Online Poker in West Virginia

West Virginia online poker is on its way!

In a time when meeting up for a poker game is becoming increasingly difficult, many poker players would like to be able to turn to their mobile devices and computers and play the game they love. For West Virginians, their day of jubilee is fast approaching.

Online poker has always been the lowest priority on online gambling expansion list. To that end, there are certainly some issues that poker operators will have to hammer out before they can launch.

Whenever and however West Virginia online poker happens, though, this page will be your best source of information. As more WV poker sites join the party, you will find the very best and latest in details, updates and, best of all, bonuses at West Virginia poker sites.

Is online poker legal in West Virginia?

Yes. By virtue of the passage of the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act (H-2934) in March 2019, most forms of online gambling became legal under West Virginia law. The bill specifically legalized online poker as part of the expansion.

When will online poker launch in WV?

It is hard to know exactly when we expect WV online poker sites to launch. However, the initial timeline estimated online poker would debut in West Virginia in late 2020 or early 2021.

Whenever a gambling expansion occurs, there is always a lag time between the law and the promulgation of rules by which the overseeing body will administer the practice in the state.

West Virginia’s gambling authority is the West Virginia Lottery. The name of the bill reflects the fact that all gambling in the state is, in a sense, an extension of the lottery itself.

By the wording of the law, lottery officials were compelled to issue “emergency” rules by July 2020. The word “emergency” in this context is more to indicate that the rules themselves are temporary, rather than any kind of inherent time pressure.

Regardless of what their definition of the word was, lottery officials have already submitted and are moving forward with their set of temporary rules. However, the state’s plans to take its sweet time in issuing licenses and getting underway have been dashed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The outpouring of business and interest in online poker as the result of land-based poker’s temporary hiatus has inspired regulators and operators to push forward as quickly as possible. Thus, statements from regulators are guiding our estimates for the timeline of online poker’s launch in West Virginia.

Best poker apps in WV

Of course, until they launch or announce their plans, we won’t know exactly which apps will be the first to market. However, given that online poker sites must partner with an in-state casino in order to do business, we do have some indication about which sites might have the inside track.

BetMGM Poker

The first obvious choice to launch an online poker site in West Virginia is MGM. The casino giant has already launched its BetMGM sportsbook product in conjunction with The Greenbrier, so an expansion would seem to make sense.

In all likelihood, MGM will simply integrate its online poker software into the existing product. It’s just not clear how soon the company will do so.

PokerStars WV

The other frontrunner to launch an online poker site in WV is PokerStars. Thanks to a merger between parent company Flutter Entertainment and FanDuel, PokerStars now has an in-state connection at the Greenbrier as well. The undisputed king of online poker in the world is, no doubt, interested in expanding its profile as far as it can.

The only hurdle to launches from both of these companies is the law itself. Each of West Virginia’s five casinos are permitted only one online poker skin, so both of these titans could not exist as extensions of The Greenbrier.

However, given the rapidity with which partnerships can form, there’s no reason to assume that one of these companies would be unable to jump ship to another homegrown casino location’s license.

The other four casinos in the state have yet to indicate a preference for a poker distributor yet. Although they will likely do so in the near future, online poker in West Virginia is not the slam dunk that it might be elsewhere.

Why WV online poker is problematic for companies

Given the imminent nature of the launch of online poker sites in West Virginia, you might think that there’d be a bigger rush to secure a spot in the market from online poker operators. However, West Virginia’s low population creates an undeniable hurdle for these companies to negotiate. The reason why online poker is lowest on the priority list is due to the liquidity requirement that the game possesses. In other words, it is absolutely essential for a certain number of people to play online poker in order for an app to remain a viable business product.

Because West Virginia’s population is not terribly high, there are concerns that it may be difficult for WV poker sites to field a player pool at all. Even if they manage to get going, keeping a steady stream of new customers may prove untenably challenging.

This undeniable problem could be part of the reason that online poker sites have not simply rushed into the state in search of partnerships. However, if West Virginia could manage to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement and share its liquidity across states, there might be more of a groundswell of support.

So far, the state has appeared ready to do so, but a new interpretation of the Wire Act remains under debate in federal court. Until the case is resolved, and favorably so for the states, West Virginia online poker will have to stand on its own, for better or worse.

How online poker in West Virginia will work

When online poker finally launches in West Virginia, the first thing to do will be to download the app to your phone.

Most of the top poker apps will have dedicated options for both iPhone and Android users, and the procedure will be mostly the same as for other types of apps. However, before they begin the process, Android users will need to allow for unknown source downloads due to Google’s ban on gambling apps in the Google Play Store.

