Kentucky Texas Holdem
All forms of gambling are illegal in Kentucky, aside from a few small exceptions, and this definitely includes live Texas holdem poker. Naturally this extends to online poker also, with no regulation or legislation allowing for online play. Not all hope it lost if you're Kentucky native though, as you still have plenty of options to get your poker fill as we elaborate on below.
The only form of gambling allowed under state laws in Kentucky is placing wagers on horse racing. This is tightly regulated, more so than in many other states and even the type of horses and frequency of entries in to races are controlled by state regulations.
This is quite extensive and really does put Kentucky as close as you could come to strict non-gambling states like Utah and Hawaii. Off track betting is also permitted at the regulated establishments that exist within Kentucky. Permitted racing includes thoroughbred racing and also harness racing, so you can get some action if you just feel the need to place some bets in this state.
Only pari-mutuel wagering is legal in Kentucky. So those that run the gambling are in no way collecting from wagers directly and only receive a commission based on all wagers received. The remaining money is placed in a pool and pay outs are determined based on wager rates from all of those who contributed to this pool with their bets.
Unfortunately this does not extend to poker in any way. Casinos and gambling establishments are illegal to run and operate in the state and no wagering on games of chance is permitted at all. You can run charity games though so if you'd like to raise some money for a charity through a poker game this is certainly legal.
Keep in mind though if you profit from this in any way at all the lawmakers and authorities will come down on you very hard. The most common form of gaming for charities is in the form of bingo, raffles, and scratch tickets. So you usually wouldn't find a charity poker game.
Unlicensed Texas Holdem
Even with the laws and regulations around gambling, this has not stopped a number of informal poker games popping up at restaurants, bars, and clubs. You won't have to look too hard to find some of these games and they're usually played at lower stakes.
If you do choose to take a seat then proceed with caution. Firstly, because state laws prohibit some games, you could land yourself in trouble with the authorities. Although they usually only go after the person or people who are running the game.
Secondly, these types of games aren't regulated or controlled like games are in casinos. So security should always be a concern, and the chances that someone is cheating or colluding in the game is much higher than you find in a casino. Of course we aren't saying that all of these games are dangerous and filled with mechanics, simply that you need to take some extra precautionary steps when entering these games when compared to a live poker game in a respected casino.
Online Texas Holdem
In respect to online poker there's no clear legislation, except for a brief connection between statements in law that says devices that allow gambling aren't permitted. Although this is obviously a bit of a grey area as you can do much more on a computer than just gambling and online poker.
For bets on horse racing you can do this electronically, which further muddies the waters. One thing is clear though, they apply the law in the live environment to online play. Therefore you can't play online poker or gamble online in casinos in games such as blackjack, roulette, and craps. Once again the onus is on the operator and they'll be shut down by the state authorities if they attempt to offer online wagering, aside from horse racing, to citizens of Kentucky.
Legal Live Poker Options
Your best bet to play live poker if you live in Kentucky is to travel out of state. Depending on where you live in the state this shouldn't be too much of an inconvenience. Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio all have casinos and poker rooms relatively close to the border with Kentucky, so basically you can drive a few hours from anywhere in the state to get to a decent poker room.
If you live further south in the state or to the west, you'll need to travel a bit more to play Texas holdem poker. If you're in the western part of Kentucky you can travel to West Virginia to play, with a handful of vibrant rooms running there. To the south your options are short and you'll have to travel even further. This is because Tennessee also prohibits most forms of gambling, so you'll need to head north, east, or west to find a live poker table if you live in the southern part of Kentucky.
Many of you may be thinking why Kentucky allows betting on horse racing, but no other forms of gambling. While this is a contradiction to say no gambling is permitted except on one type of event, the reasoning behind this is quite common to many other states in the US.
Fundamentally it's written in law that horse racing is actually skill based, because of the skill of the horse and jockey in respect to how well they do in a race. Therefore, gambling on this isn't based on chance or luck.
Because of this one reason you can place bets on horses, but can't play poker or sit down at a blackjack table. While many would argue that poker is a game of skill, lawmakers and authorities don't see it this way. Many casino operators have attempted to challenge this in the courts without much luck. So it's really down to petitioning the law to change if you want to see these types of games legalized any time soon.
If you're a native of Kentucky your poker options are quite limited. You'll have access to some good options though provided you live near a state border, particularly in the north. If not, you'll have to do some travelling and as such you probably won't take to the felt nearly as much as you want to.
If you have ambitions to play a lot more poker and become a regular then you'll need to make the move to a city that's right on the border, or move to another state. Poker options are just too limited and there's probably too much risk involved for most people to get involved in some of the underground games that happen in the state.
Because of the hard line stance the state takes in relation to gambling there is slim to no chance that poker will ever be legalised. Even though horse racing betting is allowed, everything else is banned and the door seems truly shut in respect to more gaming opening up. This is happening even with pressure building from neighbouring states, so based on this we've made the aforementioned conclusion.
Texas holdem is just as popular in Kentucky as in most other states, but you still can't find any legal poker rooms. The good news is you can travel to the surrounding states to quickly find a wide variety of poker options. And if you know where to look the state is filled with private and home holdem games.