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The laws relating to the playing of poker for real money do require some inspection, as is often the case with state enacted gambling laws. In order to work our way through this, let us start with how “bet” is defined in the Oklahoma gambling statutes:
“A “bet” is a bargain in which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance, or in which one of the parties to the transaction has valid reason to believe that it is dependent upon chance, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.” (1)
So does playing poker for money constitute a bet? Well this in itself is a bit problematic, as it involves how we are to determine “dependent upon chance.” This could mean the bet is wholly dependent upon chance, or it could involve only an element of chance.
When we make a bet in poker, we do allow for an element of chance in our decision making, unless you had the absolute nuts for instance, where there would be no element of chance in that decision. However we rarely have a hand like this, so there is always some element of chance, even when it comes down to the chance someone will fold where the cards may not have anything to do with the result.
So this definition isn’t particularly well written, but we do have some other resources to turn to, the way the actual prohibition against this reads. Here’s how the crime of “betting on or playing prohibited game” reads:
“Any person who bets or plays at any of said prohibited games, or who shall bet or play at any games whatsoever, for money, property, checks, credits or other representatives of value with cards, dice or any other device which may be adapted to or used in playing any game of chance or in which chance is a material element, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor…” (2)
How This Law Applies To Playing Poker For Real Money
So now we know that while poker may or may not involve betting under the definition the law provides, it certainly involves playing, and the inclusion of “any person who bets of plays” does clarify this. They also clarify the role of chance as to include not only games of chance but where chance is a material element, which is the case with poker.
So based upon this playing poker for money would constitute playing a prohibited game, as we can easily deduce that a prohibited game would involve one that involves a material element of chance.
It does also refer to “said prohibited games,” and that reference is to the previous section dealing with the more serious crime of running gambling games, where certain games have been specified as prohibited. So to drive the final nail in the coffin of poker, not that it is even needed, let’s look at how that reads:
“Except as provided in the Oklahoma Charity Games Act, every person who opens, or causes to be opened, or who conducts, whether for hire or not, or carries on either poker, roulette, craps or any banking or percentage, or any gambling game played with dice, cards or any device, for money, checks, credits, or any representatives of value, or who either as owner or employee, whether for hire or not, deals for those engaged in any such game, shall be guilty of a felony…” (3)
So there we have it, they mention poker specifically as a game that is illegal to operate, a prohibited game in other words, so that completely clears up the matter.
Playing Poker In Oklahoma
What about playing home poker games for money? While some states have provisions to allow for what’s termed social gambling or gaming, Oklahoma does not. Moreover, not only are the players subject to the misdemeanor charge of playing in such a game, the host is subject to being charged with a felony for operating the game.
The law against operating games is no doubt directed at commercial operators, but at least in theory it could be applied to a friendly game over beers among friends in someone’s kitchen if there is money being put into the pot.
Teddy Mitchell, of Oklahoma City, OK, was charged and convicted of running a gambling operation in 2014, and while the main charge was operating an offshore sports betting enterprise, one of the charges was running a high stakes poker game out of his home. (4) So while it probably wouldn’t be likely that Average Joe would be convicted of this in Oklahoma, the possibility does exist.
One of the things that Mr. Mitchell was charged with was using the internet to place bets for clients, he didn’t own a betting site he just placed bets as a player on behalf of these people, even though it did involve over $8 million of business and ended up attracting the interest of the FBI who busted him.
While this did involve sports betting and not poker, there’s nothing in the law to suggest poker playing for real stakes would not be illegal as other forms of non sanctioned poker would be. Obviously though the risk is near zero that you would ever get charged for something like this though, as long as you are playing privately, unlike the defendant in this case whose business was public.
Live and Online Poker in Oklahoma
Oklahoma does have a total of 18 live poker rooms, both tribal and non-tribally run, where you can partake in poker all you want without fear of the law. The largest of these is the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, boasting an impressive 46 tables, and there are a number of choices around the state as well of all sizes. (5)
As far as playing online goes, there isn’t any plans currently to regulate online poker in Oklahoma, but poker is particularly popular in this state, and that may end up happening down the road.
In the mean time, if you still wish to play online and live in Oklahoma, no one has ever been charged with playing online in this state or any other state in the country for that matter, and many players choose to play it in spite of what the law may say.
Should you choose to do the same, we have our top 2 recommendations for you, Ignition Poker and Americas Cardroom. Check them out by clicking on the links to the reviews on them we’ve done up for you.