We’re going to talk about choosing an online poker site later in our guide. But before we get to that, we want to talk a little bit about playing live poker in IL and what you can expect — both the good and the bad.
After that, we’ll share some of our top reasons for playing real money poker online instead of live. Then, we’ll follow this is up with an explanation for how to find the best online poker sites in Illinois.
Let’s get started.
Live Poker Rooms in IL
There are about ten rooms in Illinois. This might sound like a lot, but you need to realize that’s all the casinos in the entire state.
Here are some of the cardrooms in Illinois.
Grand Victoria Casino
Hollywood Casino Aurora
Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino
Windy City Poker
Chicagoland Charity Poker
Central Illinois Charitable Games
These are found all over the state. And some of the cardrooms are charity poker rooms which raise money for causes in Illinois. There aren’t as many options as you might think, considering you might have to travel across the state to play.
That’s one of the biggest issues online poker solves. You have just as many, if not more, real money US poker sites you can join online. And you can access any one of them in minutes instead of hours.
But this isn’t the only challenge live poker players in Illinois face, and it’s not the only challenge that online poker solves.
Here are a few others.
Can You Play the Poker Games You Want?
Most Illinois poker rooms offer Texas Hold’em and Omaha. But what if you want to play Stud, Pineapple, or H.O.R.S.E.?
Some cardrooms say they’ll spread the games you want to play; all you have to do is ask. But think about it, will they continue to offer weird games if there’s little action and more interest in mainstream games?
This is another challenge that online poker solves. Poker operators are able to offer a larger variety of games and variants because they don’t have to worry about space like land-based poker rooms do.
This enables them to offer games like Seven-Card Stud or Five-Card Draw that appeal to a smaller audience without neglecting their customers who prefer more mainstream games like Hold’em.
Tournaments Run Infrequently
Some casinos in Illinois run tournaments only a few times per week. And even if you find a cardroom that runs tournaments daily, it’s usually only between one and three per day.
This doesn’t give you a lot of options, especially if the type of game, structure, variant, or stakes isn’t what you want to play. This limits your options even more.
That’s why we prefer online poker, you have loads of tournaments to choose from, every single day.
Some of the top Illinois poker sites online run more than a dozen tournaments every day. The tourneys vary in size, game, variant, and format too, so it’s easy to find a tourney that best fits your budget, schedule, and interests.
Cash Games Are Busy
One thing you’ll notice is that many cardrooms’ cash games are incredibly busy, especially during peak hours and over the weekend.
You can put your name on their waiting list, but who knows how long you’ll wait before they call you? And is waiting around how you want to spend the little free time you have for poker each week?
Online cash games are busy, too. The difference is that online poker rooms have more tables than live cardrooms.
Even if all tables are full, most online poker sites will start another table if there’s demand for it.
What’s more is that you can easily check out another poker site to see if there’s an available table there. Or keep the lobby of several poker tables open at once so you can take the first available seat.
Live Poker Is Expensive
You need a large bankroll to play live poker. For example, let’s say that you don’t care about bankroll management and all you want is enough money to play for one day. How much money do you need?
Most live poker tournaments start at around $40 and go up from there. That doesn’t include the cost of any rebuys or add-ons either, which can add up fast. So, plan to spend at least $100 per MTT.
Most poker rooms spread $1/$2 or $1/$3 or $2/$4. We recommend you buy in for the max, which is at least 100 big blinds.
This means you’ll want $200 to $400 for one buy-in. And you’ll want money to top off your stack or rebuy as needed, so you should plan to bring $400 to $1,200 for a single cash game session.
Remember, this is only for one session. If you wanted to keep an actual poker bankroll, you’d want 20x our numbers above for cash games and 40x to 100x for tournaments.
Now, let’s compare this to online poker. You can play ring games for as little as $0.01/$0.02 per hand and MTTs for less than $5. The money you’d spend in one live session live could cover you for months, if not years online, assuming you have a proper bankroll and poker strategy.
So, yeah, online poker solves this challenge, too.
