Answering the Big Question: Why Can’t I Play Online Poker for Money?

Between 2000 and 2011, online Poker practically took over the Internet. If a person was into Poker and had a bit of money to spare, he likely had at least one account at an online Poker site. True fans had accounts at several sites. Money was changing hands faster than a magician’s assistant disappears from the magic box. People were winning and losing pots (and their bankrolls) in every amount imaginable.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in October 2006. The act “prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law.”

Some big companies (Party Poker and Paradise Poker) decided they didn’t want to run afoul of the law and, at great financial cost, stopped accepting US players. US players who had accounts with those companies suffered great financial loss. However, at least three other big companies (Poker Stars, Full Tilt, Absolute Poker) remained open to US players in clear violation of the new law. With diminished competition, these companies drew more traffic and more revenue … until April 15, 2011, when the FBI shut them down and seized their bank accounts.

As of 2016, Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada are the only states that have licensed online gambling. These states allow residents to play online Poker for money as long as the player is within the state’s borders. That’s why when you visit some Poker sites, you’ll see a message telling you that you can play for real money only if you’re in one of those three states; otherwise, you gamble with play money at these sites.

Many other sites operate illegally and accept US players. Some of these sites are scams and won’t pay out winnings. Others are “legit” illegal sites that have developed good reputations. (But if you’re a player with a complaint, what can you do? Sue?) New sites pop up and disappear all the time. The software is never as sophisticated as it was for the premier sites back in the day, and traffic is always lighter (which means you may have to wait for the game you prefer).

The majority of US online play today is illegal and unregulated. It’s very sad for Poker.

If you’re tempted to deposit your hard-earned cash with an online Poker site that seems reputable, we have one word for you: Don’t! Do not. Forget about it. Send your money to your friendly authors instead. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to withdraw the deposited money or your winnings at a later date. Better to lose your money the old- fashioned way — by losing to a more skilled player in person — than to lose it to faceless scammers looking to make a fast and easy buck.

However, you can still play Poker on the Internet. You can find plenty of sites that let you sit down at a virtual table and play with other like-minded folks. You just won’t finish richer than you started.

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