Poker in Texas seems like a no-brainer. After all, the most popular poker game in the world bears the name of the state. However, the unfortunate reality is that Texas is largely hostile to the idea and, at present, seems unlikely to join the ranks of states with legal online poker. Fans of poker have two major roadblocks working against them when it comes to online poker in Texas.
The first problem is cultural — as part of the Bible Belt and the cultural South — Texas is home to many residents who have serious moral and ethical issues with gambling itself. That ethic is so entrenched that state politicians, like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, can confidently shut down the idea of gambling expansion even in the face of overall public support for it.
Poker in Texas is also a problem, ironically, because of a lack of financial issues on the government level. Although Texas has a budget deficit, it is far smaller than the deficits faced in other large states. Moreover, the state government has many natural and economic resources upon which it can draw tax dollars and revenue – by itself, the state’s economy is the 9th-largest in the world, ahead of countries like Canada, Russia, and Brazil. So, the usual driver for gambling expansion, financial difficulty, is not present in Texas to anywhere near the same degree.
So, for now, those who want Texas online poker are stuck. Texans who want to play poker at home on an app must turn their attention to sweepstakes sites, like Global Poker, instead. If you’re curious about the current status of online poker in Texas, this page should be your first stop.
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Is online poker legal in Texas?
No, it is not. There aren’t any legal online poker sites in Texas. Furthermore, it does not appear that online poker is on the legislative agenda anytime soon. The last time that any meaningful bill showed up in the capital was in 2013, and the measure didn’t even make it out of committee. As stated above, there are two considerable obstacles to any kind of gambling legalization in the Lone Star State. The prospects for real money online casinos and legal sports betting are likely in similar boats, although sports betting might have an outside chance.
To illustrate the fragility of the situation, consider that the state came within a hair of shutting down the existing horse racing industry in the state in 2015. Even though laws have been friendlier to racing more recently, it’s understandable that numerous powerful interests in the state are hostile to all types of gambling.
Will Texas regulate online poker?
So, you may be wondering if there’s any hope for legal online poker in Texas. Well, it’s not very likely, but there is a sliver here and there.
As mentioned earlier, some powerful stakeholders do not wish to see any kind of gambling expansion. Those stakeholders include both sitting lawmakers and significant voting blocs in Texas. However, there has been a recent trend in Texas to open private poker clubs that thread the needle on Texas’ gambling laws. These clubs have, so far, stood up to some legal scrutiny.
Whether the presence of these clubs might desensitize folks in the Lone Star State to the concept of legal poker is conjecture. But, if the clubs can successfully demonstrate that the morals of Texans won’t go flying out the window if poker comes in, there might be a push for online poker sometime down the road. However, don’t count on it anytime soon. For now, the best option for Texas-based poker players is a sweepstakes poker site. Most of these sweepstakes sites provide something sort of offer to test the site out, similar to a no deposit poker bonus.
What is a sweepstakes poker site?
The chances are that you’ve dealt with sweepstakes before. If you’ve ever been to McDonald’s during Monopoly time, you’ve seen sweepstakes games. If Ed McMahon’s caricature has ever adorned a brown envelope in your mail, you’ve encountered a sweepstakes in action.
What makes something a sweepstakes?
In a fundamental sense, we all understand that a sweepstakes is a prize giveaway of some kind. Considering how fanciful some of the prizes are at the biggest sweepstakes, it may seem like a scam to you. However, for a sweepstakes to be a legal drawing, it absolutely must give away the prize that it offers. Even though you will probably never know someone who received a visit from the Publishers Clearing House, they have to visit somebody on the list to remain in the good graces of the law. Furthermore, it must be possible to win the advertised prize without making any kind of purchase whatsoever for a sweepstakes to be a legal drawing. If a purchase is required, the giveaway is likely gambling at that point.
How sweepstakes works at Global Poker
With those requirements, it may seem hard to believe that a poker site in Texas could operate as a sweepstakes. However, Global Poker does exactly that and does so in most US states. Global Poker is owned and operated by sweepstakes operator VGW Holdings. The site is able to remain classified as a sweepstakes due to its unique dual-currency system. You have the opportunity to play online poker with either “gold coins” or “sweeps coins.” However, it is only possible to purchase gold coins and redeem sweeps coins.
