California Online Poker: Is Online Poker Legal in CA?

Besides Nevada, California has the largest land-based casino industry in the United States. The Golden State's gaming industry includes a huge list of tribal casinos and commercial poker clubs. It also has pari-mutuel wagering and charitable bingo halls. Despite the huge brick-and-mortar betting industry, residents must play at offshore sites if they want to play online poker in California.

Despite its lack of licensed online poker, California was the first US state to introduce a legalized online poker bill (back in 2011). Over the next 8 years, 4 different state legislators introduced 10 different online poker bills. None of these gained support in the legislature. A big reason California online poker isn't licensed and regulated is its tribal casino industry.

One set of tribes, led by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, signed a deal with PokerStars, the Bicycle Club, and the Commerce Club. If California ever passed online poker legislation, these tribes' land-based casinos -- plus the Bicycle Club and Commerce Club in Los Angeles -- would partner with PokerStars. This would have given the Morongo tribe and its allies a huge advantage in licensed poker online -- which was a huge problem for the remaining California tribal casinos.

A much larger coalition of tribes, led by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, led an effort to thwart the passage of any regulated poker bill. They supported a "Bad Actor" clause against PokerStars, which would have banned the world's largest poker site from licensed California online poker. Their rationale was based on the fact that PokerStars accepted US players from the passage of UIGEA in 2006 and the Black Friday indictments in 2011. According to the Pechanga tribe and its allies, PokerStars acted as a bad actor and thus should be banned from legal California online poker.

With two vested interests at an impasse, lawmakers never passed bills involving online poker. California lawmakers appear to have given up on passing a poker bill since the last failed attempt in 2018. Californians, therefore, play at offshore online poker sites like Ignition Poker, Bovada Poker, and BetOnline Poker. Our guide to online poker in California provides card players with everything they need to know before signing up at an online cardroom. We'll start with a look at our recommended California online poker sites.

  1. Top Rated Sportsbooks

    1. Our #1 sportsbook

      Signup Bonus

      100% up to $500

      Deposit Options

      • Visa Icon
      • MasterCard Icon
      • Bitcoin Icon
      • +5

      Our Rating

      5.0
      • Anonymous Poker Games
      • Jackpot Poker Games
      • Casino Games and Sportsbook Offered

      Bovada Poker

      As far as poker sites go, you want a brand you can trust. With Bovada Poker you get exactly that. Plus, they accept Bitcoin. Choose from your favorite poker games like No-Limit Hold’em and Five-Card Draw, and try your luck at one of their many tournaments. This US-facing site also accepts players from Latin America.

      Bovada Poker

    2. Signup Bonus

      100% Up To $1100

      Deposit Options

      • Visa Icon
      • MasterCard Icon
      • Bitcoin Icon
      • +4

      Our Rating

      5.0
      • Anonymous Poker Games
      • Jackpot Poker Games
      • Casino Games Offered

      Ignition Poker

      After launching in 2015, Ignition Poker has quickly become one of the more popular online poker sites on the Internet. With anonymous tables, customized cards and tables, and a fast-fold variation of Zone Poker, players will love this Bitcoin-friendly site. Plus, the sign-up bonus alone is enough to put a smile on your face.

      Ignition Poker

    3. Signup Bonus

      100% Up To $1000

      Deposit Options

      • Visa Icon
      • MasterCard Icon
      • Bitcoin Icon
      • +8

      Our Rating

      4.5
      • Bad Beat Jackpot Available
      • 6+ Poker Available
      • Casino Games and Sportsbook Also Available

      Betonline Poker

      Whether you’re an advanced poker player or new to the game, BetOnline Poker has you covered. Choose from top poker games like Hold’em and Omaha or try your luck on more advanced games. Considered one of the best online poker sites for players around the world, BetOnline features deposit bonuses and about 300 real-money players online looking for opponents.

      Betonline Poker

  2. Signup Bonus

    100% Up to $1000

    Deposit Options

    • Visa Icon
    • MasterCard Icon
    • Bitcoin Icon
    • +5

    Our Rating

    5.0

    BlackChip Poker

    Known for their fast payouts, this is an online poker site not to be missed. Great for players of all levels, Black Chip Poker offers top games like No-Limi Hold’em, Sit & Go, Seven-Card stud and more. There are also tournaments, an ample sign-up bonus, and a Bitcoin-specific match offer that’ll grow your bankroll considerably.

