William Hill Poker
William Hill Poker

Top 10 Best and Worst Places to Play Poker in the USA

This list is aimed to our friends outside of the U.S., who may be unsure on their itinerary, and may want to play poker along with whatever else they plan to do.

Ten Best States to Play Poker (In Alphabetical Order)

1. Arizona

The Phoenix/Scottsdale area features some of the best travel, dining, and leisure options.  Over 20 Indian casinos are spread throughout the state that features poker games.  Casino Arizona at Talking Stick in Scottsdale is Vegas-caliber with a magnificent Poker Room.

Radisson Fort McDowell Resort in Arizona USA

Radisson Fort McDowell Resort in Arizona USA

The Radisson Fort McDowell Resort in Fountain Hills has first-rate hotel, golf, and casino with a small, but very player-friendly, Poker Room.  Home games are legal too.  One other thing – Bring your folding fan.  Summer temperatures in Phoenix routinely exceed 45° Celsius.

2. California

In addition to being a travel destination of choice for just about anything, California is also a great destination for poker players.  Believe it or not, California has more poker rooms (112 venues with at least one table) than Nevada and the three largest Poker Rooms in the country.  Poker can be played in a mix of both Indian Reservation Casinos and City-run Card Rooms.  The Card Rooms are just that – not a single slot machine can be found.  Even card games like Blackjack are prohibited, as games are limited to those where players play against each other and not against “The House.” These Card Rooms also offer a variety of exotic “Asian” games, such as panguingue, pai gow poker, and Chinese poker.  With Poker Rooms at every corner of the state, you should have no problems finding a game.  Some recommended places:

  • Northern California (Santa Clara): Bay 101; Casino M8trix
  • Southern California (Los Angeles Area): Hollywood Park, The Bicycle (135 tables), Normandie Casino, Commerce Casino (160 tables), Hawaiian Gardens (130 tables)
  • Ventura County: Player’s Casino
  • San Diego Area: Viejas, Barona, Sycuan, Ocean’s Eleven

3. Colorado

Another nice vacation spot if you like the great outdoors.  Poker rooms are concentrated around three old west towns: Cripple Creek (an hour’s drive from Colorado Springs), and Central City/Blackhawk (an hour’s drive from Denver).  These card rooms tend to be small and only a few of them run tournaments.

4. Connecticut

Home to two large and well-known Indian casinos: Foxwoods Casino (100+ poker tables) and Mohegan Sun (40+ poker tables).  These are ideal destinations if your vacation takes you to New England spots like Boston, Cape Cod, or Newport (which don’t have gambling).

5. Delaware

Nicknamed “The First State” (as in the first state to ratify The Constitution of the United States), it is also one of the first states to legalize online gambling and one of the first to launch a state-run online portals (Delaware Park Online).  Delaware also offers very nice casinos at horse tracks (called “Racinos”) located at Delaware Park (Wilmington) and Dover Downs (There’s a third small casino at Harrington).  If you are a race car fan, you can schedule a vaca around one of the two NASCAR events at nearby Dover Downs speedway.

6. Florida

A very popular destination for UK visitors for sun and fun, there are also several high-quality card rooms in North Florida (Jacksonville), Gulf Coast (Tampa) and in the Fort Lauderdale area.  Many are situated in other gambling venues, such as horse tracks, dog tracks, jai alai, and Indian casinos.  Florida offers one big coup that other states do not: The minimum gambling age there is 18.

7. Mississippi

Respectable poker rooms can be found in licensed casinos throughout the Gulf Coast region.  State law restricted gambling to floating barges, until Hurricane Katrina wiped out nearly every one of these structures.  Since then, laws have been relaxed and now allow traditional casino hotels on land.

8. Nevada

The Rio All-Suites Hotel is home for the World Series of Poker and becomes the epicenter of poker from late-May through July.

