- US Online Poker
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New Jersey in the late 1970s became the second state in the country to legalize casinos, spawning several openings on the famed Atlantic City Boardwalk. It wasn’t until 1993 the state legalized poker, though it quickly became home to some of the most popular poker rooms in the country.
In November 2013, NJ became the third US state (behind Nevada and Delaware) to legalize and regulate real-money online poker.
The Garden State has remained a leading participant in the burgeoning US market, particularly after entering a multi-state poker compact in 2017. The Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement provides the mechanism for player and liquidity sharing across NJ, NV, and DE.
New Jersey presently has more online poker sites up and running than any other state in the US.
Although seven sites are currently active, some are skins operating on the same network. In total, the state has four distinct online poker networks.
Two sites that launched along with others in November 2013 closed thereafter: UltimatePoker NJ (in Sept. 2014) and Betfair Poker NJ (Dec. 2014).
After a slow start in the state, WSOP NJ grew in prominence thanks in large part to the name recognition of the World Series of Poker.
With a license through Caesars Interactive Entertainment and operating as the All-American Poker Network (fully acquired by 888 Holdings in late 2018), the network pulled ahead of PokerStars in mid-2018 to claim the NJ market lead.
WSOP NJ currently enjoys one major advantage over the other sites and networks in New Jersey, as players on the site get to play against not only other players in the state but also against those playing on WSOP in Nevada and on 888 in Delaware as part of a shared pool.
Pala Interactive launched its online casino in New Jersey in November 2014, making the California-based Pala Band of Mission Indians the first tribal operator to do so in the state.
The group initially held off on poker due to the imminent arrival of PokerStars NJ and an expectation that the small room would not be able to achieve adequate liquidity. Pala Poker finally launched in June 2017 and has since remained a minor player in a state where three global leaders attract the majority of the market share.
Interestingly, Pala Poker is the rare online poker room that is not open 24 hours a day, instead only operating during the late afternoon and evening hours. The hours have changed over the years, but most recently cash games start at 5 p.m. and tournaments at 6 p.m. (ET), with the room “closing” around 1 a.m. each night.
The one-time global online poker leader partypoker was part of the first group of sites to launch in the state, starting strong and maintaining the market lead for the first two-plus years before PokerStars arrived to challenge them in 2016 in kind of a small-scale reprise of the pre-UIGEA battles.
Borgata, the state’s largest casino and most popular brick-and-mortar poker room, acts as the land-based partner. Along with a Borgata-branded poker site, playMGM Poker was added to the network as a third skin in August 2017. It, along with its online casino and sportsbook, was rebranded BetMGM Poker in Sept. 2019.
That rebranding coincided with MGM partnering with GVC Holdings to create Roar Digital, all of which means partypoker potentially has access to any US online gambling market in which MGM or Boyd Gaming owns property.
Thus far, however, New Jersey remains the only state where partypoker is active — although Pennsylvania seems a likely next candidate.
Eager to launch a site in New Jersey and reenter the US after having left in April 2011 in the wake of Black Friday, various factors forced PokerStars to wait nearly two-and-a-half years after other sites launched.
Those complications included a failed negotiation by PokerStars to purchase the now-shuttered Atlantic Club Casino in 2014 and NJ regulators suspending PokerStars from getting a license for two more years while executives of Stars’ parent company dealt with a series of legal matters.
Once those issues were resolved — and after striking up a partnership with Resorts Atlantic City — the global leader in online poker finally returned to New Jersey. PokerStars quickly grabbed the majority of NJ market share after launch, though it lost its advantage to WSOP/888 in mid-2018.
A full-featured online poker room requires a considerably more complex interface than slots or table games. The same solutions that work well for a mouse-based interface don’t necessarily work equally well on touchscreen. Thus, while online casino apps are usually very similar to what you’d be playing on your desktop, the same isn’t usually true for poker apps.
Indeed, even desktop poker clients don’t usually run in your browser. To implement all the necessary features and allow multi-tabling, most sites also require you to download a special client app to play on your computer.
