With sports betting on the way in Ohio, it’s natural to wonder if other types of online gambling such as online poker might be coming to the Buckeye State.
Whereas sports betting should be available by 2023, don’t expect online poker or other online gambling forms to arrive well after that, if ever. It took several years for the state to legalize sports betting, which would suggest that any additional gambling expansion in Ohio would also take some time.
In any event, legal online poker remains a possibility in Ohio, and even if that doesn’t happen, you can play in person at several poker rooms and clubs in the state. Here is a rundown of your poker options in Ohio, including information about what’s available and speculation about what may arrive in the future.
Is online poker legal in Ohio?
No, there are no legal online poker sites in Ohio. Sites that suggest otherwise are not legitimate options for Ohio players. We’ll explain why below.
Is online poker going to be legal in Ohio soon?
Probably not. At this time, there are no active bills to legalize online poker in the Ohio General Assembly. Furthermore, as we mentioned, it is unlikely that any other gambling expansion is imminent in Ohio until sports betting actually launches. That means an online poker launch in 2022 or 2023 is probably less likely than hitting a one-outer on the river.
However, the chances for a launch at some point down the road may be pretty good. Once sports betting becomes a facet of life in Ohio and lawmakers and others get an idea of the sort of revenue it can produce for the state, that could encourage additional expansion.
Possible Ohio online poker sites
If Ohio ever does allow online poker, naming the potential sites likely to launch wouldn’t be too tough. After all, there are only a handful of poker sites operating legally in the US, so the pool of possibilities is fairly small. We can also consider if any sites have ties to Ohio. Here are the most likely candidates:
PokerStars is one of the top poker sites globally and would be an obvious candidate to launch in Ohio. Additionally, the owner of PokerStars — Flutter Entertainment — also owns FanDuel.
Since FanDuel is active in Ohio as a DFS provider and could soon have an online sportsbook there, Flutter is at least somewhat of a known commodity to Ohio lawmakers and regulators and would likely not struggle to get PokerStars in the door.
BetMGM Poker/partypoker/Borgata Poker
BetMGM Poker is part of the MGM Resorts International family. MGM also owns MGM Northfield Park, one of Ohio’s racinos. Thus, the path for BetMGM Poker to debut in Ohio is quite easy to see. Additionally, given that BetMGM is a joint venture between MGM and the gambling company Entain, partypoker — another Entain site — could also end up in Ohio.
Finally, BetMGM stablemate Borgata Poker, which takes its name from the landmark MGM property in New Jersey, is another possibility.
WSOP.com is the poker site for the World Series of Poker, the world’s best-known poker brand and tournament series. In fact, the WSOP name is strong enough to be nearly synonymous with poker itself. WSOP.com and anything to do with the World Series of Poker are part of Caesars Entertainment. Caesars also operates Eldorado Gaming Scioto Downs in Ohio following Caesars’ 2020 merger with Eldorado Resorts.
888 Poker is its own company and is not part of Caesars. However, WSOP.com and 888 share a partnership agreement for player pool sharing in other states, and it’s possible that 888 would want to expand its profile into Ohio if online poker became available there.
Multi-state online poker
Online poker is the only major type of gambling in the US to take place across state lines, albeit in a limited way. The Wire Act explicitly prohibits sports betting from happening across state lines, and no online casinos have made any interstate connections, either. Of course, poker also requires other players to play, so widening and combining the player pools makes more sense for online poker companies.
A few states have joined together under the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association. New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware each joined the MSIGA several years ago, and Michigan signed on in early 2022. Thus far, only the WSOP.com/888 network of sites has been able to combine player pools in multiple states. However, both PokerStars and BetMGM Poker could also be doing so soon.
The combined player pools mean more players are getting to play against one another. They also mean larger fields and prize pools in online poker tournaments. Were Ohio to legalize online poker, the hope would be that it would follow in the footsteps of its northwestern neighbor Michigan and also join MSIGA, thereby enabling Ohio players to play against people in other states, too.
Types of online poker in Ohio
While online poker is not legal in Ohio, some types of online poker are still available in the state. Let’s first sort out the difference between legal and illegal online poker sites and explain what options Ohio players have.
Legal and regulated sites
These sites are the PokerStars, BetMGMs, and WSOPs of the world. They are legal entities in any US states in which they operate, and they comply with state and federal laws and regulations. Due to the legality and regulation, there are protections and legal recourse in place if players encounter any issues.
This type of site is unavailable in Ohio at this time.
