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Last Updated: September 22, 2020
PA online poker launch update
Online poker is officially live in Pennsylvania! After a two-day soft launch for testing, PokerStars PA (in partnership with Mount Airy Casino) went live to the public on Nov. 6, 2019.
Early returns were impressive with peak 24-hour traffic of 895 players and a seven-day average of almost 500 players. As of early-June 2020, during the Coronavirus pandemic, that had increased to an average of around 600-700 players and a 24-hour peak of more than 1,200 players.
Tournament guarantees have already superseded New Jersey. The combined prize pools for the five Sunday Majors (Warm-Up, Storm, Special, High Roller, Supersonic) have hit $67,500 with just $440 total in entry fees.
The inaugural PACOOP Series was Pennsylvania’s first 50-tournament online series (Nov. 30 – Dec. 6, 2019) and originally guaranteed $1 million. That was bumped up twice and eventually to $1.225 million.
The event ultimately produced a massive $1.6 million overall prize pool with 12,600 players. In the ensuing months, online poker at PokerStars PA dipped a bit but then hit a tidal wave as players were stuck at home during the Coronavirus pandemic.
PokerStars PA was in a prime spot as the lone operator in the state and made massive headway among players.
Where can you play online poker in Pennsylvania?
As noted above, PokerStars PA remained the only operator offering legal, real-money online poker in AP as of June 2020. The site has an official partnership with Mount Airy casino to operate in the state.
One thing many new online players are concerned about is safety and security. Legal real-money poker sites must go through a similar regulation process that land-based casinos go through.
This offers players a sense of security that your funds and personal information will be secure. PokerStars is the largest operator in the world and also offers online poker in New Jersey as well. The company makes use of a seamless product allowing sports betting and other online gaming options.
The company is a leader in the industry and players love the user-friendly software. In PA and NJ, however, PokerStars remains a “fenced-in” market,” meaning players can only play other players within that state.
PokerStars may have been the first but is unlikely to be the only operator in the market. A few other companies may also be entering the state and here are a few to keep an eye on.
- 888 Poker/WSOP.com
○ WSOP.com is owned by Caesars Entertainment, which owns Harrah’s Philadelphia.
○ The company confirmed in May 2020 it was seeking a license in PA.
○ As a provider of software for WSOP.com, 888poker may be a possibility as well. 888 already offers online poker in New Jersey and Delaware.
○ WSOP operates an interstate poker network in Nevada, New Jersey, and with 888 in Delaware.
It’s important to note that the WSOP/888 interstate compact or any multi-state agreement will not include PA. The outcome of the Wire Act in court would affect that.
As of June 2020, the Department of Justice argued that the act applied to not just sports betting but all online gaming. The gaming industry won the first round in court but the issue remained tied up in court.
If the industry wins, PA would need legislative action to allow interstate compacts. Until then, the state would remain a fenced-in market.
○ A signed business deal with MGM, which translates to access with Boyd Gaming properties
○ Expanding American reach through partnerships
○ Currently offer online poker in New Jersey through a partnership with Borgata.
- Rush Street Interactive
○ Owns the Rivers casino brand and also offers online gaming and sports betting
○ Rumored to have developed own poker software
Another to watch is Penn National Gaming. The company offers online gaming and sports betting. Penn also added a heavy investment in Barstool Sports in 2019 to reach younger male bettors.
Could a foray into online poker be possible? The Barstool/Penn online gaming reach could extend to poker if the company hopes to make itself a one-stop-shop for gaming.
How big is the online poker market in PA?
With a population of about 12.8 million, Pennsylvania is now the largest state offering online gaming – about 4 million more than New Jersey. The state has several major casinos, with many offering live poker rooms.
Many players in the state attend major poker series in the Keystone State and in neighboring Atlantic City. PokerStars PA has been finding success in the state despite its ringed-in market.
Playing at PokerStars PA and what to expect
With the Wire Act still in litigation, expanded interstate compacts aren’t possible. Despite that challenge, PokerStars was finding success in its first year of operation.
Along with PASCOOP, PokerStars continued adding more events for players like the Bounty Builder Series, Winter Series, and more. In May 2020, the site ran a one-off event with a wrestling theme – PennsylMania.
The $200 buy-in event came with a guarantee of $250,000. PennsylMania ultimately attracted 1,760 entries, 1,014 re-entries, and a massive prize pool of $515,964. The event became the biggest online tournament in the short life of PA online poker.
As of June 2020, much of live poker including major tournament series remained shut down. With PokerStars still the sole option as well, players can expect large prize pools to continue at the site.
Cash games offering at PokerStars PA
No Limit Texas Hold ’em remains the most popular online poker game at PokerStars PA by far. There is always plenty of action and it should be fairly easy to find a table. Blinds start at 1-2 cents and go up to $1-$2 most of the day.
