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Wisconsin Poker Laws

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Wisconsin-car-insuranceThe crime of gambling is defined in Wisconsin as follows:

945.02 Gambling. Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor:
(1) Makes a bet; or
(2) Enters or remains in a gambling place with the intent to make a bet, or participate in a lottery, or to play a gambling machine; or
(3) Conducts a lottery, or with the intent to conducts a lottery, possesses facilities to do so.

So the first part makes betting illegal, and the law does also prohibit both frequenting “gambling places” with even the intent to bet and also prohibits running a gambling place or other gambling scheme or showing the means and intent to do so.

We’re concerned with how betting is defined here, and the law provides the following definition:

945.01 (1) Bet. A bet is a bargain by which the parties agree that, dependent upon chance even though accompanied by some skill, one stands to win or lose something of value specified in the agreement.

This is a pretty broad definition and does specify a number of exclusions, like contracts to purchase securities, contests based purely on skill, indemnity contracts, and a number of approved gambling schemes such as bingo, raffles, and pari-mutuel wagering provided they fall within the regulations pertaining to each.


How May This Apply To Real Money Poker?

None of these exclusions pertain to poker per se though so it now becomes a question of whether poker fits the definition of gambling generally.

Some have reasoned that this is dependent on the level of skill required, and that if the betting is found to be predominantly a matter of skill rather than chance, it may not constitute betting in Wisconsin.

I don’t feel that this is the case at all though as even though some states have specified that any element of chance is enough here, this law wouldn’t really be much different, as this would indicate that chance needs to affect the outcome, which is the same as saying the outcome is dependent upon chance.

There is no question really that the outcome of poker bets are dependent upon chance, and there is some skill involved of course, but from the way this reads, the fact that there is skill involved as well does not save this.

I think there’s little doubt here that betting in Wisconsin includes poker playing and the addition of whether or not skill is involved seems to be specifically written as to include betting on the game of poker.

Poker is a game where there are both elements of skill and chance and chance does indeed determine the outcome of the bets, they may not determine the outcome of poker playing in the long term, and the longer the term the more effect skill has on these outcomes, but keep in mind we’re just looking at bets in themselves and chance certainly has a material influence on bets, and a significant one.


Playing Poker In Wisconsin

“Gambling places” are illegal under the law, and gambling places are defined as a physical location where gambling is conducted, where this place is set up for the purpose of providing gambling or gambling related activity. (3) So a card room would qualify, your own home playing on a computer wouldn’t be a gambling place per se though although the betting that would be involved would constitute betting under the law.

However, Indian casinos are given special treatment here, as is the case in several other states, and there are a total of 11 of them in Wisconsin which offer live real money poker. (4) Most of the live poker rooms in Wisconsin are on the small side, but on the other hand there’s quite a few of them, so that is an advantage.

If you don’t want to drive at all though and just want to play real money poker at home, against other players on the internet, then you’ll be pleased to know that several online poker sites accept players from Wisconsin at their tables.

In spite of the law likely disallowing online poker play for money in Wisconsin, no one is being punished for this in the state or in any state in the country for that matter, and there are quite a few poker players from Wisconsin who enjoy playing online poker every day.

Wisconsin may pass a bill some day regulating online poker but players may have to wait a few years to see this ever happen. Wisconsin falls somewhere in the middle of things, they do have real money live poker and casinos but it’s only offered by the Indian tribes, so they still aren’t as permissive as some other states who seem more likely to pull the trigger on this. However this doesn’t mean that you have to wait for this to ever happen to play online poker though, and you can begin playing not years from now but minutes from now.

So if you are up for a game there really isn’t anything stopping you, and if you are then here are our top online poker site accepting Wisconsin residents:

The Best Poker Site for Wisconsin Residents? Ignition Poker.

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(1) Wisconsin Statutes, 945.02

(2) Wisconsin Statutes, 945.01

(3) ibid.

(4) All Live and Online Poker Rooms In Wisconsin


About the Author

Sadonna Price
Author Sadonna is a mom of two and an avid poker player who also enjoys online casino games. She has been part of the online gambling industry for over a decade, working as a news and blog writer. Sadonna still plays Texas hold’em in her free time while her daily job revolves around providing insights into the online gambling world using her creativity and writing skills.