The bottom line is, there’s nothing wrong with playing live poker in Illinois, but it’s not an ideal choice for many players.
Online poker is going to make far more sense for the reasons mentioned above. But those aren’t the only reasons why you should consider playing real money online poker in Illinois.
More Reasons to Play Online Poker in Illinois
Here are seven more reasons why you should play poker online in Illinois.
You Can Make More Money
You can make more money playing poker online.
Now, we don’t mean bigger wins. Chances are you’ll win more money winning a WSOP event or high stakes cash game than you will winning an online tournament. And that’s because the stakes and prize pools are generally larger.
But you can win more money overall online. You can have a higher hourly rate. You can win more money on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis, and you can win more consistently.
The reason you can win more money online is because you play cash games or MTTs every day. You can play more than one table at a time. The more tables you can play at once, the more money you can expect to earn per hour or day.
This, of course, assumes you continue to play well.
Think about it another way. How many live tournaments can you play every year? Maybe one a week or every two weeks, assuming you can find enough tourneys to play. You’re going to bust most of these, and it’s possible to bust dozens of them before you win another.
When you play online poker in Illinois, you can play a dozen tournaments in a single day. You can get through a year’s worth of live tournaments in one or two weeks. So, don’t you think your chances of earning more money is better online?
Online Poker Software Makes Your Life Easier
One of the tough things about playing live, especially if your background is mostly online poker, is the lack of software. You have to do everything yourself.
You have to remember everything that happens in a hand. Online, you can read a hand history or watch a hand through replay.
You have to figure out how much each bet is. Online, you can display bet sizes on your screen.
You have to figure out the pot size, too (and most dealers won’t tell you). Online, you have the pot size displayed on your screen.
You have to do math in your head. Online, many poker rooms have odds calculators that will tell you the pot and card odds. And you can use a calculator.
You have to be careful not to miss flush draws or made flushes in live games. Online, poker sites have four-color decks that make it easy to spot flushes.
You might struggle to see the cards in the middle of the table when you play live. Online, many poker rooms have larger decks you can use.
There are more software features, but you get the point. Online poker software makes it easier to play poker and to play poker well.
Online Poker Rooms Give Away Free Money
Live poker rooms offer promotions, like leaderboards and bad beat jackpots. But online poker rooms will give you money for joining their site and making a deposit.
The most common promotion is the deposit bonus. The poker site will match a percentage of your deposit. For example, if you claim a 150% deposit bonus, the site will give you $1.50 for every $1 you deposit.
You won’t get it upfront. You’ll earn it by playing real money games on your own dime. You’ll get points for every hand or MTT you play. Earn enough points and you’ll unlock a chunk of your bonus.
If you’re a good player, a deposit bonus is as close to free money as it gets.
Play Online Poker in Illinois for Free
Another reason to play poker online is because most online poker rooms let you play for free. They give you play chips and several free money cash games and MTTs to choose from.
You won’t win real money playing these games. But you should consider playing them anyway, at least when you’re new. You can use them to learn new games, strategies, and more without risking your bankroll.
Some poker rooms also offer freeroll tournaments. These are free to enter and often have real money prize pools.
Most live poker venues don’t offer freeroll tournaments. Period.
Play in Tougher Poker Games
This may or may not be a benefit depending on whether you play poker purely for fun or if your goal is to improve.
If it’s the latter, online poker is the way to go because it’s generally tougher than live games. For example, a $50 game online is going to be the same, if not tougher than a $500 game live.
Online poker has lowered the barrier to entry. You can get better results for a fraction of what it’ll cost you playing live. This has led to tougher and more sophisticated games, even at the micro stakes.
If you want to become a great poker player, and you want to do it as quickly as possible, you should play poker online.
Online Poker Rooms Have Robust MTT Schedules
Many live poker rooms offer big tourneys. But they usually offer them only once or twice per month, sometimes once per week.
For example, one Illinois poker room runs a $20k GTD tourney on the first Friday of every month. The rest of their weekly tourneys have a $10k guarantee.
