Poker in Kentucky [2024 Complete Online Guide]

Poker in Kentucky

Kentucky, straddling the Midwest and South, is famous globally for its namesake fried chicken brand. The state is a prominent center for horse race betting, epitomized by the annual Kentucky Derby, first held in 1875.

Historically, horse racing and the state lottery, established in 1989, were the only legal forms of gambling in Kentucky. The early 20th century saw a surge in illegal gambling, with numerous secret gambling dens operated by Ohio gangs. While these are now a thing of the past, there’s still potential for the legalization and growth of poker in Kentucky.

poker in Kentucky

The so-called “historical horse racing machines” were made legal by the State House in February 2021. These can be thought of as advanced slot machines. The winners are decided not by a random number generator like traditional slots, but rather by reference to a previously held horse race.

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Right now, poker players from Kentucky have to go to neighboring states like Indiana, Ohio, or West Virginia to enjoy legal poker rooms. Even though poker is not legal in Kentucky, the state has been mentioned frequently in poker media.

This is because they have been after PokerStars for a humongous fine of $1.3 billion (!). When the lawsuit was first filed in 2010, the fine was “only” $290 million. The purpose of the suit was to recover financial losses from the largest online poker room operating illegally in Kentucky beginning in 2001. Interest and late fees pushed the total to tens of thousands of dollars because Stars was unwilling to pay.

Significant poker news websites periodically report on new developments. Flutter Entertainment’s new parent company of, Stars isn’t looking good in the most recent projections. A Circuit Judge in Kentucky ruled in April 2021 that the state has the right to seize the $100 million bond PokerStars has posted during the protracted legal battle.

Quick Summary

  • 4 468 000 people
  • The city of Frankfort serves as the capital.
  • The United States Dollar ($) is the unit of currency used here.
  • Area Code: 5 (UTC)
  • Kentucky is abbreviated as KY.

Professional Poker Players from the Commonwealth of Kentucky

As of the date, this article was written, Kurt Jewell, a resident of Frankfort, KY (the state capital) and Hendon’s all-time money list leader, has amassed the most wealth in the Bluegrass State. Totaling $1.594 million, he has won at live tournaments.

He now owns two trophies from the WSOP Circuit. In October of 2010, he won the WSOPC Main Event for $1,600 at the WSOPC Hammond in Hammond, Indiana. With a guaranteed payout of $242,909, it was the largest sum he had ever won in a single live tournament. In February of 2012, he received his second ring. He walked away with his $1,600 WSOPC Tunica Main Event victory with $192,984.

William Billy Kopp, aka “Patrolman35,” is second on that list. The live tournaments he has participated in have netted him $1,255,000. He had a strong showing at the 2009 Poker Main Event World Series. When the final hand was played, he was eliminated in 12th place, having won $896,730.

Live Poker in the Bluegrass State

Legalizing Live Poker in the Bluegrass State

Gambling-related offenses are defined in Section 528.010 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes. The operators of illegal gambling establishments will face legal consequences, not the gamblers themselves. Therefore, “house” takes no rake in social gambling, making it effectively legal.

However, local gambling laws remain extremely stringent compared to other states. Legal forms of gambling in public places are limited to horse racing betting and, as of quite recently, historical horse racing machines.

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the Department of Charitable Gaming, both the state’s Public Protection Cabinet divisions, are responsible for issuing gambling licenses and enforcing gambling laws in the Bluegrass State.

Gambling Halls in Kentucky for Live Poker

As we mentioned up top, there are currently no legal poker rooms open to the general public anywhere in the state of Kentucky.

Caesars Southern Indiana in Elizabeth, IN, is only about 15 miles from Louisville, Kentucky’s largest city, and it hosts poker games.

Kentucky state as shown in Google maps

Gambling Halls and Poker Clubs in the Bluegrass State

Internet-based poker in the Bluegrass State of Kentucky

Although Kentucky’s $1.3 billion litigation against PokerStars represents a more robust approach than other states’ to trying to enforce their internet gambling laws, the laws themselves are hardly novel in the United States.

Due to the lack of specific legislation regulating online gambling, it is illegal under federal laws such as the 1961 Wire Act and the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

Even now, the laws in Kentucky don’t go after real money poker apps (like X-Poker or KKPoker) or the uncontrolled offshore site Americas Cardroom. So, at the moment, poker players in this state have essentially the same options as those in any other state.

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