Play Poker Online In Canada - Poker Site Guide
What is the Best Site to Play Online Poker?
My pick for the best place for Canadians to play poker online in Canada for real money or for free is 888 Poker. 888 Poker is a legal regulated online poker site that is Canadian friendly with high traffic, weak players, great game variety and free bonuses.
Top 5 Canadian Poker Sites Online - 2020 Edition
My picks for the best online poker sites to play in Canada:
How to Play Poker Online in Canada - 7 Easy Steps
Start playing in no time:
Pick your poker site.
Don't just pick our top recommended poker site because its easy, you may have certain preferences such as a site that is better for easy cash games or tournaments with huge prize pools. For a more detailed breakdown of site features and comparisons, I have my recommendation page on the best online poker sites for Canadians to play at.
Select the poker download or app for your device.
This is usually super easy as the poker site's software automatically detects your device and prompts you to download the software for that device. Sometimes the website is a "catch all" and you have the task of selecting the button that matches your device. Downloads for Windows based PC's, both Desktop and laptop are the default, you may want to get more information on Mac poker sites to play on your iMac & Macbook or Mobile poker sites for Android or iOS devices (iPhone & iPad).
Download the poker software or mobile app and install it.
Just click the download link and accept the installation on your device. This is super fast and most of the time is done in under a minute. If it doesn't download right away, check that you don't have a firewall or app store pop - up asking you to confirm the installation - this is normal.
Create your new user account.
This is where you fill in your personal information and create your cool poker username and avatar. If your lucky autofill will enter most of the information for you, the avatar you can pick later, but the username is important. You can pick a username that is legendary like "Kid Poker", "Johnny World" or the "Poker Brat"; be a poker shark with "Just Fishing", "Pay Me Cash" or "I Call Rivers"; or completely unassuming like "Durrr", "Isildur1" or "ElkY".
Choose to play for real money or for free.
You are now all set to play poker for free just select a play money table or tournament and choose a seat. Even better join a freeroll where you can play poker for free and win real money.
Real money poker players can select their bonus.
Canadian poker bonuses for new players include deposit matches of up to 200%, Freeroll entries, satellite tickets and even a no deposit bonus that gives you free poker cash. For listings of the different poker bonuses and bonus codes for new players, some of which surprised me as to how good they are, go to my page on the best Canadian poker bonuses.
Make your first deposit and play poker online.
Choose your preferred deposit method and make your first deposit, credit cards are the most popular and even if you don't have one you can get a pre-paid VISA at your local store. NEVER deposit too much on your first deposit, just put down what your comfortable with, you can always deposit more later. For more information real money play and deposit methods look at my page on real money poker sites for Canadians.
Check List - Playing Real Money Poker in Canada.
Canadians are lucky, unlike our neighbors in the United States, it is super easy and safe to play the best real money poker sites in Canada. When you are playing for real money there are several concerns that you need to deal with:
Are my funds going to be safe?
These a the issues that concern me when playing at a new poker site. All real money sites that I recommend must be safe in that they are licensed, regulated by the government, third party audited, hold segregated players funds and use Bank level encrypted software.
Can I deposit quickly with a deposit method that is available to me?
The best deposit options are the ones that you can easily use. The most popular deposit methods for Canadians are credit cards like VISA and MasterCard, Instadebit, INTERAC, eChecks and crypto. Credit cards are super fast but so are Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Ethereum.
Is the traffic high enough?
I only play at the best sites with high traffic and thats what you will find here. Sites that are small skins for poker networks and ones with low player numbers are risky and time wasters.
Which is better cash games or tournaments?
This is all your preference - both are profitable, the biggest difference is how bad the players are. Cash games are the best to play 5pm - 12pm Eastern Time when all the fish come in. Tournament traffic is much more variable with the sites offering the biggest prizes attracting the most players, Sunday afternoons are best.
Getting money out of the poker site quickly and easily.
