Poker In Illinois

Cardrooms and online poker options in Illinois

If you’re looking for Illinois online poker updates, you’ve come to the right page. We have all the latest information about what’s happening with online poker in the Prairie State.

As Illinois expands its gambling offerings, it’s natural to wonder if online poker will get some love. For now, Illinois does not have any online poker sites. However, with promotional sweepstakes sites, you have an option for playing.

One social site, Global Poker, offers online poker action with the chance to win cash prizes. We will discuss how the site functions and remains legal in the sections below.

Global Poker accepts Illinois poker players

Is online poker legal in Illinois?

No. State law does not allow Illinois online poker sites to operate now.

Why can I find sites to play?

Many unregulated online poker sites operate from outside the US. They are not subject to the same standards and practices you will find for regulated gaming in Illinois.

You are taking several risks when you visit one of these operators. For one thing, it’s not always easy to determine if you are dealing with legitimate sites. They may not be running a fair site or be secure locations for your money and personal information. Confirming their legitimacy is not always easy because they operate from outside the country.

Their status as exterior entities to the US also means that the legal status of these sites is not settled, and it would only take a liberal legal interpretation and some law enforcement zeal to slam the door on your access and prevent you from recovering the funds in your account.

For now, the best thing for Illinois poker players to do is use a promotional sweepstakes site or wait patiently for domestic real money online poker to launch in your state. It’s undoubtedly frustrating, but it’s also the smart thing to do.

Will Illinois online poker be regulated?

Hard to say. There is legislative momentum for legalizing Illinois online poker, but we don’t know when this might happen.

The good news, however, is that the House and Senate introduced online casino bills in 2021 and included online poker in the texts. So, if Illinois online casinos are eventually regulated, it’s hard to envision online poker being left behind.

Neither online casino bill passed in the May legislative session, but the issue will certainly be brought up again in future sessions. In the meantime, let’s talk about your poker options in Illinois as they stand right now.

What are social poker sites?

Promotional sweepstakes poker sites are a bit of a conundrum. They look and feel like regular online poker sites, but they are somehow legal to play in most states. What gives?

It’s essential to understand the definition of sweepstakes. You may have played sweepstakes games before, like Publishers Clearing House or McDonald’s Monopoly, but you probably couldn’t tell what a sweepstakes contest is aside from a prize giveaway.

A sweepstakes contest or social site must abide by specific rules. First, it must be free to enter. That’s why, for every sweepstakes game you encounter, it will insist that no purchase is necessary.

Second, it must pay out the prize that it advertises. So, even though you’ve never had a visit from the PCH Prize Patrol, somebody always does. Perhaps the most surprising thing about those giveaways is that they are required by law not to be a scam.

Sweepstakes must also operate within a designated timeframe, with a definite beginning and end. They can’t last forever.

Now, you may be wondering how that translates into a poker site. Typically, the answer lies in the site’s practice of offering two separate currencies.

A site will offer its play currency as a purchasable item. Whenever a player buys, he or she receives that play money, but at times, they also will receive a complement of chips that he or she can eventually withdraw for various prizes.

Writing a request to the site directly for some of its currency is also possible. Although the site will make it a pain to do, it is required by law to give away actual entries to anyone who asks.

The social poker site of choice – Global Poker

Although there are other promotional sweepstakes sites, the clear choice for playing poker is Global Poker, a social poker site for US players. Global is a member of the VGW Holdings family and, as such, offers games using both its play money, Gold Coins, and its sweeps currency, Sweeps Coins.

Players with Sweeps Coins can use the currency to play games within Global Poker to win additional Sweeps Coins. Any Sweeps Coins won through promotional play can be redeemed for real prizes.

Gold Coins, on the other hand, have no value outside of Global Poker, and can only be used to play games on the site.

Global is notable for its smooth interface and volume of games. You can usually find games at most hours of the day. Although the majority are hold’em games, there also are Omaha High games active onsite. Crazy Pineapple might also be available as a tournament at times.

