Idaho Texas Holdem Card Rooms
Unfortunately, playing poker in Idaho is illegal and you won't find any rooms in the state's casinos. It's a real shame that poker has been singled out in this respect as a number of other gambling games are legal, including slots and bingo. But for some reason state legislators have deemed that any Texas holdem or poker variant is illegal and can't be played.
The sticking point in relation to poker in Idaho seems to be around the differentiation between poker being a game of luck or skill. While many professional poker players have made it quite obvious that skill can outweigh luck in the game in the long run, the law makers in Idaho don't see it this way and thus have placed a blanket ban on the game. Slots and bingo can still be played due to the laws around tribal reserves and the fact they can run casinos on their land.
Up until recently one of these tribe casinos, Coeur d'Alene, was running a poker room until it was shut down by authorities. It was shut down due to fact that Idaho law wouldn't allow poker in the state and the federal laws around legality of gaming on tribal land couldn't supersede state legislation. The casino and tribe did appeal, on the ground poker is a game of skill, but this was thrown out by the courts in July of 2015, which was a true blow for poker in the state.
Future Texas Holdem Games
Without some serious lobbying from poker players and industry groups the laws won't change, so poker in the state probably won't be a reality until a new generation of congress and lawmakers move in to government.
Although you'll find six casinos in the state, you won't find any other table games. Only bingo, class 2 slots, and off track betting are acceptable in casinos in the state. Class 2 slots are machines that are centrally linked and are basically a digital bingo game which has a slot face and graphics for entertainment purposes. These are not like the class 3 slots that you would find in Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
Charity and Home Games
You'll find two small exceptions to the poker ban in Idaho, and that's the fact you can run a small home game or a game that is focussed on raising money for charity. Famously, a few years back a bunch of retirees were raided while playing a $20 poker game. They were told to shut it down or face prosecution.
So, if you still want to get together with a bunch of your mates and play for $100 you should be OK to do so. If you want to get together and play for $1,000, then watch out. This would be considered a higher stakes game and the amount of money isn't trivial so you would most likely be pulled up on it.
If you're running a game and making money for charity you shouldn't have any troubles from police. Provided you aren't profiting out of the game, and most of the money involved in the game goes to charity, you should be fine. Make sure you check up on the laws in relation to this as things are always changing in this respect. You may also need a permit to run a charity game in Idaho. We've heard mixed reports on running charity poker games and the law is a bit grey in this area, so proceed with caution.
Like the rest of the country, you also can't play regulated online poker in Idaho. State legislation specifically mentions that online poker is banned, which isn't the case amongst many other states, so if they do sort things out federally to allow for poker to be re-introduced then nothing will change in Idaho. Some other states in the US have independently approved the play of localised online poker which means you can play, but the likelihood of this happening in Idaho is slim to none.
This is purely because of the fact you can't even play live poker in native Indian reservations. It's all about one step at a time and that's the first step that would need to occur, followed by private casinos on private land and then finally online poker after this. It's a sad fact that this may never happen in Idaho.
Perhaps one of the biggest bug bears of poker players in Idaho is the hypocrisy in the law around lottery and raffles being legal, while poker and other forms of gaming are strictly illegal. You can still play in the major lotteries in Idaho, including Powerball and Mega Millions, and they also sell scratch tickets and pull tabs.
This is all state run and profits go back in to community projects and to local and state governments in areas such as health and education. While this is good in theory, and everything goes back to the people of Idaho, it's outrageously hypocritical to allow one form of gambling and not another.
Poker is a combination of luck and skill, while lotteries are pure luck and the odds of winning and doing well are astronomically bad. So why would a state allow one to run and the other not to? The sad truth is lottery is a money maker for government and that's why they allow it. While on the other hand the amount of money that the government would make from the rake profit that casinos make when running a poker game is tiny in comparison and wouldn't outweigh the general public backlash from legalising the game.
If you're a resident of Idaho and just need to get your poker fill no matter what, then we have a solution for you. You just need to do some travelling. Depending on where you are in the state you can travel in to Nevada, Oregon, or Washington and you'll find plenty of poker rooms. Don't bother with Utah as gambling, in all forms, is strictly prohibited in that state. So, it's even worse than Idaho in this respect.
It must seem unfair to some of the casinos in Idaho that you can drive just 40 minutes out of the state and be taking a seat in a poker room and playing to your hearts content. But unfortunately, that's just how it goes with states having so much legislative power in the US.
The best poker rooms to hit up just outside of the state are Black Pearl Casino in Spokane, Washington, Wild Horse Casino in Pendleton, Oregon, and Cactus Pete's in Jackpot, Nevada. If you're near the border of Montana, you'll find a few smaller poker rooms in the city of Missoula just over the border as well.
The bottom line is if you live in Idaho and want to play Texas holdem you're going to be forced to play at one of the unregulated online poker rooms, find a private game, or travel out of state. Depending on your preferences all of these can be a reasonable option.
Hopefully the state laws will change in the future so holdem players can legally play, but until then find out what other poker players you know are doing to get their fix and consider following suit.