Sweepstakes Poker – Free & Legal Online Poker in the US

14 minutes

Last Updated: March 14, 2024

sweepstakes poker

Sweepstakes poker represents the only completely legal option for online poker players in the United States outside of a few regulated states (currently, NV, NJ, MI, and PA). Although a few more states passed online poker laws, they still don’t have any operational sites.

So, what is sweepstakes online poker, how is it different from traditional real money poker sites, and how can it be legal in the United States under current laws?

On this page, we take a deep dive into the world of sweepstakes or social poker (as it is sometimes referred to) to bring answers to these and many other questions. Keep on reading and learn all there is to know about this unusual but perfectly safe and viable alternative.

Sweepstakes Online Poker Basics

As the name itself suggests, these poker sites operate on a foundation that uses the sweepstakes model to run the games. This entails two very important factors:

  • Players can compete for and win real money prizes
  • There are no traditional deposits or withdrawals

The most confusing bit here is – how can these two seemingly mutually exclusive things exist together? The answer isn’t all that complicated.

At the very basic level, sweepstakes operators are social poker sites, which means they offer play money (Gold Coins) games. Any chips won in these games have no real money value and are used only for entertainment, similar to the popular Zynga Poker.

However, sweepstakes poker sites have another component to them, as they also offer another type of “currency” – Sweeps Coins. These coins can be exchanged for actual prizes or cash.

What makes this all possible is the second factor, i.e., players can never directly purchase Sweeps Coins. Instead, these are given to them as rewards for completing various tasks and missions and for purchasing Gold Coin (play money) packages.

So, for example, if you were to purchase a package of 500,000 Gold Coins (GC) for $20, the sweeps operator will provide you with an amount of Sweeps Coins (SC) equaling that amount according to whatever exchange rate they offer.

If 20 SC can be exchanged for $20, the purchase will net you 20 Sweeps Coins. If the site uses a different exchange rate, you’ll receive a different amount.

Sweeps Coins vs. Gold Coins

sweepstakes online poker basics

Because of their specific model, sweepstakes poker sites will always have two different platforms or lobbies – one for Sweeps Coins games and the other one for Gold Coins games.

You will be able to access both from the same website or platform and switch between them with ease. However, there is a big distinction between the two sides, as Sweeps Coins are the only ones that can be exchanged for prizes.

Gold Coins games are there for entertainment, and you can enjoy them as much as you like, but no matter how many of these you accumulate, you’ll never be able to redeem prizes with them.

So, going back to the earlier example – if you were to win 100 SC in a tournament, that 100 SC can be exchanged for $100 (in real money). If you win 10,000,000 GC, you can only use these to enter other games and tournaments, but there is no option to redeem them in any way.

Legality of Sweepstakes Poker in the US

sweepstakes us poker laws

Now that you understand the dynamics of these sites, you might still wonder – how is this legal in the US when you know that real money poker sites aren’t (at least in most of the country)?

Without going into technicalities too much, these operators rely on the old sweepstakes law to make their business model legal. Remember, Sweeps Coins are never purchased directly – they are given to loyal customers for a variety of reasons (including purchasing Gold Coins).

Thus, you’re not making any direct deposits, and when it’s time to cash out, you’re basically exchanging your sweepstakes entries for prizes. So, there are no withdrawals in a traditional sense, either.

US companies have used sweepstakes to reward or entice customers for decades, and this practice is completely legal. What these operators did was adapt this model to the modern online poker environment, and they did a great job of it.

Like everything else, it is possible that lawmakers will challenge this at some point, and some US states have done so already, most notably Michigan, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. In the rest of the country, sweepstakes poker remains perfectly legal.

Obtaining Sweeps Coins

Even if you’re completely new to the idea of sweepstakes online poker, from everything you’ve read so far, you probably understand that Sweeps Coins are the most important thing. These are the assets that you can exchange for real money, which means acquiring them is very important.

There are several main ways you can get hold of Sweeps Coins, including some that require absolutely no financial risk on your part.

Acquiring SC via Mail Registration

obtaining sweeps coins for poker

One thing that all sweepstakes sites in the US have in common is that they offer the possibility for the players to acquire SC by sending in a physical postcard, which entitles them to a certain amount of SC.

