Poker in Iowa

Introduction

Population: 3,155,000

Capital: Des Moines

Currency: United States Dollar ($)

Time Zone: UTC-6

State Name Abbreviation: IA

Casinos with Poker

  • Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs
  • Ameristar Casino Council Bluffs
  • Prairie Meadows Hotel, Racetrack & Casino
  • Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel
  • Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort

Iowa is often in the focus of attention in presidential election years – it’s the state which holds its primary vote (or rather, causes) before every other state. When it comes to gambling, they’re also quite prominent – based on the number of casinos operating there, if nothing else.

Worldcasinodirectory.com lists 24 gambling houses within Iowa. Meanwhile, Pokeratlas.com reports a total of 10 poker rooms running across the state.

Having said all that, you may be surprised to read that gambling is actually illegal in Iowa – technically. The Iowa Code does state that it is illegal to participate “in a game for anything of value or making any bet”. However, thankfully, they also provide a long list of exceptions.

These exceptions include: dog and horse racing, casinos on riverboats, casinos on Indian reservations, and social gambling. Poker is specifically mentioned in the informative pamphlet the Iowa State Legislature provides about gambling laws on their website. It is the only card game that is eligible for the social gambling exemption, even if a venue provides a dealer.

So, as you can see, despite gambling being “illegal” in Iowa, it’s not that bad of a place for gamblers after all.

Famous Iowan Poker Players

William Reynolds from Sioux City, IA currently tops the Iowa all time money list by The Hendon Mob. He’s cashed for $1.985 million in live tournaments during his career.

In January 2010, he took down the $25,000 No Limit Hold’em High Roller at the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas. He pocketed no less than $576,240 for that victory, which is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date. In addition, he plays under the screen name “Altrum Altus” on PokerStars, where he collected over $1.5 million in online MTT cashes.

Second on that list is Jeffrey Fielder, born and raised in the state capital, Des Moines. He has $1.858 million in live tournament earnings. In January 2013, he won the $1,675 Main Event at the WSOP Circuit Choctaw in Durant, OK for $312,080.

 

– Playing Live Poker in Iowa –

   Live Poker Legislation in Iowa

As we wrote in our intro, gambling is technically illegal in the state of Iowa with a long list of exceptions. To be precise, Iowa Code 99 et esq. and Iowa Code 725.5 et esq. covers the criminal law regarding gambling.

For the long list of games of chance that fall under the exceptions, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission is in charge of the licencing and regulation.

  Live Poker Venues in Iowa

At Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs in Council Bluffs, IA, you can find a vast selection of cash game tables. They have No Limit Hold’em games on $1/$3 and $2/$3 stakes, Limit Hold’em games on $3/$6 stakes, and Limit Omaha Hi-Lo 8-or-Better games on $6/$12 and $10/$20 stakes.

They’ve also hosted tourney series such as the RUNGOOD Poker Series and the Horseshoe Poker Classic, and even WSOP Circuit events in the past. At the 2020 WSOPC Council Bluffs, the buy-ins ranged between $250 and the $1,700 buy-in Main Event.

Another gambling den in the same city, the Ameristar Casino Council Bluffs is a river casino on the Mississippi river that commutes between Council Bluffs, IA and Omaha, NE. Onboard, you can find a number of table games – mostly versions of poker which you play against the house, not other players, such as “Cajun Stud”, or “Flop Poker”.

They also list on their website in their game selection “Head’s Up Hold’em”. It’s promising, it would be great if you could play head-up cash NLHE against players on this river boat. However, since there is no additional information about the game on their site, it’s better if you contact them to clarify what game they mean by that.

You can also find some cash action at the Prairie Meadows Hotel, Racetrack & Casino in Altoona, IA. They have two NLHE tables on $1/$2 and $2/$5 stakes, a Limit Hold’em table on $3/$6 stakes; and a NLHE-PLO-PLO8 mixed table on $5/$10 stakes. They also run a Bad Beat Jackpot for tens of thousands of dollars.

There’s also a poker room running at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel in Tama, IA and at the Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort in Larchwood, IA.

– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Iowa –

Horseshoe Casino Council Bluffs

Ameristar Casino Council Bluffs

Prairie Meadows Hotel, Racetrack & Casino

Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel

Grand Falls Casino & Golf Resort

  Online Poker in Iowa

Unfortunately, online poker isn’t on the list of exceptions from the gambling prohibition. In fact, online gambling as a whole is nowhere mentioned in the Iowa Code.

In the US, alas, this means that it’s illegal – due to the effects of the 1961 Wire Act and the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, both federal laws. So, the best option for Iowans is either to play on an unregulated offshore site like Americas Cardroom or on a real-money sweepstakes poker app like PokerBros.