If you’re a poker player in Illinois, you have plenty of great options when it comes to live poker. There are several casinos around the state with excellent card rooms. There are also several regular major tournament series throughout the year to check out.
While online poker provided by casinos or major poker brands like PokerStars isn’t yet legal, there is currently at least one option to play poker for real money online in Illinois.
On this page we’ll give you a full rundown of poker in the state, from the history of legalization efforts to the casino brands you can expect to offer poker sites to how to enjoy online poker via sweepstakes poker sites.
Best Online Poker Sites in Illinois
Latest Illinois Online Poker News
Can you play online poker for real money in Illinois?
The quick answer is no. Traditional online poker is currently not legal in Illinois like it is in Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Delaware. Or even West Virginia, where it has been legalized but is yet to launch.
Any legal Michigan online poker platform, which so far includes PokerStars, offers Illinois residents a short drive to get in the action. But otherwise residents will have limited options when it comes to real money online poker until full legalization is in place.
However, that may be changing soon. In February 2021, legislation was introduced that would legalize all forms of online gaming including poker.
Rep. Robert Rita (D) and Rep. Jonathan Carroll (D) co-sponsored the bill and believed they had support for the bill, which is named the Internet Gaming Act (IGA).
The act is unique in attempting to fast-track getting the industry off the ground. IGA gives the gaming board 90 days to adopt emergency rules for the industry. Companies already holding equivalent sports betting licenses would be granted temporary licenses.
Companies with online gaming licenses in other states could also receive temporary licenses. These measures could help ramp up the industry at a faster pace than seen in some states.
Until traditional real money online poker is legalized, Global Poker may be the best option for players in Illinois. This is a sweepstakes poker site where players can win real cash prizes or gift certificates.
Global’s unique sweepstakes platform, fully licensed in the US, allows players in 49 US states to play in poker games and earn cash prizes.
How does Sweepstakes poker work?
Under sweepstakes law, no purchase or payment can be necessary to participate in any contest. When it comes to sweepstakes poker, that means you can claim free ‘entries’ simply by logging into your account every day. You can also write to the company itself and they will send you a free entry as required by law.
As for Global Poker, poker players on the site use a virtual currency called Gold Coins to play ring (cash) games, tournaments, and sit & go’s. Gold Coins can be accumulated in these games but have no cash value.
Players who simply enjoy playing free poker, learning the games, and practicing their skills can participate as long as they want.
That’s not the only currency available, however. When you buy additional Gold Coins you’ll also get a completely separate currency called Sweeps Coins. These can then be used in specially designated “SC” ring games, tournaments, and sit & go’s.
Sweeps Coins, as opposed to Gold Coins, can then be redeemed for real money and gift cards. Sweeps Coins are also awarded to you in your account free just for logging in every day.
For states like Illinois, where online poker is yet to be legalized, Global Poker makes a nice alternative for players to play real poker in return for real cash prizes. You won’t become a poker pro playing games at Global Poker, but you can play for more than just play money.
What Games Can I Play at Global Poker?
While it’s obviously not PokerStars and its souped-up poker software, poker players will still find some relatively interesting online poker games – whether playing for free with Gold Coins or jumping in the Sweeps Coin action. Illinois players will find a user-friendly platform that can be played on:
- traditional desktop or laptop computers
As of September 2020, Global Poker offered a few poker variations to check out including:
- No Limit Texas Hold’em
- Fixed Limit Hold’em
- Pot Limit Omaha
- Crazy Pineapple
NLHE players have plenty of daily and weekly events including big Sunday majors. For example
- The SC55 Sunday Nine guarantees SC5,000.
- The SC218 Sunday Scrimmage pays out a guarantee of SC50,000
- The SC110 Sunday Teaser pays out at least SC25,000
PLO fans have been happy to see more tournaments as part of the daily schedule. There are a few daily PLO events including:
- SUNday PLO with SC2,000 guaranteed
- Daily PLO Frenzy with a SC5.50 buy-in and SC1,000 guarantee
- Daily SC3.30 and SC22 events
For players new to Crazy Pineapple, this game is similar to online Texas Hold’em, but players are dealt three cards. After betting is concluded on the flop, however, players must discard one of those. The action then players out as normal on the turn and river cards. It’s a fun twist on traditional Hold’em.
