.
Thirdly, Carbon has a wide number of deposit options for US poker players. They currently take certain Visas, MasterCard, Bank Wire and Checks from US residents.
Finally, with one of the great poker deposit bonuses of any online poker site, Carbon Poker gives players from the US a 200% match on any deposit up to $5000 if they sign-up by following the links on this page. This deposit bonus can also be cleared relatively fast by lower stakes players. When you consider the site’s reputation and player traffic, Carbon Poker is an easy choice for our list of the best poker sites for US players.
Depositing to online poker sites in the USA has become a bit difficult recently but it is not impossible. There are still many online poker rooms that still accept US players. These US online poker rooms have several deposit options for US players. Many of these options are instant where the funds immediately appear in the player’s poker accounts.
Credit cards are the easiest and fastest way for US players to deposit. These include Visa, Mastercard, Diner’s Club and in some cases American Express. Unfortunately, some online poker rooms have a low acceptance rate for US players. The best results tend to be with debit cards which operate differently than standard credit cards. These debit cards carry the logo of the credit card company but the money comes directly out of the player’s bank account instantly. Visa gift cards that can be purchased at grocery stores, convenience stores or large discount stores also have a higher acceptance rate than standard credit cards.
There are still some ewallets that accepts US players. MyPayLinq has become one option for US players. Players can deposit by credit card, bank transfer, Western Union or they can receive a player to player transfer from a friend. MoneyLineWallet accepts echecks from players. The first echeck deposit can take as many as ten business days to clear. Once the first echeck has cleared future echecks are instant. This means that players can deposit to their favorite US online poker room and play within minutes.
Digital Pin is another deposit option. Digital Pin is a phone card that can be used to deposit to online poker rooms. The phone card can be funded through your bank account. Once the funds clear you can use it in the same way that you would use a credit card when depositing to your favorite online poker room.
Some poker rooms will accept a check through the mail. In some cases you may need to receive a certified check from your bank. When you mail this check to your poker room of choice they deposit it. Within a few business days you may play. You can also use a money order this same way. Money orders can be purchased at many convenience stores and all post offices.
Bank wire is another option. If the poker room of your choice accepts bank wires you will need to get their banking information. You then call or visit your bank with this information. Bank wires are typically processed on the same day so you will be able to play with these funds within 24 hours.
Western Union is another option. Players can initiate a Western Union deposit by credit card or bank transfer at Westernunion.com. A credit card deposit will be sent immediately. A bank account transfer takes about three days. If you would like to make the deposit by cash you can go to any Western Union retail location. Cash transfers are also instant. These include check cashing stores, convenience stores and grocery stores. While the fees tend to be high with Western Union in many cases the online poker room will reimburse you for these fees, especially on large deposits. Using a credit card or cash for a Western Union transfer is often the fastest way to deposit on an online poker room.
Moneygram is similar to Western Union. If you wish to deposit by credit card or bank account you can go to Moneygram.com. Credit card deposits are instant. Bank transfers take about three days. You can also go to a Moneygram retail location and send cash which is instant. Moneygram is offered at many grocery stores, convenience stores and discount stores.
Now that you have deposited and played it is time to get your winnings. While receiving a cashout is not as quick as depositing there are still many cashout methods for US online poker.
Most US online poker rooms will cash you out by check. These checks are typically sent by couriers like FedEx or UPS. They are delivered directly to your door. The time it can take to receive a check varies greatly depending on demand at that time. Checks can be delivered in as little as a few days or it can take several weeks. Make sure to ask when requesting your check how long it will take. The poker room should be able to give you a good time frame. There may be a small charge for cashing out by check.
Bank wires are another option. A bank wire is deposited directly into your bank account. Your bank will charge a fee of around $20 to receive the bank wire. Bank wires are usually reserved for large withdrawals typically associated with high limit play or large tournament wins.
Western Union is offered as a cashout method by some online poker rooms. Some of these rooms will allow you one free withdrawal a month. If the fees are not covered by the poker room your fee may be as much as $25. The upside of this cashout option is that you can pick up your cash at any Western Union agent. These include convenience stores, grocery stores and check cashing locations.
Moneygram is similar to Western Union. They are usually cheaper though. If you have to pay the fees for withdrawals by Moneygram expect to pay around $20. Just as with Western Union, you are paid in cash at locations such as discount stores and convenience stores.
