Tennessee Legal Poker Sites

Tennessee StateChris Moneymaker, the WSOP champion of 2003 who kicked off the poker boom lives in Tennessee. Unfortunately for poker fans, this is where the poker connection ends. This State is completely dry when it comes to real money poker, with no casinos at all and no social home games allowed. The only poker action of any description is in free to enter bar leagues – or at offshore internet poker sites.

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This article gives you an overview of every category of poker game in the State of Tennessee, outlining your options for each type. First of all, your options for enjoying live poker card rooms are covered – these involve crossing into neighboring States. Next social poker gets discussed, including charity, home and bar-league games. After that you will find options available for playing online poker. Next are some excerpts and analysis from the TN Statute books – before a high-level summary can be found at the end of the page.

Tennessee Live Poker Games

There is not a single casino in Tennessee, and no tribes run one on their lands either. With no other type of card rooms available, anyone seeing real money action needs to cross State borders and visit one of the Neighbors. Mississippi has a great choice of casinos to the South, and this is the primary destination for Tennessee poker fans.

With no plans to license any State casinos or tribes currently pushing for casinos on their land, this situation looks like it will remain in place.

Are Home Games Legal In Tennessee?

Real money home games are not permitted in this State, with no carve-out even for penny games where nobody is making profit from hosting the game. Looking through the history of the press in TN shows that there are very few busts of small stakes home games. You should certainly keep in mind that you could be the first home-game to make the news if you did run a game though. Charity events are strictly limited in Tennessee, and you will not find poker games under these laws either.

The only games at all are bar tournament leagues. These are freerolls, with no entry fees and only minimal prizes contributed by the bars that host the games. You will not be able to practice poker skills in any meaningful way in these games (no money at risk, so nobody folds), though this is a popular social activity and the only outlet for frustrated poker players which is not expressly against the law.

Tennessee Online Poker Games

Online poker is not specifically mentioned in the law books in Tennessee. Both the government and the law enforcement agencies believe that this activity is already made illegal by the general anti-gambling laws – which were created before computers and the internet were ever created.

The stance of Tennessee on other types of gambling and poker activity do not bode well for those players hoping that regulation of online poker games will come to this State. The chances look to be close to zero for the near future at least. For my money, only Utah, Hawaii and South Carolina look less likely to regulate online poker games.

Offshore poker sites do welcome players from Tennessee to their virtual tables. These internet poker sites are based out in the Caribbean and are legal in their own countries. They allow Americans to play, though there can be difficulties with making deposits and withdrawals. As far as the TN authorities are concerned, playing games at these sites is against the law. There is no known enforcement activity against individuals for enjoying these games at the time of writing though.

What Do The Tennessee Gambling Statutes Say?

This State approaches the legislation for gambling games including poker from two different angles. First of all there is a definition of illegal gambling games. This includes wording capturing games which have only an ‘element’ of chance, which rules out the skill-game defense from a poker playing perspective. It is also illegal to host or promote a gambling game. The combination of these laws makes things pretty much water tight here.

Here is the main ‘game of chance’ definition, this comes from part 37-9-501 of the TN codes:

… means risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, or any games of chance associated with casinos…

Tennessee Poker – Summing It Up

The only positives I can think of for TN poker fans are that Mississippi is not too far away and at least you can enjoy freeroll bar leagues. Only South Carolina to the east is more restrictive of poker games.

There is little chance of things changing for the better any time soon, either with the licensing of casinos or regulation of online poker.