Here’s how it works. You can choose to purchase gold coins at certain increments. You can use gold coins for the games on the site, but you cannot redeem them or covert them at any time. Gold coins hold no monetary value. At the time of purchase, and based on the amount of the purchase, Global Poker also awards its players with free sweeps coins. This currency, which you can use for games, is redeemable as real cash.
Because it is not possible to purchase sweeps coins directly, it fulfills part of the requirement that a sweepstakes be free to play. However, Global takes things one step further in this regard. In fact, you do not have to make any purchase whatsoever if you want to play for real money. Simply write Global Poker and use snail mail to request a small amount of sweeps coins.
Thus, purchasing gold coins and receiving an amount of sweeps coins in the process is a matter of convenience rather than necessity. Through this process, Global Poker remains a sweepstakes site, even though it functions like most online poker sites. Texans are more than welcome to play on Global Poker. At this time, there does not seem to be any move to make sweepstakes play illegal, even if Global’s business model pushes the definition a bit.
How come I can find plenty of online poker sites in Texas?
Now, if you’re adept at web searching, you’ve discovered that queries for Texas online poker sites return multiple options. The sites seem legitimate, and may even have brand names that you’ve heard before. So, you may be wondering why we didn’t mention these as options for players that want to play poker online in Texas.
The reason is that these sites are offshore and come with several potential consequences of playing on them. To put it another way, you may be gambling on more than just the outcome of the cards with one of these sites. The first thing to realize is that you have limited options for confirming the legitimacy of the sites themselves. Even though they may have slick presentations and design, they could easily be scam sites that are looking to rip off unsuspecting poker players.
There is also no way to tell if the regulatory agencies that oversee the sites are legitimate, effective, or fair in their mission. Again, even if they seem like the real deal, it’s hard to confirm from such a long distance. It is also problematic that neither the sites nor the regulators are obligated to answer to the US legal system. If you had some kind of dispute with a site, you could find your options for seeking help to be limited.
On the flip side, as an inhabitant of Texas, you are subject to both state and US law. Although the law is a bit on the vague side, the last thing to do is place yourself in the crosshairs of an investigation simply because you wanted to drag a few pots.
Texas poker laws
Despite being the namesake of Texas hold’em, Texas is quite a hostile environment for most forms of legal online gambling. The law itself is fairly comprehensive and establishes that, except for a few defenses to prosecution, gambling of any kind is illegal in the state.
Several specific activities are deemed illegal under Texas law. It is an offense against the statute if you bet on the result of a game, a participant in a contest, the result of a political contest, or, broadly, for “money or other thing of value at any game played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device.”
The state has even been hostile to the idea of negotiating compacts with resident Native American tribes. There are three federally recognized groups within Texas, but only the Kickapoo Nation has successfully created an agreement for gambling and opened a legitimate casino property. The other two, the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo and the Alabama-Coushatta, have tried to open locations on tribal lands with only minimal success. At present, the Alabama-Coushatta operates the Naskila Gaming Center near Livingston. Still, an ongoing court battle appears not to be going in favor of the long-term survival of the facility. The Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo do offer bingo on tribal lands, but in a limited capacity only.
As mentioned earlier, Texas does permit games of chance to be played under specific conditions. They are:
- The players play in a private place.
- Nobody gains any money except for winnings.
- Unless skill or luck are involved, the risk of winning or losing is the same for everyone.
The recent proliferation of card rooms throughout the state is due to the clubs’ attempts to thread the needle and abide by these exceptions in the law. The clubs are quite specific in charging patrons for their time spent, as there cannot be a hint that the club is profiting off the game itself. So far, the state attorney general has declined to issue an opinion on their legality. However, the vocal gambling opposition in the state has already begun screaming that these clubs are flouting the spirit of the law and are in outright violation of it.
At present, the only truly legal option for poker in the state of Texas is at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass. This casino, located on Kickapoo tribal lands, is the only location in the state where slot machines can operate with impunity, too.
Are home poker games legal in Texas?
Yes, the intent of the defenses against the prosecution listed above was to allow Texas residents to play games in their homes without fear of legal reprisal. So, there is nothing wrong with a few buddies gathering to play a cash game or tournament at someone’s house. However, the host of the game has to take care not to collect any funds from players to benefit themselves, as this action could be construed as promoting gambling. Even taking up a collection for pizza might be a problem. In a sense, the card rooms that keep showing up in Texas are attempting to be classified as home games, even if they are nothing of the sort. There is some truth to the notion that they are skirting the boundaries and the intent of the law. Still, until a legal opinion disperses from the state attorney general, they will continue to follow the letter of the statute only.
