Much to the delight of poker players, West Virginia legalized online gambling in 2019. That includes online poker, making WV the fourth state in the country to offer legal and regulated online poker.
It won’t be immediate and state regulators don’t expect online casinos and online poker to launch until sometime in 2021. The size of the poker market also remains to be seen as WV only has a population of 1.8 million people.
How many of those will play real money poker online? There are quite a few poker players in the state but a “fenced in” poker market without a shared player pool with other states could be all there is. Whatever the total player pool, some form of online poker will arrive in WV in the not-so-distant future.
Best Online Poker Sites in West Virginia
Online Poker in WV
Mostly a rural state, West Virginia currently has five casinos and in-person gambling became legal in the state in 1994. Those casino properties include:
- Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races
- Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort
- Mardi Gras Casino & Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel
- The Casino Club at The Greenbrier Hotel
The new online gambling law allows for casinos to partner with online poker and gaming operators, much like other regulated states. That arrangement has worked well in WV when it comes to sports betting.
The big question is: which operators, if any, might move into the state for licensure?
Delaware has also legalized online poker. It has a population of just under 1 million. WV has 1.8 million. But it may not benefit from a shared liquidity pool – at least immediately.
The federal Wire Act Keeps that possibility in limbo until it’s cleared up in court. The Justice Department now argues that the act applies to other forms of iGaming and not simply sports betting. Most in the gaming business argue that was not the act’s intention and have won in court.
The issue was in front of a federal appeals court as of April 2020. Unlike WV, Delaware players benefit from an interstate compact with New Jersey and Nevada. This allows the state’s poker players to compete with players on WSOP.com on its own 888poker branded poker site.
West Virginia will need an interstate compact or the state can expect small player and prize pools. Building a significant ringed-in online poker environment will be a challenge.
Global Poker in WV
Until online poker goes like in WV, players will have to wait for traditional online poker. However, there are a few options for those looking to get in the game.
The easiest option may be taking advantage of sweepstakes poker. Sweepstakes poker feels a bit more like social gaming but does give players a chance to play poker for real money on a laptop or cell phone.
One of the most popular sweepstakes poker choices is Global Poker. It’s available in almost every US state and Canada (excluding Quebec) and allows players to play for both virtual currency (play money, called Gold Coins) and for what are called Sweeps Coins, which can be exchanged for real money.
Global Poker has a similar lineup of games to a traditional online poker site with cash games, tournaments, sit & go’s, and even major tournament series. What makes this site different from a social gaming site is that players can also play for a separate currency called Sweeps Coins. These are bonus coins given to players who purchase Gold Coins.
This currency, unlike Gold Coins, can be redeemed for real cash. It may seem like a workaround to the law but it is licensed as a sweepstakes product similar to the McDonald’s Monopoly game. You can also receive Gold Coins for free simply by writing in to the company and requesting them, which is required by sweepstakes law.
Players can expect a very safe and secure poker site with an extra verification process when players attempt to redeem Sweeps Coins for cash.
Global Poker is licensed by the Malta Gaming authority and is owned by VGW Holdings Limited, a publicly traded company incorporated in Australia. For players who enjoy Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Crazy Pineapple, it’s become a popular option for many waiting for their state to fully legalize online poker.
Travel to PA to Play on PokerStars
One advantage for poker players living in West Virginia is that for some residents, a trip to Pennsylvania is only a short drive across the border. PA began offering legal, regulated online poker in 2019 when PokerStars went live in November.
After an initial buzz of activity in the state, PokerStars PA traffic receded a bit in early 2020. That changed during the Coronavirus pandemic in spring 2020 and traffic surged again to record heights in March and April.
PokerStars PA remains a “fenced-in” market but has a large population to support an online poker site. An eventual shared player pool with Pennsylvania would provide some larger player and prize pools for a potential WV online poker platform.
As of April 202o, PokerStars PA was averaging about 900 to 1,000 players online and peaking as high as almost 2,000 players at times. Along with cash games, Sit & Go’s, Spin & Go’s and multi-table tournaments, PokerStars PA also offers several major tournament series. Those include:
- PA SCOOP (Spring Championship of Online Poker)
- Bounty Builder Series
- Winter Series
- PACOOP (Pennsylvania Championships of Online Poker)
These events have produced nice guarantees and offer a shot at some nice paydays for players. While it may not be ideal, PokerStars PA offers a nice online option for those in WV not far from the border.
These larger tournament series might make for an enticing reason to take a trip to PA. As a reminder, players can download the PokerStars app and create a PokerStars PA account from anywhere and also make a deposit.
Real Money Poker Apps in WV
Mobile poker apps have improved exponentially in the past five or six years and provide the most convenient and user-friendly way to find a quick game of poker on your cell phone or tablet.