  3. Signup Bonus

    200% Up To $1000

    Deposit Options

    • Visa Icon
    • MasterCard Icon
    • Bitcoin Icon
    • +3

    Our Rating

    4.5

    Everygame Poker

    Online poker sites are a dime a dozen, but Everygame really sets themselves apart with their poker offering. There’s a vast selection of your favorite games and with a streamlined mobile interface, you can play a few hands on your phone while waiting in line at the grocery store. What more could you ask for in an internet poker website?

*Terms and Conditions apply to all bonus offers on this website. Visit operator for details.

 

Real Money Online Poker in California

We recommend seven different California online poker sites. All seven cardrooms accept deposits using Visa, Bitcoin, and MasterCard. In the table below, we provide a quick look at each poker room's welcome bonus plus its best feature. Click on the link for a full review of our recommended US online poker sites.

Best Online Poker California

CA Poker Site Welcome Bonus Best Feature
Bovada Poker $500 Anonymous Poker
Ignition Poker $1000 Jackpot Poker Games
BetOnline Poker $1000 6+ Poker Variants
BlackChip Poker $1000 Big Guaranteed Jackpots
Everygame Poker $1000 Sportsbook, Casino Games
America's Cardroom $2000 Turbo, Hyper Turbo Poker
SportsBetting Poker $1000 6 Types of Hold'em, Racebook

When Will California Have Legal Online Poker Sites?

That doesn't appear likely anytime soon. Reggie Jones-Sawyer was the last California lawmaker to introduce a poker bill in 2017. That was his third attempt to pass online poker, after Roderick Wright and Lou Correa introduced 3 bills apiece in the years prior (Mike Gatto also introduced a failed poker bill).

When asked whether he would introduce more legal online poker legislation in 2018, Reggie Jones-Sawyer suggested that he wouldn't because California needed a cooling off period in 2018 and 2019. When the US Supreme Court struck down a ban on sports betting in May 2018, some wondered whether a land-based sports betting bill might lead to an omnibus California gambling bill that included online poker.

Despite over a dozen other US states passing sports betting laws since then, no gambling legislation was introduced since then. Covid likely derailed any gambling bill, because California land-based casinos faced other issues throughout 2020 and 2021. At this point, no one has introduced a CA online poker bill in 5 years, so legal online poker doesn't appear on the horizon.

Offshore Online Casinos

California has more than its share of offshore online casinos. Our top three picks are Wild Casino, Ignition Casino, and Bovada Casino. Poker players should consider sites like Ignition, Bovada, and BetOnline Casino. All not only offer online casino games, but also a full list of poker events: tournaments, sit & go events, and cash games. In each case, you can collect a welcome bonus when you fund your casino account.

Offshore Online Sports Betting Sites

California poker players who want to do some sports betting also have good options. Our top three recommended online sportsbooks are Bovada Sports, BetUS, and BetOnline Sports. Bettors receive a 50%, $1000 sportsbook bonus at Bovada, while they receive a 125% sports betting bonus when they make a first deposit at the BetUS bookmaker site. If you deposit at BetOnline Sports, you'll receive a $50 bonus for a $100 deposit.

If you want to play poker online and make sports bets with the same account, we recommend you choose Bovada, BetOnline, or SportsBetting.

Popular California Real Money Poker Games

Whether you're playing in live poker clubs, tribal casino poker rooms, or online cardrooms, card players could encounter a number of poker variants. Here's a list of the most popular versions of poker in the world, plus a few games that California poker clubs sometimes feature.