Global also has sit and go’s, jackpot sit and go’s and fast fold poker to complement its cash game offerings. You can find a wide range of buy-in levels in all types of games.

For Illinois players, your best option is almost certainly Global Poker. It operates transparently and has constant action available. If Global is the best you can do for online poker, you are doing just fine.

Poker apps vs. downloading a poker site

Almost everyone is using a smartphone or other mobile device these days. Many of us manage a portion of our lives with them, and they are usually a source of fun.

It’s no surprise that online poker apps for Apple and Android do exist. For states with real money online poker, you usually can use the appropriate app for your device or download a poker client to your computer.

For promotional sweepstakes sites, it’s less reliable that there will be an app. Global has noticeably refrained from creating an app or client and offers an optimized browser version of its site.

Online poker is one of the few games that is likely best played on a traditional computer. The breadth of graphics that are required and the difficulty that comes with multi-tabling on a mobile device mean that mouse-based play is superior for many people.

That’s not to say that you cannot use the app or the app is no good. Poker is simply a graphics-heavy presentation between the table, cards and other players in seats. You need to have more information available at all times than you do for other gambling games, so the increased real estate that computer screens offer is quite valuable.

Online poker tournaments in Illinois

In general, poker tournaments have lasting appeal because they offer a good bang for your buck and a chance at a big prize. Rather than the grind of cash gameplay, where you might double or triple your money on a good day, tournaments offer the possibility of prizes many multiples higher than your investment, and they cap the amount you can lose.

Tournaments are popular online, too. Online poker sites run tournament series in much the same way as the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour. Players throw their money into a prize pool, start with the same amount of chips and play until one has it all.

As is often the case, No Limit Texas Hold’em tournaments are the most common type. However, it is often possible to find games like Pot-Limit Omaha, stud, limit poker and Omaha Hi-Lo featured as choices. Global Poker, the best option for Illinois players right now, has tournament options in hold’em, PLO and, somewhat strangely, crazy pineapple.

However, regulated online poker would have a profound impact on the tournament opportunities available to you in Illinois. Although winning money through promotional sweepstakes tournaments on Global Poker is possible, that potential would grow by an order of magnitude with full access to regulated poker sites.

Furthermore, assuming that Illinois joined the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) and shared its liquidity with other states, Illinois residents and visitors would suddenly find themselves eligible to compete in some of the biggest poker tournaments online. The prize potential would go through the roof — six-figure and seven-figure wins would be quite possible.

Depending on whether the WSOP chooses to launch in Illinois if real money online poker is legalized, you could even secure the most coveted hardware in all of poker — the WSOP gold bracelet. WSOP now offers bracelet events exclusively online, and Illinois residents could have a real chance of writing their names in the poker history books from their homes one day.

Real money poker vs. play money poker

You may have seen online poker in some capacity before. There are certainly plenty of free sites available, and you can play to your heart’s content. You may also have played live poker in an Illinois casino. If so, you’re familiar with many of the games and elements that you might see online.

However, you need to know about the essential differences that you will encounter when and if online poker in Illinois becomes a reality. As it turns out, the game is quite different from other forms.


The first thing that you’ll notice is how much faster online poker is from its live counterpart. Whether you’re on a free play site, a promotional sweepstakes site, or real money online poker Illinois site, you will see at least twice as many hands as you would live.

It’s this speed that generates many of the claims that online poker is rigged. Bad beats and coolers seem to happen more often online because they actually do. The problem is that everything happens more often online. We just don’t remember the increased number of pocket aces, flopped sets and suckouts from which we benefit as well as the tough beats.

The level of play is also much higher online, partly due to the speed. Simply put, it is much easier to rack up experience if you see twice as many hands. Many players play more than one table at a time, so they likely see many more hands than a live player.

Of course, it’s not just the number of hands that guarantee increased skill. Serious online poker players can also use various tools that help them track their play and the play of their opponents. Although some sites are beginning to crack down on using heads-up displays (HUDs), situational hand charts, and hand history data software, players have been using these programs for years and have seen their games improve dramatically because of them.

