Georgia Online Poker

Poker has long been America’s favorite card game, although the patchwork nature of US gambling laws has frequently affected the game’s legal standing in areas of the country. Georgia is one such example where neither live nor online poker is currently legal.

Georgia has been looking closely at various forms of gambling expansion of late, but for now online poker is not on the table (so to speak). However, Georgia players can presently play poker online at social and sweepstakes sites.

Here’s an overview of the current status of poker in the Peach State, including a look at current online poker and live poker options and speculation about what other possible hands Georgia poker players could be dealt going forward.

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Is online poker legal in Georgia?

No, real money online poker is not legal in Georgia. Sites that suggest otherwise are not trustworthy.

During the early days of online poker, many sites accepted players from Georgia. But in 2006 the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act caused several of those sites to leave the US. Then in 2011, legal action by the US Department of Justice against several of the remaining sites forced them to cease operating in the US as well. 

So set aside the idea of playing poker for real money on your computer or mobile device in Georgia. However, there are online alternatives.

Social and sweepstakes online poker in Georgia

With real money online poker sites prohibited in Georgia, the only legal online options for poker players in the state are social and sweepstakes sites. Rather than use real money, these sites employ virtual currencies in their games, and in some cases, players can redeem their winnings for cash prizes.

There are several social and sweepstakes online casinos that enable players to play other games online. Most of these don’t offer regular poker, although a few do have video poker. 

The most popular example of a traditional online poker site that follows the sweepstakes model is Global Poker.

Games and tournaments at Global Poker

Global Poker serves most of the US and Canada, which means the player pool is quite large. That translates into a large number of active ring games and online poker tournaments on the site. Global features the following poker variants:

  • Texas Hold’em (no-limit and fixed-limit)
  • Omaha (both high-only and hi-lo)
  • Crazy Pineapple (a version of hold’em involving three hole cards, not two)
  • Caribbean Poker (also known as “casino stud poker”)
  • Surge Poker (a “fast-fold” variant like PokerStars Zoom)

There are short-handed and full-ring “cash” games. There are also a variety of tournaments featuring formats such as freezeouts, re-entries, bounty tournaments, and more. 

Tournaments and tournament series are especially popular on Global Poker, not least because the large player pool creates big fields and significant prizes. There are many daily and weekly tournaments like the following:

  • Daily Hundo
  • Bonanza
  • Sunday Scrimmage
  • Golden Scrimmage
  • Gold Rush

Global Poker also regularly hosts tournament series:

  • Eagle Cup
  • Grizzly Games
  • Rattlesnake Open
  • The Goat
  • Spring Carnival 
  • Summer Ring Dash

Are offshore poker sites safe for Georgia players?

No, offshore real money poker sites are not safe for Georgia poker players.

A quick online search might show online poker sites located outside the US that invite players from Georgia to create accounts, deposit funds, and play in their games. Some of these sites might even claim to be legal for Georgia players. However, that isn’t actually so.

These offshore sites operate outside of Georgia or US law. As a result, Georgia regulators have no oversight over them. If you are playing from Georgia and run into any difficulty playing on such sites, you will have no legal recourse. 

If you encounter any problems with, say, collusion or multi-accounting by opponents or any other fraudulent activity, you can only hope the site responds to your complaints. Even your personal information and funds are potentially in peril since the sites operate outside of Georgia and US jurisdictions.

We, therefore, recommend Georgia poker players do not play on such “rogue” poker sites located outside of the US. Besides being technically illegal in Georgia, the sites present too great a risk to justify playing on them.

When will Georgia allow legal online poker sites?

Georgia certainly will not be legalizing real money poker online in the near future. 

In Georgia, any gambling expansion requires a constitutional amendment authorizing the change. Residents would likely also first have to approve gambling expansion via a ballot referendum. Given the significant number of legal and regulatory hoops to go through, it would take at least a year or two for online poker to launch after legalization. 

Meanwhile, there is zero momentum among lawmakers to pursue online gambling at present. Sports betting has been a topic of discussion and could even become legal soon. The possibility of introducing Georgia casinos has even received discussion. But legalizing online gambling, and thus online poker, would necessarily come much later, if at all.

What legal online poker sites could potentially come to Georgia?

Of all the online gambling “verticals” — sports betting, casino games, poker — online poker is growing at the slowest pace in the US. In the states that have legalized all three gambling options, you’ll find a lot more interest surrounding online casinos or online sportsbooks than for online poker.

A few of the best online poker sites and networks have launched in multiple US states so far. Should Georgia legalize online poker, any of them could potentially launch in the state. Here are the most prominent sites and networks:

  • WSOP.com/888 — currently available in DE, NJ, NV, PA
  • PokerStars — MI, NJ, PA
  • BetMGM/partypoker — MI, NJ, PA

Note that West Virginia has also legalized online poker, although no sites have launched there.

Most of these are “intrastate” online poker sites, meaning players can only play against opponents located within the same state. The WSOP.com/888 network is an exception, taking advantage of an agreement that allows players from multiple states to compete in a shared player pool.

If Georgia were to legalize online poker, expect GA to also only offer intrastate poker initially and perhaps later to join a multi-state agreement. Even if Georgians only can compete against one another, the player pool should rival or even exceed that of other states where online poker is legal.

Live poker in Georgia

There may not be casinos or poker rooms such as you find in other states, but there is legal live poker in Georgia. 

Bar poker” leagues are scattered throughout the state. Such leagues operate in different ways, although most require no buy-ins or fees so as to abide by Georgia’s gambling laws. Typically events are free but offer real cash prizes and other awards. Participants spend money on food and drink at the venues.

