Legal Online Poker

Compared to most other states, poker players have few choices in Tennessee. There are no live poker rooms, no state-regulated online poker sites, and charity poker tournaments are not allowed. Yet 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, makes 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 games and tournaments for cash prizes. Aside from this option, the only other choice for TN poker fans is to travel to neighboring states.

Global Poker Accepts Players from Tennessee

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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, none of these are allowed. Until 2019, the only legal form of gambling was the Tennessee lottery.

In spring 2019, House Bill 01 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. No new bills have been attempted since.

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

Global Poker has steadily grown into a large, well-trafficked poker site. Unlike offshore poker sites, which operate in a legal gray area and offer little to no consumer protections, Global Poker is perfectly legal under American law.

Global Poker: A legal poker site in Tennessee

Sweepstakes gambling sites are gaining in popularity countrywide. At peak times, you can find 100+ cash game tables and multiple poker tournaments running on Global Poker.

And, as mentioned, Global Poker 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 Coins.”

Sweeps Coins are exchangeable for real cash prizes, which you can withdraw from the site at a certain threshold.

Global Poker can’t directly sell you Sweeps Coins. Instead, it gives you these for “free.” The word “free” is in quotation marks for a good reason.

To get “free” Sweeps Coins, you need to purchase “gold coins” from the site. Gold coins are a social currency that cannot be redeemed for cash prizes, but can be used to play the social casino games.

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.
  • Employ table selection: Some tables will be full of recreational 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 available are:

  • Cash games
  • Tournaments
  • 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 play.

Each Sunday, Global Poker hosts a tournament with a $50,000 guaranteed prize pool. Smaller tournaments are also 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. The attraction is that you won’t know what the prize pool is before the action starts. You can win 2,000x 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 poker rooms in local casinos. 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. It also hosts its own cash games and tournaments.

Mississippi, Missouri and (to a lesser extent) Arkansas also have live poker action. Tunica is a very popular spot for poker action, with several notable poker tournaments visiting the town over the course of the year.

When will legal online poker come to Tennessee?

Tennessee was not considered likely to be an early mover with sports betting. Following daily fantasy sports regulation in 2016, though, the state legalized and regulated online sports betting sites in 2019. As of Nov. 2020, there are now 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. However, the amount of tax revenue generated by online poker in states where it is legal pales in comparison to sports betting, so it would be a tough sell in a notoriously anti-casino state.

In the meantime, Tennessee poker players at least have a regulated US-poker option in Global Poker. It’s not PokerStars in its prime, with $2 million Sunday Millions every weekend, but for getting some online hands in without breaking any laws, it does just fine for many poker players.