One quirk for poker sites that does not happen with WV online casinos and sportsbooks is the preference to download full clients to their laptops or desktops. Because of the nature of online poker and the logistics for multi-tabling, players often need, for lack of a better term, more space.

How to deposit and cash out quickly

After registration, you will need to get some money into your new poker account. Look for a button that says “Cashier,” “Deposit” or something else to indicate the banking section of the site.

Now, like all online businesses, poker sites rely upon players being able to move money in and out of their poker accounts quickly. So they have a vested interest in making the process as painless as they can. Thus, there are usually several options to make a deposit, and you should choose the one that works best with your financial situation.

Typical deposit methods include:

  • Credit or debit card
  • Electronic check/ACH
  • Electronic wallet (PayPal, Skrill, etc.)
  • Online banking/wire transfer
  • Money order/paper check
  • PayNearMe (via 7-Eleven)
  • Cash at the land-based casino cage

One thing to note about credit cards, however, is that many banks refuse to process transactions with gambling websites. Even some larger banks, like Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo will flatly refuse to let a request go through.

Even if your bank does approve a deposit to a poker site, it may consider the transaction to be a cash advance. As such, you may find yourself on the hook for some heavy fees, so make sure to check your terms of service before you attempt to deposit with a card.

Finally, if you have a poker bonus code to enter, you will need to do so when you sign up or make your deposit. There will be an optional space on the deposit page to enter the code, but be careful to enter it correctly, as the codes must be both specific and case-sensitive to activate their bonuses.

How to play online poker in WV

Once you’ve created and funded your account, you will notice that the vast majority of games available online will be for no-limit Texas Hold ’em. The most popular poker game in the world retains its stranglehold in the virtual sphere, and, with the exception of an occasional pot-limit Omaha game, it will be the only game in town — especially if traffic is low.

Most poker sites offer the following types of poker games for you to play:

  • Cash games — The value of chips is equal to their monetary value, and you can buy in for as much or as little as you like within a certain range. You can also rebuy any time you like, and come and go as you please.
  • Tournaments — You pay a set fee to reserve a place, and each player is issued the same value of chips to start. The chips have no direct relationship to their monetary value, and you play until you either lose all your chips or win every chip in play. Winnings are awarded based upon the order in which players are eliminated, with the last to remain receiving the biggest payout.
  • Sit-n-gos — A form of tournament in which the number of entrants is strictly defined beforehand, and the game does not begin until that exact number is met. Because the number of players is predetermined, the prize amounts are known from the beginning of play.

There are other types of games you may encounter, particularly on some of the larger sites. One of these variations is the jackpot sit-n-go, in which you will sit with two other players in a winner-take-all contest for a randomly determined prize. These tournaments increase the big blinds at blindingly fast intervals and involve quite a bit of luck.

Another type of online poker game you may find is a fast-fold game. This version of a cash game will shuttle you to a new hand at a different table the second that you fold the previous hand, so it is a way to play even more hands than at a typical table. However, you sacrifice the ability to learn your opponents’ tendencies in this variant, and the winning hand will tend to be higher in rank than a typical cash game.

Online poker bonuses

One major difference between live and online poker rooms is that there is a much greater chance to find a bonus, promotion or spiff online than there is in the retail setting.

There are several types of poker bonuses available once the West Virginia poker sites are live. They include:

  • No deposit bonuses — The site deposits cash or bonus dollars, which are playable onsite, into your account, and you don’t have to do anything beyond register for an account or enter a specific promo code.
  • Deposit/match/reload bonuses — The poker site will match all or a portion of your deposit amount, thereby adding an extra percentage into your account once you complete the deposit.
  • Freeroll tickets — Instead of receiving cash or bonus money, a site may elect to issue you tournament tickets or entries into special free tournaments.
  • Loyalty programs — For your play, you will receive points or credits in a loyalty program or system. These systems award prizes and perks to players who play often, and give preference to those who place the highest aggregate bet totals.

One thing to note is that some of these bonuses come with a few restrictions. One type of restriction is known as a playthrough requirement, which mandates that players play for a certain amount of time and pay a certain amount of rake before they can receive their bonus money as bona fide cash. Usually, bonuses with playthrough requirements on poker sites will release the cash in incremental amounts.

The other thing to keep in mind is that many playthrough requirements will also come with a time limit. So, after a certain point in the future, any unredeemed funds from your bonus account revert back to the poker site. One thing to consider before you opt into a bonus is how feasible the timeframe is for your lifestyle — very few poker bonuses are worth putting in the extra hours and affecting the attention you give to other life commitments.