The Atlanta Poker Club is a popular bar poker league with events at over a dozen locations in the city.

There are also a few charity poker clubs in the state. Such clubs operate in accordance with the state’s charity gambling laws that allow bingo, raffles and other games with limited stakes in order to raise funds for qualifying nonprofit organizations. Such charity poker clubs require local licenses to operate.

One popular charity poker club is Little Kings & Queens in Buford, a suburb of Atlanta. A second charity poker club recently opened in Duluth (also near Atlanta) called Poker Bar & Grill

Are home poker games legal in Georgia?

No, not according to Georgia law. The state’s penal code offers no exception for home poker games in its prohibition of various types of illegal gambling. 

Georgia Code 16-12-20 and its subsections define which games are legal and which are not. Poker is prohibited, and a “gambling place” covers “any real estate, building, room, tent, vehicle, boat or other property” where gambling occurs. Anyone “who commits the offense of keeping a gambling place shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature.” 

In practice, hosting a small home poker game is not likely to attract the authorities’ attention. Nonetheless, be aware that, strictly speaking, Georgia does not allow home poker games. 

Famous Georgia poker players

When it comes to famous poker players, most would rightly think first of Texas or Nevada as having produced the greater share among US states. But many of poker’s most famous players hail from Georgia, including “home game hero” George Holmes of Atlanta, the runner-up in the 2021 World Series of Poker Main Event out of 6,650 players.

Here are some other famous poker players from Georgia:

Billy Baxter

Hailing from Augusta, Billy Baxter is a true poker great with decades of success versus the game’s best players. Baxter won seven WSOP bracelets, all in non-hold’em games such as deuce-to-seven draw, ace-to-five draw and razz. Baxter was also involved in a landmark federal court case during the 1980s that resulted in professional gamblers being able to declare winnings as income and to deduct losses. In 1997, Baxter famously backed Stu Ungar to play in the WSOP Main Event where the embattled Ungar won his third title. Baxter was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2006.

Josh Arieh

Poker pro Josh Arieh was born in New York but has made Atlanta his home for many years. Arieh has won four WSOP bracelets. Like Baxter, he has enjoyed success in many poker variants, especially pot-limit Omaha (high and hi-lo), where he claimed three of his titles. He also famously finished third in the Main Event in 2004 and second in the Poker Players Championship in 2019. All told, Arieh has earned over $9 million in tournaments. 

David Bach

David Bach of Athens is another Georgian who has enjoyed significant success at the WSOP. He won the prestigious $50,000 World Championship H.O.R.S.E. event in 2009, one of three WSOP bracelets he has claimed. His other bracelets are another H.O.R.S.E. title and a Dealer’s Choice event, further establishing his prowess in mixed games. Bach has over $4 million in lifetime tournament earnings. 

Cary Katz

Cary Katz of Atlanta sits atop the all-time money list for Georgians, having accumulated well over $30 million in tournament winnings thanks to his frequent participation and success in high roller events. Katz founded the website Poker Central, which in turn launched PokerGO, a subscription-based live streaming service that broadcasts poker tournaments and other events. 

Richard Seymour

Richard Seymour is best known as a standout defensive tackle who won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022. Georgians also know Seymour for his spectacular four-year career with the Georgia Bulldogs (1997-2000). However, Seymour has also proven himself a skilled poker player, having accumulated over $600,000 in tournament winnings, including a deep run in the 2019 WSOP Main Event when he finished 131st out of 8,569 players.

Georgia online poker FAQ

Who would regulate Georgia online poker?

The Georgia Lottery Corporation presently oversees the state-run lottery, including the online sales of lottery tickets. It would stand to reason that the GLC would serve as the regulatory body for any form of legal online gambling in the state, including online poker.

What would be the minimum age to play online poker in Georgia?

Should Georgia legalize online gambling of any kind, including online poker, the minimum age to participate would undoubtedly be 21 years of age. Currently proposed legislation to authorize sports betting sets the minimum at 21, as would likely be the case for any other gambling expansion. The Georgia Lottery does allow those 18 and older to purchase tickets (including online lottery tickets), but 21 would be the minimum for online poker. 

Can I play online poker on a smartphone?

Yes, many online poker sites are available to play either on a computer  (desktop or laptop) or a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. When playing on a laptop or desktop computer, you will typically download a standalone client on which to play, although sometimes you can play the games within a web browser. For your mobile device, you would need to download an app to play the games. Usually, these online poker apps are available both for iOS (Apple) and Android devices. Note: The sweepstakes-based Global Poker site discussed above is browser-based only, with no app available. You can, however, play on Global Poker via mobile devices as long as you use a web browser. 

Is PokerStars legal in Georgia?

No, PokerStars is not legal in Georgia, at least not for real money play. Georgians can play on PokerStars using “play chips,” but you cannot play the games for real money from Georgia. Until 2011, PokerStars did accept US players, including those from Georgia, but that is no longer the case. PokerStars operates in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania now, but not in Georgia.

Can I play on other states’ online poker sites from Georgia?

No, you cannot. A handful of states have legalized online gambling. Some, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada, allow online poker for real money, as well. Other states may do the same in the near future. In each case, though, players must be within the state’s borders to play real money games on online poker sites in that state. The sites use geolocation technology to ensure no one from outside the state joins the games. That means (for example) you cannot play on WSOP New Jersey or PokerStars Michigan from Georgia. If you are a Georgia resident, however, you can play on poker apps and sites if you visit one of those states, but not from GA.