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US Poker Sites
The Death Of U.S. Online Poker Has Been Greatly Exaggerated
After the day a lot of U.S. poker players call Black Friday, when U.S. authorities seized the domains of several of the largest poker sites still offering play to Americans, including giants Poker Stars and Party Poker, a lot of players felt that online poker for Americans died that day.
While the loss of access to these huge poker sites was certainly a big blow, the impact of this was greatly exaggerated by the media, and in the eyes of way too many U.S. poker players as well. Instead of everything getting shut down, it was more like a couple of larger stores closed down, but people who still wanted to shop still had several other choices among the stores that were still open.
While the sites that still stood after the dust settled from Black Friday were nowhere near as big as Poker Stars or Full Tilt Poker, this still left some pretty good choices out there, and these choices became all the more better since they were the only ones left.
Some players lamented about the loss of the huge traffic and the opportunity to play a massive amount of tables at the same time being lost, the glass may have had less water in it but you really need to focus not on how much was lost but how much there was in the glass now, and it was far from empty.
The smaller size of these other rooms were probably their saving grace in fact, as they were not really big enough for the U.S. Department of Justice to become too concerned about. Later on they did make a small play to try to disrupt them, but it wasn’t really successful, as the surviving poker rooms did learn their lesson from Black Friday.
What Went Wrong Here
It was more of a fluke than anything that these large sites were taken down. Offshore poker sites are completely outside the jurisdiction of the United States, although in order to service American players they still need to get their withdrawals to them, and do so in a fairly efficient way.
There was a lot of competition among the biggest poker rooms to provide American players with what they perceived as acceptable withdrawal times, and the major poker rooms, with significant resources to devote to this and a lot of money on the line, came up with some pretty sophisticated ways to be able to keep a lot of funds stateside.
This worked fairly well for quite a while, especially with Poker Stars, although as we found out later Full Tilt had been mismanaged rather badly but at least some of it resulted from their attempt to try to stay competitive in the U.S. market.
Then the U.S. authorities got a hold of a former insider who had intimate knowledge of the goings on and was happy to spill the beans. The jig was up so to speak and they pounced, seizing hundreds of millions of dollars of players’ money.
So the industry has certainly learned its lesson here, and practices have changed to prevent this type of exposure. This did result in a transitional period where withdrawal times tended to be pretty long, the better poker rooms have adapted pretty well to this and now offer the best of both worlds so to speak, with reasonable withdrawal times without having players’ money exposed to the kind of seizures we saw in the past.
The Legality Of Online Poker In The U.S.
Contrary to what a lot of people have thought, there has never been any enforceable federal law against online poker. There could have been, but they just never did make any federal law against it.
Federal authorities did assert from the beginning that the Wire Act did prohibit it, but that claim was quickly struck down in federal court, all the way back in 2002, finding that it did not apply to forms of online gambling other than sports betting.
The government makes laws and the courts apply them, so it’s not as if there should have been any dispute here, however the Department of Justice stubbornly held on to their view for many years afterward, in spite of it having no legal basis.
The UIGEA of 2006 in fact, at least as far as its application to online poker and casino gambling, did not make any of this illegal in itself, it only addressed the transferring of payments involved in illegal gambling. Since there really wasn’t any federal law prohibiting this, it therefore really didn’t apply at all to these forms, unless they were illegal at the state level, or until a federal law was passed that applied to it.
No federal law has emerged though to this day, and in fact the Department of Justice finally ended up admitting that the courts were right and that the Wire Act really didn’t apply to anything else but sports betting, and therefore the UIGEA doesn’t apply to this either.
There are several states though that either have laws specifically prohibiting online gambling, including online poker, and some other states where it might be illegal, so it’s not that it’s a free for all by any means, and the UIGEA still applies or may apply in certain instances.
U.S. facing online poker rooms these days are being cautious here, and steer clear of states that now have laws against online gambling. The states of Washington, Louisiana, and Utah all have laws specifically making online poker illegal. New York’s laws at least seem to, depending on how you interpret them, and it was New York state law that was used as the basis for the Black Friday indictments, so this so if it doesn’t apply they sure don’t act like it doesn’t.
None of our recommended poker rooms offer play to players in these states, and there are some other ones who have been put on the list as well, which differs by poker room. Bovada is the most permissive, and Carbon Poker is the most conservative. As this does tend to change, my recommendation is to simply try to open an account at the poker room of your choice, and if you can do it, you are permitted to play there, and if not, you can try another one of our choices that we have for you.
If they let you play on your site, you can play there with confidence, and it’s just a matter of making sure you’re on a good site that still lets you play, which brings us to our recommended poker sites for you.
About Carbon Poker
Carbon Poker has also been around for quite a few years now, being the flagship of the Merge Poker Network, which has enjoyed some nice popularity over the years. They decided to remain in the U.S. market after Black Friday and were the most popular U.S. facing poker network for most of this time, until fairly recently being eclipsed by Bovada.