Texas card rooms
So, there is only one fully legal poker room in the state. It is at the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino, which resides on tribal lands for the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas in Eagle Pass. Dozens of semi-legal card rooms have popped up in recent times. Because this situation remains fluid, we can’t give you any reliable information about the status of these facilities. While they are making a good faith effort to remain in compliance with the law, they are still on unstable ground. A simple opinion from the Texas attorney general could render them invalid in a heartbeat.
Texas poker timeline
Creating a timeline for poker in Texas is a somewhat laughable endeavor. There is so little motion for retail and online poker that the history of progress is mostly a chronicle of failure. Nevertheless, there are a few times in the last half-century that bear mention.
1988: Indian Gaming Regulatory Act
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was a landmark bill that opened the possibility for federally recognized Native American tribes across the country to open gaming locations. Texas is home to three tribes that qualify, but the bill only yielded them the right to negotiate with the state if the state was interested.
For many years afterward, none of the three tribes gained any ground with the folks in Austin. However, this law laid the groundwork for the bit of gambling that is present in the state.
2013: Grand opening of Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino
The lack of gambling facilities in Texas, tribal or otherwise, is certainly not due to a lack of desire on the part of the Native American interests. Indeed, there have been many attempts to open facilities on reservation lands, but these efforts have only ended in closures.
Notably, both the Alabama-Coushattas and the Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo Tiguas have suffered defeats and shutdowns of their casino locations. The Coushattas had a full-service casino go dark in 2002, and the Tiguas’ Speaking Rock Entertainment Center continues to limp along with a smattering of activities and is under constant legal threat from the state.
So, it was quite momentous when the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino opened its doors in 2013. The casino, located in the southwestern portion of the state on the border with Mexico, offered the first chance for legal slot machines and poker in Texas history. It remains the only location with such an opportunity in the entire state.
2015: Poker clubs begin to open
The underground poker scene in Texas has flourished for hundreds of years. Poker legends, like Doyle Brunson and Sailor Roberts, cut their teeth as road gamblers in backrooms throughout the state.
However, these rooms always came with the dual-pronged threat of law enforcement raids and robberies. So, some poker-loving Texans began seeking a way to offer poker as a legal and aboveboard activity in 2015.
The first poker club in Texas appeared in Austin, and more soon followed. At the most recent count, there were more than two dozen clubs spread across the state, mostly in the larger cities of Texas. The clubs operate as private membership establishments and take care to avoid financial remuneration for the outcomes of the games. While they are not assured of their ultimate legality, they have managed to exist in the open for several years now.
What does the future hold for Texas online poker?
At this point, it’s hard to see a bright future for online poker in Texas. Considering how contentious things are with live poker and that there are no bills to legalize on the horizon, it’s a long shot that the situation will change anytime soon. If any type of online gambling were imminent in Texas, sports betting online seems to be more likely. The activity is spreading like wildfire across the country, and lawmakers have a tough time turning away from such a ready-made income stream. However, Texas lawmakers may not feel like they need it.
Whether a successful launch of online sports betting would translate into other gambling expansions is also quite an intuitive leap. For right now, Texans who want to play poker online should stick to sweepstakes sites like Global Poker. Since the options in Texas are so limited, few questions are necessary. The only online poker option of any size in the state is Global Poker, so the following frequently asked questions will mostly address concerns at the sweepstakes site.
Texas Poker FAQ
Although it is not necessary to pay to play for real on Global Poker, you can speed up the process of receiving your sweeps coins if you purchase gold coins on-site. Global Poker has four options for making this type of purchase available::
- Credit Card: Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover
- Instant ACH
- Rapid transfer
In most cases, a credit card will be the easiest of these options to use. However, be sure to check with your issuing bank to make sure that there are no restrictions or fees attached to this kind of purchase.
It is possible to purchase gold coins on Global Poker in increments as low as $2. However, in order to receive redeemable sweeps coins along with your purchase, you will have to buy at least $5 worth of gold coins.