Mobile devices have become the most popular way to play online poker in recent years. However, there are a couple of issues that are hard to deal with on small screens, with a touch interface.
The first is inputting bet sizes. Desktop users are accustomed to being able to type in their bets easily. Pulling up the touch keyboard on mobile is a pain, so you’ll often be reliant on using the bet slider, which is fussy, or setting your bet size using buttons like “1/2 Pot” or “Pot.”
The latter is playing at multiple tables at once. The standard solution here is to use tabs or miniaturized table images in the top left of the screen to switch between tables. Unfortunately, this means not being able to see more than one table at a time. Some operators are working on more sophisticated solutions.
PokerStars is known for having some of the best software around. Its app is very slick, though unfortunately inflexible when it comes to device orientation. You’ll have no choice but to use the lobby in portrait mode, then switch to landscape once you start a game.
The lobby is based on tabs and sliding game carousels. Select from Cash Games, Sit & Go or Tournaments in the tabs at the top, then scroll down to find your preferred stakes and game type. From there you can swipe left and right to rotate through the available tables. Tap on “More” to access filters to help you narrow down your search.
Gameplay is slick and responsible, but you can only see one table at a time. If you’re seated at more than one, you’ll find the controls to navigate between them at the top of your screen.
Partypoker trailed behind the competition in terms of software for much of the desktop poker era, but is leading the charge when it comes to mobile innovation. Its latest app, released in 2019, is arguably the most modern one available.
Two features differentiate it from the competition. First is that it uses portrait orientation throughout, including at the table. Although this will look unfamiliar to desktop users, it makes it possible to play one-handed, something that is difficult to manage with conventional landscape orientation.
The other important feature is that it allows you to tile up to four tables at once. This is a huge step up from competing apps, which let you cycle through your tables but won’t let you see what’s happening at more than one at a time.
Although BetMGM and Borgata are skins on Partypoker’s network, their mobile apps don’t share its innovative features. Rather, they’re more or less direct ports of the desktop software, which does resemble Partypoker’s.
This means a more familiar experience for players accustomed to desktop play. On the other hand, it means two-handed gameplay and the need to cycle through tables when playing more than one at a time.
All of WSOP’s poker software is provided by 888 Holdings. Thus, WSOP’s official app and that for the 888poker skin are effectively identical.
888poker has recently upgraded the software it uses in international markets to a new platform it calls Poker 8. Unfortunately, it still uses its old software in the US as of this writing. This means a functional and familiar but somewhat clunky interface, and a mobile app that is essentially a direct copy of the desktop client.
Only three of eight Atlantic City casinos have online poker partners at the moment:
Borgata and Caesars both belong to companies that have their own poker brands, so those partnerships are inevitable. Caesars owns the World Series of Poker, so WSOP.com operates through that casino, while Borgata belongs to MGM Resorts International, which operates BetMGM as a joint venture with Entain. The latter company also owns Partypoker, which is why BetMGM and the house Borgata brand are networked with that site.
Borgata also hosts Pala Poker, though its traffic is so low as to be almost nonexistent.
The only NJ poker room which operates in partnership with a casino to which it has no other connection is PokerStars. It has been partnered with Resorts since 2015.
The three primary NJ online poker networks — WSOP/888, PokerStars, and partypoker — all offer a wide range of tournament options on a fairly consistent basis. All three have regular tournament series which create high-traffic periods for each, relatively speaking.
Worth noting: regardless of the site or network, weekly online poker tournament schedules in New Jersey are almost always No-Limit Hold’em, with the occasional Pot-Limit Omaha tournament tossed into the mix. Major tournament series often include some other variants, but usually no more than one event for any given game that isn’t No-Limit Hold’em or Pot-Limit Omaha.
Partypoker is the smallest of the three major New Jersey poker rooms, and this is most apparent in its tournament offerings. The weekly schedule is a bit thin when it comes to big guarantees. In the past partypoker NJ ran a twice-a-year Garden State Super Series, although declining fields caused the site to discontinue the series in 2019.
PokerStars NJ has a good weekly schedule with decent guarantees, including its marquee Sunday Special with a $200 buy-in. There’s also a $500 Sunday High Roller.