Available poker games

Another major difference between live and online poker is the pure availability of games at your disposal. Although you may have to wait for a table online, the time you wait will likely be a matter of seconds, rather than the several minutes or hours you’d have to wait awkwardly at a live poker room.

Even if your chosen site has only full tables, you can always begin another one. Naturally, the poker site is fine with it, and it doesn’t have to staff it like a live room would, so you can get a full game going from nothing in very little time.

The site will never run out of open tables, either. Space requirements simply aren’t an issue. Neither are game-type limitations. While live poker rooms can only offer the games that players are willing to play, online sites can offer an entire roster of poker games at any time.

Most players will choose No Limit Texas Hold’em as their game. However, you can usually find options for Pot-Limit Omaha on most sites. Bigger sites might also have opportunities to play Limit Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, stud, stud hi-lo, crazy pineapple or razz. A few sites might even introduce their own variants from time to time.

Different table sizes are available for play, as well. You can compete on two-handed, six-handed or nine-handed tables on most sites.

The stakes that you can find will vary, too. Online poker sites famously offer players the opportunity to play games for pennies — something you’d never find in a live casino. However, it is also possible to find some very big games online. There are a sizable number of poker pros who work extensively online, so the money is out there.

You will also have your choice as to the type of game you wish to play. Cash games are always available, and you can usually find a tournament beginning at any time, too.

Additionally, most sites offer sit and go tournaments, which commence as soon as a predetermined number of players buy in. There is also a variant of sit and go’s that is becoming more common — the jackpot sit and go. These games are hyper-turbo, winner-take-all tournaments that pit you against two or three other players. The prize pool for the tournament is randomly generated as the tournament begins and can be many times higher than the buy-in.

The last type of game you’ll find online are fast fold games. These are cash games in which you are moved to another table as soon as you finish playing your current hand (either by folding or winning). It’s a fun way to reduce the time you spend waiting for hands to end.

Account management

One difference, which may be a downside for some, is that you cannot play poker anonymously online. Unlike finding a seat in a live casino without much fanfare, you must create an account and submit bits of personal information to play on your chosen site.

You will also have to provide selected financial information to fund your account. It is not possible to play for real money unless you make a deposit, and the only ways to do so are through the options that poker sites offer.

Make sure to check the ways to deposit and withdraw before you settle on a site. It is valid to choose a different site because you can’t find a banking option you like. However, most sites will offer multiple deposit methods to find something that works. Typically, you’ll have these options:

  • Credit or debit cards
  • Electronic checks (ACH)
  • Electronic wallets (PayPal, Skrill, Neteller)
  • Online banking/wire transfers
  • Prepaid cards
  • PayNearMe (via 7-Eleven)
  • Cash at a land-based partner’s cage

Obviously, not every site will have all of these options. In particular, the option to deposit at a cage is quite hit-or-miss, so don’t rely upon it as your primary method at first.

However, one thing you should do as you begin that first deposit is to check this site for any bonus codes or bonus options that are available to new players. Online poker sites are ready to give you free site credits, tournament tickets or other goodies if you give them a try, and we will likely have the best offers that you can find.

Warning about playing free money poker games

If you want to play poker online for free, that’s fine. There are plenty of social casinos and play money sites around, including PlayWPT, Zynga and Big Fish.

We do need to caution against using these sites as practice for the real deal, however. Free money games suffer from a fundamental gameplay flaw that could prove disastrous for the enterprising online poker player.

Because play money chips are worthless, players do not play with any sense of skill or rationality. Free money games usually feature an all-in on every hand, and some players seem to shove their “money” in the middle every single hand.

So, although you can play and try to hit big hands, you’re not going to get very far playing correctly on free money sites, or playing a real money site like a free money site.

Illinois poker laws

The chief law that governs poker in Illinois is the Riverboat Gambling Act of 1990. This act opened up the possibility of casinos in Illinois at a time when casinos outside of Nevada and Atlantic City were quite rare.