Those stakes can go up during busy times with six-max and full ring tables usually available. Pot Limit Omaha and Pot Limit Omaha High/Low action can also be found fairly easily with blinds running from 1 cent to $1.
Seven Card Stud and Seven Card Stud High/Low are available in PA, but not prevalent and finding action is rare. Look for these on weekends.
PokerStars tournament events
There is plenty of action for tournament players with numerous events daily. That includes something for every bankroll traditional tournaments to turbos to bounty events. Here’s a look at what to expect:
- Daily Bigs – Players begin these freezeouts with 10,000 starting chips and 8-12 minute blind levels.
- Hot Turbos – These fast-paced events give players 10,000 chips to start and have 5-minute blind levels. Tournaments are six- or nine-handed.
- Bounty Builders – Progressive Knockout tournaments running daily with bounties on all players. When you eliminate a player you also win a bounty. However, the bounty on your head also increases after a knockout. Players start with 10,000 chips and blind levels of 5-10 minutes.
- Nightlies – Popular nightly events for players staying up late.
- Sunday Majors – These are the weekly major events on PokerStars PA with big guarantees.
PokerStars PA daily tournament schedule
Event Buy-in Guarantee Time
DAILY BIGS The Morning Big $10 $10 NA 10 am
The Big $15 $15 NA 1:30 pm
The Big $5 $5 NA 4 pm
The Big $10 $10 $1,000 6 pm
The Big $20 $20 $1,500 7 pm
HOT TURBOS Lunchtime Hot $20 $20 NA 12:30 pm
The Hot $10 $10 NA 8:15 pm
The Hot $5 $5 NA 9:15 pm
The Hot $50 $50 NA 10:15 pm
The Hot $30 $30 NA 11:15 pm
BOUNTY BUILDERS Bounty Builder $10
$10 NA 3 pm
Bounty Builder $20 $20 NA 9 pm
Bounty Builder $15 $15 NA 10:30 pm
NIGHTLIES Nightly Stars $100 NA 7 pm
Moonlight Express (hyper-turbo) $20 NA midnight
SUNDAY MAJORS Sunday Warm-Up $50 $8,500 4 pm
Sunday Storm $10 $4,500 5 pm
Sunday Special $200 $45,000 6 pm
Sunday High Roller $500 $15,000 7 pm
Sunday Supersonic $75 $5,000 10 pm
PokerStars Sit & Go’s, Jackpot SnGs, Zoom Poker, and more
If you’re short on time but still looking for a bit of poker, PokerStars has some other interesting options. These events allow for some fun and a chance to win some cash – for every bankroll level.
- Sit & Go – Single-table tournaments for players who may not have a ton of time on their hands.
- Jackpot Spin & Go – Three-person events in winner-take-all format. A prize wheel spins before action begins determining the prize played for. This can go from twice your buy-in to much more for a gigantic jackpot.
- Spin & Go Flash – Even faster Spin & Go events with one-minute levels and starting stacks of just 500 chips.
- Spin & Go Max – Another fast-play option with a crazy twist. Players are all in once a certain number of hands have been played.
- Zoom Poker – This is actually a cash game option featuring fast-fold play where the action is lightning quick. There is no waiting for a hand to finish as you’re rushed to a new table.
PA online poker promotions / bonuses
PokerStars excels at promotions and rewards for players. From player rewards to unique events, the site is creative in offering players something extra. Here’s a look at what players can expect:
- Stars Rewards – This player rewards program tailors benefits to your individual tastes and needs. Players earn points each they play a real money game. Collect enough points to complete the progress bar, and you’ll win a rewards Chest. These are specific to each player and geared toward events you’ll want to play.
- Stars Rewards Showdown – This recent promotion rewarded players with Chests containing two cards. Those could be used in a showdown with the best hand winning varying prize amounts. Players lucky enough to hit a royal flush could win up to $2,500.
- PokerStars Cardex – This unique promotion gives players a red or black card on a spinning device (aka, the Cardex). Those playing any No Limit Hold’em cash game have a shot at a mystery cash prize. That can be up to $5,000. A player dealt his selected card in a game progresses up a step if he can win that hand. Players completing all five reels on the Cardex receive a cash prize.
- FoxBet and PokerStars Casino – Those in the Keystone State also have the opportunity to play casino games or sportsbet via the casino or sportsbook. The software client and app make seamless movement among these offerings simple and quick. Play some slots or bet on the day’s football game all in the same PokerStars environment.
If WSOP.com or partypoker come to PA, expect plenty of promotional push from them as well. WSOP.com gets creative with its promotions including regular Reload Bonuses.