The folks at Merge and Carbon Poker aren’t taking this lying down though, It isn’t that they declined, and in fact they have improved their popularity as well recently, although nowhere near as much as Bovada has. There has been some real improvements here and they are looking to grow their business even more.
Carbon has consistently been the top rated poker site on Merge, and while poker rooms on a network are similar in a lot of ways, there are often leaders and followers here and Carbon is clearly the leader in this pack. A lot of poker sites have come and gone on this network and stability is important, so going with the cornerstone of a poker network just makes sense.
Like all three of our recommendations, Carbon is a well run poker company and site and in particular, have stepped up very nicely to finally overcome some of the bigger challenges in operating effectively in the U.S. market, particularly with being able to institute more timely player withdrawals.
With the limited options to U.S. players, Merge still needs to be on your radar and should also be in your arsenal of poker sites to be able to select from, and Carbon is the no brainer choice here.
Full Flush Poker
About Full Flush Poker
Full Flush Poker is one of the newer entrants on the scene, and we do tend to prefer longer standing poker operations generally, but Full Flush has impressed us enough in the little amount of time that they have been in business to certainly deserve being included on our list of the top 3 poker sites for American players.
They are the flagship poker site for the fairly new Equity Poker Network, and the only one well worth considering as the others are on the smaller side, although they are starting to attract some other smaller poker rooms now which is always nice to see and is a healthy thing.
I wouldn’t say that Full Flush is as good overall as the first two, my rankings would be Bovada as the clear number one choice, Carbon as the clear number two, and Full Flush in third. Why bother with three though you might be thinking? Because it is important to get access to a wider selection of games and you really want to be playing at the best ones as long as the sites you are playing at are good ones.
Once again this is all the more important with the fairly limited amount of good choices among poker sites that accept U.S. players, and Full Flush, in spite of its smaller size, does have some real benefits to offer us and should definitely be considered.
Poker Traffic And Strength Of Competition
Bovada leads the way here, pretty clearly, as they have about 3 times the traffic as their nearest U.S. friendly rival, Carbon. Full Flush has even less but they are fairly new and are growing nicely, and while they are more of an off beat poker site, they are getting better known lately.
Bovada is actually right up there with the best of them these days in terms of traffic, currently sitting in 7th place in the world overall. That’s a long way from where they were not long ago, and they have really caught on over the past half a year or so.
Carbon has improved as well, especially after improving their cashier so that U.S. players don’t have to wait anywhere near as long for their money as they used to.
As far as the strength of competition, the competition at Bodog is the strongest, as you might expect with more players and therefore more traffic, but it’s comparable to other poker sites of similar size. This is a far fishier bunch of players than you used to see back when we could play at Poker Stars and Full Tilt by the way.
Carbon has less traffic but is a little fishier, and Full Flush Poker is the fishiest of all, since pretty much only fish play there. So this gets back to what I was saying about all of them having something to offer, and they all do, so it pays to have an account at more than one and perhaps at all three.
Bonuses & Rewards
Carbon Poker offers the biggest bonus of the bunch, with a 200% match of your first deposit there up to $5000. This is the most generous bonus offer out there, period. They have numerous other nice promotions, including a free month of free poker training at Drag the Bar, worth 30 bucks, for just playing a few hands. You can get further free months as well if you are an active player. Their refer a friend bonus is nice, 25% of their deposit in your account to use instantly. There is much more to like here and they go to great lengths to attract and keep your business at Carbon.
Full Flush Poker’s welcome bonus package may be the best of the three overall, and might be the best out there period, especially for small to medium sized depositors. You get a 150% match up to $,500, and if you deposit over $50, you get an extra 20% match right away without having to wait. They also pay out an extra 10% instantly if you use a select deposit method.
You also get a free entry into a $1000 first depositors’ freeroll, and there aren’t that many players to share the loot with in this one. There are less promotions overall here than at the other two sites, but overall this is all pretty nice.
Both poker sites have a rewards program that rewards you for their play and they are all very similar in this regard.
Software & Banking
Software, Banking, and Customer Service
Both software programs are decent enough, they might not be among the very best but they all work well enough. As far as customer service goes Carbon only has email support while Full Flush Poker has email and live chat, so it comes out on top here, although this isn’t a big deal really as there are few issues you need to get instant help with.
At Carbon, if you’re from the U.S. you are limited to depositing with prepaid Visas and withdrawing by check, but they have really speeded up the time it takes to get a check and it’s only 2-3 weeks now.
Full Flush Poker also offers deposits by prepaid credit cards. Their withdrawal times are also pretty fast, you can get a check sent by either courier or regular mail, request a bank wire, or do a person to person transfer. All of these methods involve fees though so this is more suitable to players who don’t plan on making withdrawals very often. If you’re not a winning player yet this won’t really matter now, but winning players may see this as a problem though and if so the other 2 sites would be better choices.
So there you have it, the top poker sites these days for players from the United States. Pick one or more to try out and just click on our links to them to go there right away and also be automatically credited with your welcome bonus offers.