Canadian poker fans have access to the biggest global online brands. This gives you the chance to play in the biggest tournaments and cash games against players from around the world. Those huge player pools mean more choice of games, poker bonuses, and tournament events. With card rooms in almost every province and home games allowed, there are also options for enjoying live poker in Canada.
This page has everything you know to get the best from poker in Canada. You will find information about the laws governing gambling below. After that, the options for real money and play money games are covered. If you love poker in the live setting, you will find a list of card rooms in your province towards the end of this page.
Canada poker and gambling laws
The national criminal code in Canada does not explicitly make playing online poker illegal. The laws – which predate the internet – make operating an unlicensed betting or gambling house the offense. There are also sanctions for knowingly participating in a game in an unlicensed gambling house.
Jurisdiction over live gambling, including poker rooms, is at the province level. As you will see from the section below, there is a big difference between the casinos offering live poker between the provinces. Home games are allowed nationwide, as long as no rake or fees are charged. Charity poker tournaments are also allowed, licensing for them is under the jurisdiction of each province.
Real money online poker in Canada
Poker first went online in the early 2000s and has been legal in Canada for the entire period. The dominant poker sites have changed over the years. There are now more choices in terms of game formats, tournament structures, and the poker variants offered than ever before.
Apps are available from all the leading poker rooms, complimenting their downloadable software clients. With tools, training sites, and strategy widely available, the standard of play online is high. Balancing this you will find bonuses, promotions, and loyalty rewards to keep your bankroll topped up.
Biggest real money poker rooms in Canada:
- PokerStars: This is the biggest site in Canada. The software is considered the best by poker fans. Home of the Sunday Million, WCOOP, and Zoom Poker, there are more types of games available at PokerStars than any other site. You can choose from a $30 in tokens or a $600 matched welcome bonus – then enjoy the unique ‘Stars Rewards’ loyalty scheme.
- PartyPoker: The original poker brand is still a popular destination. This has enjoyed a redesign, with new poker formats including ‘Spins’ now available. You can still enjoy online tournament action, including the WPT New players get to enjoy a 100% welcome bonus.
- Bet365: Best known for its sports betting, Bet365 is a leading site on the iPoker Network. It shares players from many (mostly sportsbook) brands on a common back end. The action is considered fast and loose at this site, especially on match-days. You can get a $365 welcome bonus, based on the number of ‘Status Points’ you earn, in the real money games.
- 888Poker: When this site opened in Canada it was called Pacific Poker. They have gone from strength to strength in recent years. A new design and new formats including Snap Poker and Blast Poker can be played. Tournament events include WSOP qualifiers and the ‘Super XL’ series. New players enjoying the mobile app or desktop download will get $88 free, no deposit needed.
Types of real money poker game
Real money poker comes in many formats. The main division of tournaments, sit and goes and cash games quickly expand once you add in the poker games, table sizes, betting formats, and rules. Fast-fold poker can also be played at all the big poker sites. This cuts out the time you used to spend waiting for other players to complete hands.
Most online poker is played in No-Limit Texas Hold’em format, here are your key options:
- Cash games: The original form of poker, where you play with real money in front of you, betting and calling cash amounts. You can play for pennies or thousands of dollars at high stakes tables. Games are 2, 6, or 8 handed. Variations include short-stacked and deep-stacked tables, turbo (less thinking time), and capped limit, where total bets on each hand cannot exceed a specified amount.
- Tournaments: Here you buy-in and receive a stack of tournament chips. Bet sizes increase as the tournament continues – forcing you to fight to increase your stack. 10% to 15% of the field get prizes, with the lions’ share of these awarded at the final table and to the winner. Tournaments vary in size, buy-in level, and speed. There are entertaining new formats including knockout bounty events, progressive knockouts, rebuy/add-on games, and qualifier tournaments that award tickets to bigger live and online events.
- Sit and Go’s: Single table tournaments with the top 3 players getting paid have developed into many types of games over the years. They include Fifty50 games, double or nothing, turbo, and multi-table options. New lottery sit and goes are a popular development. These 3-handed games award random prize pools of up to 10,000x your buy-in. The biggest of them can create instant millionaires.
