Online Poker in Texas: Top TX Poker Sites

Lawmakers in the Lone Star State have not regulated online poker in Texas at present. Texas poker players who want a real money card game therefore must play at offshore online cardrooms. Their only alternative is to play at local land-based poker clubs which officials might or might not view as legal, or drive out-of-state to play poker at nearby casinos in Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Because many Texas online poker players wonder if their gaming activities are legal, we've answered all of their questions below. In fact, we give an overview of all of Texas' gambling laws, then focus on Texans' options for real money poker gaming. Read our online poker Texas guide below for everything you need to know when gambling on cards in Texas.

Overview of Texas Gambling Laws

A state as large and populous as Texas is bound to have complicated gambling laws. The state allows lottery betting, charitable bingo, and pari-mutuel wagering at racetracks. It grudgingly allows a couple of land-based tribal casinos. Most other forms of gambling are banned, though online gambling exists in a legal gray area. Here's a quick review of Texas gambling laws.

  • Poker Betting in General: Land-based poker betting is illegal if the house charges a rake, though exceptions exist. Online poker sites’ servers cannot be based in Texas, though Texans can play at offshore online cardrooms.
  • Casino Laws: Texas has a ban on land-based casinos. Only federally-recognized tribal gaming authorities can have land-based casinos. Because Texas seized lands from certain tribes in the 1950s, not many land-based casinos exist.
  • Tribal Gaming: Tribal bingo is popular in Texas, though you won't find many tribal casinos. Texas has fought court cases against tribal casinos, though two land-based casinos exist legally at present.
  • Texas Poker Clubs: Local poker clubs exist, though these games are illegal if they charge a rake. Many have entry fees, seat licenses, and exorbitant prices for food and drinks as an alternative. Local law enforcement might or might not see such charges as legal.
  • 8-Liner Law and Revenues: 8-liners are slot machine-type EGMs that operate in gas Sportsbooks. Communities can choose to make them legal or not, though they're only illegal if cash prizes are $5 or less. Called maquinitas by some Texans.

Poker Online Tips: How to Choose a Texas Online Poker Site

If you're new to online poker, you might have trouble choosing the best Texas online cardroom. We've provided a handy checklist of suggestions that help you narrow down the choice. Keep in mind the following online poker tips when it's time to create a player account and make a deposit.

  • Find the Best Welcome Bonuses: Good poker welcome bonuses range from $500 to $1000. 
  • Choose Sites with Lots of Player Traffic: More players mean bigger tournaments, bigger prize pools, more betting ranges, and more event and cash game options.
  • Read Poker Site Reviews: To get a better feel for the software, game selection, and player community, read online poker site reviews.
  • Use Safe and Secure Banking Options: Choose deposit methods you use daily and trust. Visa, MasterCard, and Bitcoin are payment methods at most TX online poker sites.
  • Play in Freerolls When Offered: Freerolls provide cash prizes without risking your cash. Cardrooms offer freerolls for new player signups, first-time depositors, Bitcoin deposits, loyalty, and high-volume play.

Texas Online Gambling Laws: Will Texas Regulate Internet Poker Sites & Casinos?

In 2013, State Senator Leticia Van de Putte and Representative John Kuempel introduced legalized online poker bills to the Texas Senate and Texas House. None of the online poker legislation made it past the committee stage. Since then, no one has introduced a bill to regulate and license Texas online poker sites and casinos.

That was at a time when New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware were in the midst of legalizing online gambling. At the time, Van du Putte and Kuempel were testing the waters on a new idea -- an idea that was shut down promptly. For the foreseeable future, Texas online gambling laws look as if they'll remain the same. Therefore, Texans must play at offshore online poker sites.

Current Updates on Texas Gambling Laws

The Texas Constitution bans land-based casino gambling in the state, which means the legislature would need to pass a casino bill by a two-thirds majority. While 33 other US states have passed land-based sports betting laws, Texas isn't likely to legalize sportsbook operations.