Global Poker does not accept PayPal at this time. If you would prefer to use an electronic wallet, Skrill transactions are available on-site.
Although many online poker sites have quite a few poker variants available, Global Poker has chosen to focus on three solid options for its players.
The first, and most obvious, variant is NL Texas hold’em. NLHE remains the most popular poker game in the world, both live and online, and the vast majority of games on Global are hold’em games.
The second variant that you can play is pot-limit Omaha. PLO has become a favorite of many experienced players because of its complexity and propensity for larger pots. There are always several tables of PLO running at most buy-in levels on Global Poker.
Finally, and somewhat curiously, you can also play Crazy Pineapple on Global Poker. Crazy Pineapple is a variant of hold’em where you receive three cards pre-flop, then choose a card to discard after the flop. The greater amount of opportunities to make a hand leads to bigger pots and hand values. It’s an obscure selection for the third game in one’s stable of games, but Global makes it work.
Yes, as long as you stick to Global Poker, you should have no problem. Global is a US-facing company that complies with US rules and regulations, and there are numerous legal options available if anything goes wrong. However, if you choose to use a site that is based offshore, we cannot make the same warranty about their security.
Sweepstakes are legal in most US states as long as they abide by the rules of the land. As such, Global Poker attracts players from across the country. So, you can reasonably assume that you can play poker with players in more than 40 states.
Thankfully, there is no client to download on Global Poker. Global operates entirely through your web browser and is accessible through laptops and mobile devices.
Will online poker ever be legal in Texas? ›
It absolutely is legal to play online poker in Texas. Despite the fact that there are no licensed online cardrooms that have received the OK of state leaders in Austin, there are many offshore rooms that cater to Texans.What online poker sites are legal in Texas? ›
These are the most popular sites with play-money poker options:
- Partypoker (including skins BorgataPoker.com and BetMGM)
Yes, it's safe to use a VPN to play at PokerStars, 888poker, GGPoker, and other online poker websites.Can I get in trouble for playing online poker? ›
No one has ever been arrested, let alone convicted, for merely playing poker on the Internet. If you are arrested, it won't be by the feds. There is no federal statute making it a crime to make bets online.Can you gamble online if you live in Texas? ›
Is Online Gambling Legal in Texas? There are no legal, real money online casinos in Texas. This means players can't gamble on or access any online casino that is offering cash prizes, and that includes online slots and online poker rooms.Can you play PokerStars for real money in Texas? ›
You can play real money Texas Holdem and Omaha at most internet poker sites, but PokerStars offers many more games as well. You can also play Badugi, 2-7 Triple Draw, 2-7 Single Draw, Seven Stud Hi/Lo, HORSE, Razz, draw, and many mixed games.Can you play poker for money Texas? ›
Texas law doesn't make it illegal to play poker, rather it makes it illegal to profit from the game by either taking a rake or fee from the money that's in play. The poker rooms have gone around the law by charging an access fee to play inside the places, but do not profit from the games themselves.What is the best online Texas Holdem? ›
We highly recommend using BetOnline Casino as it is the best online Texas Holdem site, in our honest opinion. This site has one of the best welcome bonuses for new players and there are plenty of options when it comes to banking and accessing other real money online casino games.How can I play online poker for real money in the US? ›
- There are currently 5 states that offer legal online poker for real money in the United States – New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Delaware. ...
- WSOP/888 US is currently the only poker site that shares online poker players between all three legal online poker states (NJ, Nevada & Delaware).
Currently, under Penal Code 47, any games of chance played with cards are illegal in Texas. However, no bill has ever been introduced specifically outlawing the playing of online poker in Texas. Various attempts are being made by state senators to push through intrastate online poker TX legislation.
Are home poker games legal in Texas? ›
Home games, private poker games played in a private residence, are legal in Texas. This is among the few exceptions in Texas Gambling Law.Is video poker legal in Texas? ›
While it's legal to bet on horse races, buy a lottery ticket, or participate in office pools, basically any other semblance of gambling is against the law. This includes operating game rooms with eight-liners or video slot machines that pay out cash prizes. In Texas, keeping a gambling place is a criminal offense.Is bovada legal in Texas? ›
Is Bovada Legal In Texas? Yes, and in fact, Bovada has been providing legitimate sports betting action to Texas for over a decade.