Because of the law that these social poker sites use as their foundation, they must offer this option, and there is no way around it, as sending a postcard with the required details counts as your entry into the sweepstakes draw.

Usual rules stipulate that you can only send one request per envelope, but there is no limit on the number of envelopes that you can send. The card needs to be filled by hand and contain your basic details, including your username on the site.

For example, the most famous US sweepstakes poker site, Global Poker, will give you 5 SC for every properly filled request that arrives at their address. This may not be the easiest way to build your SC bankroll, but it is certainly the cheapest.

Obtaining Sweeps Coins by Purchasing Gold Coins

While there is no way to purchase Sweeps Coins directly, purchasing Gold Coin packages will almost always result in a free reward in SC.

As mentioned previously, the amount of SC received with the purchase will be close to the dollar value paid for the GC, so a $50 Gold Coin package purchase will result in $50 worth of SC added to your account as a free reward.

This amount can also be bigger, especially for new customers, where a purchase worth $100 can result in $150 worth of free SC. Different promotions are offered at different times, but you will usually see all the details clearly listed on the purchase page.

Various Promotions, Competitions, and Bonuses

Beyond these two methods that you can always use to top up your Sweeps Coins balance, there are also many different occasional and longstanding promotions that you can take advantage of.

For example, it is common for these sites to offer daily bonuses, where you can pick up Sweeps Coins just for logging in every day. The daily amount isn’t huge, but if you keep at it, you can build up a nice initial bankroll by simply logging into your account on a daily basis for several weeks.

There are other types of promotions common to all gaming sites – social media giveaways, leaderboards, quizzes, and more. The best way to stay informed about these is by keeping an eye out for operators’ emails and following them on their official social media channels.

Best US Sweepstakes Poker Sites

best sweepstakes poker sites

The number of sites currently operating on the sweepstakes model in the United States is surprisingly small, especially when compared to social casinos that utilize the same model.

As of right now, there are only two sites that provide social poker games with real prizes, and there is talk about the third one coming soon, but without any additional details on when exactly this might happen and what to expect from this new room.

Global Poker – The Sweepstakes Poker King

When it comes to sweepstakes online poker, Global Poker is one operator that stands out as the role model for how things are done.

Launched in 2016, it has been going strong for nearly a decade now, and it provides a well-rounded platform where players can enjoy tournaments, ring games, and sit and goes, including jackpot sit and go games.

Global Poker even hosts regular tournament series with generous prize pools and physical trophies for the players, making it equally as attractive to recreational players and those serious about the game.

The site features two types of games – Gold Coin (play money) and Sweeps Coin games. On the Sweeps side of things, the operator offers a wide range of stakes, with tournament entries as low as SC0.50 and ring games featuring blinds as low as SC0.02/0.04.

ClubWPT – A Subscription Based Social Poker Site

Powered by the World Poker Tour, ClubWPT is another major site using sweepstakes as its foundation. However, although the fundamentals are the same, the dynamics are much different.

ClubWPT is a subscription-based site where players can enroll at several different levels. Depending on the type of membership, they are given access to certain tournaments.

These tournaments feature cash prizes but also offer entries and packages for live World Poker Tour events, and the latter is what makes this site very attractive.

Ring games are not a part of the ClubWPT offering. You can only play tournaments and sit and goes here. Being a social poker site, ClubWPT also offers completely free games that everyone’s welcome to join, but these games don’t offer any cash prizes or tournament entries, only play money.

Game Variety at Sweepstakes Poker Sites

When it comes to your choices, sweepstakes poker sites don’t differ much from their traditional counterparts. As we’ve already explained to some extent, these sites provide a good range of options for all preferences.

One thing that’s worth noting is that social poker rooms are focused primarily on the two main poker variants – Texas Hold’em and Omaha. You won’t find any Razz or 2-7 Triple Draw tables here.

Sweepstakes Online Poker Tournaments

Not surprisingly, multi-table tournaments represent the most popular choice of players at sweepstakes poker sites. Accordingly, you’ll find a good variety of these across the board.