Other game options include:
Major tournament series – Festivals like the Grizzly Games, Rattlesnake Open, Summer Series, and others offer something for every bankroll and big guaranteed prize pools.
Sit & Go’s – These tournaments offer several buy-in levels and player numbers from two to 27. These are nice options for players with limited time.
Jackpot Sit & Go’s – These are fun three-player events with a pre-game spinning wheel determining the prize pool. This can be from two times the buy-in all the way up to
Ring games – These function like traditional cash games with stakes from SC0.05/0.10 to SC2.50/5.00.
Depositing and withdrawing is a quick and easy process. Those looking to purchase some Gold Coins and receive the bonus Sweeps Coins that go with it can use:
- ACH Bank transfers
- Major credit and debit cards like Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover
- Skrill, the popular e-wallet
Players can also feel confident Global Poker is a safe and secure poker site and that their funds and personal details are kept private. Global is owned by VGW Holdings. This is a publicly-traded Australian company that opened in 2016. VGW/Global Poker is licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority and operates under sweepstakes law in the US.
When will online poker be legal in Illinois?
Beyond sweepstakes poker, online poker is not legal in Illinois. There have been various efforts in the state to legalize online poker and other gaming since 2013. The Senate overwhelmingly supported a bill legalizing online poker in 2017, but the bill stalled from there. The state remained in a quagmire as of September 2020.
With state budgets facing tough choices after the Coronavirus pandemic, could the issue of online gaming and poker resurface? That remains to be seen but many government officials will be looking for additional tax revenue and iGaming remains an easy option. So far these states are the only ones offering legal, real-money online poker in the US:
Pennsylvania online poker — (Poker sites offered include PokerStars. As of September 2020, there was considerable speculation that partypoker and WSOP.com would be launching in the state sometime in the fall).
Nevada online poker — (Poker sites include WSOP.com. This platform is the largest in the country and produces the biggest prize and player pools because of its interstate shared liquidity market with NJ and Delaware).
Delaware online poker — (Poker sites include 888poker, the state’s only online poker operation through an agreement with the state. 888 also offers the state’s only online casino gaming).
As noted earlier, Michigan has legalized online poker as well. West Virginia online poker is also coming soon.
With a population of almost 13 million people, Illinois would become the largest online poker state if it ever did legalize the virtual game. With so many states bordering it – Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin — players in neighboring states might be willing to cross the border for major online poker events and tournament series.
That’s obviously not the case yet and in the meantime players in Illinois will have to check out sites like Global Poker.
How to play free online poker in Illinois
Free “play money” poker is another option for players in Virginia looking to work on their skills and pass some time at the virtual poker tables. Many of the major poker site brands operating in other US states have virtual tables where you can simply play for some enjoyment or to move up a play-money leaderboard.
Those sites include:
In Virginia you will not be able to download the real money software client or app and play real money games but you ARE able to access the .Net version of those sites and take advantage of the play-money games.
You can also download poker apps to play on a smartphone (iPhone/Android) or tablet. These are still more of a social gaming experience with players accomplishing certain challenges and hoping to reach some target totals, like Play Money Millionaire.
And as mentioned, Global Poker has fully accessible play money games for players in 49 US states as well.
It may not quite be the real thing, but it can be a fun option. Free-to-play online poker will at least offer some of those entertaining card player vibes.
Online poker with friends in Illinois
Beyond simply playing free poker for virtual currency, PokerStars.net also makes it possible to play online poker with friends. That means battling with buddies at the table no matter where those friends are located.
PokerStars Home Games will let you set up your own club for tournaments and cash games in various poker varieties. You can’t deposit real money but you can easily create an offline system for allocating play money to real dollars and settle up offline..
Getting your home poker club up and running is simple:
- Create your account, then log in
- In the PokerStars lobby you’ll then find three small buttons on the right side of the screen.
- You’ll then find an option that says “Home Games.”
- Click on the area that says “Create a Poker Club.” You can customize your club name and create an invite code and password for other players to use to register in the club.
