California has a rich history of card gambling. Although it outlaws most other forms of gambling, card rooms are alive and well in the Golden State.
Today, you can find card rooms throughout the state that offer various games and tournaments. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced card player, California is a great place to find your new favorite card room.
Are Card Rooms Legal In California?
Although many forms of gambling aren’t legal in California, card rooms are. In fact, card rooms are one of the earliest legal forms of gambling in the state.
However, the number of card rooms has declined dramatically in recent years. There were once hundreds of card rooms in operation in California. As of 2019, only 66 card rooms remain open. An additional 21 card rooms retain their licenses but are no longer operating.
This is partially because, in 1995, a moratorium was put in place limiting the establishment of new card rooms. Moreover, potential legislative agreements between the California state government and local Native American tribes will result in further card room closures. These agreements would increase financial burdens on card rooms and impose disadvantageous policies.
For now, however, California card rooms continue to prosper but must adhere to strict regulations. Owners and operators undergo background checks, and host jurisdictions enforce local ordinances. Furthermore, publicly-owned corporations cannot invest in any California card clubs.
Types Of Poker Games Dealt At California Card Rooms
Card rooms draw their primary audiences from those who want to play poker. Therefore, most card rooms offer a number of poker variations. You are likely to find popular games like Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha Hold ‘Em.
Both games are popular because of their prevalence in serious poker tournaments (so there is a potential reward for those who are well-practiced). The primary difference between both of these games is the number of cards you are dealt. Texas Hold ‘Em deals out players two “hole” cards to start, while Omaha Hold ‘Em deals out four.
However, card rooms in California also offer other popular variations like seven-card stud. This game, which was once the most popular in the US, does not typically include a flop or community cards.
Biggest California Poker Tournaments
California card rooms offer daily and annual tournaments as a way to attract new players. The Commerce Casino, for example, hosts the annual Los Angeles Poker Classic between January and March. It also hosts a Hold ‘Em Series in September that’s open to many players thanks to its small buy-in limits.
Alternatively, Bay 101 Casino hosts a Shooting Star tournament with potential prizes up to $5,200.
The Bicycle Hotel and Casino offers tons of World Series of Poker tournaments, drawing in some of the best players around and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of viewers. Its WSOP tournaments occur in a circuit from November to December.
See our guide to California Poker Tournaments.
Cal Games At California
Alongside poker, California card rooms offer California games (also known as “Cal games”). Essentially, these are classic games like blackjack or craps, but with rules that are modified to comply with California gambling regulations.
California blackjack is similar to classic blackjack but with a few key differences. First, the game is played to 22 rather than 21. Secondly, it’s played with a 53-card deck (thanks to the addition of jokers in the shoe). Thirdly, you can double your winnings by playing a “natural”, which is a combination of a joker and an ace. Lastly, a joker paired with any other card automatically hits 21 and freezes the hand in question.
Normally, Pai Gow poker is a variation on the classic Chinese game played with dominoes. The California variation is played with a card deck. The goal is to split your seven dealt cards into two hands: one hand should have five cards, and the other should have two cards. Your five-card hand should rank higher than your two-card hand. Ultimately, you will compare your hand against the dealer’s hand to see which is better.
This is another variation of regular poker. Hands are arranged with three cards in front, and five in the middle and back. The back hand must the best or equal to the middle five cards. The middle five cards must be a better hand than the front three cards. Ultimately, whoever has the most points wins.
This game, similar to Rummy, is played with a 320-card deck. The objective is to be the first player in the group to lay down, or combine, all 10 cards in your hand (in addition to the final card drawn by a dealer). It was once quite popular, but has waned over the years and now can be found only in a small number of card rooms.
In “EZ Baccarat”, the California version of baccarat, you will assemble two hands of two or three cards with point values as close as you can get to nine. This version eliminates the odds differential between dealer line and player line wagers by barring a specific winning Bank hand. Ostensibly, this is meant the game fairer for the player.
Top Card Rooms In California
Commerce Casino is the largest card room in the world, featuring well over 270 tables within its facilities, in addition to several amenities and other entertainment venues. It offers most staple poker games and several Cal games. A 200-room hotel and several dining establishments make it an attractive place to use as a hub to explore the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.