Eventually West Virginians will have access to state-licensed poker apps to play poker in their home state. But as of now, real money poker apps can only be found in states that have licensed and legalized online poker:
- New Jersey
Any WV online poker options will probably include the ability to download a poker app and play on a cell phone or tablet.
Poker apps have improved greatly over the years and players can now look forward to easier lobby navigation, simplified game play features, and playing multiple tables simultaneously.
For the most part, poker apps and online poker sites offer the same major events. Players can even take part in large multi-table tournaments via the app. Smaller events, such as Sit & Go’s and Jackpot Sit & Go’s, are also perfect for mobile app play.
The current regulated online poker sites in the US that have poker apps include:
- partypoker (including the BetMGM and BorgataPoker.com skins)
Global Poker has yet to develop an app but does provide a quick-play option. Global’s browser-based system means that players can enjoy their game of choice without having to download software.
These systems are compatible with cell phones and tablets and players will discover it very similar to playing on their computer.
Which WV Casinos Will Have Online Poker Sites?
Currently no poker sites are live in West Virginia and, as mentioned, the lack of a shared player pool will create a challenge. Operators may have reservations about moving into the state because of such a small market.
That doesn’t mean it’s out of the question. Hollywood Casino is the state’s largest casino and is owned by Penn National Gaming, a leading casino gaming brand. The property boasts a 16-table poker room.
Penn National currently offers online casino games in Pennsylvania, but doesn’t offer online poker yet. As a neighboring state, West Virginia could be included possibly in a PA/WV interstate compact if Penn ever decides to include online poker.
Eldorado Resorts sold the Mountaineer Racetrack and Casino in 2019 to Century Casinos. The company operates several casinos in Colorado and Alberta, Canada, where it also owns two racetracks.
Century also owns one casino in the UK, has a majority interest in a casino in Poland, and manages casinos on cruise ships. The Mountaineer has a 14-table poker room, but an online poker room would probably bring a partnership with an outside operator.
The Mardi Gras and Wheeling Island casinos are both owned and operated by Delaware North, a casino and hospitality company. The Mardi Gras has an 18-table poker room and Wheeling Island has nine tables.
The Greenbrier’s Casino Club is unique in that it’s located on a private resort. It does have a six-table poker room. It seems likely Delaware North and Greenbrier would seek an experienced outside partner for any online poker offerings.
Will a major operator like PokerStars, partypoker, WSOP.com, or another player get in the poker game in WV? Only time will tell, but a ruling in favor of the casino industry regarding the Wire Act offers the best hope at a vibrant online poker market.
Which Poker Brands will Have Online Poker Sites in WV?
As of April 2020, no online poker brands had announced partnership with any of the state’s five casinos. Some may be interested in entering the market however, depending on the Wire Act and environment when iGaming launches in 2021.
Penn National’s Hollywood Casino seems like a natural fit for online poker in the state. But while it offers online gaming in neighboring Pennsylvania, it doesn’t offer poker. That could change, however, especially if other states get in the act and legalize online poker.
There certainly is a precedent for poker’s popularity in the state. As noted earlier, all of the state’s casinos offer live poker. The other casinos may be looking for partners if the Wire Act legal disputes work out in the casino’s industry’s favor.
With online platforms in neighboring PA and also in New Jersey, PokerStars theoretically could be an option. If interstate compacts are allowed, this would offer the operators a three-state link to grow its player pools in NJ and PA considerably.
WSOP.com and 888poker.com could combine for a nice one-two punch in the Mountain State. Caesars Entertainment, owner of WSOP.com, is an 888 partner and makes use of the company’s software.
The two companies currently operate in the country’s only shared player pool with WSOP.com in Nevada and New Jersey, and 888poker in Delaware and New Jersey. Could West Virginia become a part of that?
Caesars has been rumored to be working to launch in PA, but that remained just that – rumor. If that develops, adding neighboring WV seems a possibility and could be included in a possible five-state (or more) interstate compact. Unfortunately that is a long way off as of the writing of this review and 2021 seems a better time for more developments in this regard.
If interstate compacts do occur, partypoker is another possibility in partnering with a WV casino. However, the site is now only available in New Jersey. However, the company remains bullish on the US market and expansion seems possible.
The European company Unibet may be a possibility as well. Unibet currently has online casino games in NJ and PA. Unibet doesn’t offer online poker in the US yet, but does on its international platforms. More legalized states could mean an eventual entry into the US market.
Can I play on PokerStars in West Virginia?
Currently PokerStars is only available in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. West Virginians located close to the Pennsylvania border may find it tempting to cross for a quick and legal game of online poker.
PokerStars began offering legal, regulated online poker in PA in November 2019 and remains the only poker site in the state as of May 2020.
PokerStars has millions of players worldwide and is a household name in the online poker world. Pennsylvania is considered a “fenced in” market meaning players from other states are not pooled in.
