Georgia Texas Holdem
All forms of gambling, with two minor exceptions, are prohibited in Georgia, and the state certainly does punish those severely who test this. The only forms of gambling allowed in Georgia are state endorsed lotteries and raffles for charities.
This means you won't find any live Texas holdem poker action in Georgia at all, at least not with money involved, and of course this also extends to online play. Not all hope is lost though, so read on if you want to hear some of our thoughts in respect to how you can still play poker while living in the Peach State.
All casinos, sports betting, horse betting and any type of gambling where money is wagered on an outcome is banned in Georgia. They certainly have the same hard line stance as some other conservative states in the US.
Once again this simply results in lost tax revenue for the state as those who wish to gamble will find other ways or head interstate, or even internationally, to get their gaming fix. This is a real shame for the state as they seem to have seen the light in relation to lottery which is now regulated and operated resulting in hundreds and thousands of dollars for education infrastructure, preschool tuition and college scholarships.
This is a direct reflection of the good that can come from running a regulated industry, even with the negative social impacts that sometimes come from increased gaming options in a localised area. The approach of allowing those who wish to gamble to do so, while directing profit to important areas such as education and health is a fantastic middle ground that usually satisfies all parties.
Some states have found this middle ground though which is a good thing, but given Georgia's overall approach it doesn't seem likely that this will be found here anytime soon beyond the existing lottery games. Thankfully there are a lot of easy options for you which we'll go into more detail on below.
Texas Holdem Cruise
If you live near the east coast you can take a river cruise on the Emerald Princess to get your gaming fill. This cruise ship heads out three miles from the coastal city of Brunswick into international waters where state laws don't apply and gambling is legal.
Aboard this ship you can play slots, blackjack, video poker, blackjack, craps, roulette, casino stud poker, bingo, triple time poker, and most important Texas holdem poker. Mainly cash games are offered here across 6 tables and you'll find $2 / $2 no limit Texas holdem with a minimum buy in of $50 and a maximum of $300.
Every so often they also run a tournament and your best bet is to call ahead to check on this. The minimum age to gamble is 18 and if you want to drink alcohol you'll need to be 21. The ship sails on Tuesday and Thursday from 7pm until 12am, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 4pm and 7pm to 1am, and on Sunday from 1pm to 6pm. A ticket costs $10. These are winter hours with more trips being run in the summer.
Atlanta Poker Club
If you want to play Texas holdem poker locally in and around Atlanta, you can find some decent action through the Atlanta Poker Club. This club runs a series of poker games at restaurants and bars around the greater Atlanta area.
All tournaments are free to enter with prizes being awarded in the form of food and drink vouchers, trophies, memberships, and sometimes even cash. On top of this, when you do well in a tournament you're awarded points and are competing against all players on the overall Atlanta Poker Club leader board.
From this you can win more prizes and gain entry into larger tournaments where decent money is up for grabs. The important thing in relation to this club is that no money changes hands. Bars and restaurants pay the club to run events, while earning increased revenue from players who come to play poker and have some drinks and food in their establishment at the same time. While this isn't real poker as you would find in a casino, it's a good option if you'd like to play Texas holdem poker legally and for fun in Atlanta.
Traveling Out of State
Your final option in relation to playing poker in the state of Georgia is to get in your car, or catch a plane, to another state. Obviously, your best bet would be to drive south into Florida which has a huge Texas holdem poker scene and a room that offers tournaments and cash games in pretty much every town.
Just over the border to the south in Jacksonville you'll find a huge number of rooms including the massive BestBet which boasts over 70 tables and a huge number of games at all stake levels. Jacksonville is just a 1 hour flight from Atlanta, or a five hour drive, and if you live in the southern part of Georgia it may only be a short drive. Creek Entertainment in Gretna is also a good option, just outside of Tallahassee.
If you want to play poker online in Georgia, you also won't be able to do so in a legal poker room. The state has no specific laws in relation to online play, except in respect to operating an online gambling business. This means you simply cannot play online poker in Georgia, unless you breach terms and conditions of certain sites and enter the legal grey area in respect to state law.
If you wish to play slots, blackjack, roulette, craps, or other games at online casinos you can do so at several sites that allow US players. This once again is a legal grey area as technically you probably shouldn't be doing so. It's highly unlikely that the state would come down on you though as they try to go after the suppliers as opposed to the players. Proceed with caution if you attempt to play at online casinos out of Georgia and we certainly aren't recommending it.
If poker is your passion and you want to become a professional or semi-professional player, then you should probably leave Georgia and relocate to Florida or California. That is, unless you think you could tough it out and live in Las Vegas. If so, then Vegas is the best place to be to find the softest possible tables and have access to the best tournaments.
If you don't want to leave Georgia and are established there then you'll need to travel to Florida or Mississippi, or take a cruise ship out into international waters. That's the only way you'll be able to play poker regularly enough to make decent money, ride out the variance in the game, and classify yourself as semi-professional. That will take a lot of effort and you'll spend a lot of time travelling, so you really need to decide whether it's worth it or not.
Laws in Georgia are unlikely to change soon and we all now know that at the federal level online poker won't be making a comeback for a long time. As such, it's just not a viable option to wait it out and see what happens in the state.
Once again, the law is rife with hypocrisy in respect to allowing lottery and not any other gambling, but that's just life. We can only hope that poker builds in popularity in the state and some of the conservative draconian laws and lawmakers begin to see the light.
Usually money wins out at the end of the day and if the lawmakers and politicians can see a significant amount of revenue being lost to neighbouring states then we may see changes in the future. But probably not for a few generations.
In the meantime, check out BestBet in Jacksonville; it really is one of the better poker rooms in the United States.
Unless you want to take the chance to play Texas holdem online in an unlicensed poker room, your only options in Georgia are to travel out of state or take a gambling boat trip off the coast. If playing poker is important to you let your local and state politicians know how you feel.