Some US online poker rooms have become creative with smaller cashouts. Instead of a check they may mail you a disposable gift card with a credit card logo on it. If you receive one you will need to call the company to activate it. You can then go to any ATM and withdraw the money. You may also use the card anywhere that credit cards are accepted.
Another creative choice is a prepaid, reusable credit card. Once you establish a relationship with an online poker room they may send you a credit card. When you request a cashout the online poker room will add the funds directly to the credit card. You may then go to any ATM and withdraw the funds or use it anywhere credit cards are accepted. You then hold on to the card so that you can receive your future winnings on the same card.
It is NOT illegal to participate in online poker games in the United States, except in the state of Washington –but it’s important to note that no online poker player has ever been criminally charged in Washington State.
On the other hand, operating an online poker site is currently illegal in the United States, and the passage of UIGEA legislation has made it illegal for banks or other payment processors to accept deposits or cash-outs from online gambling sites –some banks/processors put online poker in the gambling category while others don’t.
The truth of the matter is that these laws are for all intents and purposes unenforceable, since all online poker rooms operate offshore, as do a number of willing payment processors. And any online poker player who is willing to wait a couple of days can easily fund their US poker site account with ease.
The UIGEA is the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act. The UIGEA was passed by the US Congress on September 30, 2006. It was attached to the Safe Port Act, an unrelated bill. It was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 13, 2006.
The UIGEA did not make anything new illegal. It reenforced laws that were already on the books. It made it illegal to process payments related to gambling that was already illegal. The gambling laws that could be used to enforce the UIGEA include the Wire Act of 1961 as well as state gambling laws. The UIGEA did not make any type of gambling legal. The UIGEA does not apply to players in any way. It is not illegal for a player to make a deposit or receive a withdrawal from any online gambling site. The UIGEA specifically exempted fantasy sports as well as intra state and inter tribal gambling. It is assumed that the intra state exemptions include horse racing and state lotteries.
Between the day the UIGEA passed Congress and the day President George W. Bush signed the bill into law US facing online poker rooms had major decisions to make. At the time Party Poker accepted US players and was the largest online poker room. They decided to leave the US market within hours of the UIGEA becoming law. Other US facing online poker rooms and networks that left the US market included iPoker, Ongame, Boss Media, Entraction, Cryptologic, Everest Poker and Action Poker.
Paradise Poker, at the time a standalone online poker room, stopped accepting US deposits immediately but allowed players in most states to play for thirty more days.
Some online poker rooms and networks decided that the law did not apply to online poker or decided that accepting US players was worth the risk. Online poker rooms that continued to accept US players included PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet, Cake Poker, Carbon Poker, Poker4Ever and Bodog. Microgaming took an unusual position. They decided to continue to accept players from the US, but only from 39 states. Microgaming took the position that online poker was not covered by any federal law but decided that 11 states had laws that may cover offering poker over the internet to their state residents. Eventually two more states were banned. In 2009, Microgaming completely left the US market.
The UIGEA affected online poker players from all over the world. This is because virtually every online poker room was affected in some way. At the time the UIGEA passed virtually all online poker rooms and networks accepted US players. The mass banning of US players across so many networks affected game liquidity and game selection on most networks. Most notably, Party Poker instantly lost their #1 status to PokerStars. Other notable actions include Paradise Poker abandoning their standalone poker room and joining Boss Media, also known as the International Poker Network.
Some poker rooms were only slightly affected. For example, Entraction lost few players as their network was already a majority European players. Everest Poker had only accepted US players for a few weeks and had not built any type of US player base. Betfair never accepted US players so they were not affected at all.
The UIGEA seemed like a dream for the online poker rooms that continued to accept US players. The UIGEA was first used in the Black Friday indictments. PokerStars, who already was the online poker tournament leader, became the largest online poker room overnight. Full Tilt Poker, who was a medium sized room before the UIGEA, quickly became #2. Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet were separate, standalone poker rooms at the time the UIGEA passed, grew exponentially. Eventually they would merge and become the Cereus Network. Cake Poker, who was largely unknown and very small before the UIGEA, became a network and was able to land some large sportsbooks as network partners.