Rio All-Suites Hotel

Rio All-Suites Hotel – Home of WSOP

That said, poker is not what paved the streets of Las Vegas in gold.  Pit games, like slots, Blackjack, and craps is where The House makes their money and they dominate the landscape of most Vegas’ casino floors.  Poker rooms in Las Vegas, while opulent and featuring high-stakes cash games and big buy-in tournaments are relatively small.  Only one casino, The Venetian, boasts a poker room in the U.S. Top-10 in terms of number of tables.  Several casinos in Las Vegas don’t even have poker.  Casinos near the Rio, like the Gold Coast and The Palms (home of the infamous Ghostbar and Rain) no longer have poker rooms.  It always pays to do your homework before choosing your hotel/casino destination.  The last thing you want to do in Vegas is pick a hotel that does not have what you are looking for in poker, and have to pay big money on taxi fares.  Of course, other cities in Nevada feature gambling and poker, particularly in Reno/Tahoe (which offers more recreation options than Las Vegas).  They also have a thriving legalized online poker portal (UltimatePoker.com)

9. New Jersey

Gambling is still restricted to the seaside town of Atlantic City and vicinity.  Still, they have some of the nicest poker rooms and best tournaments on the East Coast, which includes the outstanding Borgata.  They’re also one of the few states to legalize and launch real money online poker.

10. Pennsylvania

An up-and-coming state. Good poker rooms can be found in Philadelphia (Parx Casino, Harrah’s Chester) and Pittsburgh (Rivers Casino).

10 Worst States to Play Poker

1. Alabama

“Sweet Home Alabama” is anything but for poker players.  The state has been very aggressive in recent years in both attempting to limit the types of games that Indian (Tribal) Casinos can offer and is seeking to increase the criminal penalties for illegal gambling.  The penalties for running or participating in a gambling operation there are far more severe than average.  Even individual gamblers face some of the harshest penalties in the entire country just for simply participating in gambling.  The Good News: Unless you want to watch college football, no one should have a compelling reason to go to Alabama.

2. Arkansas

Another Southern “Bible Belt” state in our “Bottom 5” for poker.  It is specifically illegal to bet money on a game or during a game of poker.  Another state that does not offer much for the overseas traveler, anyway.

3. Georgia

Another “Bottom 5” worst state. You have no (legal) real money options here.  Pity, as Atlanta, Augusta, and Savannah are decent travel locales.

4. Hawaii

No form of regulated gaming exists on the islands.  Some of this has to do with the consequences of compulsive gamblers being stuck on an island thousands of miles from the Continental U.S (or anything landmass for that matter).  Admittedly, no one has any business sitting in a dark, smoky casino when you are in Hawaii.  Go to the beach, or play golf, or feast at a luau.  There’s so much to do there, you won’t mind not playing poker for a few days.

5. Nebraska

One of the worst states for poker players.  No casinos exist, and even home poker games are illegal.  You truly can’t play Omaha in Omaha.

6. South Carolina

One of the few states to actually “recriminalize” gambling, after complaints over video poker rooms.  Today, no brick and mortar casinos exist, and their laws don’t even permit home games.  A nice-enough travel location if you like to golf or go to the beach.  They do offer a “Casino Cruise” boat out of Myrtle Beach, that takes you out to international waters, and you can play poker to your heart’s content (until you get seasick).

7. Tennessee

Tennessee poker players have no options for poker, other than to travel to other states/casinos.  The sad thing is you have a 7-hour drive to the nearest casinos in Mississippi or Indiana.

8. Texas

There is actually an Indian Casino (The Kickapoo Lucky Eagle) two hours from San Antonio that does have a small, poker room.  But that’s it.  It’s not worth the drive if you heading to the Dallas or Houston areas.  Even home poker games are not legal.  Like Kinky Friedman says, “We invented Texas Hold’em and we can’t even play it in Texas.”

9. Utah

With the majority of the state of the Mormon faith, alcohol and gambling are a big no-no.  You can’t even buy a lottery ticket there.  But at least it’s a short drive from Salt Lake City to Winnemucca, Nevada.

10. Virginia

They say “Virginia is for lovers.” But it sure is not for poker players.  No casinos exist in the state, and there’s no movement to legalize casinos anytime soon.  But many of these states that are so adverse to casinos, like Virginia, are more than happy to separate you from your money in state-run lotteries which offer almost no chance of winning.

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