Since Maryland casinos were allowed to start offering table games in 2012, the state has become a destination for mid-Atlantic poker players. Several Maryland casinos have popular poker rooms, and while real money online poker is not legal in the state, players can play poker online at social and sweepstakes casinos.
This page is an overview of legal poker options in Maryland, including information about the rooms in the state’s retail casinos, details regarding sweepstakes online poker, and answers to other common questions about poker in Maryland.
Is online poker legal in Maryland?
No. Real money online poker is not legal in Maryland, nor are most forms of online gambling, generally speaking. The state allows you to bet on horse races online via advance deposit wagering sites, and you can also play daily fantasy sports on your phone or computer. Soon you’ll be able to wager on sports online, as well, but real money online poker is not currently an option.
That circumstance could eventually change, however. No fewer than four states that border Maryland today have legal online poker: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and West Virginia. Those states also have legal real money online casinos. As Maryland lawmakers see the revenue from expanded online gambling options, they, too, may one day entertain legalizing online poker.
You might encounter real money online poker sites that advertise themselves to players from Maryland, but be aware these sites do not operate within Maryland or US laws or regulations. Such offshore poker sites are located outside the country and therefore do not abide by Maryland gambling laws.
Because such sites are either regulated elsewhere or not regulated at all, Maryland players who encounter problems while playing on them generally have no legal recourse. If you encounter any problems with game integrity or the security of your funds or personal info, there is no guarantee the sites will respond.
Maryland Statute 12-102 combines general prohibitions against “betting, wagering, [and] gambling” with subsequent sections outlining specific types of illegal gambling. While it doesn’t specifically discuss online poker, it’s safe to say the law offers no legal sanction either to online poker players or sites in Maryland, providing yet another reason for Marylanders to avoid offshore poker sites.
This means that Maryland poker players looking for a game online have only one real option: social and sweepstakes poker sites.
Online social and sweepstakes poker in Maryland
Social and sweepstakes casinos are popular throughout the country. These sites give players a way to play casino games online for fun and entertainment. The sites use virtual currencies rather than real money, and in some cases offer options to play for real cash prizes.
The most popular sweepstakes online poker site is Global Poker. The site serves nearly every US state including Maryland, inviting players to try a variety of games using virtual currencies. Depending on your mode of play, you may be able to redeem winnings for cash prizes.
Ring games and tournaments on Global Poker
Global Poker hosts regular ring games (aka cash games) as well as a selection of sit and go’s and multi-table tournaments. Since the site serves players in nearly every US state, the fields for tournaments can grow quite big, which in turn can make the prize pools large.
As on other online poker sites, you’ll find No Limit Texas Hold’em as the most popular variant. However, the site also features Pot Limit Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo games, as well as the hold’em variant Crazy Pineapple, in which players start with three hole cards instead of two. There is also Surge Poker, a “fast-fold” variant only available to play online. And the site has Caribbean Poker, a casino table game favorite.
As noted, multi-table tournaments are especially popular. There are a number of regular daily and weekly tournaments such as the Daily Hundo and the Sunday Scrimmage. The site also hosts frequent tournament series like the Grizzly Games, the Eagle Cup and the Rattlesnake Open. There are seasonal series, too, such as the Summer Ring Dash and the Spring Carnival.
Creating a Global Poker account is a simple, quick and free process. You can play games for free, as well, or can purchase additional Gold Coins with which to play. Many Gold Coin purchases also include free Sweeps Coins. And if you play using Sweeps Coins, you can redeem your winnings for cash prizes.
Different types of poker games to play in Maryland
You’ll find a variety of poker variants at Maryland poker rooms:
- No Limit Texas Hold’em — The “Cadillac of Poker” is the most common game in Maryland poker rooms.
- Limit Texas Hold’em — You can also find fixed-limit hold’em, including for low stakes.
- Pot Limit Omaha — The hold’em variant in which you receive four hole cards and use two of them to form your hand.
- Five-Card Omaha — A twist on regular Omaha in which you receive five hole cards, though you still can only use two to make your hand.
- Five-Card Omaha Hi-Lo — A split-pot version in which you can compete for both the “high” and “low” half of the pot.
- Seven-Card Stud — Some rooms offer this stud variant, though hold’em has largely supplanted it in popularity.
You may also find Maryland poker rooms offering other variants. MGM National Harbor, for example, advertises that “multiple forms of draw poker are also available upon request,” meaning as long as there are enough players who want to play a particular variant, the room can deal it.
