You won’t find legal online poker available to play for real money in North Carolina, although poker is as popular in the state as it is elsewhere in the US. There is, however, an in-person option — the poker room at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, a frequent host for World Series of Poker Circuit events.
Additionally, people in North Carolina can legally play online poker on social and sweepstakes sites such as Global Poker.
This page contains information about the current legal poker options in North Carolina as well as what might come next with regard to online poker in the state.
Is online poker legal in North Carolina?
No, North Carolina law does not permit most online gambling for real money, including online poker. Online poker is an example of a form of gambling specifically prohibited by Chapter 14-292 of the North Carolina General Statutes. You can buy lottery tickets online and play daily fantasy sports, though.
You might encounter offshore poker sites offering games to NC players, but those sites are not subject to US or North Carolina laws and regulations, including NC poker laws. Such sites present numerous risks, and we recommend you avoid them.
Will North Carolina legalize online poker soon?
North Carolina does not appear poised to legalize online poker in the near future. Lawmakers have recently legalized other forms of gambling expansion, online sports betting in particular. As well, current budget talks have turned to the prospect of adding retail casinos, which will likely include more in-person poker. But there is no concrete prospect at present for the state to allow online poker for real money in North Carolina.
Global Poker in North Carolina
One legal option for North Carolina poker players is to play on social and sweepstakes sites that employ virtual currencies, the most popular example of which is Global Poker. The site offers a variety of ring games and tournaments, and depending on how you play, you may be able to redeem winnings for cash prizes.
Because Global Poker serves most of the US and Canada, the site often has a large number of players. That means the potential for a variety of game options:
- Texas Hold’em (including both no limit and fixed limit)
- Omaha (pot limit, either high only or hi-lo)
- Crazy Pineapple (a hold’em variant in which you start with three hole cards instead of two)
- Caribbean Poker (a version of the popular casino poker game)
- Surge Poker (a “fast-fold” game exclusive to online poker)
Besides the regular ring games, Global Poker also offers a large selection of daily and weekly tournaments such as the Daily Hundo and the Sunday Scrimmage. The site hosts frequent tournament series, as well. This includes regular series like the Eagle Cup and Grizzly Games as well as seasonal series like the Spring Carnival and Summer Ring Dash.
Thanks to the large player pool, tournaments on Global Poker can often get quite big with significant prize pools.
Potential North Carolina online poker sites
As noted, real money online poker is not legal in North Carolina. With around 10.5 million people living there, though, the state rivals places like New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where legal online poker sites have prospered.
Of course, North Carolina would first need to legalize online gambling for online poker sites to launch in the state. There is no legislative push in that direction, and it seems unlikely anything could happen on that front before other forms of gambling expansion, such as online sports betting.
Looking ahead, however, it is relatively easy to guess which online poker sites would be interested in launching in NC should the opportunity arise.
WSOP.com is a product of Caesars Entertainment, which also operates the two Harrah’s casinos in North Carolina for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The World Series of Poker is the most recognizable name in poker, and WSOP.com is a significant part of its operations. Right now, it has online poker rooms operating in four states. The site offers a variety of poker variants and formats, with cash games and tournaments running constantly.
PokerStars is another big name in online poker, with sites in dozens of countries around the world. PokerStars has found its way into three US states so far, and would certainly entertain the possibility of launching in NC if it were possible to do so. The site features state-of-the-art software and the largest variety of games and formats of any online poker site. Hold’em, Omaha, and stud games are all available, plus many other variants like the online-only fast-fold game Zoom.
BetMGM Poker operates in three states, including as part of the partypoker US network of sites in New Jersey. Though relatively modest in terms of its available games, the site hosts monthly tournament series that has proven popular in the past. In NJ, the site has also been involved in some of partypoker’s World Poker Tour online events. As one of the few US-based poker sites, it’s possible BetMGM Poker could find its way to North Carolina if it became legal to do so.
Could North Carolina share online poker player pools with other states?
It appears unlikely the state will legalize online poker in North Carolina any time soon. If it were to do so, however, it could well follow the path of other states and join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement. Currently, Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Michigan are all part of the MSIGA, with Pennsylvania appearing likely to join, as well.
The agreement lets online poker rooms in each state that is participating combine their player pools, allowing players from each of the states to play against one another. Doing so is advantageous for players, since increased player liquidity means more cash games and larger tournament fields (and prize pools).
WSOP.com has sites in multiple states that are part of the agreement. That has let it run tournaments in which players from multiple states can participate. It seems likely that if WSOP.com were to launch in NC and the state subsequently joined the MSIGA, the North Carolina site would be part of WSOP tournaments.
All of this is conjecture, of course. Even in an optimistic scenario, it would likely be years before a legal, real money online poker room in North Carolina joined other states with legal rooms to create a combined multi-state player pool.
Live poker in North Carolina
There is just one legal poker room in North Carolina, but it is a prime destination not just for NC players but those from surrounding states, as well.
Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort poker room
When Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort first opened in 1997, it initially did not have table games. In fact, it wasn’t until 2012 that the tribal-state compact changed to allow them. During the years leading up to that change, visitors could play poker at Harrah’s Cherokee, but only at electronic tables. The casino had as many as 50 tables at once. Players could compete against one another, and the games proved popular. But it wasn’t quite the same as poker with actual cards, chips and dealers.
Finally, in 2012, the casino introduced live dealers for its poker games. The new poker room initially featured about a dozen tables, though over the years it has grown into a 32-table poker room. The World Series of Poker-branded room is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. Cash games are always running, particularly No Limit Texas Hold’em ($1/$3 and $2/$5 blinds). During the evenings and on the weekends, you often can also find Pot Limit Omaha available. The room will also sometimes open a $4/$8 fixed-limit hold’em table if demand warrants.
Harrah’s Cherokee also typically hosts two NLHE tournaments every night from Monday through Thursday, one $80 and one $140. And it runs a $250 buy-in tourney on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. That schedule gets interrupted, however, when the casino hosts the WSOP Circuit series, which happens quite frequently.
The World Series of Poker comes to North Carolina
Not long after introducing live dealers, Harrah’s Cherokee hosted its first World Series of Poker Circuit series in April 2013. While the North Carolina poker room had a couple dozen tables, the WSOP events took place in the large entertainment venue. The series proved a huge success, attracting hundreds of players from North Carolina as well as from Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and elsewhere.
The big turnout for that inaugural series encouraged the WSOP to keep coming back to Cherokee, usually multiple times per year. The casino even became the site for the climactic event of the year-long WSOP Circuit series, the WSOP National Championship.
2023 World Series of Poker North Carolina Tour Stop Dates
- Nov. 23, 2023-Dec. 4, 2023 @ Harrah’s Cherokee
- Feb. 15, 2024-Feb. 26, 2024 @ Harrah’s Cherokee
- May 2, 2024-May 13, 2024 @ Harrah’s Cherokee
Catawba Two Kings Casino a future option
Mark Heintzman with Delaware North, the gaming operator working with the Catawba Tribe has touted a future poker room at the permanent Two Kings Casino. Currently, the casino is housed in a temporary structure, but Heintzman stated in May 2022 that “we are currently reviewing all options for table and video games, including poker, that will be available at the permanent casino.”
Famous poker players from North Carolina
The great Mike Sexton was originally from Ohio, where he grew up and became a top gymnast at Ohio State University. After college, Sexton served in the US Army and was stationed at Fort Bragg. He remained in the state after finishing his service, and it was during his time there that he significantly developed his poker talents, playing in NC games for many years before finally moving to Las Vegas in the mid-1980s. From there, Sexton became a true poker star, winning three WSOP bracelets and accumulating over $6.7 million. He also became the face of the World Poker Tour as a co-host for many years, eventually earning entry into the Poker Hall of Fame for his playing and his role as the “Ambassador of Poker.”
Greg “Fossilman” Raymer is best known for winning the 2004 World Series of Poker Main Event during the height of the “poker boom,” topping a field of 2,576 to claim a $5 million first prize. Born in North Dakota, Raymer relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2005 and has made the state his home ever since. It was in 2005 that he made another deep WSOP Main Event run, finishing 25th out of 5,619 players. All told, Raymer has accumulated over $8 million in tournament winnings in his career.
Hailing from Clayton, North Carolina, (near Raleigh), Chris “BigHuni” Hunichen ranks in The Hendon Mob database as the all-time winningest tournament poker player from the state, with more than $10 million in career earnings. That doesn’t count his online successes, where he has won even more than that and his accolades include once ranking as the No. 1 player on PocketFives. Hunichen has three seven-figure live scores to his credit, including nearly $2 million for finishing third in the $250,000 buy-in Super High Roller at the 2022 WSOP.
After winning a WPT title in 2006, Mark Newhouse later made history by making the WSOP Main Event final table two years in a row in 2013 and 2014. Incredibly, Newhouse finished in ninth place both years out of fields of 6,352 and 6,683. It was the first time a player had made back-to-back final tables at the WSOP Main Event since Dan Harrington in 2003 and 2004, and no one else has managed the feat since. All told, Newhouse has more than $3.5 million in live tournament winnings.
Another top online and live poker player from NC is Mike Sowers of Thomasville. Sowers made a name for himself in online poker, where he sometimes went by “sowersuncc” as a nod to his school, UNC Charlotte. Sowers has over $3.7 million in live tournament winnings, and has won at least that playing online. His biggest live score came at the 2011 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure Main Event, when he finished fifth for $700,000.
North Carolina online poker FAQ
No, you cannot. The laws in those states require you to be located within state lines to play online poker legally. However, if you visit one of those states, you can play online poker without being a resident. For instance, if you take a trip to Las Vegas, you can create an account and play on the WSOP.com Nevada site if you wish. You just cannot play on that site or others after you return to North Carolina.