Though PA’s fenced-in status does limit the amount of money and players involved, PokerStars has been able to offer nice cash games and tournament pools.
If you do ever travel to Pennsylvania, you can download the PokerStars PA app via the link below, set up your account and play from your cell phone as soon as you cross the border into PA:
Why Choose Legal Online Poker Sites?
For poker players who have longed for online poker since the dark days of Black Friday, you might be tempted to play at offshore or unregulated poker sites. This should be avoided as you can’t be sure of several safety factors including a site’s game and financial security.
These sites don’t face the scrutiny of a US gaming commission like legal online poker sites in Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware do. In West Virginia, the lottery commission is charged with regulating and developing rules for online gaming and sports betting. Legal regulated sites faces similar laws and regulations as retail casinos.
When playing at PokerStars PA, for example, you can feel sure your funds and personal information are safe. That also goes for Global Poker, which has to meet strict regulations.
Online poker sites also work hard at preventing collusion through the use of specialized software. Additionally, players can create and fund an account from anywhere. However, you must be physically located in a legalized jurisdiction to play. States make use geolocation software that ensure a player is in a legal
Free Poker Online in West Virginia
Free poker can be a great way to learn the game without the pressure of losing real money. The majority of real money poker sites offer poker tutorials, poker school, or free poker games using virtual currency.
Some even offer online articles and blogs focusing on helping players improve their games. Most legal online poker sites even offer YouTube channels that may include videos to help with your poker skills.
For free poker games, free poker apps and social media are the most common places to play. The following offer a fun poker experience for free:
- Global Poker – popular sweepstakes poker site with free games, but also the chance to win real cash
- WPT and WSOP – both offer social gaming platforms
- Zynga poker – the largest free-to-play poker site in the world
- PokerStars.net – the company’s free poker side and it also offers a social gaming platform
- ClubWPT – sweepstakes poker site of the World Poker Tour
West Virginia Online Poker Timeline
The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act was introduced into the state House in February 2019. The bill called for legalized online gaming including poker. The state Senate approved the online gaming measure in March 2019.
The act wasn’t signed by Gov. Jim Justice, but became law in March 2019. Sports betting, live and online/mobile, was already legalized in March 2018.
Mobile sports betting is now live in the state, but no online casino-style gaming has gone live in the state. State regulators estimate none will be available at least until 2021.
WV Online Poker FAQ
Is Online Poker Legal in West Virginia?
West Virginia’s efforts to legalize online gaming began in February 2019 when the House approved a bill allowing for the state lottery to regulate online gaming. The Senate also approved the measure and the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act became law in March 2019 when Gov. Jim Justice failed to act on the bill.
That meant the act automatically became law without his signature. After approval of online gaming in WV, online poker appeared to be gaining some momentum in the US. Michigan online poker followed suit in December 2019 after coming close in 2018.
While no licenses or partnerships have been announced, there should be some hope if issues surrounding the Wire Act are eventually cleared up. The casino industry is locked in a lawsuit with the Department of Justice over the 1961 legislation.
The Obama administration DOJ interpreted the act as only applying to sports wagering. The Trump DOJ, however, reversed that opinion and applied it to all forms of online gaming.
That could hamper state efforts at interstate compact and shared liquidity markets. States such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan have been hesitant to include interstate compacts in legislation until the issue is cleared up.
The issue is now set to be heard in federal appeals court after the New Hampshire lottery sued and won the first round in court. A DOJ victory could hamper all online gaming efforts including online poker.
A shared liquidity might be necessary for any hope at a significant online poker footprint in WV. The entire issue could eventually wind up in front of the Supreme Court and could have significant repercussions in the online gaming industry.
How many poker players are there in WV?
As a small, rural state of 1.8 million people, the number of poker players will be much smaller than other states. However, WV does have a nice poker culture with card rooms at all of the state’s five casinos.
Can you qualify for the WSOP in WV?
No, there are no live online sites in the state yet. WSOP.com and its partner site 888poker.com offer WSOP qualifiers in other markets. That could happen if the platform ever enters the WV market.
Are there any major poker tournament series live or online in WV?
There are no live online sites yet, but Global Poker is available and offers regular online tournament series. Most rooms offer daily tournament series and occasional smaller series.
Do any WV casinos have an online poker site?
There are no online sites yet in WV as of April 2020. There isn’t expected to be any real money online casino-style gaming in the state until 2021.
Can you play on offshore poker sites in WV?
Offshore, unregulated poker sites are illegal under current US law. These sites don’t face legal and regulatory scrutiny like US sites.
Slow payouts and sites folding altogether with missing funds have been frequent complaints of these sites through the years. US-based players don’t have to worry about this with legal sites including sweepstakes poker sites like Global Poker.