Assalamualaikum. Ustaz, I would like to ask. What is the ruling of playing poker cards, but did not gamble? Some said that it is still haram even without gambling. So, what if I play the cards for fun?
Waalaikumussalam. The ruling of playing the poker cards is permissible with the condition of not having any elements of gambling, lying, enmity and preserving the Islamic boundaries like to not abandon the prayers and the like. However, if playing poker cards is worried to cause misjudgement in the eyes of society as it is an item normally used in gambling, it is better to be avoided.
Alhamdulillah, praise and thanks to Allah for the countless blessings He has blessed us all with. Blessings and salutations to the Prophet Muhammad PBUH, his wives, his family, companions and all those that follow his teachings to the day of judgement.
Playing poker cards is a leisure game that is popular among us. This is also due to the fact that it is an essential item to gamble in gambling places like the casino, bar and etc. There are also people who play poker cards without any betting like cash money, just to spend their leisure time. Allah SWT says:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنَّمَا الْخَمْرُ وَالْمَيْسِرُ وَالْأَنصَابُ وَالْأَزْلَامُ رِجْسٌ مِّنْ عَمَلِ الشَّيْطَانِ فَاجْتَنِبُوهُ لَعَلَّكُمْ تُفْلِحُونَ
O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.
Surah al-Maidah (90)
Prof. Dr Wahbah al-Zuhaili in his tafsir states that this verse stresses out the prohibition of intoxicants and gambling by stating them as the work of Shaytan. The prohibition of such acts is to protect our body and mind as well as nurturing love among us. All forms of betting whether the games of dice and chess involving money betting are considered gambling. Even if money is not involved, the majority of the jurists still prohibit them as they potentially raise enmity and grudge as well as a barrier from remembering Allah SWT. (See Tafsir al-Munir: 4/34) 
This also aligns with the saying of Allah SWT:
إِنَّمَا يُرِيدُ الشَّيْطَانُ أَن يُوقِعَ بَيْنَكُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاءَ فِي الْخَمْرِ وَالْمَيْسِرِ وَيَصُدَّكُمْ عَن ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَعَنِ الصَّلَاةِ ۖ فَهَلْ أَنتُم مُّنتَهُونَ
Satan only wants to cause between you animosity and hatred through intoxicants and gambling and to avert you from the remembrance of Allah and from prayer. So, will you not desist?
Surah al-Maidah (91)
The above verse tells us the importance of always remembering Allah SWT. Any actions involving gambling and money bet is clearly prohibited. It is the obligation of a Muslim to always fill our time with beneficial activities like doing ibadah and studying. The Prophet PBUH said:
يَا حَنْظَلَةُ سَاعَةً وَسَاعَةً وَلَوْ كَانَتْ تَكُونُ قُلُوبُكُمْ كَمَا تَكُونُ عِنْدَ الذِّكْرِ لَصَافَحَتْكُمُ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ حَتَّى تُسَلِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ فِي الطُّرُقِ
Hanzala, there is a time for worldly affairs and a time for (worship and devotion), and if your state of mind is always the same as it is at the time of remembrance of Allah, the Angels would shake hands with you and would greet you on the path by saying: As-Salamu-Alaikum.
Sahih Muslim (2750)
Based on the above hadith, it is best for us to seek alternatives or other entertainments which are more beneficial than playing poker cards. To add, such a game may degrade one’s thiqah or dignity because the game itself is an essential item for gambling. A person who possesses good akhlak and upholds the religion shall avoid playing poker cards and searching for other better activities to fill the leisure time. The Prophet PBUH said:
نِعْمَتَانِ مَغْبُونٌ فِيهِمَا كَثِيرٌ مِنَ النَّاسِ الصِّحَّةُ وَالْفَرَاغُ
‘Two blessings which many people squander: Good health and free time.’
Sahih al-Bukhari (5155)
In the past articles, we already answered the issue of playing claw machine games which is prohibited as it falls under the category of gambling and its nature shuts one’s intellect as it makes people depend on pure luck. It is different from other games like chess which may polish one’s intellect and mind. Kindly refer to the article on the following link:
Hence, the ruling of playing the poker cards is permissible with the condition of not having any elements of gambling, lying, enmity and preserving the Islamic boundaries like to not abandon the prayers and the like. However, if playing poker cards is worried to cause misjudgement in the eyes of society as it is an item normally used in gambling, it is better to be avoided. It is also better for us to seek other games which are beneficial and safe because playing such games may degrade one’s dignity, especially if the person has a high reputation and is well respected in society.
 Wahbah az-Zuhaili. Tafsir al-Munir. 2003. Darul Fikr Damsyiq. Chapter 4 pg 34-35
 Said Hawa. Kitab al-Asas fi as-Sunnah wa Fiqhiha – al-Aqaid al-Islamiyyah. 1992. Dar al-Salam. Chapter 2 pg 57
 Abu Abdullah at-Tabrizi. Kitab Misykatul Masabih. 1985. Maktabah al-Islami Beirut. Chapter 3 pg 427