Illinois Online Poker: Top Legal Poker Sites in Illinois

Our Illinois online poker guide gives players all they need to know to choose the best online cardrooms. We analyze Illinois gambling laws, focusing on the specific poker laws that affect which games you can play. We discuss the latest Illinois gambling legislation while giving recommendations for the best riverboat casinos and online gambling sites that host poker. Keep reading for information on the most trusted online poker sites in Illinois.

Playing Online Poker for Real Money in Illinois

Player online poker for real money isn't allowed at Illinois sports betting websites. Instead, you'll have to play online at offshore sites. Also, home poker games is illegal as long as cash or anything of value exchanges hands. For live poker, you'll need to play at a riverboat casino or at a charitable organization's poker night.

  • Illinois Riverboat Casinos' Poker Rooms: Enjoy cash games and tournaments in Illinois' casinos. Walk into one of 11 different casinos for card games, including the Hollywood Casino's in Alton and Joliet and the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin.
  • Offshore Online Poker Sites: Play at offshore online cardrooms. You won't have consumer protections and can run into blacklisted sites, but these poker rooms often are licensed in other countries.
  • Charitable Poker Nights: Under the Charitable Gaming Act, registered charitable organizations can have poker nights for fundraising purposes. These are few and far between.

Gambling Laws in Illinois



Definition of Gambling

Plays a game of chance or skill for money or another thing of value; or knowingly establishes, maintains, or operates an internet site that permits a person to play a game of chance or skill for money or another thing of value. To make a wager upon the result of any game, contest, political nomination, appointment, or election by means of the internet.

Online Poker

Illinois lawmakers have made several attempts to legalize online poker and online casinos in the past decade. All have failed. A 2017 online poker bill was combined with a land-based casino expansion bill. It passed the Illinois Senate but not the House. Talks of a similar omnibus gambling bill in 2018 and 2019 stalled.

Live Poker

Live poker is allowed in the various riverboat casinos in Illinois. Poker rooms can offer tournaments and cash games alike.

Land-Based Casinos

The Riverboat Gambling Act allowed for 10 riverboat casinos. In 2017 and 2018, the restrictions have been loosened somewhat, giving rise to the expectation that more casinos might be added in coming years. Also, land-based casinos could replace the riverboat venues.

Sports Betting

Since March 2020, retail sportsbooks have been legal in Illinois. On December 20, 2021, Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed HB 3136 into law, which would legalize sports betting. As of March 2022, online and mobile sports betting is legal on licensed online sportsbooks. The minimum gambling age is 21.

Daily Fantasy Sports

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in April 2020 that certain types of daily fantasy sports are legal. Head-to-head daily fantasy sports is now legal, though other types of DFS are not. This overruled a decision by Illinois's former Attorney General in 2015. The ruling took place in the Dew-Becker vs Wu case.

Other Types of Betting

Illinois legalized horse racing, pari-mutuel bets, as well as charitable bingo, raffles, pull-tabs, poker runs, and jar games. It also allows Native American gambling and video gambling terminals (VGTs).

Best US Poker Promotions

US online poker sites feature more than simple welcome bonuses. Players should be prepared to encounter many different bonus offers, promotions, and other rewards when playing poker online. Here is a sampling of the best poker promotions on offer.

  • Welcome Bonus: The best US poker sites offer bonuses between $500 and $2000, though players should read terms of use for the wagering requirement.
  • Bitcoin Welcome Bonus: Many top US online cardrooms have special Bitcoin bonuses. These tend to be 20% to 25% larger than the standard welcome bonus. 
  • Bad Beat Jackpot: If your strong hand is beaten by a truly overpowering hand, you'll receive a big bonus. Most US online poker sites all have bad beat jackpot promotions.
  • Sunday Majors: It's a tradition in online poker that the Sunday tournament is the biggest of the week. 
  • Progressive Knockout Tournaments: Some sites have over $5 million guaranteed for these massive poker events.

Poker Formats & Variants

One of the reasons poker is so popular is the large number of variants and formats offered. Below is a list of the most popular forms of poker, with a guide to the variants most often associated with each game type.

  • Flop Games: A game with a flop of community cards. Texas Hold'em, Omaha, Pineapple, and Courchevel are examples of flop poker.
  • Stud Games: Seven-Card Stud is the most popular version of the game. Razz is a popular game of stud in offline tournaments.
  • Draw Games: Five-Card Draw once was the most popular poker game. Now, it's mainly used for table poker games and video poker.
  • Lowball Poker: Building the hand with the lowest rank wins the pot. Razz is among the most popular lowball poker games.
  • Hi-Lo Poker Games: The highest hand receives half the pot, while the lowest hand receives the other half (if a hand qualifies). Omaha Hi-Lo and Seven-Card Stud Hi-Lo 8 or Better are popular games of Hi-Lo.