Quick withdrawals are one on the hallmarks of a great operator - all poker sites know this is important and are actively competing with each other to provide better service. Withdrawal speed does vary by payment type more than by operator with crypto being the fastest usually within a few hours and bank wires being slower but often used for paying you large amounts.
Do I have to pay Canadian income taxes on my winnings?
You have to pay if you play full time and poker is your main source of income. Otherwise, NO you do not need to pay income tax on poker winnings in Canada.
While this was a quick stab at answering some of the most common questions on real money poker sites, I may have not answered yours here or you may want some more in depth information so check out The real money poker site guide for Canadians that I created.
Where NOT to Play Online?
Blacklisted poker sites are sites that have participated in rigged games, outright scams, and low traffic / undercapitalized companies. Current blacklisted sites are different then those that are already shut down like Absolute Poker, Ultimate Bet, Lock Poker, Cake Poker and Card Spike. These low quality sites have issues that include: low traffic, lack of licensing, closing affiliate programs (a huge red flag) to outright scamming players - but for those most part there are payment issues with these sites.
Blacklisted Poker Sites 2020
- Odds Poker - accusations of scamming players funds
- Carbon Poker - Erratic payments, closed affiliate program
- Pay No Rake - Late Payments
- SWC Poker (Seals With Clubs) - Unlicensed
- UPN Poker - Super Low Traffic, Questionable License
Rigged poker games happened in 2007 with Absolute Poker and UB having large cash games hacked by insiders who could see the hole cards of opponents. These rigged games happened between 2004 and 2009. Because of this 3rd party auditors eCOGRA and regulators monitor online poker games for unusual activity and claims of cheating by players. Legitimate poker sites want nothing to do with cheating because running a great poker site is way more profitable and reputation matters.
Safe poker sites are those that are Canadian friendly and are have a license in a qualified gaming jurisdiction like Malta, Gibraltar, Isle of Mann Alderney, Cyprus or Costa Rica. My recommendations on this poker website are only for licensed poker rooms that are safe for Canadians.
Warning - free poker sites that scam you in a few ways. First they get you to spend real money to get fake money poker chips to play with by offering booby prizes. Second they can flood you with pop-ups and other annoying advertisements to try and get you to play at real sites or make money from advertisements Third is the malware scam - you download the software onto your computer or mobile phone and viruses use your hardware to mine for cryptocurrency, have pop-up adds so they can make advertising revenue or out-right nasty things like stealing your personal information including passwords for things like online banking.
Software - Download vs No Download
No Download Benefits.
No download online poker software is great for when you don't want the software on your computer, cannot install it like on some chromebooks, Macbooks and Microsoft surface laptops, or when you are playing on somebody else's computer. Get the no-download version if you have a crappy computer, the server will do the heavy lifting for you and your experience will be better. If you have Linux on your PC it is best practice to run the no-download online poker software.
Downloading Software is Best - If You Can.
Downloaded poker software is best when its on your own computer, want all of the poker room's software features, and if you have a slow internet connection. To make some poker games run more smoothly the no-download software often looses features because it needs to run just in your internet browser and there are less programing features available.
With slow internet connections, running the poker game on your computer is better as there is less information to travel back and forth. Now if you live in a rural area, anywhere in the world with crappy internet you will want to get Space X's Starlink system, it will get you the proper speed to play poker anywhere.
Get the default online poker download for Windows PC's and Desktops just by clicking the "Download" button on the poker website. The majority of players at PokerStars use windows PC's because of their low cost and maximum comparability.
PC's are the most popular computer systems in Canada with Windows 10 the most popular operating system. Now you might have a Linux PC and for you the best option is the instant play - no download software.
There are mac poker sites that have specialized software for iMac desktops and Macbook laptops. You can play either the no-download in browser or the download version on your mac. You can also play Windows PC poker games on your Mac with a Windows emulator. Macs are hugely popular in Canada and you are a smart cookie for owning one as they are the most reliable computer you can buy and have very stable connections with the poker room and fewer disconnections. The Mac poker software is nearly identical to PC software but sometimes there are minor features that are left out due to the differences in the way the operating system and the software interact.
