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Poker in California

Introduction

Population: 39,510,000

Capital: Sacramento

Currency: US Dollar ($)

State Name Abbreviation: CA

Time Zone: UTC-8

Casinos with Poker

  • Commerce Casino
  • The Gardens Casino
  • The Bicycle Hotel & Casino
  • Ocean’s Eleven Casino
  • Palace Poker Casino
  • Oaks Card Club

 

California is the most populous US state. It’s a very important economic and entertainment hub. It also plays a huge role in the world of gambling and poker as well.

Many large casinos are located in the state. Some of these are the California Grand Casino, the Cache Creek Casino Resort, and the Commerce Casino. The Bicycle Casino in Bell Garden, CA is especially important for poker fans since that is where they steam the popular cash game show Live at the Bike from.

Stones Gambling Hall is also in California. They too used to have live stream cash game sessions – however, they stopped after the Mike Postle cheating scandal erupted. This was one of the biggest scandals in modern poker history.

An employee of the card room, Veronica Brill, posted on Twitter about Mike Postle’s suspicious plays. 2+2 Forum users, spearheaded by poker YouTuber Joey Ingram, combed through hundreds of hours of footage of Postle making insane plays and winning at an impossible rate. That, coupled with his constant staring at his phone in his lap, made people think he was relayed information about his opponents’ hole cards in real time from the control booth. Stones used RFID readers for the graphics for their live streams, so some employees, many of them had personal relations with Postle, knew exactly what everybody had at the table.

However, unfortunately, all this case did was highlight a shocking loophole in California’s gambling laws. Postle and Stones were sued, but the case was dismissed since according to a law still on the books passed in 1851 (!), claims relating to gambling losses cannot be adjudicated in court, even if there’s alleged cheating involved.

As for modern gambling legislation, it was the Native Americans of the state who first opened up casinos. A 1987 Supreme Court ruling established that the local government cannot legally ban these establishments. A decade later, in 1997, the Gambling Control Act was passed which outlined how to legally operate gambling businesses in the state for non-Native Americans as well – more on that later.

Famous Californian Poker Players

Doug Polk, one of the biggest poker content creators on the internet, is from Pasadena, CA. He is a 3-time WSOP gold bracelet winner. At the 2017 WSOP, he took down the $111K High Roller for One Drop event for $3.687 million. He used to be the top high stakes heads-up cash game player in the world. In 2020, his long lasting feud with Daniel Negreanu made him return to the format in a highly anticipated challenge.

Chris “Jesus” Ferguson from Los Angeles won the WSOP Main Event in 2000 for $1.5 million. He once was one of the most recognizable and beloved poker celebrities, appearing on such shows as NBC’s Poker After Dark and The Game Show Network’s High Stakes Poker.

However, he later became one of the most hated people in poker. It turned out he and his partners were illegally mismanaging funds while running the late online poker room Full Tilt. While he managed to escape jail time, his online room got shut down and player funds were frozen. It took PokerStars to step in, as well as multiple years, to reimburse these players.

One of the most successful poker players of all time, Phil Ivey, was born in Riverside, CA. He has 10 WSOP bracelets, the second most behind Phil Hellmuth (15), and tied with Doyle Brunson and Johnny Chan. Ivey’s also the biggest online cash game winner of all time, winning $19.2 million on the nosebleed stakes tables of Full Tilt.

– Playing Live Poker in California –

   Live Poker Legislation in California

As we wrote in our intro, the Gambling Control Act passed in 1997. That piece of legislation is still in effect today. It establishes that if anyone wants to run a gambling house in the state, they must apply for a licence to the California Gambling Control Commission (CGCC). The application fee is a non-refundable $500.

Regulation is under the purview of two different bodies: the aforementioned CGCC, which is an independent entity; and the Bureau of Gambling Control, which is part of the California Department of Justice.

  Live Poker Venues in California

Ocean’s Eleven Casino in Oceanside, named after the classic 1960 heist movie, has a poker room. They have No Limit Hold’em, Pot Limit Omaha, and Pot Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better cash tables. The stakes range from $1/$2 up to $10/$25 for NLHE, from $2/$3 up to $5/5 for PLO, and from $4/$8 up to $8/$16 for PLO8.

As for tournaments, they usually run 1-2 events a day, with buy-ins starting at $55 and capping at $230.

Live at the Bike, a popular cash game stream on the internet, is broadcast from the Bicycle Hotel & Casino in Bell Gardens. LATB usually puts on mid-stakes ($5/$5 or $5/$10) NLHE shows, although they do have high stakes (up to $100/$200/$400) and Omaha episodes as well. In April 2017, they were raided by federal authorities for unclear reasons.

The Commerce Casino in Los Angeles has been home to many major poker festivals, such as the World Poker Tour LA Poker Classic, the LA Poker Open, the Los Angeles Poker Classic, and the California State Poker Championships.

In addition to these venues, The Gardens Casino in Hawaiian Gardens (which also features rare 7-Card Stud cash tables), the Palace Poker Casino in Hayward, and the Oaks Card Club in Emeryville also have major poker rooms.

– Casinos and Poker Rooms in California –

Commerce Casino

The Gardens Casino

The Bicycle Hotel & Casino

Ocean's Eleven Casino

Palace Poker Casino

Oaks Card Club

  Online Poker in California

Online gambling isn’t mentioned or defined in the relevant Californian legislation. Thus, while this does not make it explicitly illegal, it doesn’t mean it’s legal either.

First off, the Gambling Commission doesn’t issue online licences. So it’s impossible for a local to play on a properly licensed online casino in California. Second, federal laws, such as the Wire Act of 1961 or the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement act of 2006 do prohibit online gambling unless the state authority specifically allows it for their local residents.

Therefore almost all major online poker rooms – be it PokerStars, GG, or partypoker – refuse to take players from the state of California. This has been the case since the dreaded Black Friday events of 2011.

So, if you want to play online poker in California, you either have to use a VPN, or give it a go on an unregulated poker app.


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