  • March 2021: State Rep. John Kuempel and State Senator Carol Alvarado introduced a bipartisan brick-and-mortar casino and sports betting bill. The bill would have made the state's four major metropolitan areas -- Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio -- casino hubs with destination resorts. Despite having some support from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers, the bill didn't have nearly enough support to pass.
  • March 2016: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared daily fantasy sports -- a form of sports gaming with a more mainstream appeal -- to be illegal from his point of view. When betting on fantasy sports is up for debate in a state, sports betting has no chance of passage.
  • Texas Sports Betting: Currently, sports betting has a better chance to pass than online poker or casino gaming.
  • December 2021: Texas Rep. Dan Huberty told attendees at an Austin gaming conference, "I really believe there’s an opportunity here to pass sports betting in 2023. If you present it to the voters in the right way, it’s going to pass."
  • Obstacles to Legalization: The biggest obstacle might be Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who both are staunchly against legalized sports betting.

Texas Gambling Facts

The following gambling facts might not seem like they're related to Texas. In fact, they're directly related to the gamblers of Texas' two biggest metropolitan areas: Dallas and Houston. While Texas bans most casino gambling, it shows that Texans love to gamble as much as any gaming demographic in the world.

  • Shreveport and Lake Charles, Louisiana: For decades, Texans would drive from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to casinos in Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana. Those casinos' main customer base was Dallas gamblers. At the same time, Lake Charleston, Louisiana is home to 9 land-based casinos because of the city's proximity to Houston, Texas.
  • Winstar and Choctaw Casinos: These days, two Oklahoma casinos, WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma, and Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma are among the largest casinos in the world. Both are miles across the Texas-Oklahoma border about a one-hour drive north of the Dallas metropolitan area. Some of the biggest casinos in the world owe most of their revenues to North Texas gamblers.

Texas Land-Based Gambling Venues

  • Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel: The Kickapoo tribe operates the Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass, Texas (near the Mexican border).
  • Naskila Gaming: The Naskila tribe operates a legal land-based casino in Livingston, Texas.
  • Texas Card Rooms: At present, 32 poker clubs operate in 16 different Texas cities. Many exist in Houston and San Antonio, while mid-sized cities like Beaumont, Corpus Christi, Killen, Midland, and Odessa also have at least one.
  • Texas Dog Tracks: Two pari-mutuel dog tracks exist: Gulf Coast Racing in Corpus Christi and Valley Race Park in Harlingen. These mainly exist as off-track betting facilities (OTBs).
  • Texas Horse Tracks: Four horse tracks also exist: Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie (Dallas), Sam Houston Race Park in Houston, Gillespie County Fairgrounds in Fredericksburg, and Retama Park in Selma.
  • Bingo Halls in Texas: Charitable bingo has a major presence in Texas. We counted 148 bingo halls in 66 different Texas cities.
  • 8-Liner Industry: Legal gaming machines that exist in Texas convenience stores and gas Sportsbooks. A billion-dollar industry, Texas towns can make them legal -- so long as cash prizes as $5 or less. Groceries, gas, and lottery tickets are also allowed.