The Best Mobile Poker Apps for Android and iOS.
You don't want to download just any mobile poker app on your android phone or iPhone, it could cause a problem or even be malware. So how can you be sure that the software is safe? With licensed and regulated poker companies the software is continuously monitored by government and 3rd party auditors to ensure the software is safe and that the games are fair.
Never would you want verified software that is buggy and has low to no traffic either, there is nothing worse that when you get frozen out of a made hand. Great mobile apps have smooth running software with easy to use interfaces for actions (raise, check fold) while playing the hand and especially bet sizing.
There is basically only 2 options for playing mobile poker and they are Android and iPhone. If you are unfortunate enough to have a Windows phone or an old Blackberry, then your best option is to play the no-download instant poker games.
Can you Play Mobile Poker for Real Money in Canada?
Absolutely. Real money poker apps in Canada are outpaceing the number of computer users and will soon become the dominant platform online. That many that the poker companies are devoting a lot of resources to make sure their online poker apps are top notch. You have the same great bonuses, deposit and withdrawal options as regular poker downloads do. You also have access to play all tournaments, sit n gos and cash games that other players can.
Android is the most popular mobile poker app in Canada with 2X the number of users as iPhone. Make sure that you are using a safe device: Samsung Galaxy & Note, LG G, Motorola Moto, Sony Xperia, Blackberry Key, Google Pixel are safe devices, however devices from Huawei are likely to have malware and spyware installed by the Chinese Communist Party and are not recommended.
You are more likely to find crappy apps in the Google Play Store than on the iOS app store as they are less vigilant about who they let in. What Canadian Android Poker Apps are best for 2020? I recommend Party Poker because of its great Fast Forward cash games that is a blast to play on your Android phone or tablet, its just a better user experience.
You can't get all of the best real money poker iphone apps in the App store, but that is not an issue because you can download them directly from licensed and regulated poker sites. The main question is what is the best iOS poker app, but that could vary depending on your preference between things like soft cash games or big money tournaments.
There are just a few poker apps that are worth playing, that are both safe to play and offer great user experience for real money poker games. Iphone apps are different than Mac software because the user interface is for a mobile poker game and mobile usability is most important. The Android poker apps and iPhone are different poker apps with the same features.
Poker in Canada
Online poker is not the only game in town, Canadians can play local tournaments and cash games at poker clubs and casino poker rooms across the country. Calgary poker rooms are the best in Canada with tons of tournaments and cash games with weak players from the oil patch. Poker rooms in Toronto are usually illegal and are not for the faint of heart, underground games are common and violence is not uncommon, its like the wild west of poker in Canada.
Where do Most Canadians Play Online?
The most popular online poker site for Canadians is 888 Poker, you can see by the graph below that it is far outpaceing Party Poker for the last 12 months. This is a live chart from Google Trends and you can see changes as they happen, bookmark this page to keep updated on Canada's most popular online poker sites.
Where do the Pros Play Online?
The poker pros play online only at a few online poker sites where there are both high stakes and the traffic to play at. Only 3 sites regularly host the majority of online pro players: PokerStars, Party Poker and 888 Poker.
Before Black Friday, top online pros including Phil Ivey, Patrick Antonious, Durrr, and Victor Bloom (isildur1) played online at Full Tilt Poker. Doyle Brunson played online at his poker room Doylesroom, which is now Americas Cardroom. Americas Cardroom has the biggest online prize pot for first place in the Venom tournament for over $1 million. You can bet that a lot of pros are playing in that tournament especially in the United States.
The most well known Canadian pro, Daniel Negraneu from Toronto Ontario, is not part of Team PokerStars anymore, he likes to be stealthy online and play at the highest stakes online at a variety of sites, that way you cant target him.
Learn How to Play Poker Games Online.
While you can play free poker games, I think they are junk. It changes the dynamic of the game and makes people play all kinds of garbage hands which looses the true nature of competition. In the true spirit of poker there is something at stake and a freeroll is a great way to play poker for free and win real money online.