It’s also the site of several top tournaments. Commerce is well known for being extremely beginner-friendly. The casino even features educational classes for beginners in poker and similar games.
Hawaiian Gardens is also fairly popular. It’s open 24 hours daily and features 150,000 ft.² of gaming space. It has 225 tables and poker games in addition to a single restaurant.
Although Hawaiian Gardens is not quite as comprehensive or all-inclusive as Commerce Casino, its poker room has a lot to like. It includes several cash games, cocktail services, a massage service, and auto shuffling machines for easy dealing.
This poker card room offers a wide range of poker and Asian games of varying limits. Games like blackjack, seven-card stud, Mexican Poker, Baccarat, and more are all available in addition to regular poker variants. It’s also the home of Legends of Poker, a tournament series and World Poker Tour stop that has been running since 1995.
Since 2015, the casino has featured a seven-story hotel that includes live entertainment experiences, gaming opportunities, and a cocktail lounge.
This casino was part of the original Hollywood Park Racetrack, which was demolished in 2013. It now operates in a new building, offering 125 tables for California games and poker. Chandelier lighting and HDTVs create a pleasing aesthetic. Most recently, the casino introduced a new sports bar for high-stakes players and celebrity poker tournaments.
Located in San Jose, CA, Bay 101 offers regular Hold’em games with wagers up to $200 or $400 every day. It’s only a few minutes away from the San Jose airport, making it a great stopover location if you’re on vacation or a work trip and want to blow a few hours. Other games include variations on Omaha or No Limit Hold’Em.
Many of its dealers are renowned for their experience and professionalism, although some low limit games attract new card players.
Southern California Card Rooms
- 500 Club Casino – 771 West Shaw Ave., Clovis, CA 93612
- Aviator – 1225 Airport Dr., Delano, CA 93215
- Banker’s Casino – 111 Monterey St., Salinas, CA 93901
- Bicycle Casino – 888 Bicycle Casino Dr., Bell Gardens, CA 90201
- Bruce’s Casino – 116 Main St., Blythe, CA 92225
- Cameo Club – 552 W. Benjamin Holt Dr., Stockton, CA 95207
- Casino Merced – 1459 Martin Luther King Jr. Way # 5, Merced, CA 95340
- Casino Real – 1355 North Main St., Manteca, CA 95336
- Central Coast Casino – 359 West Grand Ave., Grover Beach, CA 93433
- Club One Casino, Inc. – 1033 Van Ness Ave, Fresno, CA 93721
- Commerce Casino – 131 Telegraph Rd., Commerce, CA 90040
- Crystal Casino – 123 East Artesia Blvd., Compton, CA 90220
- Deuce Lounge & Casino – 30435 Road 68, Visalia, CA 93291
- Diamond Jim’s Casino – 118 20th St. W., Rosamond, CA 93560
- Empire Sportsmen’s Assoc. – 5001 McHenry Avenue, Modesto, CA 95356
- Golden West Casino – 1001 South Union Ave., Bakersfield, CA 93307
- Hawaiian Gardens Casino – 11871 East Carson St., Hawaiian Gardens, CA 90716
- Hollywood Park Casino – 3883 West Century Blvd., Inglewood, CA 90303
- Hustler Casino – 1000 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena, CA 90247
- King’s Card Club – 6111 West Ln. #103, Stockton, CA 95210
- La Fuerza – 175 East Antelope Ave., Woodlake, CA 93286
- Lake Elsinore Hotel and Casino – 20930 Malaga Rd., Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
- Larry Flynt’s Lucky Lady Casino – 1045 Rosecrans Ave, Gardena, CA 90247
- Lucky Lady Card Room – 5526 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92115
- Marina Club – 204 Carmel Ave., Marina, CA 93933
- Mike’s Card Casino – 824 North Yosemite Ave., Oakdale, CA 95361
- Oasis Card Room – 117 E. Ridgecrest Boulevard # A, Ridgecrest, CA 93555
- Ocean View Casino – 709 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, CA 95060
- Ocean’s Eleven Casino – 121 Brooks St., Oceanside, CA 92054
- Oceana Card Room – 1795 Front St., Oceana, CA 93445
- Old Cayucos Tavern – 130 N. Ocean Ave., Cayucos, CA 93430
- Outlaws Card Parlour – 9850 E. Front St., Atascadero, CA 93422
- Parkwest Casino Lodi – 1800 South Cherokee Ln., Lodi, CA 95240
- Paso Robles Central Coast Casino – 1144 Black Oak Dr., Paso Robles, CA 93446
- Pinnacle Casino – 955 Front St., Soledad, CA 93960
- Player’s Casino – 6580 Auto Center Dr., Ventura, CA 93003
- Poker Flats Casino – 1714 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Merced, CA 95340
- Seven Mile Casino – 285 Bay Blvd., Chula Vista, CA 91910
- Star’s Casino – 775 West Clover Rd., Tracy, CA 95376
- Sundowner Card Room – 15638 Avenue 296, Visalia, CA 93292
- Tommy’s Casino & Saloon – 467 Main St., El Centro, CA 92243
- Turlock Poker Room – 2321 West Main St., Turlock, CA 95380
- Westlane – 6111 West Ln. #103, Stockton, CA 95210
See our complete Guide To Gambling In Southern California.