  • Texas Hold'em: The world's most popular poker game. The game is played at the WSOP Main Event and most other main events around the world. Though Pot-Limit and Limit versions exist, the most widespread game is No-Limited Texas Hold'em.
  • Omaha Holdem: Simply called Omaha most of the time. Used 5 community cards with a flop, turn, and river (like Texas Hold'em). Players receive 4 hole cards instead of Texas Hold'em's 2 hole cards. Often played as Omaha Hi-Lo, where the player with the lowest hand receives half the pot.
  • Seven-Card Stud: A game that requires patience and nerves of skill. Seven-Card Stud includes 5 bets, while Texas Hold'em and Omaha only have 4. For those with a masochistic streak, try the lowball version of Seven-Card Stud called Razz.
  • California Lowball: A table game you'll find in the main casino instead of the poker room. California Lowball pits the player versus the dealer. The side with the lowest hand wins, while flushes and straights don't apply.
  • San Francisco Poker: Seven-Card Stud played with special rules in certain San Francisco poker clubs. Both a High and Low version of the game exists. In the High version, the player with the highest heart splits the pot with the highest hand. In the Low version, the player with the lowest heart splits the pot.
  • Gardena Jackpots: A game played in Gardena casinos in which a player receives 5 cards, who must qualify for the pot with jacks or better. If no one qualifies for the pot, players make another ante bet and receive new cards. This builds the Gardena jackpot.

Live Poker in California: California Card Rooms

Beyond its 78 land-based tribal casinos, California also has 60 commercial poker clubs. Some of the live poker rooms are world-famous, including famous Los Angeles gaming venues like the Bicycle Club, Commerce Club, and Lucky Lady. For visitors to California who want to play cards in a live poker club, here are a few of the more established poker rooms and their main claims to fame.

Best Live Poker Rooms in California

CA Poker Club Location Special Poker Events
Bicycle Club Los Angeles WSOP Circuit Events, Big Poker Oktober
Commerce Club Los Angeles LAPC, The Commerce Hold'em Series, LA Poker
Hustler Casino Gardena Spring Cash Drawings, Spring Kickoff Series
Larry Flynt's Lucky Lady Gardena April Cash Showers, $1000 Big O Weekly Tournament
The Gardens Casino Gardena Poker High Card Giveaway, $5000 Tournament Every Saturday
Casino Poker Club Redding Saturday Bounty Tournament, Tue-Thu-Sun Tournaments
Club One Casino Fresno $7500 Guaranteed Sunday High Roller NLH Deepstack
Lucky Chances San Francisco Double Omaha Tuesdays, Aces Cracked Bad Beat Jackpot
Oaks Card Club Oakland Hold'em "Bad Beat" Double Jackpots

Famous California Poker Players

Chris "Jesus" Ferguson is arguably the most famous professional poker player from California. Known for his long Jesus-like hair and beard and his black cowboy hat, Chris Ferguson has a Ph.D. in computer science and was known as one of the earliest analytical poker players. Ferguson has a role in online poker, as the California native was one of a group of pro poker players who founded FullTilt Poker in 2008. He was implicated in the scandals that came out of Black Friday and subsequently missed a number of WSOP tournaments in the 2010s.

None of that diminishes Ferguson's poker tournament accomplishments. He won the WSOP Main Event in 2000, beating Hall of Fame poker pro T.J. Cloutier in heads-up play. Ferguson also holds the record for the most cashes in a single year (2017) at the World Series of Poker, a record he holds with John Racener. He's won over $9 million in career winnings.

Jerry Yang is another famous California poker player. Yang won the 2007 World Series of Poker Main Event. Jerry moved to California from Laos in the 1970s. The Temecula-based Laotian-American player only started playing poker 2 years before his WSOP accomplishment. He won $8.25 million for his win, but remains largely below the radar these days.

Brian Rast is the California poker pro with the most attention these days. Rast hails from Palo Alto, though he now lives in Las Vegas. He has won over $20 million in live tournament winnings and owns 5 WSOP bracelets. He's made it to 10 WSOP final tables and has 33 WSOP money finishes in his career. Rast also has a reputation in online poker, playing at PokerStars and FullTilt Poker under the username tsarrast.

J.C. Tran of Sacramento is one of the most famous Vietnamese-American poker players. Tran has won two WSOP bracelets and made it to the final table of eight World Poker Tour (WPT) events. He also won a World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). In 2013, Tran was the chip leader heading the final table of the WSOP Main Event November Nine but ended up finishing in 5th place.