Maryland poker rooms
Maryland voters first approved casinos in 2008, and the first ones opened two years later. It wasn’t until 2012, however, that casinos could offer table games, thanks to another favorable referendum vote. There are now six Maryland casinos, four of which have live poker rooms:
- Hollywood Casino Perryville — The poker room at Hollywood is modest in size, with five tables featuring daily tournaments, high hand and bad beat promotions. Open daily at 10 a.m. until the last table breaks.
- Horseshoe Baltimore — The WSOP Poker Room features 22 tables (eight-handed) spreading cash games, daily tournaments, satellites into World Series of Poker events and more. There are high hand and aces cracked promotions. Open 24/7.
- Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland — The Live! Poker Room is the largest in the state, with 50 tables with an eight-handed maximum. Cash games are always running, and there are at least two tournaments each day in various formats, including popular “mystery bounty” events. There are multiple high hand promotions as well. Open 24/7.
- MGM National Harbor — Located on the casino’s second floor, the poker room currently has 37 tables, although it can add more up to 45. Like other Maryland rooms, tables play eight-handed and feature both cash games and daily tournaments Saturday through Wednesday. Promotions include high hand jackpots, lucky tables (in which players at random tables win cash prizes), and let it ride (another high hand promotion with an option to accept the current jackpot or take a chance to win the following session’s jackpot as well). Open 24/7.
Major poker tournament series in Maryland
Since introducing legal live poker in 2012, Maryland has become a popular destination for various poker tours and events.
World Series of Poker Circuit
The WSOP Circuit has made numerous stops at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore over the years, home of a WSOP-branded poker room. The stops usually consist of a dozen WSOP ring events, including a $1,700 buy-in main event that usually features a big guaranteed prize pool ($500,000, for example).
World Poker Tour
The World Poker Tour has made multiple stops at Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland over recent years. The stops involve substantial tournament series consisting of over 20 events, including a $3,500 main event that counts as an official WPT Main Tour event from which winners join the WPT Champions Club. The event at Live! Maryland has featured prize pools exceeding $1.5 million before.
The World Poker Tour has made WPTDeepStacks stops at Live! Maryland, as well.
Maryland State Championship
Live! Casino & Hotel Maryland has hosted the Maryland State Poker Championship on several occasions. Typically the tournament series takes place in January and features around two dozen events. Most recently, the series has been culminating with a $2,200 buy-in main event featuring a guarantee of $300,000.
Maryland poker FAQ
What is the minimum age to play poker in Maryland?
Anyone wishing to play poker in any of the Maryland casinos must be at least 21 years old.
If online poker becomes legal in Maryland, who will regulate it?
The Maryland Lottery, in particular the State Lottery & Gaming Control Agency, oversees all legal gambling in the state. Should online gambling become legal, including online poker, it is likely the same agency would act as the regulatory body.
If I am in Maryland, can I play online poker in other states where it is legal?
No. You can legally play online poker in states where it is legal — nearby options are Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and West Virginia — but you have to be in one of those states to do so. In other words, if you want to play at PokerStars PA, you need to be in Pennsylvania in order to do so. You don’t have to be a Pennsylvania resident to get an account or to play, but you do have to be within state lines.
Online poker sites in the US use geolocation technology to ensure players are inside a legal state when they play real money cash games and tournaments.
Are home poker games legal in Maryland?
In 2016, Maryland lawmakers formally legalized home poker games. Previously, hosting a poker game could result in a fine and up to one year in prison, but that was no longer the case once HB 127 went into effect on Oct. 1, 2016.
According to the law, anyone 21 or older may host a poker game as long as the host abides by certain stipulations. Those include not hosting a game more than once per week, not charging fees and ensuring the game “has a $1,000 limit on the total amount of money … that may be wagered by all players during a 24-hour period.” That latter guideline is typically understood to mean there cannot be more than $1,000 total in play (i.e., “on the table”) at any given time during the game.
While the law applies to poker, it also technically covers any card game as well as mahjong.
Does Maryland still have charity poker rooms?
Charity poker rooms were once legal in Prince George’s County, just east of Washington, DC, and including the Washington metropolitan area. During the 1980s and 1990s, volunteer fire departments and other nonprofit groups operated more than a dozen such rooms, whose popularity made the county a poker destination of sorts in the mid-Atlantic region. Rick Bennet’s excellent poker novel “King of a Small World” (1995) vividly chronicles the scene.
The rooms frequently courted controversy, with some having to shut down for failing to pay taxes or other violations. Accusations of corruption and embezzlement of funds were frequent, with some alleging “less than a quarter of the proceeds ever went to charity.” Lawmakers eventually had enough, and in 1995 the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation to shut down the poker rooms. A two-year grace period followed, and by 1997 all of the rooms had closed.
Today, Maryland allows some forms of charitable gaming, including bingo and raffles, but not poker.