Texas has a long history with the game of poker. Some of the game’s biggest historic figures, including the original players in the World Series of Poker like Doyle Brunson and Amarillo Slim, began playing back room games throughout Texas.
The biggest game in poker even gets its name from the state – Texas Hold’em. In fact the Texas Legislature even recognizes the city of Robstown as the birthplace of the game in the early 1900s.
Online poker in Texas may not be legal at the moment, but it will be enormously popular when it is. The game remains very popular throughout the state—including in a growing number of live card rooms that function in a legal gray area in Texas.
Best Online Poker Sites in Texas
Can you play online poker for real money in Texas?
Real-money online poker as seen in other states and countries isn’t yet legalized in Texas. Global Poker, a sweepstakes poker site, remains the best option for Texans looking to play poker online. Sweepstakes poker is based on a social gaming model and operates under sweepstakes laws in the US and Canada.
In 2020, Global Poker greatly expanded its number of tournaments and major events during the Coronavirus pandemic. Many players looked to get in on the action since they couldn’t head to tournaments, casinos, or live poker rooms.
Like traditional real-money poker sites, Global Poker began offering even more tournament series. That included major series like the Grizzly Games, Rattlesnake Open, Summer Series, Home Series, and more.
Players will also find numerous satellites and buy-ins for every bankroll during these events. Some of those tournament festivals even included the chance to represent Global Poker a major live tournament.
Sweepstakes Poker for Real Money in Texas
Despite traditional, real-money online poker not being legal, sweepstakes poker can be a nice way to pass some time at the virtual felt playing cards.
The best known and most respected of these sites is Global Poker. This social-gaming based platform operates under US sweepstakes law (similar to Publishers Clearing House) and allows players to get in the action for a shot to win real money.
To start on Global Poker, players use a virtual currency called Gold Coins. This is a free-play currency like you’d find on any free poker app or in the play-money lobby at any real money poker site. Players can hit the tables and use Gold Coins for:
- “Cash” games
- Jackpot Sit & Go’s
- Bounty tournaments
- Major tournament series
You can buy more Gold Coins at any time and earn more through promos and logging in each day.
When you buy more Gold Coins, you earn what are called Sweeps Coins as a bonus. This is a separate virtual currency that can be played in separate Sweeps Coin ring games, sit & go’s, and tournaments. Global also regularly hosts live tournament series with major guarantees and trophies awarded.
What makes Sweeps Coins different from Gold Coins is that they can be traded for real money. If you’ve had a nice day at the ring games or won a nice tournament, those winnings can be sent to your bank account. This site offers the fun of social gaming but with the poker experience of winning real cash.
Global Poker is available to players in the USA (excl. WA but including Texas) and Canada (excluding Quebec). As a browser-based platform, there is no software download needed. You can jump in the action anywhere by simply logging in on a laptop or your phone.
For anyone concerned about safety and security, Global Poker is licensed by the Malta Gaming Authority and operates under sweepstakes law in the US. You can expect your deposits and cash outs to be secure and doing both is very simple. Despite being in a sweepstakes, social gaming format, players will find much of what they have come to expect at a traditional online poker site including:
- Texas Hold’em
- Crazy Pineapple
Is online poker legal in Texas?
Currently, real money online poker is not legalized in the state of Texas. Only four states currently offer legal & safe online poker including:
West Virginia online poker and Michigan online poker are coming soon. Both states legalized iGaming prior to 2020 but have yet to go live. Nevada operates the only interstate compact among New Jersey, Nevada, and in Delaware with 888poker.
With a population of 29 million people, including many poker players, there’s no doubt that any online poker site would be keen to launch in Texas. Despite so much poker history, however, TX online poker doesn’t look like it’s coming too soon.
How to play free poker online in Texas
There are some other options for players looking to work on their skills with some free online poker. Many of the best real-money poker sites that offer poker online in legalized states also offer free-to-play (“play money”) versions as well.
These are the most popular sites with play-money poker options:
- Partypoker (including skins BorgataPoker.com and BetMGM)
The free-to-play side of these poker sites functions just like the traditional real-money platforms, except there aren’t any real-money deposits or cash outs. These free games are great for working on your poker skills, having some fun and moving up the play-money leaderboards.
Players can create an account at some of these sites and play for free from Texas. If you do then find yourself in a legal state with one of these poker sites as an option, it’s easy to make a deposit and play poker online.
Until then, the play money feature can fill the void and these sites even allow play on their top-notch poker apps. For some straight free-to-play poker plus the chance to compete for some real money prizes, players in Texas can access Global Poker via the link above.
Virtually all of the freerolls or play-money play on any site will be in Texas Hold’em. Learn more on our Texas Hold’em poker online page.
Online poker with friends in Texas
There is another interesting option for players looking to play poker online in Texas. Playing poker with friends online for some fun and bragging rights is possible with PokerStars Home Games.
