Washington State is a mixed bag for poker players. Online poker is a felony, but it’s perfectly fine to play live in casinos, home games and leagues, so long as the state’s guidelines are being followed. More details can be found below.
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What Are the Laws for Playing Poker in Washington?
All forms of gambling not regulated is illegal. In Washington, gambling is considered as risking something of value on a game of chance. This includes all forms of online gambling.
What Are the Consequences of Being Caught Gambling?
Depending on what you’re caught doing, the consequences will be a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony. Being charged with a felony can result in a fine and/or prison time.
Just to give you an example, being caught playing online poker in Washington is a Class C felony, which can come with a $10,00 fine and/or up to 5 years in prison.
Can You Play Online Poker in Washington?
In fact, you’ll be lucky if you can find a site that will even accept you. Most of the larger sites have already left the United States market. The majority of those who stayed are not allowing players from Washington State at their site, as they’re running a risk operating in the US market as is.
You can still play for free if you can find a site to signup to. PokerStars allows you to play for free, and I imagine that you could play for free at Full Tilt Poker too, once they reopen in late 2012.
Shy of playing for free, you won’t be able to play online without taking a lot of risks — losing your bankroll to sites that close up shop or are shut down, being caught and fined/jailed, having to setup VPN and extra accounts, etc. It’s just not worth it.
Can You Play in Home Games?
According to this statute:
….a natural person who engages, on equal terms with the other participants, and solely as a contestant or bettor, in any form of gambling in which no person may receive or become entitled to receive any profit there from other than personal gambling winnings, and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation of a particular gambling activity. A natural person who gambles at a social game of chance on equal terms with the other participants shall not be considered as rendering material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation of the social game merely by performing, without fee or remuneration, acts directed toward the arrangement or facilitation of the game, such as inviting persons to play, permitting the use of premises for the game, or supplying cards or other equipment to be used in the games. (Section 9.46.0265)
…. social gambling should be ok, so long as no one is taking a profit from the game itself (rake) and all players are on equal terms.
Charitable games are ok too, so long as they have a special license.
Can You Play Live Poker in Washington?
Yes, there are many brick and mortar casinos in Washington that run real money poker tournaments and cash games. Here is a list of some of the larger casinos in the state:
Lucky Eagle – The poker room at Lucky Eagle is open 7 days a week. They run several tournaments with buy-ins ranging from $40-$60, as well as the occasional $250 tourney. Tuesday nights are set aside for omaha.
Clearwater Casino – Clearwater runs a $5k freeroll, $3/$6 holdem, $3-$100 spread, $4/$8 holdem, omaha (hi/lo) and kill games. Tournaments run regularly with buy-ins ranging from $25-$50. There is a ladies night and regularly monthly promotions.
Muckleshoot Casino – The Muckleshoot Casino runs $35-$100 tournaments. They pay for high hand and have bad beat jackpots.
Are There Any Poker Leagues in Washington State?
I did not find as many poker leagues in Washington compared to what I’ve found in other states. My guess is that is because other states have fewer casinos and/or stricter rules on home games. It’s the only thing that makes sense to me.
Here is the one league I found:
Washington State Poker Tour – Located in Kirkland, the WSPT is an $80 buy-in with optional $40 rebuy and add-on. There is a 45-player max and you need to bring your own chair and snacks. 7% of the pot is taken out for expenses. You’ll want to be sure to RSVP to secure a spot.