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New York Legal Poker

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Is It Legal To Play Poker In New York?

New York has repeatedly stated that poker is illegal, in a tradition that goes back to the very earliest days of the state. There are, however, some pretty serious exceptions to the rule. To get an idea of the baseline legality, let's take a look at Section 5-401:

All wagers, bets, or stakes, made to depend upon any race, or upon any gaming by lot or chance, or upon any lot, chance, casualty, or unknown or contingent event whatever, shall be unlawful.

You can find out which poker sites accept players from New York by reading our US poker sites guide.


The law also clarifies the term gambling to really drive the point home.

Gambling - A person engages in gambling when he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.

In the definition, it mentions a "contest of chance", and this has been a point of contention since day-one. While many people would argue that poker is a game of skill, specifically pointing to the ability to bluff, the use of cards has blinded the ruling judges. In the end, poker is always considered a game of chance in New York.

Home Poker Games and The Law

Home poker games are considered unauthorized, but there are only a few circumstances where you'll have a problem. If you are actually running an underground card room, where people are paying to play in your home, then you can expects some trouble. In general though, if you aren't being paid (beyond your winnings) you aren't actually breaking a law.

Beyond raking the pot or charging players to pay, if your home games cause some sort of public nuisance, and cause people to complain to the authorities, then you'll probably get a knock on the door. If you're just having a few friends over for a friendly, low stakes game, it's probably legal.

If you do attend an underground poker club, it could be raided at any time by the New York Police Department, however you don't need to worry about getting in trouble. Anyone who owns or operates the club will get misdemenor or felony charges, but simply for attending, you're within the bounds of the law (you're chips will be taken as evidence though, so you do lose your bankroll).

What About Poker in New York Casinos?

As we saw in Section 5-401, New York takes a pretty hard-line stance against gambling, unless it's taking place in an approved casino. Casino's like the Turning Stone resort are owned and operated by Native American tribes that are given some serious leeway when it comes to gambling.

The casinos do legally offer poker games, and they do make a profit by collecting rake from each pot. If you are interested in playing poker, most casinos offer a great player-friendly environment for New York Poker players. When you consider the illegality of home games, it really does make a great deal of sense to make the trip to an authorized casino.

Does New York Have Laws About Online Poker?

New York is actually one of the few states to really confront online poker. So far, they haven't actually succeeded, but legislature has tried repeatedly to specifically control New York's exposure to online poker rooms.

Known as S.66, this law would completely abolish online poker for the citizens in New York, and would also, likely even ban websites that discussed or promoted online poker. In the end though, the first amendment free speech rights ended up toppling this proposed legislation.

View More USA Poker / Gambling Laws by State

North Carolina - North Carolina Poker Laws

North Dakota - North Dakota Poker Laws

Ohio - Ohio Poker Laws

Oklahoma - Oklahoma Poker Laws

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