A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding Gambling Action in Your Local Tavern

by Jeff Harris
on February 3, 2018

Your neighborhood bar is a great place to drink and socialize. But you can spice up the bar experience even more through gambling.

The good news is that more and more American states are legalizing gambling in bars. But what exactly can you bet on in your local drinking establishments?

I’m going to cover both legal and player-run forms of gambling that you’ll find at bars. I’ll also discuss how you can find bars that offer good betting options.

Legal Forms of Bar Gambling

Video Gambling

The most popular form of gambling in bars is video machines. These encompass a variety of different electronic games, including slot machines, blackjack, keno, and poker.

Slots are the most common type of video gambling that’s available in bars. In most cases, you won’t notice a difference between bar slot machines and those found in commercial casinos.

All you have to do to play bar slot machines is insert your cash into the designated slot. You should also read the rules screen before playing so that you understand all the rules.

Video blackjack, keno, and poker are nice alternatives for those who want something beyond spinning the reels. Blackjack and poker actually give you a chance to use skill in video gambling.

The only catch is that not all states allow video gambling in bars. This means that you may have to go to a local casino or across state lines to find these options in taverns.

Keno and Lottery

Many bars are licensed to sell state lottery and keno tickets.

The type of tickets that you can buy depends upon what state you live in.

But generally speaking, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to purchase scratch-off and keno tickets at your local bar.

The latter is especially nice if your bar doesn’t offer other types of gambling. And scratch-offs give you the quick satisfaction of seeing right away if you won or lost.


Legal poker isn’t as common in bars as video gambling or the lottery. But you can still find some states that allow bars to offer gambling for charitable purposes.

Montana is one good example because they have a thriving charity gambling scene. Big Sky Country allows licensed bars to offer both drinks and poker action.

Unfortunately, the majority of the states don’t allow bars to host poker tournaments. This even goes for free and charity-based tourneys, because the bars can profit through increased patronage.

Odds are that the only poker action you’ll find in your neighborhood bar is customers playing at a table.

The more draconian states still frown upon this. But it’s unlikely that bar owners will stop people from playing a private poker game.

Gambling Games Run by Bar Patrons


Besides poker, another common form of gambling that bar customers play is dice.

The gaming world features many different types of dice games. But one of the most commonly played in taverns is called “bar dice.”

Dice Game with Alcoholic Drink

This game is played with five dice and a cup. While bar dice can be played with money, it’s commonly used to determine who’ll buy the next round of drinks.

A round begins with each player rolling the five 6-sided dice. Dice players put the dice in the cup, which is used to both shake and roll them.

The object is to get the most dice with the same digits. Any dice with a 1 value is an “ace,” which acts as a wildcard that can be paired with any other digit.

If two players roll the same number of matching digits, the higher digit wins. For example, a player who rolls three 4s would beat another player who rolls three 2s.

A player who rolls the highest number of matching digits sits out of the round and doesn’t have to pay. The remaining players continue going around the table until only one person is left.

The last player to get the low total in a round is the one who pays for the drinks.

Bars can’t legally run dice games like this or any other kind. But they typically don’t have a problem with customers playing these games.


Quarters is a common game at parties and other social drinking functions. But I’ve seen plenty of people play quarters for money and drinks at bars, too.

The object of this game is to bounce quarters into a beer or shot glass. If the player bounces their quarter into the glass, their opponent has to drink.

Again, I’ve also seen people gamble with quarters. This means that one loses their bet on top of having to drink.

The glass the player is aiming for can either contain alcohol or be empty. In the latter case, players have a separate glass that they must drink from when losing a round.

Quarters can be played with different rules. But here are the rules for one variation involving gambling:

  • 1. Every round starts with a full glass of beer or a shot in the middle of the table
  • 2. Each player has an empty glass and $1 on the table
  • 3. Players sit across from each other
  • 4. Players bounce quarters at the glass opposite of them
  • 5. Any player who makes a quarter wins $1, plus forces their opponent to drink
  • 6. Once the winner(s) is determined, a new round starts

Credit Card Roulette

If all else fails in your quest to find gambling at a local bar, you can always play credit card roulette when the bill comes.

Credit card roulette is a fun game that determines who’ll cover everybody’s tab at the end of the night.

Everybody puts their credit card into a hat to start this game. You then have the waiter or waitress choose a card out of the hat.

Whoever’s card is picked has to front the bill for everybody.

You can also play a version where the loser has to buy the next round, rather than pay everybody’s bill.

Another way to play this game involves having the waiter/waitress pull one card at a time. The last credit card left in the hat then has to pay.

Covering everybody’s bar tab gets expensive. This is why some people exempt the previous loser when it comes time to play credit card roulette again.

How to Find Bar Gambling Options

Word of Mouth

The easiest way to find out what gambling options your neighborhood bar has is by asking friends. Perhaps you know a few people who go to a local tavern and know what types of gambling are available.

This is an especially good way to learn if there are any card or dice games at the bar on a regular basis.

If you find out that the closest bar doesn’t have much gambling, you can always take a group of friends and play dice, poker, quarters, or credit card roulette amongst yourselves.

Check Social Media and Websites

Most buyers have a Facebook page and/or website. And you can check these out to see if they have any common forms of gambling like video machines, keno, or lottery tickets.

All you need to know is the bar’s name, and you can google them or look them up on Facebook. Assuming they have a social media page, odds are that the bar will also post about what activities they offer beyond drinking.

Facebook Thumbs Up Facebook Background Poker Chips and Playing Cards

You can even send the bar a direct message through Facebook if you don’t find anything listed on their page. This is an easy way to find out for sure if your local bar offers some gambling.

Call the Bar

Another way to contact the nearest tavern is by calling them. Simply look up their number and give them a call to find out what you can bet on.

You can expect a straightforward answer this way, which helps you decide whether or not the bar is worth visiting.

Read up on Your State’s Gambling Laws

Just because your local bar offers gambling doesn’t always mean it’s legal. This is especially the case when it comes to poker and video gambling, where bars have been busted for offering unlicensed games.

You likely won’t be cited when a bar goes down for having unsanctioned gambling. But it still pays to know the gambling laws for your specific state.

And you can look up the gambling laws for your state right here, including some analysis on important excerpts.

States are clear on whether or not they allow video gambling at bars. Illinois is one example that does this, while Utah is an example of a state that doesn’t.

Dice and poker games are a murky matter when it comes to taverns. Some states are fine with customers playing recreational poker together, while others have tougher laws that can see the bar punished if they allow gambling.

Knowing the laws of your state ensures that you can avoid playing unlicensed gambling games in local bars.


Bars are a common hotspot for different forms of gambling. And odds are that a bar around you will have at least one type of gaming.

But this is heavily dependent on your state, too. Hawaii and Utah don’t allow any forms of gambling, meaning their bars will be void of betting opportunities.

Other states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are more proactive on the matter, letting bars offer video gambling.

Even if your nearest watering hole doesn’t have video machines, you can probably get a dice or poker game going with friends. Just be sure that you’re not playing for ridiculous stakes to avoid drawing scrutiny to your game.

In summary, look up your neighborhood bar on Facebook to find gambling opportunities, and know your state’s laws on the matter.
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