- Fast Fold Poker: This concept was started by Full Tilt Poker under the name ‘Rush’. All poker rooms now have an option to enter pools instead of sitting at individual tables. Pools based on buy-ins allow poker sites to combine 6 or 9 players into a hand at random. As soon as you fold, you are transported to another hand. This faster format is called by a different name at each major site. At Bet365 you can play ‘Speed Hold’ em’, at 888 ‘Snap Poker’, at PokerStars this is ‘Zoom’ and at Party Poker ‘Fast-Forward’.
Adding in multiple poker games gives Canadians an even bigger choice. Along with the popular No-Limit Hold ‘em, you can play with fixed betting limits and pot-limit betting. Other games include Pot Limit Omaha Omaha Hi-Lo, Stud Poker, Draw Poker, and mixed-game formats.
Funding your real money poker account from Canada
Major Canadian banks are not poker friendly. They often decline debit and credit card poker deposits. There is no legal basis for doing this. Fortunately, there are options to move your money online. They include payment gateways that work with bank transfers, electronic wallets, and more.
Here are the key options for depositing at the major poker sites in Canada:
You can expect KYC checks (know your customer) from legitimate online poker brands. These protect players and the poker ecosystem from money laundering and fraud, which keeps the games available to all.
Keep your bankroll topped up: Canadian poker site bonuses
With all the biggest poker brands welcoming players from Canada – there is always a range of bonus deals to pick from. They include no deposit bonuses, where you get to play without risking your own money. The biggest bonuses require a deposit. Keep in mind that the ongoing rewards will be an important factor in choosing a site to call home.
Here are the main poker bonus formats available in Canada:
- No deposit bonuses: An example is the $88 free from 888Poker that Canadians. By giving you chips/tournament buy-ins simply for signing up, the sites get to showcase their games, apps, and promotions. Players get a shot at building a bankroll – without any personal risk.
- Matched welcome bonuses: A 100% matched bonus for your first deposit is the standard for poker sites worldwide. The size varies from $100 up to around $1000. You will need to ‘clear’ this type of bonus by playing real money games.
- Tokens/Buy-ins with deposit: An example of this type of offer is available at PokerStars. You get $30 worth of tokens and cash game buy-ins, for depositing $20 or more. This is aimed at smaller bankroll players, who enjoy checking out a variety of games.
- Loyalty schemes: If you enjoy a site, then the loyalty scheme will be the biggest single way your bankroll gets regularly topped up. Major sites use tiers, rewarding higher value/volume players with bigger bonuses and free tournament entries.
- Player promotions: You will find promotional offers including freerolls, reload bonuses, and ‘double points’ offers for specific games run regularly online. There are also qualifiers for live and online tournaments, leaderboard promotions, and one-off/specials to watch out for.
How to compare bonus bonuses
Bonuses can look similar if you only compare the headline numbers. When you check the terms and conditions. Here are the significant things to look out for:
- Clearance rate: How quickly you can turn your bonus into cash depends on the play-through requirement. You will need to play real money cash games or enter tournaments to clear your bonus. How fast this clears varies hugely from site to site.
- Clearance increment: Some poker bonuses clear all at once when you hit your points target. More frequently, they clear in increments of $5 or $10. This gives your bankroll a boost along the way.
- How long does your bonus last? Some poker bonuses expire after a week or two, while others will last for a full 90 days. Combining knowing how many points you need, what the clearance increment is, and how long you have prevents any ‘accidents’ with your bonus expiring.
Most poker bonuses will be voided if you make a withdrawal before you complete them. Where sites also offer casino games and sports betting, you might get to clear your bonus that way.
Canada poker: Apps, software downloads, and instant play clients
There are three ways to access poker sites. Mobile poker apps and downloads are the most popular formats, with instant-play (in your browser window) available too.
Apps have been developed for Android Smartphones and iPhones, as well as tablets and iPads. The best way to install the latest app is to visit the poker site (following our links for the best bonus deal) using your mobile device. You will be offered an app download, which will install in just a couple of minutes.
- Apps have the advantage of being optimized for smaller screens. This cuts down on unnecessary graphics – and simplifies the navigation. Sliders are available for bet sizing, with big buttons appearing when it is your turn to act. There are drawbacks to poker apps. The key one is that playing more than one table is difficult. This is possible, using tabs, on iPads and tablets, though it is not the comfortable experience you get when tiling tables on a desktop.
