Currency: United States Dollar ($)
Time Zone: UTC-10
State Name Abbreviation: HI
Casinos with Poker
Hawaii was the last state to join the Union in 1959.
Despite being one of the world’s favorite tourist destinations, it’s actually one of the most restrictive states when it comes to gambling. Only Hawaii and Utah outright prohibit any games of chance by law. All others at least have a list of exceptions, Native American casinos, or a licencing scheme in place.
Countries and areas with heavy tourist traffic tend to have flourishing gambling industries – not Hawaii. The reason why Hawaiians are so against casino gaming is they want to preserve the ambient, family-friendly atmosphere of the island.
And the gambling prohibition is taken seriously in the Aloha state. In 1986, even a video game arcade on the island of O‘ahu was raided by the police. As it turned out, it was actually an illegal gambling den where tens of millions of dollars changed hands.
The prohibition is so harsh that even bingo is outlawed. A bill to create a legal state lottery was proposed in early 2021. No vote on it has taken place, it’s only being reviewed by the state Senate Education Committee. If it passes, it may be the very first step for the betting men and women of Hawaii.
Until then, the best they can do is social gambling. Luckily, at least that’s not prohibited by the state. So, private games are legal, as long as no rake is collected, it takes place on private property, and every participant is at least 18 years old.
Famous Hawaiian Poker Players
Currently, Brandon Eisen from Mililani, HI tops the Hawaiian all time money list on Hendon with $1.751 million. In August 2018, he took down the $5,250 SHRPO Championship event at the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open in Hollywood, FL. He won $771,444, which is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date. He also made it into the money in the WSOP Main Event twice, in 2017 and 2019.
Kainalu McCue-Unciano from Kapolei, HI is second on that list, not far behind Eisen, with $1.721 million in live cashes. His biggest score to date is $1.009 million, which he got for winning his first and only WSOP gold bracelet in the $1,500 NLHE Monster Stack event in 2009.
Sasha Barrese was born in Maui, HI. She’s best known as a comedic actress, most notably from the Hangover movies. However, she also pursued a career in professional poker for a while. She has $119,945 in live tournament earnings.
There is one single player in PocketFives’ online tournament database that has set their location as Hawaii. A player playing under the screen names “MaRveLz” on ACR and “Needequityplz” on Pokerhost has cashed for $46,500 total in online MTT’s.
– Playing Live Poker in Hawaii –
Live Poker Legislation in Hawaii
As we wrote above, sadly, Hawaii is one of the two states where no form of commercial gambling is legal. In fact, casino gaming has been illegal on the islands ever since they became a state in 1959.
Section 712-1220 in the Hawaii Penal Code deals with the definition and punishments of illegal gambling. Gambling is defined as such: “A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”
Evidently, since there is no legal game of chance, the state doesn’t have an authoritative gambling body either.
Thankfully, Section 712-1231 does allow for social gambling to take place legally in Hawaii.
Live Poker Venues in Hawaii
The best you can do in Hawaii is to invite over your friends for a friendly private game.
What’s worse, given the isolated geography of the islands, local gamblers can’t even drive to a neighboring state where poker is legal, unlike people in other states with illegal casino gaming.
However, if you do decide to go for a private game, you can hire professional dealers with casino equipment from the local company Just Like Vegas. The fact that they’re still in business suggests that the people of Hawaii like to exercise their right to gamble socially quite a lot.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Hawaii –
Online Poker in Hawaii
Online poker is in the same situation in Hawaii as it is in most other states in the US.
Internet gambling isn’t mentioned in the penal code specifically. However, federal laws such as the 1961 Wire Act or the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act make it illegal in any state where it isn’t specifically legalized.
However, real money poker apps using the sweepstakes model, like PokerBros, are legal to play on in Hawaii too.