Americans have had a love affair with poker for a couple of decades now, and most of that was fueled by the ability to play the game from the comfort of their own homes by way of online poker sites. A lot has happened in the industry in the last 15 years, leading to the closure of many sites to U.S. players.
However, players in New Jersey have had an online poker lifeline for the last few years due to changes in legislation allowing sites to be operational within state boundaries. This page serves as an overview of the New Jersey online poker industry – the laws as they exist today, the sites that are open to residents, and the reasons why you should pick one site over another for your play.
A Brief History of Legal Online Poker in the state
Online poker hit all-time lows in April 2011 when the remaining offshore sites were all shut down by the Department of Justice. The state of New Jersey, however, was already putting plans in place to legalize both online poker and casino sites in an effort to prop up the failing land-based casino industry. The resulting legislation that passed saw the first legal online poker site launch in 2013, joining Delaware as the only two states to have passed bills into law.
While this was considered a triumph for New Jersey and for the poker industry, it did not come without major issues. At the top of the list was the lack of players at the sites. With the games being geo-fenced to the borders of New Jersey, the potential number of players was finite. The poker industry is fueled by liquidity – the number of concurrent players at any one time – to keep games going, and to make the offering attractive to new players. New Jersey sites struggled, as did those in Delaware and Nevada, which regulated online poker shortly after New Jersey. The optimal solution was to create an agreement whereby players from each of the states could play with one another, thus helping operators in each state. Currently, there are only two networks that have pooled their players, as Delaware has a limited number of operators running in their state. Thankfully, players in New Jersey are able to take advantage of these new rules.
Where you can play legal online poker in New Jersey
As we mentioned, the limited number of potential players in the New Jersey market has caused there to be fewer online poker sites than existed during the peak days of the offshore industry. That doesn’t mean that players are left without a choice, however. There are currently seven different sites running in New Jersey as part of four different poker networks. Here is the list of each of the sites.
What to look for in a legal online poker site
With a few choices to pick from when you are getting ready to jump into the online poker action in New Jersey, you may think that there isn’t much of a difference between the sites. This isn’t entirely the case, and if you look at our reviews of the sites above, you will see that this is, in fact, not the case at all. Here are some general guidelines of what to look for when researching where to play.
This is typically the most critical factor to consider when choosing an online poker site. Poker is one of the few games that requires groups of players to play. If you are looking for a game and cannot find one due to a lack of players in the ecosystem, then your experience can be soured. While there are only a few options for legal online sites in New Jersey, the compact between it and Nevada and Delaware is giving some life to a couple of the sites out there. Look for sites that have games available during the hours that you are mainly going to play.
Having lots of players is one thing, but if an online poker site isn’t spreading the games, you want to play then it is irrelevant how many tables are open. A good website will have cash tabled available not only in No-Limit Hold’em but also in other disciplines like Omaha and Stud. From a tournament perspective, you want to find a site with a wide array of events that can range from Single Table Sit and Gos to major events that involve a series of qualifiers. For players that are looking to play but don’t have a lot of time, games like Fast-Fold Poker and Turbo Tournaments provide a much speedier version of the game. Sites are trying to cater to many types of players, but as they are dealing with Liquidity issues as well, sometimes an operator will have to sacrifice a game that maybe your favorite.
Promotions and Bonuses
Legal online poker sites are competing for customers, and the winner in all of this is you! Every site has its own set of promotions that range from first-time deposit bonuses to tournament series with large guaranteed prize pools. Taking advantage of all that a site offers, you can mean the difference between being a winning and losing player. Look for websites with excellent loyalty programs that are tied to their land-based gaming partners to extend the value to things like hotels and restaurants.
If there is one annoyance that online gamblers have had over the last 20 years, it is the difficulty to get customer support from an offshore site. With online poker now operating under the guidelines of the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement, players in the state should have no problem contacting their site for assistance. Look for sites that offer support via the most channels, including those who use social media as a way to communicate regularly with players.
Online Poker Payments in New Jersey
If you were a player at an online poker site before regulations, you might recall how difficult it was to get money to and from your preferred site. Now, in the days after legal online poker launched in New Jersey, residents are able to use the most popular methods of payment processing available to them. Our review pages outline which methods are available at each of the websites, but in general, you will find the following:
- Debit Cards
- Credit Cards
- Prepaid Cards
Also, with each poker site partnered with a land-based casino, you can make your deposits in cash at any of the associated facilities.
Are offshore poker sites illegal in New Jersey?
Since the major sites were shut down by the Department of Justice in 2011, there haven’t been many offshore poker sites offering games to players in the United States. However, there are a few that remain, and you can still access them from New Jersey. We do not recommend playing with these sites for many reasons, the most critical being the difficulty in moving money to and from those sites. If you are planning to play with one of these sites, bear in mind the additional risk of not knowing if the site will be open when it is time for you to make a withdrawal.
Are legal online poker sites full of cheating players?
This is often a concern for players who are new to playing online poker, and the industry hasn’t helped its cause over the years. There are many safeguards in place from an operator perspective to ensure that everyone is on a level playing field in New Jersey. Further, the regulator in the state will only approve software vendors that have been tested and certified by an independent testing agency. This added layer of security, combined with the fines that can be levied against companies in a regulated online poker environment, make it safer than ever for New Jersey players.
What is the best site for beginner players?
There is no right answer to this question – each site will have a mix of skill levels at the tables, and since you can sit at any table you like, you can’t be sure that all the players around you will be in your range. If you stick to stakes levels that you are comfortable with to start and play in low-level buy-in events, you are less likely to find sharks at your table. You should also take advantage of all the poker educational tools that exist to improve your game so you don’t feel overwhelmed at the felt.
Do I have to download an app to play for real money in New Jersey?
To play online poker in New Jersey from your phone or tablet, you will need to download an app to your device. The app does not take up much space on your phone, but it does give you much faster access to your account, and the gameplay on all the apps is excellent. Also, the app gives you the chance to play multiple tables at once with ease, which can be appealing to someone who is playing in a slower tournament but also wants to get in some cash game action.