Online Poker in Texas

Texas has a long history with poker, with the first stories of it being played in Texas dating back to the early 19th century. Such a background creates a certain irony when considering the legal status of poker in Texas, given that online poker in Texas is not legal. Those in Texas can play poker online at social and sweepstakes sites, but not at real money online poker sites. Meanwhile, in-person private poker clubs do operate in Texas, albeit amid frequent legal challenges.

Read on for everything you need to know about online poker in Texas. Learn all about the current status of online poker and what might come in the future for Texas, as well as other information about where to play poker in the Lone Star State.

Can you play real money online poker in Texas?

No, you can’t play no-limit Texas hold’em online in Texas, not for real money, anyway. As written, Texas law forbids many types of gambling, including online poker. The law states that anyone who “plays and bets for money or other things of value at any time played with cards, dice, balls, or any other gambling device” is engaging in illegal gambling.

Since online gambling and the first online poker rooms began appearing in the 1990s, Texas has never seriously considered legalizing online poker. More often than not, whenever gambling legislation has been proposed, moral objections to gambling have helped stymie its progress.

There are other factors as well. Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico occupy most of Texas’ US-facing border, and all those states have casinos. Individuals with financial interest in those properties have actually used their influence to prevent Texas from building their own casinos and challenging those out-of-state establishments.

That means the best alternative for Texans who want to play poker online are sweepstakes and social poker sites.

Sweepstakes online poker in Texas

So-called “sweepstakes” online poker sites operate in the US according to the states’ sweepstakes laws. They are not exactly real money online poker sites, but some of them do offer opportunities to redeem winnings for cash prizes.

These sweeps sites use virtual currencies in their games instead of real money. Typically they offer two kinds of virtual currencies or coins. You can play the games for free, but you can also purchase coins with which to play, if you like. Often the currencies are called Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins. You can purchase Gold Coins, but they have no cash value and cannot be redeemed for any cash or prizes. Gold Coins are like “play money,” in a way, such as used at online social casinos.

Meanwhile, the Sweeps Coins can be redeemed for cash or prizes, but you cannot purchase Sweeps Coins. Rather, you can receive Sweeps Coins as a bonus when you buy Gold Coins. You can also accumulate Sweeps Coins in other ways such as via social media giveaways and contests or other means. You can also play games with Sweeps Coins and win more of them, then eventually when you have enough of them you can redeem Sweeps Coins for cash or gift cards.

In other words, you never deposit money into an account at a sweeps site, nor do you withdraw money like you would at a regular real money online poker site. Instead, you play the games with the virtual currencies, and if you collect enough Sweeps Coins you can redeem your winnings for prizes. The sites operate within sweepstakes laws in Texas and other states, and are therefore entirely legal.

Playing on Global Poker in Texas

The most popular sweepstakes-based online poker site in the country is Global Poker. This sweepstakes poker site is available to players in nearly every US state, including Texas.

Global Poker invites players to purchase Gold Coins and play in ring games or tournaments for which the buy-ins and prizes are all Gold Coins. As described above, the Gold Coins have no cash value. You can also play in the games without making any purchases, although your options are somewhat limited that way.

When players purchase Gold Coins, as a bonus, they also receive a different virtual currency, called Sweeps Coins. These can be used to play in Sweeps Coins ring games or enter tournaments for which the entry fees and payouts are Sweeps Coins. As noted, you can collect Sweeps Coins in other ways, too, such as via free-to-enter giveaway contests on Global Poker’s Facebook page. You can even write to Global Poker directly and ask for Sweeps Coins.

Once players accumulate a minimum amount of Sweeps Coins, they can exchange them for US dollars. The exchange rate is $1 for every Sweeps Coin.

Games offered at Global Poker

Global Poker features a variety of game formats, including ring games, multi-table tournaments and “jackpot” sit-n-go’s in which the prize pool is determined by the spin of a virtual wheel. The site offers both no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha, and even has non-traditional poker variants like Caribbean Poker and Crazy Pineapple.

Since Global Poker serves most of the country with everyone playing in a single, shared player pool, the site is often able to host large field tournaments and tournament series. Some of the events in these series feature buy-ins as big as 218 or 540 Sweeps Coins and feature guaranteed prize pools ranging from 40,000 to 500,000 Sweeps Coins.

If you recall how one Sweeps Coin is worth the equivalent of $1 after it is exchanged, you can see just how big these tournaments can get.

Registering and playing on Global Poker

Players can register accounts at Global Poker via Facebook or Google, or they can just use an email address. Gold Coins can then be purchased by using a credit or debit card (Mastercard or American Express), or through the Skrill online wallet.

In order to exchange Sweeps Coins for cash and withdraw the money, players have to provide further information in order to verify their account. This includes submitting photo identification and proof of address. Redeeming winnings for cash also requires registering a bank account with the site.

Popular poker games online in Texas

If Texas ever decides to allow online poker, you will find a variety of games online. Meanwhile, if you check out Global Poker, you’ll discover many popular variants available to play.

Because online poker doesn’t have staffing issues the way that live poker rooms do, online poker rooms can offer any number of games at any one time, and you can often have your pick. You can even play multiple games at the same time.

The most common online poker game is the same as the most common game in live poker. No-limit Texas hold’em been the top poker game in the world for more than two decades, and the no-limit version shows no sign of relinquishing its crown. No matter the poker site you visit, you will be able to find NLHE.