PokerStars NJ also features lots of low buy-in daily (and more than daily) tournaments like The Big $15, The Big $30, The Hot $50 and the like, as well as regular Bounty Builder Progressive Knockout tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $15 to $200.
Finally, it has perhaps the most iconic online poker series around, with two annual Championships of Online Poker in the spring and fall, plus other smaller series sprinkled throughout the rest of the year.
WSOP has one major advantage in NJ, which is that it is currently the only interstate site. That means more traffic, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the tournament guarantees it can offer.
It has a robust weekly schedule which includes a $100,000 guaranteed event every Sunday. But where it really excels is with major series.
There are four seasonal Championship series each year, which are among the biggest you’ll find in the US. Where things get really special, however, is when WSOP offers players the chance to win Series bracelets and Circuit rings online. These events are hugely popular and routinely set new records for the legal US online poker market.
The annual summer World Series of Poker has contained an online component since 2015, and the number of such events expands each year. Since the start of interstate traffic sharing, players in New Jersey have been able to participate in these. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 caused WSOP to bring even more gold bracelet events online, as well as establishing an Online Circuit Series. It now looks as if the latter may become a permanent feature, even after the pandemic is over.
Each of the online poker sites in New Jersey provide a number of different ways for players to deposit funds to their accounts. Options available include the following:
There are also a number of withdrawal methods available to New Jersey online poker players. Here are some that are currently available:
Some of these options are available on some sites but not others, and not every site accepts all of the credit cards listed above for depositing. Be sure to check each site’s individual banking options before depositing or withdrawing.
You’ll also want to make note of minimums or maximums, expected wait times for withdrawals — some are instantaneous, some take a few days — and any other banking-related policies.
If there’s one thing poker players like, it’s free money. Unsurprisingly, most poker sites have a variety of ways to distribute a little dough as an enticement to keep their players coming back.
The exact mix of promotions varies from site to site, but whatever site you play on, in whatever state, you’re likely to find some combination of the following.
Strings free cash is the Holy Grail of online gambling bonuses. Fortunately, the US market is competitive enough at the moment that it’s not too uncommon to find such an offer. Many sites will give you a little something just for creating your account, without even requiring a deposit.
The amounts of money involved are small, usually around $25 or $35, though bonuses of up to $50 are not unheard of. The bonus usually takes the form of a mixture of tournament tickets and ring game credit. Some sites might give you cash to use as you like, but in that case there’s usually a play through requirement before you can withdraw it.
Depending on the site, a first deposit bonus might be found on its own, or alongside a no deposit bonus as part of a welcome package.
The standard form for a first deposit bonus to take is a 100% match, up to a certain maximum. If the maximum is $1000, for instance, then a deposit of $1000 would be matched with $1000 in bonus credit. Unlike the no deposit bonus, however, this won’t be strings-free cash. Rather, it will get released in increments as you generate rake for the site. Larger bonuses can require a very high volume of play to clear fully, and there’s usually a time limit.
A first deposit bonus may or may not require a bonus code. You only get one shot at claiming it though, so make sure to check our review page for the site before making your deposit.
A reload bonus is simply a deposit bonus for deposits after the first. These are often limited time offers and usually require a bonus code to claim.
A reload bonus might be a deposit match, although usually with a smaller maximum than a first deposit bonus. The amount of the match might be less than 100% as well. For instance, a 50% match up to $500 is worth $250 in bonus credit if you deposit the full $500.
Sites also frequently time reload bonus promotions to coincide with major tournament series. In those cases, the bonus will often consist of satellite tickets or freeroll entries to give players a chance to win their way into the Main Event of the series.
Loyalty programs were a huge part of online poker during the boom years of the early 2000s. They still exist at most sites, but in a very scaled-back form.
Such programs typically work in tiers. Players will accumulate points as they play. The more rake, the more points. Earning a certain number of points in a week, month or year may move the player up to a higher tier, accelerating the rate at which they earn additional points in future.
