Poker in Kentucky


Population: 4,468,000

Capital: Frankfort

Currency: United States Dollar ($)

Time Zone: UTC-5

State Name Abbreviation: KY

Casinos with Poker




Kentucky, the mid-sized state right on the edge between the Midwestern and the Southern regions, is perhaps best known around the world for the fried chicken fast food chain named after it. It’s also kind of a hot spot for one specific form of gambling – horse race betting. The Kentucky Derby is a major event every year in America.

The first race tracks opened in 1875. These races and the state lottery (founded in 1989) have always been the only legal games of chance in the history of the state.

Throughout the early 20th Century, many underground gambling dens operated with great success. They were run by organized crime groups from neighboring Ohio. These, however, have now disappeared.

There is some hope on the way for Kentucky gamblers, though. In February 2021, the State House passed a bill that would legalize the so-called “historical horse racing machines”. These are essentially a type of slot machine. However, it determines the winners based on a previously-run horse race, not by an algorithm like regular slots.

For Kentuckian poker players, the best choice currently is to travel to nearby states, such as Indiana, Ohio, or West Virginia, with legal poker rooms. However, despite not having any legal poker, Kentucky has come up quite a few times in poker news lately.

The reason for this is that they’ve been chasing a massive $1.3 billion (!) fine from PokerStars. The fine was originally “just” $290 million when the suit was filed in 2010. It supposedly meant to collect damages caused by the biggest online poker room illegally operating in Kentucky from 2001. However, since Stars wasn’t willing to pony up, interest and delay fees ballooned the sum up to ten figures.

New developments keep getting reported on by major poker news sites from time to time. The latest ones aren’t looking good for Stars, and their new parent company, Flutter Entertainment. In April 2021, a Circuit Judge in Kentucky ruled that the state can seize the $100 million PokerStars have posted in bond during the lengthy legal battle.

Famous Kentuckian Poker Players

Kurt Jewell from the capital city of Frankfort, KY tops the Bluegrass State’s all time money list on Hendon, as of writing this. He has $1.594 million in live tournament cashes.

He has won two WSOP Circuit rings. The first WSOPC victory came in October 2010, when he finished first in the $1,600 Main Event at WSOPC Hammond in Hammond, Indiana. He pocketed no less than $242,909, which is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date. His second ring is from February 2012. He won the $1,600 Main Event at WSOPC Tunica for $192,984.

Second on that list is William Billy Kopp, aka “Patrolman35”. He has $1.255 million in live tournament earnings. In 2009, he made a deep run in the WSOP Main Event. He eventually busted in 12th place for $896,730.


– Playing Live Poker in Kentucky –

   Live Poker Legislation in Kentucky

Section 528.010 in the Kentucky Revised Statutes covers gambling and related offences. These laws are designed to punish the people running a gambling operation, not the players playing in them. Therefore, social gambling, where “the house” takes no rake, is de facto legal. So is “charitable gaming”.

However, the local gambling laws are still very strict, compared to other states. Horse race betting, and – only since very recently – historical horse racing machines are the only games of chance that can be played legally in a commercial venue.

Licencing and regulation of all permitted gambling in the state are under the purview of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission; and The Department of Charitable Gaming, part of Kentucky’s Public Protection Cabinet.

  Live Poker Venues in Kentucky

As we wrote in our intro, there is no public poker room running in the entire state of Kentucky.

The closest venue with poker action is Caesars Southern Indiana in Elizabeth, IN. It’s only 15 miles away from Louisville, Kentucky’s biggest city.


– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Kentucky –

  Online Poker in Kentucky

While Kentucky is certainly more aggressive than other states in enforcing their online gambling laws with their $1.3 billion lawsuit against PokerStars, their laws themselves aren’t unique at all in the United States.

They don’t have any specific legislation regulating online gambling, which means it’s illegal by default due to federal laws, such as the 1961 Wire Act and the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

Real money poker apps (such as Global Poker or PokerBROS) still aren’t targeted by the law in Kentucky; nor is the unregulated offshore site Americas Cardroom. So, currently, the choices for poker players in this state are pretty much the same as in most others.