Play low stakes at first and only when you are profitable and comfortable move up to higher stakes. There are swings in your luck but over 200 games you should be profitable at the stakes you are playing.
The best way to learn how to play poker is trial by fire, find a table, grab a seat and just start playing. You can use my free poker strategy card which is a quick reference starting hand guide.
There is an absolute ton of poker strategy books and videos from the best poker pros that you can learn from, some of my favorite pros are Daniel Negraneu, Phil Helmuth, Annie Duke and Doyle Brunson. One book that is easy for beginners to get started with a short book "Online Ace" by Scott Fischman.
One of the first online poker strategies to learn is the amount of time somebody takes to check or make a bet, you will notice variations in the time it takes a player to make a bet and this is often one of the best tells online. A fast check often shows weakness, while a long pause before a check is faking strength. An instant check from the button is a weak play and deserves a bet. Very quick raises are signs of strength - be careful.
Learn directly from the best poker sites, PokerStars, 888poker and Party Poker all have great resources on learning how to play poker. There you can use training software and get free texas holdem practice that will increase your skill level which will give you the skills to win more money.
Texas Holdem is by FAR the Most Popular.
No other poker game has become as nearly as popular as Texas Holdem since the start of online poker. Texas Holdem is the most popular poker game in Canada with 81% of search traffic. In the online poker rooms you will notice this too -there are vastly fewer players playing Omaha Hi-Lo, Razz, Seven Card Stud and Five Card Draw compared to Holdem. Omaha is the most popular of these exotic poker games with most sites hosting several tables at any given time.
Texas Holdem poker comes in 3 flavors: Limit Holdem, Pot-Limit and No-Limit Holdem. While No-Limit Texas Holdem takes all the glory in the big TV moments and in the WSOP Main Event (you know with those really freaking exciting "ALL-IN" moments), there are still many tables of limit holdem and pot-limit holdem to be played and make up as much as half of the action.
No question that you must learn how to play texas holdem online to be successful, but how do you get started?
Start by learning the texas holdem poker rules which include: blinds and antes, betting structures, how to play hands and finally hand values in showdowns. Now that you have the mechanics of the game you need learn strategy. Texas holdem strategy involves choosing starting hands, bet sizing, calculating odds, reading players tells and bluffing. Holdem strategy varies based on whether you are playing a cash game or a tournament, if there are multiple players or heads-up, and if you are in early, middle or late position. - for quick reference on texas holdem rules and basic strategy, I put it here.
Free Poker Games Online
Canadians can play poker online for free with no money at a wide variety of free poker sites. Websites for fun that have free poker offer great action and you can be playing them in a minute or less. They are super easy to play many are no-download which is great if you are playing on somebody else's computer, like at work. Free online poker training games are a great way to learn texas holdem and other popular poker variations.
Freerolls at real poker sites like 888poker and Party Poker allow you to play for free and win real money. The frequency of these free tournaments can be hourly, daily or weekly with the biggest free money poker prizes for the weekly freeroll tournaments.
No deposit poker bonuses give you free poker money to play real money cash games and tournaments with instant bonuses. A warning though, you will need to sign up and in order to claim your winnings and you must make a deposit at a later date. The only site that is currently giving Canadians free poker cash is 888 poker with a no-deposit bonus of $88
9 Best Free Poker Sites
Be careful if you truly don't want to be hassled by free poker scams to get you to pay money to play for fun. These scams include using real money to buy play money chips with which you can play with fake money to win cheap prizes, a free poker game to flood you with advertising and pop-ups to play real money games, and of course the scam where you play for free but you sign up with all your personal information and sell it to the highest bidder. Your better off with a regulated real poker site that is licensed and by law must protect your privacy.
FAQ's about online poker in Canada
Absolutely. Online poker is legit to play in Canada. There are no Canadian laws that outlaw online gambling including online poker. Quite the contrary, provincial governments like in BC, Ontario and Quebec are online gaming operators offering well known internet gambling including: Sport Select, Pro Line and BC's Pay Now. These sites offer low traffic and poor odds compared to other online poker and gaming options.