This play-money feature allows a group of friends to gather online for some poker action at the PokerStars.net site. Those making use of Home Games will find the same great PokerStars software players around the world use. Of course, no real-money deposits are allowed, but you can easily set up your own system based off of your play-money results.
Setting up a poker club online to play with friends is an easy process. Here’s how it works:
- Set up an account and then log into PokerStars.net
- On the right side of the lobby, click on the three buttons at the bottom giving you more options
- Once selected, click on “Home Games”
- Then click on the option to “Create a Poker Club”
- Give your club its own unique name
- Create the invitation code for players you want to invite. This password will be used by other players to join the club.
The new poker club is now ready for players to join. PokerStars will send you an invitation via email to forward to your friends who may want to play. As club manager, you’ll then need to approve players once they’ve joined.
Another fun addition is the ability to personalize your club with different colors and images. When players are approved and ready to hit the table, the club manager can schedule tournaments and cash games including the stakes to play for.
Home Games allows for a wide variety of games beyond Texas Hold’em – including Omaha, Seven Card Stud, Badugi, 8-Game Mix, and more. These can be included in your online cash game or tournament and other options include customizing:
- Number of seats per table
- Game type (regular, rebuy, knockout)
- Blind levels
- Game speed
PokerStars has gone the extra mile in the Home Games feature. Club managers can make announcements on the club site, set up leaderboards, track event results, and more. If you plan to be in a state where online poker is already legalized, you can download the software and claim your welcome bonus through the link below to get started:
Online Poker Bonuses in Texas
Online poker sites make big efforts to reward new players and that includes free money simply for creating an account. Many times players receive a no deposit poker bonus simply for signing up.
Additionally deposit bonuses offer players extra cash simply for funding an account. Many times these can benefit players to the tune of hundreds or thousands of dollars. This is free money that can be used to win real cash.
When online poker is finally legalized in Texas you’ll be able to cash in with some sort of poker bonus at every legal poker site. Until then, your options are limited to claiming the free bonuses at Global Poker, which include:
- Free $20 Gold Coin package with a verified account
- $40 in Gold Coins (including $40 in Sweeps Coins) for just $20
Getting started at Global Poker requires you provide some basic information including
- Phone number
You may also be asked to provide a copy of your driver’s license or some other legal identification for security reasons. Once that’s complete, you’re ready to go.
You can begin playing with some free Gold Coins to get a feel for the platform. If you’re ready to add some Sweeps Coins to the mix, simply head to the cashier to purchase additional Gold Coins and you’ll receive some Sweeps Coins as a bonus. You also receive daily Sweeps Coin bonuses on log-in.
Which poker sites are illegal in Texas?
Since Black Friday, there are still some illegal, offshore sites offering online poker to players in the US. This isn’t legal, however, and these companies are operating outside legal jurisdictions without facing regulations that legal US sites face. Slow payouts and missing funds are frequent complaints at sites like this.
Legal, real-money online poker and casino operations in the US must undergo licensing and approval by state gaming commissions. This ensures player funds are safe and you can be assured of a fair game. Until Texas becomes a legal online poker state, play money online poker at real-money sites remains an option for players. Those looking for a little money on the line at least have a shot to play for Sweeps Coins at Global Poker.
Casino and online poker brands in Texas
With no legal casinos or traditional legal online poker, there are no real poker brands in the state. There is a growing number of live poker rooms in the state, which offers a chance at some momentum in the state for poker players.
The legality of these rooms remains tenuous however. If that is changed, some of these rooms may offer the opportunity to lead the industry in the state. Others who might be players in the state include:
Choctaw – This Oklahoma tribe has a deep connection to Texas players. Many flock to its major resort casino in Durant, Oklahoma. The property is just a short drive from Dallas-Fort Worth and offers an excellent poker scene throughout the year. That includes major series like the World Poker Tour.
Would the tribe might be willing to expand into Texas for an expanded gaming market in the state?
Winstar – This is also another popular resort casino just north of the Dallas area in Thackerville, Oklahoma. This property, owned by the Chickasaw Nation, also hosts a lively tournament scene with Maria Ho even serving as the property’s spokesperson. Winstar’s River Series of tournaments have proven to be popular events throughout the season.
With so many players coming from Texas, the Chickasaws already have a major footprint in Texas through its ownership of Lone Star Park.
How far is Texas from having legal online poker?
Currently, there are no efforts to legalize poker online in the Lone Star State. Casinos are officially illegal in the state. Casino and poker players in Texas generally head outside the state for traditional casino-run poker rooms.
Players in the Dallas-Fort Worth area generally head to properties like the Choctaw Casino and Winstar in Oklahoma for major tournament events and cash games. Houston and DFW players can also head east to casinos in Louisiana.
For players in west Texas, New Mexico casinos can be an option. Arkansas also offers casino gaming and sports betting. Many Texans have longed for the legalization of poker rooms and the chance to play poker online on a safe and secure platform.