One other thing to keep in front of you is the fact that there may be some crossover opportunities between poker and the other types of online gambling in the state. Keep your eyes peeled for those, especially if you enjoy playing in online casinos or betting on sports through your mobile device.

West Virginia online poker quirks

The West Virginia Lottery approved its emergency rules for online poker in May 2020. Thus, the regulatory agency became able to begin approving online poker operators for setting up shop in the state at that time.

However, the rules, as released to the public, indicate that there are some specifics that will make playing in West Virginia a bit different from in other locations.

For one thing, the rules require that seating at online tables be randomized as a default position. Although players can request specific seats at a table, they will have to sit at specially sequestered tables with other players who chose that option. Otherwise, typical players will only be able to choose their preferred table, not their position at it.

Of course, this rule is designed to limit the chances for bum hunting in the state. Seat selection is one of the more predatory activities in all of poker, and state officials are clearly worried that a shark-infested player pool will drive off all the recreational players — especially if the sharks can set reminders and target them.

This requirement is much more common overseas than in the US, so its inclusion into the WV Lottery rules is unusual. Nevertheless, the rationale for the rule makes some amount of sense.

Other quirky notes in the West Virginia rules include a requirement for hand histories to be available for the last five hands or more, a concrete ban on bots of any kind and a provision for sites to pay celebrities to play as a promotional item.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the rules mention that “reciprocal agreements” with other jurisdictions are allowed provided they do not run afoul of federal or state laws. In other words, West Virginia is leaving the door wide open for the state to join the MSIGA, but the federal court battle over the meaning of the Wire Act will have to be resolved before the state moves forward with the plan.

Live poker in West Virginia

All five of West Virginia’s casinos maintain poker rooms. They range in size from the two tables at the Greenbrier to the 18 at Mardi Gras. So, to be clear, you can play poker at any of the following locations:

You can play no-limit Texas Hold ’em no matter which casino you choose. However, other games are sporadically available, depending on where you go. They are:

Limit hold ’em

  • Hollywood Casino Charles Town
  • Mardi Gras Casino
  • Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack

Pot-limit Omaha

  • Hollywood Casino Charles Town
  • Mardi Gras Casino
  • Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack

Omaha 8 (High-Low)

  • Hollywood Casino Charles Town
  • Mardi Gras Casino

Seven card stud

  • Hollywood Casino Charles Town
  • Mardi Gras Casino
  • Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack

It’s possible that Wheeling Island also offers Omaha high-low. The casino information only lists Omaha, though, so you may want to double-check if you’re really in the mood for the split-pot game.

West Virginia online poker FAQ

Is online poker legal in West Virginia?

Yes! Thanks to the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, which passed in 2019, it is legal for all five of West Virginia’s casinos to acquire licenses and offer online poker.

Where can I play?

Nowhere just yet. Regulators and operators are still hammering out some logistics about exactly how to begin offering online poker in West Virginia.

When is the first online poker site going to launch in West Virginia?

Our best guess is that online poker will launch in West Virginia in July or August 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency of online poker access, and stakeholders in the state are moving as quickly as they can to get online poker off the ground.

Who will be allowed to play online poker in West Virginia?

Anyone over the age of 21 and inside the state of West Virginia can play online poker.

Do I have to be a West Virginia resident to play?

No. There is no residency requirement to play online poker in West Virginia.

Can I play on online poker from outside the state?

As a general rule, no. Most gambling across state lines is illegal under both state and federal law. However, pending the outcome of a Supreme Court case regarding an interpretation of the Wire Act, West Virginia may be able to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement and combine its player pool with that of states like New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.

What games will I be able to play online?

It depends on the site. No-limit Texas Hold ’em will be available on every site, and you’ll usually be able to find pot-limit Omaha most of the time, too. Beyond that, it really boils down to the size and scope of the site. Some sites, like PokerStars, have been known to release their own custom game variants from time to time.

Is online poker rigged?

The greater prevalence of bad beats, coolers and unlikely hands has led many online poker players to conclude that online poker is a rigged game. However, to date, there has been very little evidence that any kind of shenanigans are afoot at most reputable online poker sites.

The truth of the matter is that when the game itself moves faster, so do the unlikely events. So, even though it may seem as though someone has pulled the doomswitch on you, the reality is that you’re likely just getting caught by the probabilities of seeing more hands than you would in a live game.

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