Alabama Texas Holdem
If ever there was a state that's in a constant state of change in relation to gambling, it's Alabama. Over the past 10 years there's been a huge amount of change in relation to the law and its interpretation when it comes to gaming.
Numerous court cases and appeals have been run and while you'll be able to find some gambling in certain casinos in the state presently, this could all change quickly if the political leaders decide once again to flex their muscles.
The one certainty is at this time you won't find any legal or regulated live Texas holdem poker action anywhere in the state. Moreover, no table games are permitted at all so this also rules out blackjack, craps, roulette and all your other favorite luck based games. This is a real shame as there's certainly an appetite for these types of games in the state, but the overwhelming majority of people and politicians seem not to want to support them at all. Based on our experience all this results in is lost tax revenue for the state which disappears to bordering states or internationally.
So What Can You Play?
The few exceptions to the state's intolerance for gaming comes in the form of class 2 bingo style slot machines and off track betting. The slots can be found in a handful of casinos around the state. They only exist through hard fought battles in the Supreme Court though and the green light for operators to run these types of games only came in late 2016.
These games are presented to the player like a normal slot machine, however they aren't weighted or balanced to play individually, instead they're linked to a central computer that is running a non-stop bingo game and awarding wins to random machines throughout the establishment. This means the reels and graphics you see on the slot that you're playing are purely for entertainment purposes.
This is different from class 3 slots which are like the ones you find in Las Vegas. These are independent machines which are weighted to result in lower pay outs in the long run and as such retain a fixed percentage, usually around 95%, of the amount of money placed in to wager by the player.
It's amazing that these types of games can be played in states that don't allow games such as poker. When you break it down what's worse for the state, a luck based game which is essentially hood winking the player into thinking they're playing a standard slot, or a skill based game which involved social interaction, skill, some luck, and a whole lot of fun?
Most importantly in poker, the odds aren't stacked against you mathematically and you can win in the long run or from time to time. Unfortunately, the states don't see it that way and poker's dark past is still coming back to haunt us.
Off track betting is also available in Alabama through a handful of casinos and establishments including Victoryland. This casino, or racino, as they like to be known as is the main protagonist in respect to taking on the state in the Supreme Court. Whilst they have a greyhound track it's usually dormant and they only offer wagers on simulcast racing from around the United States.
The other three casinos in the state that offer class 3 slots are all located on native American land and are therefore exempt from some of the state laws and issues that face Victoryland. These are all Wind Creek casinos and are in Atmore, Wetumpka, and Montgomery.
Based on all the issues that Victoryland went through just to offer class 3 slots, we most likely won't see live poker in Alabama for a long time. We'll need some serious lobbying from players and the poker industry to make this happen, and this will need to be sustained over several years until new generations of lawmakers and politicians arrive in the right positions. If you're holding out for live poker action in the state then your best bet would be to pack up your bags and move somewhere else, as you could be waiting a long time.
Unlike the hypocrisy of some other states that offer no gambling and still allow lotteries. You can't participate in these in Alabama either. So, if you want to take a chance to win it all in Powerball you'll need to cross the border to get a ticket.
Online poker is illegal in Alabama as well, but we'll cover it anyway. Since being outlawed in all the US on black Friday some states have opened their own territory locked online poker rooms to offer their residents some virtual poker action. Alabama certainly hasn't done this and most likely never will. The only way you'll be able to play online poker in Alabama is by breaking the law and the terms and conditions of the relevant poker site by using a VPN and peer block application, or you must wait for the game to be allowed again at the federal level, which may happen one day, but not for quite some time.
If one day poker is allowed in casinos then this will be a huge step towards online poker being allowed, but it's just one step at a time in this respect and even live play will be a long way off, and may never happen at all.
Some online casinos do offer other games for US residents, and you can sign up to these and participate in Alabama. Although legally this is a bit of a grey area and is most likely illegal, there's been no record of anyone being persecuted for doing so now. Now we certainly aren't recommending that you jump on Bovada or 888 Casino and play some roulette or blackjack, but we are merely pointing out the fact that no one has been reprimanded in Alabama for doing so.
The same is true for the few online poker rooms that offer games to players in the state. You can find a place to play Texas holdem online, but it isn't licensed or regulated so you have no protection.
Texas Holdem Live Options
If you live in Alabama and have no intention of leaving but still wish to sit down at the felt and play poker every now and then you'll need to do some travelling. By far the best place to go for Texas holdem poker in the immediate surrounding of the state will be Florida. Poker is still flourishing in Florida and you'll be able to find dozens of rooms across the state with a good variety of games and limits running all the time.
Florida is only matched by California and Nevada when it comes to the sheer number of rooms and players. If you don't want to travel down to the sunshine state, then your next best option is Mississippi. Unlike Alabama, Mississippi has embraced the history of poker and allows casinos and poker rooms to operate. You'll find several good options in casinos along the Mississippi river and elsewhere in the state. If you're in the south of Alabama, then Biloxi is just across the border and offers a great poker room with several games and varying stakes.
While you won't be able to play Texas holdem poker in Alabama there's some light at the end of the tunnel, mostly in respect to the fact you can drive for a short amount of time and play poker in another state. As we discussed earlier, this is a massive loss for the state in relation to missed taxes, and it never ceases to amaze us that states still have draconian laws like this and miss out on so much money that's exiting the state.
With religion playing such a prominent part in the negativity towards gaming and poker, there'll be no change in this respect soon and poker may never happen in the state. If you do live in Alabama and wish to play poker, make some noise about it. You may well find that there are plenty of others out there who feel the same way and if you join as one we just may see some changes soon. Until then, enjoy your poker action in Florida and Mississippi.