Exactly what the points are good for depends on the site. In most cases, there’s an option to redeem them for cash. However, some sites may offer better value if the points are exchanged for tournament tickets, site-branded swag, or, in the case of sites associated with a land-based casino company, hotel rooms and meals at the company’s properties.
In addition to these standard types of promotions, most sites offer a rotating selection of smaller deals. These can come in many forms, but are often low in value and aimed more at recreational players. Nonetheless, it’s worth keeping an eye on the Promotions tab of your chosen poker room to see what’s on offer.
As the simplest end of the spectrum, a limited time promotion may simply require the player to log in each day and click a button to claim a randomized prize. More complicated promotions involve completing missions of various kinds, or assign rewards based on volume of play in a certain time period.
No-Limit Texas Hold’em has been the game that’s synonymous with “poker” in most people’s minds since the late 1990s. However, there are many more ways to play poker than just that.
In fact, some of the alternatives, Pot-Limit Omaha in particular, having been rising in popularity in recent years. That said, New Jersey poker sites tend to be a bit conservative in their offerings, both because the state’s modest popular is split between multiple operators, and because the market has been around long enough that players are a little more set in their ways.
Still, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from, including the following:
This is the standard way to play poker. Players exchange cash for chips, play as many or as few hands as they like, then convert their chips back to cash when they stand up. There is a limit to how many chips the player can bring to the table at once, usually 100 big blinds.
Cash game tables come in various sizes. Once upon a time, tables for 9 or 10 players, known as full ring, were the most popular. Now, short handed play is gaining steam, and you may find more players at the six max tables than at full ring.
Cash games are also known as ring games.
If you like betting on long shots, scheduled tournaments (aka multi-table tournaments or MTTs) are the format for you. Players pay a fixed buy-in and receive a certain number of chips in return. Tournament chips have no cash value but represent your life in the tournament. When you’re out of chips, you’re out of the game.
All the money players pay in buy ins goes into a prize pool. At the end of the tournament, this is distributed based on the order in which players finish. Typically between 10% and 15% of the field will receive some sort of prize, but many of these amount to just twice the buy in or so. Conversely, the winner will get a sizable fraction of the pool, which can work out to an enormous amount of money in tournaments with a lot of players.
Sites have a weekly tournament schedule, with the biggest events usually taking place on Sundays. Most sites also periodically run major tournament series, with a higher density of tournaments and bigger prize guarantees than their normal schedule.
One popular MTT variant is the progressive knockout, or PKO. In these tournaments, each player has a bounty on their heads. When a player is elimianted, the player who took them out wins half their bounty in cash, while the other half is added to their own bounty. Thus, by the late stages of the tournament, the bounties can be getting very large indeed.
Somewhere in between a cash game and an MTT is a sit-and-go, or SNG. Structurally, these work just the same way as an MTT, only smaller. Rather than taking place at a fixed time, however, they run on demand as soon as enough players sit down to start. Once you bust out of an MTT, you’re finished until the next one starts, but with SNGs you can always fire up another right away.
You’ll find single-table SNGs for nine, six or even just two players. Depending on the site, you may also find multi-table SNGs for larger numbers of players, sometimes up to 180. However, the bigger the SNG, the more time it will take to fill. On a small site, bigger SNGs or ones with large buy-ins may have a hard time finding enough players to start.
One of poker’s most recent innovations is the lottery sit-and-go, or LSNG. Sites don’t call them this, however, but use their own trademarked name, like Spin & Go, Spins or BLAST.
These are tiny, high-speed SNGs for three or four players, depending on the site. The gimmick is that the prize pool is randomized. LSNGs are usually winner-take-all, but the prize will be a random multiple of the buy in, anywhere from just 2x up to the hundreds, thousands or more.
PokerStars Spin & Go is the most popular LSNG format in the US, and has a top prize of 10,000x the buy in, though this only hits once in a million spins.
Some poker sites offer games other than No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha. Unfortunately, the low traffic in New Jersey means that it can be hard to find opponents for these other games. One exception is during major tournament series. At PokerStars in particular, you’ll often find a few alternative games on the schedule.
Most poker variants fall into one of four categories.