April 15, 2011 was the first time that the UIGEA was used to indict online gaming operators. On that day, known throughout the online poker world as Black Friday, the operators of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker were indicted. Charges included conspiracy to violate the UIGEA, violating the UIGEA, as well as operating an illegal gambling business. Immediately PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker left the US market. Absolute Poker and their sister site UB.com continued to allow US players to play even though they stopped allowing them to deposit.
The Department of Justice alleges that these online poker rooms conspired to commit bank fraud by miscoding financial transactions with banks. All banking transactions involve a code that describes the transaction. For example, a credit used for online gambling purposes would have the code 7995. It is alleged that these online poker rooms miscoded these transactions to improve the acceptance rate. These transactions were passed off as different types of internet commerce not related to online poker. Although eleven people were charged with violating the UIGEA none have been convicted of this crime. Plea bargains related to Black Friday have dropped the UIGEA counts.
In the aftermath of the UIGEA related indictments Full Tilt Poker has completely shut down after losing their Alderney licensing. While Absolute Poker and UB.com still operate they no longer accept US players and have lost 98% of their traffic. PokerStars continues to operate business as usual and has seen little change in their business.
In addition to the online poker community the UIGEA has been the target of libertarian groups as well as internet freedom groups. Mainstream politicians have aimed to repeal or replace the UIGEA with a law that would regulate online poker. At this point nothing has been done though and the UIGEA remains on the books.
The U.S. is unique when it comes to gambling winnings. Unlike most of the world, poker players in the U.S. must pay taxes on their online poker winnings. It is the poker player’s responsibility to file taxes on their winnings. There are several ways for U.S. players to file their taxes on their poker winnings.
If a poker player wins $5000 or more in a live poker tournament the player is issued a W2G. The W2G winnings must be included on that year’s tax return. There is a line on the tax return to enter W2G winnings. Most people that file their income tax on their own use a tax software program. The tax software will ask you if you have a W2G to enter as a part of your income. W2Gs can also be issued with a slot win of $1200 or more, or a keno win of $1700 or more.
If a casual player is issued a W2G that player will have a difficult time deducting their gambling losses against that win. This is because there are only two ways to take deductions against W2Gs. One is to deduct losses against the win in the itemized deductions section. Only the amount of the W2G can be deducted. This means if a player has a $10,000 W2G but lost $15,000 the player can only deduct $10,000. Also, most people do not itemize deductions. If it is better to take the standard deduction instead of itemizing, which is true for almost all tax payers that do not have a mortgage or donate a lot to charity, then nothing can be deducted against your W2G. Another way is to file as a professional gambler using a Schedule C.
If a poker player can prove that they are a winning player then the player can file a Schedule C. Typically a Schedule C is filed by sole proprietor businesses. If a player is a consistent winner then they can file as a self employed gambler using the Schedule C. If a player has won two of the last three years, or three of the last five, then the IRS will generally accept a poker player filing as a professional.
There are positives and negatives filing a Schedule C as a professional poker player. When a poker player files as a professional that player can net their entire win or loss. By doing this, W2Gs become irrelevant. A player simply shows a net win or loss. The poker player can also deduct travel expenses such as mileage, airline tickets, hotel rooms and meals while they are playing brick and mortar poker. If the player specializes in online poker then they may be able to deduct a home office as well as computer equipment needed to play online poker. This includes monitors, office chair and CPU.
The negative of filing as a professional poker player is that the player must pay Social Security tax and Medicare tax. Typically when a person has a job they pay half of their Social Security tax and half of their Medicare tax. Their employer pays the other half. When you file a Schedule C you are filing as a self employed tax payer. This means that you must pay 100% of your Social Security and Medicare taxes. This means that even before you have paid income tax on your poker winnings you are paying 12.4% Social Security and 2.9% Medicare tax. While you can deduct this self employment tax from your Schedule C a poker player will still pay 12.24% in extra taxes if they are in the 20% tax bracket.
If a poker player does not have a W2G but has poker winnings they still must declare their winnings to the IRS. This is done under the Gambling Winnings category on Form 1040. These poker winnings must be declared whether the player won playing brick and mortar poker or online poker.
Players that do not pay their taxes are subject to fines, penalties and interest. This is in addition to the taxes owed. If the IRS determines that a poker player committed fraud then that player can even be subject to prison. While poker players may think that the IRS will never know about their cash winnings it is better to be safe than in trouble with the IRS.