The second-most common online poker game is pot-limit Omaha. PLO is much the same as Texas hold’em, but each player gets dealt four cards instead of two. At showdown, you must use exactly two of the cards in your hand to form a five-card hand with three community cards.

However, the two cards out of the four that you use can change from street to street, and draws are sometimes more valuable than made hands. Because of the need to see the river more often, PLO pots have a tendency to become quite large, often larger than the average NLHE pot. It is for this reason that people often consider PLO an “action game.”

Other common games on online poker sites include the following:

  • limit hold’em
  • limit Omaha hi-lo and pot-limit Omaha hi-lo
  • seven-card stud and seven-card stud hi-lo
  • Pineapple and Crazy Pineapple (another hold’em variation with different rules)

These games are usually available as tournaments, and you can play many of them in cash games, fast-fold games, and sit and go’s.

Where to play poker in Texas

There are a couple of other places where you can play live poker in the state.

Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino poker

As noted, there are no commercial casinos in Texas. There are three federally recognized Native American tribes based in the state. But only one of them, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, is currently authorized to operate a casino. The other two have a more limited selection of games, including electronic bingo.

The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino Hotel first opened in 1996, was rebuilt in 2004, and then expanded again in 2013. It resides in Eagle Pass, about 100 miles south of San Antonio, right near the Mexico border. The casino has a Class II gaming license, meaning certain games of chance like bingo and keno are allowed. So, too, are non-banked card games, including poker. Like other Class II establishments, Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino features slot-like games that are permitted because they are technically versions of bingo.

The poker room at Kickapoo Lucky Eagle has 12 tables. The room typically spreads cash games and does not run tournaments.

Card clubs in Texas

As mentioned, there are around 60 private card rooms located throughout Texas, including in and around major cities like Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. These establishments range from small clubs with just four or five tables to large rooms with 30 or more. While most of the smaller clubs stick with cash games only, the larger ones often host tournaments, some with large fields and prize pools of more than $1 million.

These clubs regularly invite attention from authorities given how they creatively skirt the gambling laws. Most charge fees for club membership and/or time spent in the club rather than collect rake from pots as regular-licensed poker rooms do.

In essence, in order for them to operate and remain technically legal, the poker clubs have to prove they are not profiting off the actual games. Serving drinks and food and charging for other incidentals is seen by some as “profiting off the game” while poker rooms see the concessions business as separate from the gaming.

Understandably, opinions differ over how to define the poker clubs’ system.

History of poker in Texas

Poker stories involving Texas date back to the first half of the 19th century when the game was first introduced.

One of the earliest involves Jim Bowie, who died alongside Davy Crockett defending the Alamo in 1836. Some years earlier, Bowie took on some steamboat card sharps in a famous poker game in which he caught one of the men cheating and killed him in a duel (or so one version of the story goes).

During the 19th century, poker first spread throughout the southern and western states, including Texas. El Paso in particular was one of many cities where poker players frequently gathered at gambling houses.

Texas was also the site of the first meeting between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, a couple of poker-playing Old West heroes frequently depicted in movie westerns. Bat Masterson, another prominent Old West gambler, also starred in Texas-based tales involving both card playing and gunplay. Lottie Deno “the Poker Queen”, made a name for herself in Texas and led to the creation of the character Miss Kitty in the TV show Gunsmoke and also Laura Denbow in the movie Gunfight At the OK Corral.

The 20th century saw several Texas natives figure prominently in poker’s history, among them Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, Crandall Addington, Jack Straus, and TJ Cloutier. Such players all gained fame at the WSOP, which was started in Las Vegas by another Texan, Jack Binion.

The origins of Texas hold’em are mostly clouded in mystery, although players like Moss and Brunson have confirmed they first played the game in Texas. Moss once suggested he encountered hold’em as early as 1930. Meanwhile, Brunson says he first played it in the late 1950s, including in underground games on Exchange Avenue in Fort Worth.

In 2007, a Texas lawmaker from Robstown passed a resolution declaring hold’em was invented in his hometown during the “early 1900s.” Even so, there exists no support for such a claim.

In any event, the popularity of Texas hold’em as poker’s most popular variant has guaranteed the state’s continued association with America’s favorite card game.

Texas online poker FAQ

Is online poker legal in Texas?

No, not for real money. In fact, real money online poker sites are only legal in a handful of US states, and Texas is not one of them. That means you cannot play real money poker games at sites like PokerStarsBetMGM Poker, or

Can you play online poker at sweepstakes sites?

Yes, in Texas you can play online poker using virtual currencies at social and sweepstakes casinos.

When will Texas legalize online poker?

Not any time soon. The Legislature would have to change the constitution to do this. Texas would likely first have to legalize retail resort casinos before considering any sort of online gambling expansion. No further gambling legislation will be taken up until 2025 at the earliest. 

Are poker rooms legal in Texas?

It depends on who you ask. There are approximately 60 private poker clubs currently operating in the state, although the legal status of these Texas card rooms has been frequently challenged. Legislation has been introduced both to legalize the clubs and to prohibit them entirely, but none of those bills advanced.

What is the legal age to play poker in Texas?

The private Texas card rooms require you to be at least 21 to play. The minimum age to play poker on social and sweepstakes sites like Global Poker is 18.