North Dakota’s definition of gambling though isn’t the shortest you will ever see, and it is pretty broad:
“”Gambling” means risking any money, credit, deposit, or other thing of value for gain,
contingent, wholly or partially, upon lot, chance, the operation of gambling apparatus,
or the happening or outcome of an event, including an election or sporting event, over
which the person taking the risk has no control. Gambling does not include:
a. Lawful contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance in which awards are made
only to entrants or to the owners of entries;
b. Lawful business transactions, or other acts or transactions now or hereafter
expressly authorized by law; or
c. Use of gaming equipment and devices that may not otherwise be lawful in the
state when the equipment or devices are used by any institution under the control
of the state board of higher education which awards degrees of bachelor’s or
higher for the purpose of conducting scientific research in a controlled
environment on the campus of that institution” (1)
This is a similar definition to what is used in several other states, and among other things, considers placing wagers dependant at least to some degree upon chance as gambling. This includes placing wagers on the game of poker as it is dependant in part upon chance, which would be the way the cards fall in a hand, and all forms of poker are dependent upon the fall of the cards of course.
North Dakota’s Gambling Offenses
This is where things do get a little odd. The first thing that really stands out here is that only private games are mentioned, and public gambling, or gambling that does not occur in private, is not even mentioned in the prohibitions.
This is something that is extremely unusual to say the least. It may be that North Dakota considers all gambling to occur in a private setting, but this would require that we give the term private setting a whole different definition than its common usage. It is not defined though, and there are very few definitions provided in the statute. Law is famous for its meticulous attention to detail but this is not the case at all with this section anyway.
So here’s how the law against gambling in North Dakota reads:
“Except as permitted by law:
1. It is an infraction to engage in gambling on private premises where the total amount
wagered by an individual player exceeds twenty-five dollars per individual hand, game,
2. It is a class A misdemeanor to:
a. Sell, purchase, receive, or transfer a chance to participate in a lottery, whether
the lottery is drawn in state or out of state, and whether the lottery is lawful in the
other state or country;
b. Disseminate information about a lottery with intent to encourage participation in it,
except that a legal lottery may be advertised in North Dakota; or
c. Engage in gambling on private premises where the total amount wagered by an
individual player exceeds five hundred dollars per individual hand, game, or
The statute goes on to prescribe a more serious offense, a felony, for those “engaging or participating in the business of gambling.” We need not concern ourselves with this though as players.
How Does This Cash Out As Far As Poker Players Go?
We know that this does make it illegal to play poker “on private premises” where the amount wagered by an individual player exceeds $25 per hand, game, or event, which is an infraction, and a Class A Misdemeanor if the player wagers over $500 per hand, game, or event.
We do know what hand means when it comes to poker, however, it’s not clear at all what a game or event would consist of. There is a big difference between wagering an average of $25 per hand and a total of $25 in a night’s session, which could take place over several hours.
On the other hand, they do mention the word hand here, perhaps a game of poker occurs with each hand dealt. Then, a new game starts with the dealing of the next hand. It is more difficult to interpret the term event to apply to each hand, but it could be interpreted this way, as each hand may be seen as an event where a new event takes place on the next hand, although this would be more of a stretch.
It may be entirely reasonable though to view the distinguishing descriptions of hand, game, and event to apply to different forms of gambling, where in poker the distinguishing one would be hand, where in another type of gambling or another format such as a tournament, event would be more appropriate. This is all pretty much a guess here though due to the absolute vagueness of the statute.
Playing Poker In North Dakota
So if you’re going to play poker in North Dakota, whether this be at a home game or online, you need to pay attention to how much you are wagering in order to stay within the law here. Otherwise you risk being charged, although it is incredible to imagine how they would enforce this in private poker games, unless the government had a spy at the games who was tracking average pot contributions, or they obtained testimony from one of the participants.
As far as online play goes, how much a poker player is wagering would be outside their ability to determine, plain and simple. As far as the live scene goes, North Dakota also has a total of 5 licensed live poker rooms, and all are under restrictions as far as pot size goes. (3) There are much better options via the internet, which we will cover in the next section below.
Online Poker for North Dakota Residents
In addition to that, poker players in North Dakota have access to several online poker rooms, and in fact no online poker room that accepts players from most U.S. states has any issues with players from North Dakota.
So if you are an online player from North Dakota, you can choose from several good sites, and the best of these in our opinion are Ignition Poker (<< review here) and Americas Cardroom (<< review here). Check one or both of them out by clicking on the links to our expert reviews on them.
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