Foreign and unregulated sites
Foreign and unregulated sites offer their services brazenly to Ohioans every day. Worse yet, these sites may claim to be legal in Ohio when no such law exists on the books.
The reason these sites can make such a claim boils down to a bit of semantic misdirection. While no law gives them permission to operate, there is also no law explicitly banning them. The gambling statutes in Ohio merely issue a blanket ban, carve out specific exceptions as needed, and do not mention online poker sites specifically. Therefore, these sites claim to exist in a sort of legal gray area. You may see them called “gray market” sites from time to time.
Of course, the questionable legality is only one reason Ohio players avoid these sites. Another is the fact that since these sites operate outside the US, they are not beholden to US law or Ohio gambling regulations. That means that unlike on legal, regulated sites in other states, if you play on these offshore sites, there is no way to guarantee that you are dealing with a legit company.
If you had any kind of dispute on one of these sites, you may have no legal recourse. We strongly recommend avoiding these sites because of the many risks involved.
Social and sweepstakes sites
The third type of poker site you may come across is one that is legal in Ohio. Social and sweepstakes casinos offer casino-style games to players in almost every state in the country, including Ohio. These sites typically use virtual currencies rather than real money for their games. In some cases, you can even redeem your winnings for cash prizes.
Currently, the most popular sweepstakes poker site is Global Poker. It offers cash games, tournaments and sit and go’s at a variety of buy-in levels, and it provides an option to redeem winnings for cash prizes.
How online poker compares to live poker
If you’ve never played poker online before, you might think that it’s the same game as you’d find in one of Ohio’s live poker rooms. In some regards, it is. In other ways, however, the two are like night and day. Let’s go over the key differences between online poker and the game you play with actual chips and cards.
- Speed of play — Online poker games move quite a bit faster than live games. A typical dealer in a live Texas Hold’em game can deal between 25 and 35 hands per hour. Meanwhile, online poker games typically offer twice as many hands per hour and, in some cases, more.
- Player expertise — The increased speed of play means that players see more hands in a shorter period of time and, in theory, improve their game much faster than the average live player. You will often find that players at equivalent stakes online are stronger on average than their live poker counterparts.
- Bad beats and coolers — Because you can see more hands online, you will encounter more bad beats and coolers than you would playing live. It might seem as though the site has turned against you (aka the “doomswitch”) when, in reality, you are experiencing the same level of card variance that you always do, just at a faster pace.
- Multiple tables at once — When you play live poker, you play at a single table. Meanwhile, multi-tabling is an easy option online. Experienced online poker players typically always have multiple games going at once.
- Minimum buy-in — The minimum buy-in for a live poker game at a casino can often be $100. Occasionally, you’ll find a limit game that only requires a $50 or $60 buy-in, but those are rare. By contrast, online games are available for less than $5.
- Time commitment — Live poker players must allot themselves several hours to play a session. Online games, however, allow you to jump into a game, play two or three hands, and leave without spending more than a few minutes.
- Tells — If you are a “feel” player or rely upon the way that an opponent behaves physically in order to make your decisions, online is going to be much tougher. The only reliable tells online are bet sizes and actions on each street, and perhaps timing tells (although they can be misleading).
- Social engagement — The issue with tells hits upon a larger (and obvious) difference between online and live poker. Live poker is a far richer experience for social engagement, and entertainment than online poker could ever hope to be.
Online poker games
Whereas live poker rooms in Ohio might offer just a few tables of Texas Hold’em and (maybe) a table of Pot Limit Omaha, online poker sites often have more varied options. Along with those two top games, you can often find things like Omaha Hi-Lo (Eight or Better), Stud, Razz, Crazy Pineapple, 2-7 Triple Draw, and Badugi.
Of course, the size of the site matters in terms of its game variety. Smaller sites might only have hold’em and/or Omaha. Larger ones, however, could have all sorts of options, including some esoteric variants that they design themselves. There are even some online-only variants such as “fast-fold” games that are only possible online and wouldn’t work in a live poker room.
Here’s a brief look at some of the games that you’re likely to encounter if Ohio legalizes online poker:
- No limit hold’em — the “Cadillac of poker” and most played variant
- Limit hold’em — a version of hold’em using fixed-limit betting
- Pot Limit Omaha — a hold’em-like variant in which you have four hole cards, not two
- Omaha Hi-Lo (Eight or Better) — a split-pot version of pot-limit Omaha that can also be played at fixed-limit stakes
Depending on the size of the venue or online site, you may also encounter other games like seven-card stud, razz, 2-7 triple draw, Badugi, 6+ hold’em, or mixed games combining multiple variants like H.O.R.S.E.