Texas Gambling History: A Timeline of Texas Gambling

  • Before 1836: Texas during the time of Mexican control became known for saloons and gambling halls. The City of Houston was known for brisk liquor sells and gambling houses. 
  • Mid-19th Century: Once Texas gained independence, it was known for its lax laws. Many settlers were fleeing justice in the USA, so the phrase "Gone to Texas" had the connotation that one was a fugitive. Gambling was a tolerated vice
  • 1865: Carlotta "Lottie Deno" Thompkins moved with her husband, Frank Thurmond, to San Antonio. Both were notable gamblers. When Frank killed a man in a gambling dispute and fled the law, Lottie traveled throughout West Texas searching for him. She became known as The Angel of San Antonio, Mystic Maud, and the Queen of the Pasteboards for her exploits.
  • The 1870s: The cattle boom led to an influx of new immigrants. Unregulated gambling peaked in the state during the Reconstruction Era. Fort Griffin known as a particular center of vice and corruption. 
  • September 1873: John Henry “Doc” Holliday moved to Dallas. Holliday's doctor gave him several months to live due to tuberculosis and told him Texas's warmer climate would help his condition.
  • May 12, 1874: Doc Holliday and 12 others were indicted for illegal gambling in Dallas. 
  • January 1875: Doc Holliday was arrested for trading gunshots in a Dallas gambling den. Later in 1875, he later left the state to avoid the various charges against him. He'd die of his condition in 1887, but only after taking part in the shootout at the OK Corral. 
  • Late 19th Century: Texas became known for its gambling dens. Dallas had Frogtown, while Fort Worth had Hell's Half Acre. Houston had Happy Hollow, Austin had Guy Town, and San Antonio had The Sporting District. 
  • The 1920s: During Prohibition, the Balinese Room became a famous underground gambling den. It had secret compartments to hid cards and chips when the police raided the place. 
  • 1933: To generate revenues during the Depression Era, Texas legalized pari-mutuel betting. Four major tracks operated in the state over the next several years. 
  • 1937: Texas again banned pari-mutuel horse betting. The vote took place in a special legislative session called by then-Texas Gov. James V. Allred.
  • The 1950s: A new generation of gamblers traveled the Texas circuit playing a new version of poker: Texas Hold'em. These gamblers -- Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, and Bryan "Sailor" Roberts -- honed their skills in these backroom poker games. Eventually, all moved to Las Vegas, where fellow Texas Benny Binion had opened the Horseshoe Casino in Downtown Las Vegas. 
  • 1970: Benny Binion hosted the 1st World Series of Poker at the Horseshoe Casino. He chose Texas Hold'em as the poker variant for the WSOP Main Event, helping holdem become the most popular variant of poker. 
  • 1987: Texas voters approved pari-mutuel betting on races. At present, Texas has three active racetracks: Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie (Dallas-Fort Worth), Retama Park in Selma (San Antonio), and Sam Houston Race Park in Houston. The Gillespie County Fair in Fredericksburg hosts Class III racetrack betting during four weekends in the summer. Each venue has simulcasting, as well. Residents 18 and older can place bets on horses. 
  • November 5, 1991: Texas voted to approve a state lottery in a statewide referendum. The legislature passed House Bill 54 in on July 11 of that year to set up the vote. 
  • 1996: The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino opened in Eagle Pass. The Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, one of three Native American tribes in Texas that are federally recognized, opened the casino. Lucky Eagle is the largest employer in Maverick County, with over 700 employees. 
  • December 5, 2003: Texas joined the Mega Millions multi-state lottery association.
  • January 31, 2010: Texas joined the Powerball multi-state lottery association. 
  • 2022: The US Supreme Court is set to decide whether the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo and Alabama-Coushatta Indian Tribe of Texas can open casinos. Texas has fought the tribes for decades, citing the Federal Restoration Act of 1987 as its stated reason for blocking the tribes' ambitions. 

Famous Texas Poker Players

Since poker's most famous game is known as Texas Hold'em, it's no surprise that Texas has some of the world's most successful and famous poker players. Legendary players like Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, and Johnny Moss are Texas natives, while the Horseshoe Casino's original owner, Benny Binion, also hailed from Texas originally.

Brunson, Slim, and Moss played poker in Texas in the 1950s but moved to Las Vegas by the 1960s because high-roller Texas poker games at the time were controlled by organized crime. At the time, more traditional games like Five-Card Draw and Seven-Card Stud were more popular variants of poker. When they moved to Las Vegas, that generation of Texas card players brought with them Texas Hold'em.

Texans Dominated the World Series of Poker Main Event

When Benny Binion launched the World Series of Poker in 1970, he chose Texas Hold'em as the event's official poker game. The early years of the WSOP were dominated by Texas players. For instance, Johnny Moss was voted the WSOP Main Event's Sportsbook in its inaugural year (1970), then won the event outright in 1971 and 1974. Amarillo Slim won the WSOP Main Event in 1972, fellow Texan Sailor Roberts won in 1975, and Doyle Brunson won it back-to-back in 1976 and 1977.

Thus, modern poker traces its origins back to Texas. Once ESPN began to television the World Series of Poker Main Event in the 1990s and early 2000s, Texas Hold'em became a global phenomenon. Nowadays, Texas Hold'em is the standard main event poker game for every major poker tournament in the world. This is due to famous poker players like Johnny Moss and Doyle Brunson, along with fellow Poker Hall of Famer Benny Binion.