For a time there was even a political action committee, Texas Poker PAC, that operated in the state with the goal of having the Legislature legalize traditional live and online poker. That effort seems to have faded in recent years.
Underground poker rooms flourished throughout the poker boom of the 2000s and home games are still common from Dallas to Houston to El Paso to Amarillo. However, legalization of poker online in Texas seems like a ways off as of 2020.
Legal poker rooms & “card clubs” in Texas
Casinos and poker rooms may be illegal in the state officially, but there are a few options that have sprouted up in recent years.
Surprisingly, there is one legal casino in Texas. The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino is a tribal casino open in far South Texas along the border with Mexico. The casino does have a 12-table poker poker room.
But Texas is a large state. The Lucky Eagle’s remote location makes it far away from most Texans. The closest metropolitan area, San Antonio, is still a two-hour trip away.
Texas does have legal horse racing, lottery, and charity bingo but traditional poker rooms, live casinos and real money online casinos are all illegal.
However, in the last decade numerous “card clubs” have popped up through the state. These poker rooms have found a loophole in the law by not charging a traditional rake. Instead, many of the card houses charge membership dues in the same vein as a country club. Players pay those dues and some clubs even charge an hourly seat charge.
The clubs began flourishing around Austin and San Antonio but also expanded to Houston and other parts of the state. Some of these have faced some legal scrutiny, but many have remained open. Attorney General Ken Paxton declined to issue a ruling on the issue in 2019, noting a court case between two clubs that may settle the issue.
“State law is unclear on the question, and this ambiguity has allowed dozens of clubs to open around the state,” the Houston Chronicle notes. Some of the clubs have even hosted major tournament series. In 2018, a WPT Deepstacks event was even held at the Freerolls Club in Houston.
For the most part, the card rooms remain mostly a South Texas phenomenon. Law enforcement in the Dallas-Fort Worth area have been more opposed to the card room phenomenon.
However, the Texas Card House, which runs rooms in Houston and the Rio Grande Valley, announced it was opening a card room in Dallas in 2020. The poker room has even received the approval of the Dallas City Council, according to media reports.
While these are still kind of in a legal limbo, the card rooms give some hope at eventual full legalization someday. That would be a step in the right direction for poker players, although adding online poker doesn’t seem likely in the near future.
History of Poker in Texas
While poker in Texas may not be fully legal in regards to poker rooms and casinos, the state has become synonymous with poker. Poker in general became popular throughout the American West during the 19th Century, including Texas.
A scan thought the Poker Hall of Fame will display a list of Texas poker legends. Those include names like Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim Preston, TJ Cloutier, Crandell Addington, Jack “Treetop” Straus, and Johnny Moss.
The World Series of Poker was also founded by a Texan. After running underground gambling houses in Dallas-Fort Worth for years, Binion eventually left for legal gambling in Las Vegas. He and his son Jack Binion launched the WSOP at his Horseshoe casino in downtown Las Vegas in 1970.
Many of those first players were from Texas. Plenty of Texans continue heading to the tables. That has included online poker before Black Friday. Players will now have to wait for legal, regulated online poker to return to the state.
Texas Online Poker FAQ
When will it be legal to play poker online in Texas?
There is no date at this point and state lawmakers have made no efforts in recent years at any expansion of gambling. That includes online poker. While poker remains immensely popular in the state, adding online poker to the legislative agenda seems unlikely in the near future. As mentioned, sweepstakes poker is currently the closest form to fully legalized online poker.
Can I play on PokerStars in Texas?
Texans only have access to play at the PokerStars.net platform for free play at this time. Online poker remains officially illegal in the state. This play site allows Texans to play for virtual currency on PokerStars Home Games to battle it out with friends, as outlined above.
What happens if I use a VPN to play online?
The use of VPNs to play on regulated state or international sites isn’t recommended. If discovered (and it will be discovered), a player has violated a site’s terms of service. Any funds in the player’s account will be confiscated.
A player violating those terms will be removed from the site and recovering player funds may be an uncertainty. A player may also experience banking issues when accessing these sites from an unregulated jurisdiction. Attempting to circumvent laws and terms of service isn’t recommended.
What happens if I play at an illegal poker site?
Playing at an unregulated, offshore site isn’t legal in the US – and that includes Texas. These offshore sites don’t face the same legal scrutiny as they would in regulated states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In regulated jurisdictions, these sites would face the same regulation and licensing procedures that brick and mortar casinos might face.
When using offshore sites, security will always be a concern. Players have found these sites often disappear unexpectedly and player funds often disappear with them. Simply put – stick with legal sites so that you can feel good your funds and personal information are safe.
Where do Texas poker pros play online poker?
There are no traditional legal, real money online poker options in the Lone Star State for poker professionals to make a living. They must travel to a legal online poker state (Eg. Nevada) or move to another country where online poker is legal. Global Poker is the best option for casual poker players to play legal online poker whether they’re in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, or anywhere in between.