- Keep in mind that tournaments and other long-form games are not ideal on apps. These can require many hours of continual play to reach the money. Cash games and fast-fold poker work much better. The main benefit of poker apps is that you can play a quick session wherever you have a stable network connection.
- Software downloads are available for Mac and Windows computers. You get access to all the game formats this way. If you multi-table or play for extended sessions, then using a dedicated desktop or laptop is recommended.
Sweepstakes poker sites in Canada
Alongside the mainstream site, Global Poker has attracted a significant player base in recent years. This site uses a ‘Sweepstakes’ gambling model, which they use to allow players from the U.S. and Canada to play their games.
From the perspective of the players, the games look and feel the same as any other poker room. There are cash games and tournaments to enjoy. Behind the scenes, things work differently. Instead of depositing cash to play with, you buy play-money chips. Global Poker then gives you Sweeps Coins, which you use to enter the poker games. Those games are treated as sweepstakes contests (in name, they are the same randomly shuffled games of skill as at other poker sites). If you win, you can redeem your Sweeps Coins for cash and withdraw it.
The games at Global Poker are considered soft, with a large recreational player pool. What you will not find at this site is the variations, promotions, and choice of tables that the major international poker sites offer.
New players at Global Poker can get a $20 Gold Coin bonus package.
Cardrooms in Canada
There are live poker rooms in casinos around Canada. They range from the huge venues in Ontario to small card clubs with just a handful of tables in rural locations. Below is an overview of what to expect from each province. Some provinces set the minimum gambling age to 18, others to 19.
- British Columbia poker: You need to be 19 or over to play live poker games in BC. There are 4 poker rooms in the Vancouver area, with 2 more in the interior. The largest is the Grand Villa Casino in New Westminster, which has 12 tables. BC has a province-operated online gambling site, which includes mobile poker options.
- Alberta poker: There are 19 poker rooms in Alberta, split between the Calgary and Edmonton areas. The largest is the Cowboys Casino with 14 tables – with most rooms having 10+ tables for cash games and tournaments. You need to be 18+ to play live poker in Alberta. Province laws are outlined in the Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Act.
- Saskatchewan poker: You will find 5 smaller poker rooms in Saskatchewan, the largest has just 9 tables. The native roots of these rooms can be seen from the names. They include the Painted Hand Casino and Gold Eagle Casino.
- Manitoba poker: There are only two live poker rooms in Manitoba – both in the Winnipeg metro. Club Regent Casino has the largest room with 16 tables. The Aseneskak Casino has only 4 poker tables. You need to be 18+ to legally gamble in Manitoba.
- Ontario poker: This province has more poker options than anywhere else in Canada. Rooms range from the big room at Caesars in Windsor, through to smaller rooms with just a handful of tables. There are more than 50 to choose from – with extra options over the border in Downtown Detroit. Ontario passed a gaming control law in 1992, to regulate its growing gambling scene
- Québec poker: There are only 9 poker rooms in the Montreal area – they are among the biggest in Canada. The Playground Poker Club has 75 tables, enabling them to host big tournament events. Poker Palace Montreal and Casino de Montreal also have big poker rooms. Québec has a province gambling site called Espacejeux.
- New Brunswick poker: There are 3 poker rooms, which supply cash game and tournament action all year round in New Brunswick. These are small venues, with a handful of tables in each room. The New Brunswick Lotteries and Gaming Commission highlight the national criminal code to demonstrate the legality of their casinos.
- Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island: The biggest casino poker room in Nova Scotia only holds 6 tables. There are 2 rooms in total, offering limited live poker action all year round. This is joined by a single room on Prince Edward Island which also holds 6 tables and is open 4 days a week.
- Newfoundland, Labrador, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories: You will not find any dedicated casino poker rooms in these provinces or territories. Options include home games, charity gaming, and online poker.
Big poker tournaments held in Canada
You will find big-brand poker tournament events in Canada. They include the World Poker Tour (WPT) and the WSOP Circuit events – which are part of the World Series of Poker brand. With all the major online poker sites available in Canada, there is plenty of choice for big online tournament events too. They include the WCOOP (PokerStars), Super XL Series (888), and PowerFest Events (Party Poker). Regular tournaments include the Sunday Million.