The law itself provided for 10 casino licenses to be distributed at the discretion of the Illinois Gaming Board. Interestingly, according to the original language of the bill, each casino had to be a genuine riverboat and navigate one of Illinois’ waterways on a regular basis. The boats did not gain permission to moor permanently to a fixed location until 1999.

All 10 licenses have now been distributed and used to open casinos in Illinois. The last license went to Midwest Gaming and Entertainment in 2005 for the property that eventually became the Rivers Casino Des Plaines.

The Riverboat Gambling Act has become the backbone of Illinois gambling law in the years since. Other laws have amended the act or added provisions for elements like online lottery, video gambling terminals, and more recently, sports betting.

However, none of the tweaks to the law have addressed poker in any meaningful way. The 2019 gambling expansion, which opened the door for online and retail sports betting, omitted any mention of online poker.

But in 2021, the House and Senate introduced internet gaming bills that included online poker. Neither garnered enough support to pass, but there is enough interest in the legislature that the issue will certainly be addressed at future sessions.

As it stands, Illinois residents and visitors can make use of the four poker rooms inside one of Illinois’ retail casinos.

Are home poker games legal in Illinois?

No. Even though Illinois has poker rooms in the state and is not averse to gambling, home poker games are illegal to play in the Prairie State.

It’s not just a slap on the wrist, either. A home poker game constitutes a Class A misdemeanor and carries up to a year of jail time, years of probation and thousands in fines as part of its penalties.

Illinois cardrooms near me

Illinois is home to four cardrooms: Rivers poker room, Grand Victoria Casino poker room, Hollywood Aurora poker room and Bally’s poker room. Each one is at one of Illinois’ casino properties. There are no legal standalone facilities in the state. Harrah’s Joliet and Harrah’s Metropolis permanently closed their poker rooms.

Due to surprisingly specific laws about Illinois gambling, these four cardrooms are the only places that you can play poker legally.

Poker RoomAddressTo Reserve A SeatNumber of TablesGames OfferedNotes
Grand Victoria Casino - Elgin250 S. Grove Ave., Elgin, IL 60120847-531-775313NLHE, PLO, LHEOpen 10 a.m.-4 a.m., Wednesdays-Sundays
Hollywood Casino Aurora1 W. New York St., Aurora, IL 60506630-801-747114NLHE, LHEOpen 3 p.m.-3 a.m., Wednesdays-Sunday
Bally's Quad City Casino & Hotel777 Bally Blvd., Rock Island, IL 61201309-756-46006NLHE, PLO, LHE, O8/B, STUDOpen 4 p.m. to midnight, Wednesdays-Sundays
Rivers Casino3000 S. River Road, Des Plaines, IL  60018888-307-077722NLHE, PLO, LHE, O8/B, STUD24 hours

Future regulated online poker in Illinois

There are plans to bring online poker to Illinois, but not everyone is on board. It looks as though online poker will be included in online casino legislation, so the two are a package deal.

We know this because proposed 2021 House and Senate internet gaming bills also included online poker. Neither bill passed in the most recent legislative session, but there is interest and willpower among certain members of the legislature.

This feels like a situation where online poker will be regulated in Illinois at some point, but it’s difficult to say when. Other states legalizing online poker could have a positive effect. But for now, online poker in Illinois will remain unregulated in the state for the foreseeable future.

Wrapping up

So, long story short, online poker largely remains a forbidden commodity in Illinois, at least in the traditional sense. Popular companies like PokerStars and WSOP are not cleared to operate in the state at this time.

However, Illinois is trending toward online gambling. Since 2010, the IL Legislature has approved expansions to the state’s gambling profile every two or three years, so another bill might be due in a short period of time. There have been proposals for online casino and online poker in 2021, but nothing has had enough support to pass.

For now, Illinois residents will have to console themselves with the four cardrooms in the state and Global Poker. They can also play at one of the 10 casinos, two racetracks, various off-track locations, video gambling terminals or the state lottery, so there are plenty of things to do in Illinois.

For now, stay patient. Online poker in Illinois could happen one day.

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