- PokerStars will then email that information to you, which you can then send to friends who you might want to join the group.
As the creator of the club, you’ll be known as the club manager and can pick games and set up tournaments. Once players have joined, you’ll need to approve that membership. You’ll then be ready to set up a cash game or tournament. A tournament is fully customizable and there are several poker variations that can be played.
If you’re playing in a legal online poker state, you can also play with real money. PokerStars Home games allows for the next-best-thing to meeting up with friends for some live poker action. And if you’re in one of those legal states, make use of our exclusive USPoker bonuses when you create your account:
Online poker bonuses in Illinois
One of the great things about starting a new online poker account is that you’ll find numerous bonus codes to take advantage of. From free money signup bonuses to match bonuses to new player freerolls, there are plenty of great opportunities to snag some free bonuses and free cash opportunities whenever you join a new poker site.
See the full list of our No Deposit Poker Bonus Codes to see which ones you can claim in your state.
Traditional real-money online poker may not be legal in Illinois yet, but anyone can take advantage of sweepstakes poker site Global Poker’s sign-up offer. New players can use the bonus links to gain:
- One free SC1,000 Freeroll entry
- Free $20 Gold Coin package
- $40 Gold Coin package (including free Sweeps Coins) for just $20
- Free daily Sweeps Coins just for logging in
Click the link below to get started:
Which poker sites are illegal in Illinois?
Before Black Friday, players across the US could take advantage of numerous options – sites like PokerStars and partypoker and even Full Tilt Poker before its implosion. It’s now a completely new online poker environment in the US.
Online poker is now legalized on a state-by-state basis and Illinois currently isn’t one of those. Sites like WSOP.com, PokerStars, and partypoker aren’t legal for real money online poker in all states in the US, although as mentioned you can access play money versions of each site.
“Offshore” poker sites, meaning those unlicensed in the US or licensed in another country such as the UK or Malta, are not legal in Virginia.
Which casinos in Illinois have live poker?
In Illinois, live poker players can currently find several casinos to play some cards in; here’s a look at a few. This also includes some properties just over the border in neighboring states. It’s important to note that many of these hadn’t been reopened by September 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Grand Victoria Casino (Elgin) – Plenty of action is usually running in this 13-table Caesars property just northwest of Chicago.
Hollywood Casino (Aurora) – Located west of Chicago, this Penn National Gaming facility earns high marks with players and features a 15 table room with a nice tournament and cash game scene.
Harrah’s (Joliet) – This small Caesars room, just southwest of Chicago, has a WSOP poker room with regular qualifiers for the series and eight tables of action.
Horseshoe Casino (Hammond, Indiana) – Head just southeast of the Windy City across the border for this Caesars property. It offers another WSOP poker room with qualifiers for the summer series in Las Vegas. The room features a hefty 34 tables and hosts major events like WSOP Circuit stops.
Majestic Star Casino (Gary, Indiana) – 14 tables with cash games and daily tournament a short drive from the Chicago area.
Blue Chip Casino (Michigan City, Indiana) – Nice smaller room just outside Chicago with eight rooms.
Four Winds Casino (South Bend, Indiana) – Well regarded room, spacious and inviting with 10 tables.
Most properties are located in the Chicagoland area, but there are some neighboring states that offer poker to players in other parts of the country including Missouri in south and southwest Illinois. To the west, Iowa offers a few options as well.
Several charitable poker ventures also host large events in the Chicago area throughout the year. This often involves frequent changes of venue.
There are also some other smaller rooms with four or five tables, some focusing on a charitable angle as part of the games offered. These have varying degrees of success and varying degrees of play amenities.
How far is Illinois from having legal online poker?
As noted earlier, the state began moving closer to legalization in 2021. A bill was introduced in the legislature and the bill’s sponsors believed it had a chance to pass. As of February 2021, Illinois had become one of the states most likely to join the current states offering legalized real money online poker.
In June 2019, Gov. JB Pritzker (D) signed a bill into law legalizing sports betting including online sportsbooks and sports betting apps. Major sports betting operators like DraftKings and FanDuel were up and running in the state by May 2020.
