California is the most populous US state. That also makes it the biggest US jurisdiction where you can play online poker.

Poker in California GuideThere is no legal, regulated real money online poker in the state, so you cannot play on sites like PokerStars, GGPoker, or WSOP. While there have been efforts to modernize gambling laws, the situation is unlikely to change soon.

Thankfully, Californians interested in online poker are served by sweepstakes online poker sites, where you can win real cash prizes. It means that, in California, you can find poker tournaments online every single day and compete with players across the United States. These sites operate legally and you can win prizes redeemable for real money playing online poker from your mobile phone or on desktop apps.

We recommend Sweepstakes online poker sites in California These sites are available throughout the US, including CA. With sweepstakes, you can win real money cash prizes while playing on legal sites.

Pokerfuse recommends two sites that offer online poker and real money cash prizes: ClubWPT, a subscription site, and Global Poker, a modern US sweepstakes online poker site. They work in slightly different ways, but both offer online poker tournaments every day with real cash prizes up for grabs.

These online poker platforms available to players in California are top-notch and offer an online poker experience close to real money games. They have great apps, feature a wide selection of poker formats, and offer daily tournaments, sit and gos, and cash games.

There are also entirely free-play poker sites that we recommend for beginners. These do not give you the chance of winning real money, but they are a useful tool to memorize the strength of hands or learning how betting works in poker games.

Can I Play Online Poker in California?

Yes, you can — and you have options! It all depends on whether you want to play for cash prizes or just play for free. Sweepstakes online poker sites offers players a chance to compete for cash prizes, and is what we recommend to players who want a true online poker experience with the chance to win prizes redeemable for real money.

Meanwhile, free-play and social poker sites offer the perfect training ground for new players — without spending any money.

California Online Poker: Key Facts
⚖️ Legal StatusSweepstakes poker sites are legal in California. Free-play and social sites are also legal.
Main HighlightsPlayers on sweepstakes poker sites can compete in tournaments & win real money prizes. Free sites are good for newbies.
🃏 Available GamesNo Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha. Global Poker also offers cash games.
🎁 RewardsClubWPT Premium Rewards & ClubWPT Loyalty Bonus. Free daily rewards on Global Poker.

The Best Online Poker Sites in California

For the best online poker experience in California, we recommend Sweepstakes poker sites.

Sweepstakes poker is actually an umbrella term for two types of online poker sites allowed under sweepstakes law: traditional subscription poker and “modern” sweepstakes. Players can win for real money prizes under both systems.

With subscription sites, you can play for free or you can pay a subscription fee. This will give you access to bigger tournaments with real money cash prizes.

Under the modern sweepstakes model, players use real money to buy play tokens, often called Gold Coins, which can only be used on play-money games. Gold Coins have no monetary value. But when players do this, they are gifted another type of token — a Sweeps Coin. These are considered prize entries, and can be used to enter ring games and tournaments. Winnings from those games are prizes that you can redeem for real money.

We recommend Global Poker for modern sweepstakes and ClubWPT for subscription poker. Importantly, both sites are also considered safe and trustworthy, and they operate legally under sweepstakes laws in California.

Which type of sweepstakes site is best? Both options are good. “Modern” sweepstakes offer a style of poker that’s closer to real money, and sites will offer “cash” games where you win coins that can be directly redeemed for real money. Classic sites will usually only offer tournaments, but the monthly subscription is appealing to more casual players.

ClubWPT (subscription platform)

ClubWPT online poker roomClubWPT uses a subscription-based model to offer online poker. For a monthly fee, players are given access to certain number of tournaments on a daily basis. It’s a more straightforward model that closely resembles California’s private cardrooms, which are discussed later in this guide.

The platform is exclusively focused on tournaments, which means players aren’t able to win real money prizes through ring games. But ClubWPT offers plenty of daily tournaments, which offer real money prizes and access to events on the World Poker Tour.

WPT Enterprises, which is based in Irvine, owns and operates the ClubWPT site. It also has the World Poker Tour, one of the largest and most popular online poker brands in the world.

Read our full review of ClubWPT »

Global Poker (sweepstakes platform)

Global Poker online poker roomThe largest sweepstakes poker operator in the US is Global Poker. Its platform is modeled on traditional sweepstakes, where players purchase play money tokens (aka Gold Coins) for use on social tables and receive Sweeps Coins as a gift to play at sweepstakes tables, through which players can earn cash prizes.

Global Poker hosts major tournament series every year, resulting in millions in guaranteed prizes for players. The site is operated by subsidiaries of VGW Holdings Limited, an Australian company.

Read our full review of Global Poker »

Social and Free-Play Poker in California

Another option for playing online poker in California is to visit free-play (aka social) poker sites. Some of the more popular sites are Zynga Poker, Replay Poker, and Governor of Poker.

PokerStars and WSOP, two of the biggest operators of real money online poker sites, offer free versions as well.

It’s important to remember that there is no way to win real money on free-play poker sites — players are there just for fun. Free-play sites are a great way for new players to learn things such as hand rankings, how to bet, and the overall flow of the game. But players on free-play sites don’t gain any insight into poker strategy because there isn’t any real money at stake.

Social media sites like Facebook also offer online poker games for free. There are also sites like Vegas Infinite, formerly PokerStars VR.

Real Money Online Poker in California

To be clear, you can win real cash prizes playing sweepstakes poker in California. But real money online poker sites like PokerStars and WSOP, where you can deposit and withdraw real money directly, are not currently available in the state — and likely won’t be for many years.

California is not a market where online poker operators are licensed and regulated by the state. Some examples of states that regulate the vertical and issue licenses include Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

That’s not to say lawmakers in California haven’t tried to set up a system like the aforementioned states — far from it. More than a dozen bills have been submitted in recent years, but all fell short in the California State Assembly.