Other famous California poker pros of note are Jamie Gold, who won the 2006 WSOP Main Event, and Men Nguyen ("The Master").

California Online Poker FAQ

Is Online Poker Legal in California?

No, it isn't. California poker players must play at offshore online cardrooms. California doesn't prosecute individuals who play cards online at these sites, though it has laws on the books that suggest such a player could be fined between $100 to $1,000 for doing so. The main concern California card players have is the fact that offshore sites don't have consumer protections like they would at regulated online poker sites.

What Were Some of the Previous Attempts to Legalize Online Poker in California?

State Senator Roderick Wright sponsored California poker bills in 2010, 2012, and 2013. State Sen. Lou Correa sponsored online poker bills in 2013, 2014, and 2015. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer sponsored the poker bill AB 2291 in 2014, along with AB 167 in 2016. He also sponsored the Internet Poker Protection Act in 2017, but recommended a "cooling off period" for online poker legislation in 2018 and 2019. Assemblyman Mike Gatto sponsored AB 9 in December 2016, hoping to reconcile the two sides with the inclusion of daily fantasy sports. Some speculated that legalized sports betting might change the equation after the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA in 2018, but that hasn't proven to be the case.

What is California's bad actor law?

California's bad actor law would have banned PokerStars from its licensed and regulated online poker in California -- either permanently or for a 5 to 10 year period. The rationale is that PokerStars accepted US players from 2006 to 2011 when the US Department of Justice considered online poker a banned activity. Several versions of the bad actor legislation have been forwarded over the years, including those that required PokerStars to pay a huge fine in order to be allowed into California's gaming industry.

How Old Do I Have to Be to Gamble in California?

You'll need to be 18 years old to gamble online in California. If you plan on visiting a land-based tribal casino, take a look at the site's age limit. Many California brick-and-mortar casinos have an age limit of 21, due to the presence of alcohol.

Is Ignition Poker Legal in California?

Ignition Poker isn't licensed by California agencies, but players who bet at Ignition Poker don't face consequences from California agencies. Ignition Poker launched in 2016, when it bought Bovada Poker's card playing community. It's grown since then, making it one of the largest US online poker rooms.

Is BetOnline Poker Legal in California?

BetOnline Poker is legal in California. The state doesn't ban online poker -- California online gambling exists in a legal gray area. While BetOnline isn't licensed by California agencies, those same agencies have never prosecuted or fined a California resident for playing at BetOnline. If an unlicensed site hosted its servers in California, its operators would be subject to prosecution. BetOnline's servers are hosted offshore, which is beyond the reach of California officials.

What is California Lowball?

California Lowball is a variant of table poker in which a player competes against the dealer for the lowest hand possible. Straights and flushes don't count as hands. Both the dealer and the player receive two hole cards apiece, along with three community cards. Players make an ante bet and an extra bonus bet to play. An optional Lowdown Bonus bet also is available.

What's San Francisco Poker?

San Francisco Poker is a version of Seven-Card Stud that's played in Bay Area poker clubs. You'll find two variations of the game -- High and Low. In the High version, the player with the highest heart splits the pot with the player that holds the highest hand. In the Low version, the player with the lowest heart splits the pot with the player that holds the highest hands. In either version, a player must remain in the pot until the showdown to qualify for the heart winnings.

What Is “Gardena Jackpots”?

Gardena Jackpots is a variant of high-hand draw poker that was first played in poker clubs in the California city of Gardena (near Los Angeles). A hand of Gardena Jackpots begins with an ante bet, then are dealt five cards apiece. Players must qualify with a pair of Jacks or better. Players who don't meet this requirement must either fold, match the highest bet played, or increase their bet. If no one qualifies, a new set of cards is dealt (and more antes paid). The pot is bigger in this case, which explains the "jackpots" appellation.

Are Home Poker Games Illegal in California?

Home poker games are legal in California if no one profits from the game (except through betting). Thus, the organizer cannot charge an entry fee, a seat license, have a minimum food purchase rule, or otherwise find a way to charge participants. Basically, if you don't organize a business around home poker, then California allows real money betting on poker.