Could the embracing of one form of online gaming lead to more? That remains to be seen but no doubt major operators in the state, as well as in neighboring states, will be looking for expansion. That includes major gaming companies like Caesars and Penn National, which own properties in Illinois. While Penn doesn’t offer online poker, the company has many casinos around the country including an online casino in Pennsylvania.
Branching out into online poker at some point doesn’t seem impossible especially after the company purchased Barstool Sports in 2020 for $165 million. The company hopes to leverage those young Barstool fans into sports betting. Perhaps that could include online poker at some point.
Caesars would be a likely mover into a legalized online poker market. With Caesars online casinos already in NJ, PA, and Nevada, adding Illinois would be a nice addition to its growing portfolio of legalized poker states.
The Wire Act was cleared up in 2021 and the gaming industry won the case. The Trump-era Department of Justice argued the act applied to all forms of online gaming. A federal appeals court ruled in January 2021 that it only applied to sports betting.
That clears the way for expanded interstate gaming compacts and Illinois would be a nice addition to that. Adding the state to WSOP.com’s currently shared liquidity with Nevada, NJ, and PA may not be possible at least initially. However, Illinois certainly has enough players to sustain a “ringed-in” poker market also.
Other operators would certainly be willing to move into the state if agreements and partnerships can be reached. PokerStars operates fenced-in poker sites in NJ and PA and already partnered with a tribal gaming operation for online poker in Michigan to go forward when that state gives online gaming the official green light.
Partypoker is an online poker brand that would be interested as well. While it only operates in NJ for now, the company is bent on expansion and was expecting to launch online poker in PA sometime in the fall.
While online poker legalization in Illinois certainly isn’t imminent, the state seems a likely target for the industry. A few aspects stand out as bright spots:
- A history of legalization efforts
- Legal live casino and poker rooms
- Legalization of mobile sports betting
- State in need of additional tax revenue
- Nearby state of Michigan has already legalized online gaming (including poker)
Online poker in the US made huge strides in 2020, and there’s a chance more states could be heading to the virtual felt.
History of gambling and poker in Illinois
Gambling in Illinois dates back to 1927 when legislators legalized wagering on horse races. In the 1970s more gaming was added, beginning with bingo in 1971 and the lottery in 1974. In 1986, charitable gaming was approved and that continues with many of the state’s charitable poker endeavors.
In 1991 riverboat gambling was legalized and allowed gaming on a moving boat along one of the state’s major waterways. In 1999, this was amended to allowing gambling on boats that didn’t actually have to move. Riverboats became dockside and remain as hovering casinos over the water.
In 2002, Illinois became the first state to offer online lottery sales. In recent years, the legislature and state leaders have made some efforts to expand gaming and live casinos. Many poker players in the state hope recent efforts will eventually lead to online poker’s legalization. Here’s a more specific look at Illinois gambling legislation attempts over the years.
Illinois Governor JB Pritzker (D) signs into law a bill to legalize sports betting; online poker is not included.
The Illinois House is expected to reconvene and may vote on an online gambling and daily fantasy sports bill passed by the Senate.
The Illinois Senate passed a bill 42-10 seeking to legalize online gambling and daily fantasy sports in the legislature’s final day of the session.
The state began 2017 locked in a battle over the budget that had lawmakers considering a number of proposals, including gambling expansion.
Similar to proposals from previous years, the latest gambling expansion plan would see a casino created in Chicago, riverboat casinos approved in Lake County, Rockford, the south suburbs of Chicago, Danville, and in Williamson County. It would also see slot machines permitted at tracks in Arlington Heights, Cicero and Collinsville. No online gambling measures were included in this gambling expansion plan.
The Illinois Lottery begins electronic drawings, using a computer with a random number generator instead of the traditional machines with numbered balls.
Illinois Lottery officials announce the total amount of online ticket sales in the first two years reached $36.9 million. They also conform the successful use of geolocation technology to confirm a player’s presence in the state, and identity verification systems to verify player age. This is the same technology used by regulated online gambling sites in other states.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton says he believes online gambling legislation will pass in the state. However, he also says the issue of a possible expansion to land-based casino gambling in the state must be dealt with first.