Northern California Card Rooms
- Artichoke Joe’s Casino – 659 Huntington Ave., San Bruno, CA 94066
- Bay 101 – 1788 N 1st St., San Jose, CA 95112
- Black Sheep Casino – 3181 Cameron Park Dr., Cameron Park, CA 95682
- California Grand Casino – 5988 Pacheco Blvd, Pacheco, CA 94553
- Capitol Casino – 411 N. 16th St., Sacramento, CA 95811
- Casino 99 – 175 E. 20th St., Chico, CA 95928
- Casino Chico – 968 East Ave., Chico, CA 95928
- Club Casino (Club) – 1885 Hilltop Dr., Redding, CA 96002
- Casino M8trix – 1887 Matrix Blvd., San Jose, CA 95110
- Casino Marysville – 515 4th St., Marysville, CA 95901
- Club San Rafael – 721 Lincoln Ave., San Rafael CA 94901
- Garlic City Club – 8630 San Ysidro Ave. #100, Gilroy, CA 95020
- Hotel Del Rio & Casino – 209 2nd St., Isleton, CA 95641
- Lake Bowl Card Room – 511 East Bidwell St., Folsom, CA 95630
- Limelight Card Room – 1014 Alhambra Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95816
- Livermore Casino – 3571 1st St., Livermore, CA 94551
- Lucky Chances Casino – 1700 Hillside Blvd., Colma, CA 94014
- Magnolia House Casino – 11275 Folsom Blvd, Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
- Napa Valley Casino – 3466 Broadway, American Canyon, CA 94503
- The Nineteenth Hole – 7071 Airline Hwy., Tres Pinos, CA 95075
- Oaks Card Club – 4097 San Pablo Ave., Emeryville, CA 94608
- Palace Card Room – 22821 Mission Blvd., Hayward, CA 94541
- Parkwest Casino 580 – 968 North Canyons Pkwy., Livermore, CA 94551
- Cordova Parkwest Casino (Cordova) – 2801 Prospect Park Dr., Rancho Cordova, CA 95670
- Lotus Parkwest Casino (Lotus) – 6010 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95824
- Parkwest Casino Sonoma – 5151 Montero Way, Petaluma, CA 94954
- Rogelio’s, Inc. – 34 Main St., Isleton, CA 95641
- The Saloon At Stones Gambling Hall – 6510 Antelope Rd., Citrus Heights, CA 95621
- The Tavern At Stones Gambling Hall – 6508 Antelope Rd., Citrus Heights, CA 95621
- Towers Casino – 115 Bank St., Grass Valley, CA 95945
See our complete Guide To Gambling In Northern California.
California Card Rooms FAQ
The legal gambling age in California is 18-years-old. This also applies to card rooms.
Card games like poker or blackjack include an element of skill. Since they are not purely games of chance (like slot machines), they do not qualify as gambling according to California law.
At the time of writing, there were 66 card rooms operating in California. This number has steadily decreased from over 150 in the 1990s.
Yes. However, some card rooms (like Commerce Casino) offer beginner-friendly games or educational games that use fake money in place of real money.
No. You can play on sweepstakes poker sites, like Global Poker, but there are no online options for California card rooms.