Legal Online Poker

Updated on January 15, 2020

Compared to most other states, poker players face few choices in Tennessee. There are no live poker rooms, no state-regulated online poker sites and charity poker tournaments are not allowed. Even the humble kitchen table home games are banned.

Despite all the restrictions, one of the best-known poker players of all time, Chris Moneymaker, was brought up in Knoxville, TN.

A new development, however, has made it possible for people in Tennessee to enjoy online poker games.

Global Poker is US-based and legal, thanks to its use of sweepstakes gambling laws to allow for both legal cash games and tournaments. Aside from this option, the only other choice for TN poker fans is to travel to neighboring states.

You’ll find out more options for poker players in the Volunteer State on this page. We include details on Global Poker, and examine the likelihood of TN poker regulation passing down the line.

Tennessee poker laws: A barren state

Compared to other states, Tennessee has always been anti-gambling. Even otherwise strict states, such as Utah, have bar leagues and charity games. In TN, all of these are not allowed.

Until 2019, there were only two ways to legally gamble: the lottery and horse racing (via websites, as there are no tracks or off-track betting offices).

In the spring of 2019, House Bill 01 was passed, which allows for regulation and licensing of online sportsbooks. No provision for poker is in the bill, though.

The last attempt to introduce card rooms only made it as far as a subcommittee in the Senate. That was in 2015, and no new bills have been attempted since.

The year 2016 saw sweepstakes casinos and poker rooms come online. The poker site, Global Poker, uses a clever workaround with state sweepstakes game laws in order to stay legal.

As you will read, Global Poker has steadily grown into a large, favored room. While some opportunities to play at offshore poker sites are available, this is risky. If these sites get shut down (or simply cut and run), players would have no recourse in recovering their bankroll.

Global Poker: A legal poker site in Tennessee

Sweepstakes gambling sites are gaining in popularity countrywide.

Global Poker is now as robust as many mid-tier international sites. At peak times, you can find 100+ cash game tables and multiple poker tournaments running.

The Global Poker site is legal in Tennessee.

It uses provisions for sweepstakes contests, which are present in every state’s statutes. The idea is simple; every hand (or tournament) is considered a sweepstakes contest. Instead of playing poker for dollars, you play for “sweeps cash.” Sweeps coins is exchangeable for dollars, which you can withdraw if you win.

Global Poker can’t directly sell you sweeps coins; instead, it gives you this for “free.”

The word “free” is in quote marks for a good reason.

To get “free” sweeps coins, you need to make a purchase of “gold coins.” This currency has no redeemable value and is only for fun play.

There are other ways to get free sweeps coins. Options include sending a letter to a registered address or taking part in free-roll tournaments (all new players get to try).

Beginner tips: Beating the games at Global Poker

Online poker, even at Global Poker, is very competitive. To regularly beat the games, you’ll need to study. If you are new to online poker, then these tips should help get you off on the right foot:

  • Step Down: Compared to live poker games, the competition at online poker sites is tougher. If you play $2/$5 live game and win, then you’d be in for a shock with the equivalent buy-ins online. We recommend starting at 10% of your usual level and working up from there once you regularly beat the games.
  • Manage Your Bankroll: Even big winners in poker have big swings, both positive and negative. Unless you look after your poker bankroll, you could be wiped out by a downswing. One-twentieth of your total bankroll should be used at any one table to protect against this.
  • Table Selection: Some tables will be full of recreational-type players having fun. Others will be full of tight grinders patiently waiting for a premium hand. To win regularly at online poker, you need to actively seek out the best games and move when your game goes bad.
  • Recognize Tilt: Some anger or irritation is natural after a bad beat. There is a risk that this could get the better of you, causing irrational decisions. If you feel the urge to get “your” chips back or get revenge on a certain player, it is time to take a break from the tables.
  • Playing Your “A” Game: Many people who are winning players when focusing on the games subsequently become losers when not fully concentrating. This could be through being sick, tired or drunk. It could also be by watching a movie, or texting/chatting while you play.

Tennessee poker: How to play poker online

Global Poker is not big enough to offer too many poker variations.

Most games are Texas Hold ’em, with a smaller number of Pot Limit Omaha tables available. The only other game available is Crazy Pineapple, which uses three hole cards to start each hand.

The formats are cash games, tournaments and jackpot sit n’ gos.

You can play all of them for sweeps coins or for gold coins. Expect a lot of small, micro-stakes action, as well as wild and loose (recreational) play.

Each Sunday sees a tournament with a $50,000 guaranteed prize pool. Smaller tournaments are running around the clock. Occasionally, the Global Poker Open tournament will run. The last one featured an impressive $1,000,000 in guarantees.

Jackpot sit n’ gos are three-handed, super-turbo games. They are a variation on the lottery sit ’n go concept that you’ll find at all the significant international sites. The attraction is that you won’t know what the prize pool is before the action starts. You can win 2000x your buy-in if you hit the jackpot.

Alternatives for Tennessee poker players: Games in neighboring states

Depending on which part of Tennessee you live in, there may be poker options in neighboring states.

While some states (Kentucky and Georgia) are not poker-friendly, others have rooms. If you are in eastern Tennessee, the Harrah’s Cherokee Resort in North Carolina is nearby. This big casino has a poker room which sees national tours stop by, as well hosting its own cash games and tournaments.

Mississippi, Missouri and (to a lesser extent) Arkansas also have live poker action.

Wrapping up: Is there hope for the poker laws in Tennessee to change?

While there are no current bills for online poker regulation in Tennessee, recent developments for gambling, in general, are positive.

TN was not considered likely to be an early mover with sports betting. Following daily fantasy sports regulation in 2016, though, online sports betting sites were regulated in 2019. By 2020, there could be multiple online sports betting sites and apps available in the state.

If those sites are a success, the tax revenue generated could facilitate further legislative efforts. Poker is already regulated in many states, and the success of the games there would also have a positive influence.

In the meantime, Tennessee poker players have a regulated US-poker option. Global Poker is growing increasingly popular. It remains legal by using sweepstakes gaming laws, and a clever workaround using sweeps coins.