We do not recommend offshore real money online poker sites in CA. There are offshore — often called “illegal” or “unregulated” — online poker sites that serve players in California. We do not recommend them; you have no recourse if your money is stolen or you feel cheated in games. Instead, we recommend sweepstakes online poker. Read our Independent Guide to Online Poker to learn more.

Why? Well, there are many competing interests in the state. There are more than 80 private cardrooms and about the same number of tribal casinos in California. Over the years, the two sides have argued over tribal gaming exclusivity and other issues. Finding common ground has been difficult, which is the main reason why legislation has gone nowhere to date.

The most recent online poker bill was submitted during the 2017-2018 legislative session. AB 1677 would have taxed operators at a rate of 8.847% to 15%, depending on the operator’s gross gaming revenue. It died in committee, meeting the same fate as all previous legislation submitted up to that point.

Sites That Would Launch in California

California has about 39 million residents, making it the most populous US state. If the state did issue licenses and regulated real money online poker operators, that would be big news.

As a direct consequence, there would be an immediate push for the state to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), a multi-state gaming compact that allows operators to combine their player pools across its member states — Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, and West Virginia.

When operators are allowed to combine their player pools, players benefit. Such combinations create shared liquidity, which in turn leads to bigger prizes.

All four of the major online poker operators in the US — BetMGM, PokerStars, WSOP, and BetRivers Poker (currently in development by Rush Street Interactive) — would want to launch in California. That’s especially the case if California joins MSIGA. But even without it, the market would be so big that it would attract multiple operators even if kept segregated from the rest of the USA.

Since there are no land-based commercial casinos in California, having a setup like Michigan or New Jersey — where operators agree to a partnership and are tethered to a land-based property — wouldn’t work in the Golden State. California could require operators to partner with a tribal casino, horse racetrack, or certain entities like a pro sports team or a stadium. The state could also issue standalone licenses to operators.

Should California lawmakers succeed in legalizing real money online poker, we project the following network setups in the Golden State:

Operator Network Plans
PokerStars USA Would look to establish a three-state network across CA-MI-NJ.
BetMGM Poker Could ultimately set up a four-state network that includes CA-MI-NJ-NV, but first needs to launch in neighboring Nevada and combine its MI and NJ player pools.
WSOP USA WSOP could also create a four-state network of CA-MI-NJ-NV. WSOP has an edge because it’s currently the only operator in Nevada, but it lost access to Delaware at the end of 2023.
BetRivers Poker A poker platform being developed by Rush Street Interactive (RSI). RSI will launch BetRivers Poker in more than one MSIGA state when the time comes. A network across CA-MI-NJ appears most likely at this very early stage.

Live Poker in California

If you’re interested in live poker, there are more than 80 cardrooms located throughout the state, and you likely have multiple options within driving distance. The cardrooms are legally allowed to operate because they don’t charge a rake for hosting poker games. Instead, players pay a fee to the house on a per-hand or per-hour basis.

All cardroom owners and employees must be licensed with the state. The cardrooms are regulated by the California Gambling Control Commission (CGCC).

More information on live poker in California can be found in our online guide, Poker in California.

The Biggest Private Cardrooms in California

According to the CCGC, these are the five biggest cardrooms in California, in terms of the number of tables available:

Name City County Tables
Commerce Casino Commerce Los Angeles 374
Hawaiian Gardens Casino Hawaiian Gardens Los Angeles 374
Hollywood Park Casino Inglewood Los Angeles 75
Hustler Casino Gardena Los Angeles 91
Parkwest Bicycle Casino Bell Gardens Los Angeles 200

California Online Poker FAQ

Is online poker legal in California?

Yes! There are several options for playing online poker in the Golden State. Our recommendations include:

  • Sweepstakes poker sites — where players use real money to buy play tokens (aka Gold Coins) that they can only use to play social table games, which have no cash value. Operators in turn gift those players Sweeps Coins that they use to play on sweepstakes tables, which offer redeemable cash prizes (e.g., Global Poker)
  • Subscription poker sites — where players pay a monthly subscription to access daily tournaments that offer redeemable cash prizes (e.g., ClubWPT)
  • Free-play or social poker sites — where players can learn the basics of the game without spending any money (e.g., Zynga Poker)

There are also offshore and unregulated online poker sites, but pokerfuse does not recommend them.

Are there online tournaments in California?

Yes, both ClubWPT and Global Poker offer online tournaments every single day. There are also weekly and monthly tournaments, and both sites also feature their own sets of regular series. Buy-ins vary. Some tournaments have as much as $500,000 guaranteed!

Are there online cash games in California?

Yes, Global Poker offers cash games. Players must use Sweeps Coins to play in games that offer redeemable cash prizes.

What types of poker games are available online?

Most tournament action on ClubWPT is No-Limit Texas Hold’em (NLH). Global Poker offers NLH and other variants, including Crazy Pineapple, Omaha, and Omaha Hi-Lo. There are also bounty tournaments and sit-and-go (SNG) tournaments.

Is PokerStars legal in California?

No. PokerStars operates in markets where it can legally do so, and California is not one of them. But if the state were to institute a regulated market for real money online poker, PokerStars would definitely be interested in launching there. Remember, California is the most populous US state — it has 39 million residents.

Can I play online poker on offshore sites?

Offshore poker sites are not recommended because they do not offer the same level of consumer protection as legal, regulated sites. Players are at risk of identity theft when they disclose their financial and personal information on offshore sites. There is no legal recourse to collect winnings owed by offshore sites. For this reason, federal officials have warned US citizens not to play on them.

Information on the dangers of US citizens gambling on illegal offshore sites and how to tell if a poker site is legal is available in this guide on Poker Shield.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG) helpline at 1-888-532-3500