You might also find off-the-beaten-path variants like Crazy Pineapple, a hold’em variant in which you start with three hole cards instead of two. Global Poker is one site that does have Crazy Pineapple.
One last point of clarification is that Ultimate Texas Hold’em, Casino Hold’em, or any game you find outside of the poker room in live or online settings is not a traditional player-versus-player poker game. Instead, these are house-banked table games that are closer to titles like Let It Ride, Four Card Poker, and Mississippi Stud than they are to their namesake game. Do not be deceived.
Ohio live poker rooms
When looking for live poker in Ohio, you can start by seeking out poker rooms at Ohio casinos:
Ohio is home to numerous private poker clubs, as well. These clubs take fees and do not charge rake in the games, essentially operating in a kind of legal limbo. Because the clubs are not licensed with the same degree of scrutiny and bureaucracy as the casinos, these rooms open and close somewhat frequently and as a result, can be more difficult to track.
With that caveat, here is a current list of poker clubs in Ohio, but we strongly recommend that you double-check online to determine a club’s status before you head out to play:
- Akron: River Room Poker Club
- Beavercreek: The Ruggles Club Dayton
- Cincinnati: The Action Factory Social Club
- Columbus: Shark Tank Poker Club
- Columbus: UnderGround Poker Club
- Coolville: Backwoods Poker Club
- Dayton: Mad River Poker Club
- Hilliard: Deep Stack Poker & Card Room
- Holland: Deep Stax
- Marion: One Eyed Jack’s Poker Club
- Ontario: Gemini Mansfield Poker Club
- Oxford: New Gate Arena Poker Club
- Springboro: King of Clubs
- Steubenville: Viking Social Poker Club
- Toledo: Empire Social Lounge
- Toledo: The Reserve Poker Club
- West Chester Township: Ruggles Blue Cincinnati
Famous Ohio poker players
Ohio may not have a reputation as a hotbed of poker action, but it does have links to some major names. Here are the top poker players with ties to Ohio:
Mike Sexton was one of the most recognizable figures in all of poker for roughly two decades. Sexton’s distinct voice became instantly recognizable for World Poker Tour viewers, who appreciated both Sexton’s immense knowledge of the game and his confident charm next to Vince Van Patten. Sexton was born in Indiana in 1947 but grew up in Dayton and graduated from Ohio State University before moving to Las Vegas to pursue his poker plans. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2009. He died in 2020 after a short battle with prostate cancer.
David “Chip” Reese is one of the greatest poker players ever, and he was born and raised in Centerville, near Dayton. Like many early poker legends, Reese first pursued a more traditional way of life. He earned an economics degree from Dartmouth and a law school acceptance from Stanford before realizing that he could make more money at a poker table. He was so good that he collaborated on Doyle Brunson’s “Super/System” at the age of 28. He was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 1991, which at the time made him the youngest living member. Brunson, for his part, identifies Reese as the greatest poker player of all time. Reese’s unexpected death at age 56 in 2007 left a major hole in the poker world.
David Peters, a Toledo native, is one of the most successful poker players ever. Despite being in his mid-30s, he already ranks near the top of the all-time poker money list, having earned nearly $40 million in tournament winnings. Peters has three WSOP bracelets and is the only two-time series champion at the US Poker Open. He’s not in the Poker Hall of Fame yet, though he no doubt will be inducted at some point after reaching the minimum age requirement of 40. (That age requirement is unofficially known as the “Chip Reese rule” as Reese was 40 when he gained entry.)
Ohio online poker FAQ
Is PokerStars legal in Ohio?
No. Neither PokerStars nor any other real money online poker site is legal in Ohio. The only real money online poker sites that you can find in Ohio are unregulated, and it’s best to avoid them.
What sites can I play in Ohio?
The only online poker sites that are legal in Ohio are social and sweepstakes sites like Global Poker. All other poker sites are either unregulated or inactive in Ohio.
Who would regulate online poker in Ohio if it becomes legal?
The Ohio Casino Control Commission is the primary regulator of legal gambling in the state and will provide oversight for the new online sportsbooks in Ohio. The same regulatory body would likely oversee online poker, as well, if it were to become legal.
Are home poker games legal in Ohio?
Yes. As long as the host isn’t taking any profits, home poker games are legal in Ohio. In fact, there aren’t even any limitations on the stakes for such games.
What is the gambling age for poker rooms in Ohio?
You must be at least 21 to patronize either a casino-based poker room in Ohio or to play in one of the poker clubs in the state.