This isn’t bad, but online poker rooms run tournaments this big, and bigger, far more often. Sometimes every day of the week. And all the Illinois poker sites we endorse have a Sunday MTT schedule too.
For example, one runs a $250,000 GTD Main Event every Sunday. They also run a $150,000 GTD MTT. And they many other MTTs that are smaller, with prize pools in the five- and six-figure range.
Then, there are the MTTs run throughout the week. Most of these have prize pools in the four and five figure ranges. These tourneys run multiple times per day.
Live poker doesn’t come anywhere close to this. If you like to play MTTs, you owe it to yourself to play poker online in IL.
Play Poker on Your Phone
The last benefit we want to share (but certainly not the last benefit online poker offers) is the option to play poker on your phone.
When you play live, you have no choice but to show up wherever the cardroom is. This can be hours away from your home. This is anything but convenient.
Online poker enables you to play from home, which is far more convenient. But you’re anchored to wherever your computer is. It’s not easy to lug it around, even if it’s a smaller laptop.
This is where mobile poker comes in. You can play all your favorite games from wherever you can get internet access. That includes your kitchen, in the car, or at the beach while you’re on vacation.
Mobile poker is convenient. It’s easy. And all the top Illinois poker sites endorse offer it in some capacity. So, if you’re ready to take advantage of this benefit, and all the benefits we’ve talked about so far, you’ll need an account with one top-rated online poker sites for IL.
Finding the Best Illinois Poker Sites
Okay, you’re ready to play online poker. Your next step is to choose a poker room to join. You can find one on your own, but this can take you several days, if not weeks, if you’re lucky.
It’s not just your time you’re spending, though. You’ll also spend a fair amount of money too, testing every promising poker site. That’s the only way to know if they have games and software you’ll like.
Doesn’t that sound time consuming and expensive? Fortunately, there’s a better option. Join one of the Illinois poker sites we recommend instead.
We review and test all the Illinois poker sites we endorse. Here are some of the things we look for.
Whether the poker site has a license issued by a legitimate gambling authority
If they have a positive reputation with other American online poker players
That they have a variety of poker games, variants, and stakes
If their software works well and that there are several features for you to use
That they get enough traffic because, without it, games won’t run
If their tournament schedule offers different MTTs, if they have any Sunday “majors,” and if there are MTTs with buy-ins suitable for all budgets
That they have a mobile poker app or browser option and there are enough games and stakes on these platforms
That the poker room accepts plenty of American-friendly banking options with reasonable limits and fees.
If they have promotions that poker players can take advantage of
Whether or not their rake is fair
We do all this legwork so that you don’t have to. You can easily get value from our efforts even if all you ever did was read our poker room reviews to decide where you should play.
But that’s a lot of work, too, between the reading and figuring out which room is best for you. So, what we recommend you do instead is simply choose a poker site from our list of recommendations. These recommendations are based on all our research and decades of experience playing online poker.
That’s why we can confidently say that these are the best Illinois poker sites you’ll find online.
Live and Online Real Money Poker in IL
We covered quite a bit of information in this guide.
You learned about some of the downsides to playing poker live in Illinois, which boils down to a lack of cardrooms, variety, and convenience.
We showed you a few of the benefits you’ll experience if you play poker online. This includes the ability to make more money, play poker for free, play lots of guaranteed MTTs, and more.
The bottom line is that there’s no doubt in our minds most players will be far happier and far better off playing poker online. You just can’t beat the variety, convenience, and promotions.
It’s not hard to get started either. It’s much easier than driving for 30 to 60+ minutes to play in person. All you need is an account with a top-rated poker site.
That’s where we come in. We have a lot of experience in reviewing, rating, and recommending online poker sites. So, if you’re unsure of which poker site you want to join, we suggest you join one of the sites we endorse. These are sites that we play at ourselves, as well as recommend to friends and family.
But don’t take our word for it. Join one of the best Illinois poker sites now and find out for yourself.