An amendment passed removing online gambling from the casino expansion bill.
Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the major gambling expansion bill that would have allowed casinos in Chicago, four other sites around the state and slot machines at racetracks. A revised bill seeking both land-based and online gambling expansion emerged in the legislature just days later.
Illinois becomes the first state lottery to authorize internet ticket sales. Adults with an IP address inside the state of Illinois can play online.
The Illinois Gaming Board begins mass approval of the state’s first video gaming licenses.
Rivers Casino, Illinois’ tenth and latest casino property, opens in Des Plaines.
It is the first new casino built in the Chicago area since the 1990s. Rivers quickly becomes the market leader in the state.
It is owned by Midwest Gaming & Entertainment and overseen by Rush Street Gaming. Rush Street Gaming also operates the SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia. Rush Street later opened up the SugarHouse Online Casino in New Jersey in 2016.
State lawmakers passed a gambling expansion bill on May 31. However, with the governor expected to veto the bill, Cullerton used a parliamentary motion to prevent it from going to the Governor’s office. The hope was an agreement could be negotiated to see the bill signed into law in some form.
The United States Department of Justice releases its opinion that the federal Wire Act only applies to sports betting. That confirms the legality of state lottery sales over the internet.
Harrah’s acquires the Players Island riverboat casino on the Ohio River in Metropolis, Ill., as a part of its purchase of Players International. It renames the boat Harrah’s Metropolis.
Harrah’s acquired Caesars Entertainment in 2005. The company changed its name to Caesars Entertainment in 2010. The company’s Caesars Interactive Entertainment division acquired a New Jersey internet gaming license and launched Caesars, Harrah’s, WSOP and 888 branded online casino and poker sites in the state when the market opened in 2013. It also owns and operates the WSOP online poker room in Nevada.
Illinois passes The Video Gaming Act authorizing up to five video gaming terminals in licensed retail establishments, truck stops, veteran and fraternal establishments. The plan is to ensure the state’s VGTs are all connected and monitored by a central system.
The Illinois legislature passed amendments to its lottery law approving an internet pilot program to sell Mega Millions and Lotto tickets on the internet.
The Illinois Gaming Board awarded the state’s 10th and last casino license to Midwest Gaming and Entertainment to build a 140,000-square-foot casino in Des Plaines.
Illinois changes its laws to permit riverboat casinos to permanently moor.
Harrah’s Joliet launches its first riverboat casino.
After receiving the state’s first gambling license, Argosy Gaming Company opens up the Alton Belle Casino in Alton, Ill. This is the state’s first riverboat casino. There are now ten casinos operating in the state as of the first quarter of 2017.
Illinois lawmakers pass The Riverboat Gambling Act, making Illinois just the second state in the country to legalize riverboat gambling.
Illinois Online Poker FAQs
Can I play on PokerStars in Illinois?
As of 2020, PokerStars only operates in the US states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey for real money online poker games. Both offer ringed-in poker games, meaning players within the state only play in games and events against others in that state. The is no inter-state player pool sharing. for PokerStars yet.
If Illinois ever did offer regulated legal online poker, PokerStars seems like a likely operator to move into the state. That would be mean either offering a fenced-in platform or through an interstate compact shared liquidity pool.
As mentioned above, you can access PokerStars.net and play the play-money tables or set-up a poker club to play online with your friends.
Can I use a VPN to play online from Illinois?
Players who use a VPN to play illegally are violating a site’s terms of service. Any winnings can be voided and that player can be banned from the site, including if that operator possibly moves into the player’s jurisdiction legally.
That player’s funds may also be forfeited for playing illegally. Online poker sites make great efforts at detecting those playing illegally.
What happens if I play at an illegal offshore poker site?
Underground offshore sites don’t face the same regulations and licensing processes that legal sites undergo. These operators must go through the same licensure process that traditional land-based casinos must undergo.
Players can expect security and safety at these sites. Offshore sites have had numerous complaints about slow payouts through the years, and some have even folded and kept player funds. It can be quite a gamble literally playing on some of these fly-by-night poker sites.