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Poker in Illinois

Introduction

Population: 12,670,000

Capital: Springfield

Currency: United States Dollar ($)

State Name Abbreviation: IL

Time Zone: UTC-6

Casinos with Poker

  • Grand Victoria Casino
  • Hollywood Casino Aura
  • Jumer’s Casino & Hotel

Illinois, the 6th most populous state in the Union, had a major breakthrough recently in gambling legislation. It’s nice to see this from such a prominent state.

In June 2019, Governor J. B. Pritzker signed into the law the new Illinois Gambling Act. Soon after, the Sports Wagering Act was enacted as well. These pieces of legislation allowed Illinoisan residents to legally enjoy sports betting (both in land-based sports books and online); as well as casino table games, slot machines, video gaming terminals in more places and in larger quantities available for them.

Sadly, neither of these new laws included legalized online poker. Still, it’s a step in the right direction – also, you can play live poker in the three state-licenced casinos with running poker rooms.

3 legal poker rooms aren’t much in a state of over 12 million, but it’s still more than what the locals had for most of the state’s history. In 1930’s, Chicago, IL was known for being the “home turf” of famous mafia boss Al Capone. While he rose to prominence through his bootleg alcohol business, he also made major amounts of money running illegal gambling operations in the city as well.

At his famous tax evasion trial in 1931, Al Capone’s legal counsel went with the questionable defense strategy of claiming that the mafia boss’ income was heavily depleted by gambling losses, that is why he shouldn’t pay his taxes. Even if their claim had been true, it still wouldn’t have been relevant when it comes to calculating income tax…

The first game of chance legalized in Illinois was horse race betting in the 1920’s. In 1990, the local government decided to make casino gambling legal – however, somewhat oddly, only on riverboats. That is a historic setting for poker – in the early 19th Century, the card game got popular by being played in the bar rooms of steamboats going up and down the Mississippi River.

Casino Queen is a riverboat casino that still operates in Illinois – however, they sadly don’t offer poker.

Famous Illinoisan Poker Players

Barry Greenstein was born in Chicago. He won 3 WSOP gold bracelets so far, and was a regular feature on the classic poker TV shows Poker After Dark on NBC and High Stakes Poker on The Game Show Network.

Joe Ingram, sometimes referred to as “Chicago Joey” after his home city, has one of the biggest followings online among poker players. His YouTube channel has over 130,000 subscribers – that is where he hosts his popular podcast Poker Life where he interviews various figures from the poker world. As a poker player, he specialized in high stakes online PLO cash games.

Connor Drinan from Arlington Heights, IL tops the Illinois all time money list on Hendon with $11.250 million in live tournament earnings. In 2020, when all WSOP events had to be played online due to the coronavirus pandemic, Drinan won his first gold bracelet in the $10K NLHE Super Million$ event for $1.423 million. What’s more, he even won his $100K side bet against Daniel Negreanu on which of them wins more bracelets in the summer.

John Cynn, born in Evanston, IL, won the 2018 WSOP Main Event. He bested a 7,874-player field and took home the $8.8 million first prize along with poker’s most coveted title.

 

– Playing Live Poker in Illinois –

   Live Poker Legislation in Illinois 

As we wrote in our intro, the gambling legislation currently in effect, the Illinois Gambling Act was signed into law in June 2019.

Licencing and regulation are under the purview of the Illinois Gaming Board. It’s a state government body, with five members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.

There’s a loophole in the Illinois gambling law that is sometimes used by poker organizers who don’t have a regular state casino licence: it’s the Charitable Gaming Acts and Regulations (230 ILCS30). If an organizer partners with a charity, and a given amount of the prize pool goes to that charity, the poker event (or other game of chance) can legally take place.

In October 2020, however, we saw the limitations of a poker tournament organized around this loophole – and it was not a pretty sight.

Dan Bekavac’s Midway Poker Tour partnered up with the charity group 4 KIDS to put on a big $1,100 NLHE tournament with multiple Day1’s. However, when it came time for the eliminated ITM finishers to cash out, chaos ensued. It turned out that this law only allows for $500 extra to be paid out on top of the buy-in. The players who cashed for more than $1,600 received their prizes in silver coins – however, the precious metal buyer who’d been promised to be there was nowhere to be found. 

Soon, the players – many of whom had no idea about the peculiar situation when registering for the tournament – found out that they couldn’t sell their freshly won silver for its purported value.  Thus the Midway Poker Tour ended up being one of the biggest poker event disasters in our lifetimes.

  Live Poker Venues in Illinois

We’ve also mentioned earlier that there are only 3 casinos with poker rooms in the entire state of Illinois.

At Grand Victoria Casino in the city of Elgin, you can find a card room with a wide cash game selection. They have No Limit Hold’em tables at $1/$2, $2/$5 and $5/$10 stakes.

Their one Pot Limit Omaha table has $1/$2 stakes, and – oddly – a $5 “bring-in”. Bring-ins usually apply to Stud games, and it’s determined by who has the weakest open card showing on the earliest street. Since Omaha games don’t have open door cards, it is unclear what the casino means by “bring-in” in this game.

Their biggest game is Limit Omaha Hi/Lo. Stakes at that table can go up to $30/$60. Also, unlike all the other tables, this one doesn’t have a maximum buy-in.

At the Hollywood Casino Aurora, you can play a weekly $160 NLHE tourney on Wednesday afternoons. They’re also more cash game-focused. According to Hendon, the last time they hosted a tourney series was in 2002… However, this also means that they offer cash tables with pretty high limits. Their NLHE tables, for example, go from $1/$2 up to $10/$20 with regular action.

The third casino which offers poker in the state of Illinois is Jumer’s Casino & Hotel in the city of Rock Island.

– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Illinois –

Grand Victoria Casino

Hollywood Casino Aurora

Jumer’s Casino & Hotel

  Online Poker in Illinois

As you can read above, Illinoisians can now legally enjoy online sports betting in their state. They can choose to do so on many licenced and regulated sites, including DraftKings, Fanduel, and PointSharp.

However, unfortunately, the situation is not as easy for online poker.

You can’t legally access any of the major poker sites in Illinois. The state’s Gaming Board doesn’t give out online poker licences. If a local resident wants to play poker online for real money, the best they can do is so-called “sweepstakes online poker sites” like Global Poker.

In these sites, you purchase in-game currency with real money, then play with the game currency for real prizes.


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