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
Because of this decision, we probably won’t see poker in
Idaho for a long time.
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.
Thankfully, common sense prevailed in this circumstance and
the laws were relaxed in relation to home games for small
amounts of money.
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
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
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
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