Types of Online Poker Events

Beyond the game rules, players will encounter a variety of online poker events. Each event type provides players with a different challenge, along with different prize amounts. Of course, the best online poker sites offer a wide range of bet sizes and potential prizes.

  • Cash Games: The player joins an ongoing cash game with the rules and bet sizes of their preference. Compete against the same players over the hours and learn their style.
  • Scheduled Tournaments: Often have the biggest jackpots and prize pools. Join a big tournament event any day or night of the week. Expect the event to last multiple hours.
  • Sit & Go Events: A single-game tournament. Sit & go events begin when the table is filled. It often plays like a final table of a tournament.
  • Jackpot Sit'n Go's: A 3-player sit & go designed for mobile poker players. The Sportsbook takes the prize money.

In a general sense, online players have a variety of gaming options. Below are the major ways to play poker online. 

  • Real Money Online Poker: Most US online poker sites offer Texas Hold'em, Omaha, and Omaha Hi-Lo. Some offer Seven-Card Stud, Pineapple, and other games. 
  • Free Poker Online: Any online cardroom with decent software also allows players to play poker for free online for promotional reasons. Test the poker software without risk or obligation.
  • Social Poker Sites: Also called sweepstakes poker, these sites have a limited number of games but do pay out real money. 

Advantages of Online Poker Sites

Players might wonder why they should play online poker instead of a land-based poker game. Here are a few of the reasons you might prefer online or mobile poker to the live game.

  • Bigger Jackpots: Local poker rooms have a decent variety of blinds, but their tournaments tend to be limited by the local poker community. Online poker tournaments have guaranteed prize pools in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars.
  • Wide Variety of Games: Online poker sites offer a wide variety of poker events and game formats. Choosing a game is also easier because the schedule is easily accessed and easy to read.
  • Convenience: Live poker requires travel, plus an additional time commitment to get to the event. Online poker events provide the ultimate convenience for people with busy schedules.
  • Shorter Events: Those who play turbo events and sit'n go events can play an exciting brand of poker with a full conclusion in an hour or two. Most cash games or bigger tournaments take longer.

Latest Illinois Poker Law Updates

Since 2020, several statewide law changes and court cases have affected Illinois gambling laws. Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law a bill in 2020 that legalized land-based sportsbooks in the riverboat casinos. A year later, Pritzker legalized online and mobile sports betting apps in partnership with those same gaming venues. Online sportsbooks began operating in March 2022.

Also, a 2020 Illinois Supreme Court case affects the status of some daily fantasy sports in the state. A $100 million lawsuit challenging a 2015 Illinois AG ruling was upheld on appeal, allowing for heads-up daily fantasy sports contests. This doesn't mean all DFS contests on Sportsbook and Sportsbook are legal but the ruling opens the door for DFS players in the state.

Which Online Poker Sites Are Illegal?

At present, Illinois doesn't have legalized online poker sites, though residents often play at offshore online poker sites. Bills from 2017 to 2019 would have regulated online poker, but those bills failed in the Illinois House of Representatives.

Which Illinois Casinos Have Live Poker?

Riverboat casinos in Alton, Aurora, Elgin, Joliet, and Rockford all have poker rooms. The full list of live poker rooms includes Argosy Casino Alton, Hollywood Casino in Aurora, Rivers Casino Des Plaines, Par-a-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria, Sportsbook at Casino Queen in East Saint Louis, Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Harrah's Joliet Casino and Hotel, Hollywood Casino Joliet, Harrah's Metropolis Casino, Bally's Quad Cities in Rock Island, and Hard Rock Casino Rockford.

Illinois CasinoCityLive Poker
Grand Victoria CasinoElgin6 Tables
Hollywood Casino AuroraAurora5 Tables
River Casino Des PlainesDes Plaines22 Tables
Chicagoland Charity PokerNiles15 Tables
Chicago Charitable GamesOaklawn16 Tables
Windy City Poker ChampionshipGlenwood9 Tables
Ameristar CasinoEast ChicagoClosed Temporarily
Hollywood Casino AuroraAurora7 Tables
Harrah's Metropolis CasinoMetropolis4 Tables
Bailey's Quad CitiesRock Island6 Tables


Argosy Casino in Alton has table games like 3-Card Poker and 4-Card Poker, but it doesn't contain a live poker room. The Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria has 3-Card Poker, Let It Ride, and Caribbean Stud. Casino Queen in East St. Louis has 3-Card Poker and Caribbean Stud Poker. Hollywood Casino in Joliet also has 3-Card Poker, Caribbean Stud, and Mississippi Stud, but no live poker. Harrah's Joliet has a similar setup. 

If you're in Chicago, you might be near to several Indiana casinos: Horseshoe Hammond (13 tables) and Four Winds South Bend (12 tables). The casino in Hammond is much closer, of course. 