Flop games follow roughly the same rules as Hold’em and Omaha, with some minor differences. As one very simple example, Five-Card Omaha is exactly what it sounds like. It works just like Omaha, except each player receives five hole cards instead of four.
Stud games were very popular prior to the rise of Hold’em. There are no community cards. Rather, players receive a few cards to start with (usually three), and additional cards one at a time after each betting round. Some of a player’s cards will be face up, and others face down.
Draw games are like the five-card game you played as a kid. There are no community cards, nor face-up cards. Players receive their full hand to start, but can exchange one or more cards (or stand pat) after each betting round. Single and triple draw are the most common versions.
Lowball games are combined with one of the other variants. The twist here is that the hand rankings are reversed, so the goal is to avoid making pairs or other strong hands. The most common lowball games are draw variants, although Razz (lowball stud) is also popular.
Hi/lo games combine standard and lowball hand rankings. The pot is split between the highest and lowest hand, and the real goal is to win both at once with a hand that can play either way. Omaha and Stud are the most common Hi/Lo games.
With three operators/networks to choose from, you probably don’t feel the need to play on illegal offshore sites from New Jersey. If you are considering it, however, there are some good reasons to reconsider.
In a nutshell, it’s safer across the board to play on a legal site. To be specific:
So, how do you know if a site is legal or not? It’s usually pretty easy:
While the real-money options are plentiful in New Jersey, players can also play poker on “sweepstakes” sites. The most popular of these is Global Poker, currently available in 49 US states.
For New Jersey players, a sweepstakes site does make it possible to compete in a larger pool of players. However some will always prefer playing on real-money, regulated sites — especially since New Jersey has so many from which to choose.
Below are some common questions and answers related to New Jersey online poker.
Yes. Real-money online poker is legal in New Jersey as long as you are playing on a regulated NJ online poker site. Sweepstakes online poker is legal as well.
Similar to poker in brick-and-mortar casinos, players in New Jersey must be at least 21 years old to play on a real-money online poker site.
Anyone who is at least 21 can sign up for an account at a NJ online poker site and even deposit funds. However in order actually to play on the site, players must be physically located within the state.
Sites use geolocation technology to ensure players are located in NJ when they play.
The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) oversees all types of gambling in the state, including online poker.
Yes. After other sites enjoyed a two-plus year head start, PokerStars returned to New Jersey in 2016 with a fully legal and regulated real-money online poker site.
Yes. Thanks to a multi-state poker compact approved by regulators in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, players can play against each other in a shared player pool on WSOP and 888 Poker sites.
Sweepstakes online poker sites like Global Poker also allow players from different states all to play against each other.
Only brick-and-mortar casinos in New Jersey can apply for and obtain Internet Gaming Permits, which allow them to run online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker rooms. The casinos also partner with technology providers who themselves must be licensed by NJ regulators.
Every casino with an Internet Gaming Permit can operate multiple online gambling sites — including multiple online poker sites — under distinct brands.
There are nine casinos in Atlantic City at present. Three of them provide licenses that are being used to operate one or more online poker rooms:
Taking Borgata as an example, their license enables them to operate multiple online poker sites — partypoker NJ, Borgata Poker NJ, BetMGM Poker NJ (all on the partypoker network), plus Pala Poker. Borgata additionally runs other online gambling sites, including an eponymous online casino.
Of the other Atlantic City casinos, each of the following have Interactive Gaming Permits as well:
All four of these licensees operate online casinos, but none currently offers poker. Given the limited liquidity in the state — even taking into account the potential for multi-state compacts — it is probably unlikely we will see too many more online poker rooms opening up in New Jersey in the near future.
Between the three major poker networks, New Jersey online poker sites have consistently earned around $1.6-1.8 million per month between them over the last couple of years. WSOP/888 poker has been the market leader of late, followed by PokerStars NJ and partypoker NJ.
Online poker operators pay a tax rate of 15% on gross revenue plus another 2.5% for Investment Alternative Tax Obligations. According to the PlayNJ, the state’s online poker sites generated about $3.5 million in tax revenue in 2019.