With dozens of offshore internet poker companies, there has never been a case brought against an offshore gaming operator by the RCMP or other government agency. The Canadian Criminal Code has no laws against online poker or gambling, only programs to help gamblers.
There are many online poker sites that are NOT safe: these include small poker sites that are underfunded, those operating without a license, those operating outside of government over site and those that have malicious software. All of the poker sites recommended on this website are safe and regularly tested by gaming control boards to hold a gaming license.
Licensed gaming sites keep your information private, have secure software free of malware, customer funds must be segregated from company funds and have on-going monitoring to ensure that the poker site is providing a safe environment for its customers.
No poker site can have a gaming license unless it is a fair site that does not have any sort of rigging or signs of collusion. Gaming auditors complete regular and ongoing checks to ensure random number generators are truly random and poker games are monitored by specialized software checking for patterns of player collusion or insider manipulation which if it were to occur, the poker room would not be allowed to operate.
Third party monitoring of online poker sites is also done by eCOGRA (e Commerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance), which is a grassroots organization formed by poker players, bettors and gamblers to monitor online gaming and ensure poker sites are fair. Regular independent testing is done and on its website and its audits are published. Any signs of rigging would show up here and a non-compliant site would be red-flagged as a rigged poker site.
Yes its super easy to get started playing real money poker online for Canadian poker players. All the top poker sites accept Canadians and offer a wide variety of fast deposit options including Instadebit, INTERAC, Credit Cards (VISA & MasterCard), Bitcoin and other Crypto like Ethereum, but NOT PayPal.
All poker sites I recommend have separate player fund accounts that are monitored by the Gaming Control Board and are fully licensed The payment software uses 256 bit AES encryption which is the same that your bank uses to keep your funds safe.
Super fast withdrawals can be made with Instadebit and VISA, but on sites that accept Bitcoin (crypto) - this is the fastest poker payout method available to Canadians. The largest withdrawals (think winning a major tournament) often require a bank wire transfer.
Poker sites monitor for signs of cheating and when players collude the monitoring software flags it. Don't do it if you are looking to collude with your friends to make a score, you will be banned and risk losing your bankroll.
Playing from the same IP address (same house) is not allowed on most poker sites, and can get you in trouble.
That being said you can play against your friends online, some sites even set up home games where you can use their software to enable an easy to set up home game with your friends. You can also play regular online games with friends in the same poker room, just like home but online, its really great for those -30 nights with a snowstorm.
There is no problem with Americans playing online in Canada, in fact the ban on some poker sites is not on US players but on the state or country that they are in. Not to mention that there are several great ways for US players to play online without moving to Canada.
There are fantastic online sites that are USA friendly as well, these include: Ignition, Bovada, BetOnline and my personal favorite - Americas Cardroom
The easiest way for US players to play online in Canada is to use a VPN, you don't even have to move, you just set your geo-location to Canada and viola!
A great independent viewpoint when looking for the best poker sites to play at in Canada is to turn to Reddit. There is a large poker community on Reddit which can be quite valuable when looking for mainly unbiased opinions.
The latest posts on Reddit deal with the best poker sites for Canadians in 2019, with the recommendations being 888 Poker, PokerStars, Party Poker and Bodog. Play Now which is a BC operated site is recommended too but is only open to BC players and has low traffic.source
Using a VPN has several advantages and disadvantages for Canadian players and there are times when its not worth the hassle and others when it is a good idea. Their main purpose is to mask your geographic area and make it look as if you are in another country. This is great for US players trying to access sites that are banned in the USA.
VPN's add additional complexity and cost, they slow down connection times with the additional hops that are made, resulting in higher lag times and slower software performance. If you play at home, I would not bother.
For sure you want a VPN if you travel internationally and wish to play online. Many sites are banned in the United States and China but you can still play them while your there if you use one. If you play over a public network, a VPN does offer protection against snooping or if you want an additional layer of anonymity.
Nord VPNis a popular choice.