Famous Illinois Poker Players

Illinois poker history is rife with famous card players. Its history goes back to the 19th Century, as Wild Bill Hickok was born in Homer, Illinois in 1837. Of course, Hickok had the most infamous poker hand in the history of the game -- the Dead Man's Hand -- because Hickok's murder took place during a poker game in 1876 in Deadwood, South Dakota. The Dead Man's Hand is an Ace of Diamonds, Ace of Clubs, 8 of Clubs, 8 of Spades, and Queen of Hearts.

Nick "The Greek" Dandalos is the most famous Illinois poker player of the 20th Century. Dandalos played the mythical heads-up game of poker versus Johnny Moss that's supposed to have inspired the World Series of Poker.

Other famous card players from Illinois are Mohsin Charania, Kevin Saul, Connor Drinan, and Gavin Griffin. Poker author Jim McManus is also from Illinois.

Here is a list of the Top 10 pro poker players in Illinois gambling history, based on their career winnings. The totals below are updated for May 2022.

  1. Connor Drinan ($11.54 million)
  2. Mohsin Charania ($6.57 million)
  3. Gavin Griffin ($5.10 million)
  4. Aaron Massey ($4.90 million)
  5. Ryan Tosoc ($4.84 million)
  6. Jason Wheeler ($4.40 million)
  7. Ravi Raghavan ($4.16 million)
  8. Kevin Saul ($3.75 million)
  9. Chris Moor ($3.57 million)
  10. Kyle Julius ($3.46 million)

    Online Poker Illinois FAQ

    Is Online Poker Legal in Illinois?

    Online poker exists in a legal gray area. Illinois does not regulate, license, and tax online poker. Illinois poker players must gamble at offshore online cardrooms. If you do, Illinois authorities have never prosecuted or fined a person for playing poker online. They aren't likely to do so in the near future, because the resources don't exist even if officials had the will to prosecute players.

    Is there live poker in Illinois?

    Yes. Though legal land-based poker clubs operate in Illinois, card players can play in land-based poker rooms at 11 different riverboat casinos in 10 cities throughout the state. The cities with casinos are Alton, Aurora, Des Plaines, East Peoria, East Saint Louis, Elgin, Joliet, Metropolis, Rock Island, and Rockford.

    What forms of gambling does Illinois regulate?

    Illinois regulates horse racing, contests of skills, video gaming terminals (VGTs), and charitable gambling. The charitable games available are bingo nights and raffles. Illinois also licenses riverboat casinos, while the state slowly is transitioning to land-based casino gambling.

    How do Sweepstakes Poker sites work?

    In 30 US states, sweepstakes are legal. Sweepstakes poker works on the idea that each hand of poker is its own sweepstakes contest. As you play, the randomness of the cards dealt is based on a sweepstakes game mechanic. Players are then paid in sweeps coins, which then can be cashed out for real money. Otherwise, the game plays out like a hand of poker.

    How do I play online poker with friends in Illinois?

    The best way to play online poker with friends for real money is at an online cardroom. You'll need to find a cardroom that allows you to [1] set up games of your own or [2] join jackpot sit & go events. Jackpot SNGs are 3-player events that start the second the game fills up. Friends can coordinate their signups for such an event.

    Is online poker legal in the state of Illinois?

    While Illinois does not have regulated online poker, it is legal for players to enjoy poker online in Illinois. Law enforcement doesn't charge, prosecute, or fine players for playing online. If a person operates an online poker site, they'll be prosecuted. Individuals who play online aren't prosecuted.

    How old do I have to be to play poker online in Illinois?

    The age limit to play poker online in Illinois is 18 or older. Players in live poker rooms must be 21 or older. 

    Who can play in Illinois online poker rooms?

    Any resident of Illinois who is 18 or older can play at Illinois online poker sites. Visitors to Illinois who don't reside there also can play poker online.

    How far is Illinois from having legal online poker?

    It's not likely to happen in the next two to three years. Any prediction beyond that timeframe is hard to consider because the online and mobile gambling industry changes every 5 to 10 years.

    When will online poker be legal in Illinois?

    That's uncertain. The best chance for online poker to pass was when Illinois legalized land-based sports betting. With that law passed, no major statewide gambling-related legislation is on the docket at the present. Expect years to pass before an online poker law passes.

    How do I play free online poker?

    Play free online poker at the same sites that offer real money online poker. Either download the poker site software or play instantly, then choose the free option when prompted.

    What are social poker sites?

    Social poker sites are promotional sweepstakes sites that give players real money for beating other players at online poker. Sweepstakes are legal in 30 US states, so social poker sites use a roundabout way to pay off sweepstakes wins with cash. Players also receive free sweepstakes entries in a number of other ways, but the heart of social poker sites are online poker games for real money. 

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