Other famous Texas poker players exist, of course. T.J. Cloutier is the all-time money Sportsbook among Texas card players with $10 million+ in career winnings. Cloutier was born in California, though he resides in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, Texas. Benjamin Tollerin ($9.5 million in all-time winnings) was born in Fort Worth, though he now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. David Williams ($8.9 million) was born in Dallas and lives in Fort Worth. Keith Tiltson ($7 million) resides in Austin, while William "Bill" Perkins ($5.4 million) lives in Houston.

Texas Online Poker FAQ

Are there any Texas-licensed internet poker sites?

No, there are not. Texans can play at offshore online poker sites for real money, but no licensed online cardrooms exist. Sweepstakes poker sites exist, too, which are considered to be legal online poker sites at the moment.

Are online cardrooms legal to play in Texas?

Texans can bet at offshore online cardrooms without being fined or prosecuted. While the Lone Star State bans Texas-based online cardrooms, it cannot prosecute offshore online poker site operators. Furthermore, Texas doesn't prosecute individuals who play online poker for real money.

The main concern Texas poker players have is safety and fairness, because they play at offshore sites. Trustworthy and reputable poker sites exist, so read online cardroom reviews before depositing your hard-earned cash in a site.

Are there any Mac-compatible poker sites?

Absolutely. Most poker sites don't require a download, so you'll be able to play using Mac and Linux devices. Mac players should look for online poker rooms where the desktop games open in the web browser because this circumvents compatibility issues. Typically, these sites advertise that they are an "Instant" poker site instead of a desktop or downloadable site.

Are there any licensed live cardrooms in Texas?

Yes, there are. Texas poker clubs operate in the Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston metropolitan areas. A poker club cannot charge a rake, though the clubs often have inventive other ways to charge players. 

Depending on how inventive these charges are, legality is determined at the city level of government, usually by local law enforcement agencies. If the county sheriff or local police department deems a live poker club to be illegal, it might be raided and everyone involved might get fined.

Is it possible for me to run my own online gambling business in Texas?

Absolutely no -- not if you charge a rake or otherwise make a profit from the game. Running a real money online poker game in Texas will get you prosecuted and you'll go to jail for it.

While individual Texas residents don't face fines or prosecution for playing real money online poker, Texas law bans people from running Internet-based gambling businesses where you host the server in Texas. The most you can do is build a site that offers free online poker.

What is a Dallas Straddle?

Dallas Straddle is a 9-handed $5/$5 game of Pot-Limit Omaha was has a $25 mandatory "Dallas" button straddle. For the $25 bet, the person with the button receives an absolute guarantee of the last action preflop. The button only acts once, after all other players have closed their actions (bets, raises, calls).

What is Ultimate Texas Hold'em?

Ultimate Texas Hold'em is a table game based on the rules of Texas Hold'em. Instead of playing against other players, you play against the dealer's hand. While you won't find the game in Texas online poker rooms, you will find it in Texas online casinos. 

Are there mobile-friendly online poker sites for Texans?

Every one of the Texas online poker sites we recommend also is compatible with mobile devices. Whether you use an Android smartphone or tablet, an iPhone, or an iPad, you'll be able to play mobile poker on the go. In many cases, the games open in the mobile web browser, making the process quicker and easier. 

Can you play online poker for real money in Texas?

Yes, you can. That being said, you can't play regulated online poker for real money in Texas. You'll either play at [1] sweepstakes poker sites or [2] offshore online poker rooms. We recommend that players wait until Texas licenses poker sites. 

How far is Texas from having legal online poker?

Texas is a long way from having licensed and regulated online poker. While Texans love poker and drive to Oklahoma and Louisiana every weekend to enjoy cards, the Texas state legislature is unlikely to legalize online poker anytime soon. The state only has one Native American casino on its land, while a string of attorney generals have fought for over a decade to stop the two other tribes from Sportsbook gaming venues.

Texas online gambling receives a dim view from the state's leaders. For instance, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared in a 2016 opinion that fantasy sports was illegal. Not daily fantasy sports, but fantasy sports of any kind. Since Paxton likely will win a third term as Texas AG this fall, don't expect legal online poker in the coming years. 

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