As already mentioned, Global Poker, the leading sweepstakes site, features regular tournament series that players can get involved with. Likewise, their daily schedule is quite solid, offering tournaments with good SC guarantees, and winners can easily exchange their SC for cash.

At ClubWPT, you’ll find a fair selection of tournaments with money prizes, but the operator’s focus is more on awarding seats and packages for live tournaments. If this is your goal, the platform offers some really good opportunities.

sweepstakes poker tournaments

It is worth noting that Global Poker usually runs concurrent Gold Coin series alongside their SC events, which is perfect for those just looking to have some fun or starting to learn poker and wanting to get a feel for tournaments with big player fields.

Cash Game Action at Sweepstakes Poker Sites

When it comes to ring games, sweepstakes poker sites operate in a similar fashion as traditional rooms. The only difference is that you’ll be buying into the games with Sweeps Coins instead of actual dollars.

The range of stakes is very wide, so you’ll find everything from micro stakes to high limits. These games are raked, just like any other ring games, so it’s something to keep in mind.

Once you get up from the table, the amount you had is transferred back to your SC balance to be used for future games or exchanged for prizes.

Sweepstakes Poker Sit & Goes

Sit and go games have lost a lot of their popularity in recent years, and this trend is visible at sweepstakes poker sites as well.

While you’ll find sit and goes in the lobbies, it’s often the case that these games take very long time to start, making it very hard to put any serious volume.

The only exception to this rule is Jackpot Sit & Goes at Global Poker. These games offer a mystery jackpot that can go as high as 200 times the buy-in, and, like other jackpot poker formats, they are quite popular with the players.

Sweepstakes Poker Banking: Purchases and Prize Redemptions

Purchasing Gold Coin packages (and picking up connected rewards) is a very simple process. Since these are actual purchases and not deposits, you’ll rarely face any issues with these transactions.

Some of the most common methods you can use to purchase GC at sweepstakes poker sites include:

  • Visa
  • MasterCard
  • American Express

You’ll complete the purchase in the same fashion as you would if purchasing an item online or virtual items in any other game. Once your purchase is confirmed, you’ll receive your free gift in Sweeps Coins.

There is really not much more to it. If you’ve ever purchased anything online using a credit or a debit card, you’ll have no problem buying Gold Coins for sweepstakes online poker.

Redeeming Sweepstakes Poker Prizes

When the time comes to exchange your Sweeps Coins for cash, you should follow a few simple steps, and you’ll be good to go:

  • Log into your account
  • Enter the section for prize redemption
  • Enter the amount of SC you want to exchange
  • Select the payment option

Usually, you’ll only be able to receive your prize via a bank account or, for smaller amounts, via a gift card. While credit cards can be used for purchases, you can’t use this method to receive prizes.

It’s worth mentioning that the whole process can take a bit of time, so you may have to wait a couple of weeks before your prize money reaches your account.

If you’re a new customer, you’ll be required to provide proof of identity upon your first redemption request. This entails sending photos of your ID and proof of address to the site and is a mandatory step that you’ll have to complete.

Luckily, this process only happens once. When your account is fully verified, all future redemption requests will go through without any issues, and you’ll just have to be patient sometimes while waiting for the request to be fully processed and sent to your bank account.

Sweepstakes Online Poker Safety & Fairness

Sweepstakes poker sites aren’t licensed in the same way as traditional operators, and none of them have state-issued licenses. This naturally leads some players to question their safety and legitimacy.

To address the first aspect, although these sites aren’t officially licensed, they go to great lengths to do things by the book and not break any laws. Since sweepstakes poker is a bit of a loophole, these sites don’t want to do anything that would result in negative attention for them.

Additionally, major operators like Global Poker and ClubWPT are owned by large companies and have been around for many years without any big issues. This, in itself, provides a great degree of trustworthiness.

When it comes to fairness, sweepstakes poker sites use top-tier random number generators in their games, guaranteeing fair and unpredictable results across the board. You can rest assured that these games aren’t rigged or fixed in any way.

While you may come across user reviews claiming such things, you shouldn’t take these very seriously, as they exist for every online poker site on the planet. For the most part, they belong in the “sour grapes” bucket, coming from players who don’t fully understand variance or aren’t quite as good as they like to believe.

Sweepstakes Poker FAQ

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