Another recent promotion was the “Keep it 100” daily tournament. This $215 event featured a $100,000 guarantee and ran each day until it didn’t meet the guarantee. WSOP.com added a $10,000 progressive freeroll ticket for all those played.
PokerStars app and what to expect
PokerStars is known around the world for its smooth online experience. Designed and implemented by poker players for poker players, the software is unmatched and offers a great experience.
That goes for Pennsylvania and New Jersey and also applies to the excellent PokerStars PA app. The platform is downloadable for both iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android devices.
The app has many of the bells and whistles players enjoy on the desktop poker client. That includes a streamlined look with excellent design and graphics.
After logging in, players will find the PokerStars app a pleasant and user-friendly experience. The vertical screen allows scrolling through a center slide bar with numerous options. Navigating with a single finger is easy, a plus for mobile players on the move.
Players will find tournaments and cash games, but also unique games perfect for mobile gaming. Game play is smooth, effective, and easy – from navigating the tournament lobby to finding promotions to betting at the tables.
Viewing your account and filtering games are also simple and handy. The app isn’t cluttered and viewing different sections is quick and simple. A menu bar at the bottom of the main screen makes for seamless navigation and toggling between screens.
Multi-tabling is even an option . PokerStars has a great mobile app, perfect for getting in the game.
How to deposit and play online poker in PA
Downloading the PokerStars client or app for some real-money or play money poker is simple and only takes a few minutes. Next, you’ll want to open an account and can expect to provide:
- Phone number
When that’s complete, you’ll be ready to make a deposit. New players earn a Free $30 simply by depositing $20. Players will also earn a 100% Match Bonus of up to $600.
The depositing step is also a simple process. Legal, regulated poker sites like PokerStars make it quick and safe. Stars offers the following methods to fund an account:
- Skrill – An ewallet making transactions simple.
- PayPal – The popular ewallet allows for easy deposits and withdrawals.
- Instant e-checks – A quick bank transfer.
- Visa/Mastercard – Use a credit or debit card to fund an account.
- PayNearMe – A cash funding option available at thousands of retail outlets around the country including 7-11.
Players looking to cash some of their money out will also find that an easy process. Just click on the Cashier section on the desktop client or mobile app. Players using Skrill, PayPal, or instant e-checks can have money sent directly back to those accounts.
Pennsylvania live poker
Where can I play poker live in Pennsylvania?
Live poker is a big draw in Pennsylvania. According to PGCB, ten of the 12 PA casinos have poker rooms. Between them, there are 225 tables operating, however as of September these all remained close because of the Coronavirus pandemic orders..
Here’s a quick look at the nine poker rooms currently operating across PA:
- Parx Casino (Philadelphia) – Brand new 48-table poker room replaced the highest-grossing poker room in the state in January 2018. Hosts major tournament events throughout the year.
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course (Grantville) – 16-table poker room open 24 hours year-round. The property regularly hosts the Keystone State Poker Championship Spring Series.
- Mohegan Sun (Pocono) – 18-table poker room with a wide range of limits, cash games, and tournaments. Owned by the Mohegan Tribe of Connecticut.
- Mount Airy Casino Resort (Pocono) – The Poker Parlor at the Mount Airy Casino Resort features action on nine tables. The property is PokerStars’ partner in the state and could possibly host any of the company’s live events eventually.
- Wind Creek (Bethlehem) – This property, formerly Sands Bethlehem, was bought by Alabama’s Poarch Band of Creek Indians in 2019. The facility features 26 tables.
- Rivers Casino (Philadelphia) – Formerly the SugarHouse, it was rebranded to align with other Rivers casino properties. The poker room offers 28 tables.
- Rivers Casino (Pittsburgh) – 30 tables of non-stop poker action.
- The Meadows Racetrack & Casino (Washington) – The Meadows Poker Room features 14 tables with an open view of the live racing action on the track.
- Presque Isle Downs – State-of-the-art poker room with seven tables.
In addition to these, Harrah’s Philadelphia operated a World Series of Poker-branded poker room with 28 tables before the Coronavirus pandemic. The room hosted satellites to major WSOP and circuit events.
However, the casino announced that the room would remain closed permanently even after casinos reopened.
History of online poker in Pennsylvania
A massive online poker boom kicked off in the US in 2003. That’s when a Tennessee accountant appropriately named Chris Moneymaker earned his way into the WSOP Main Event via a PokerStars online satellite and went on to win it all.
Poker’s popularity soared, particularly on TV, where cheap poker programming filled with commercials for online poker sites suddenly became a staple of cable network programming.
The US Congress tried to gain some control by stuffing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in the Safe Ports Act in 2006. The legislation ensured US banks would stop processing transactions for the many offshore online poker operators accepting US customers.
A number of those operators left the US market, but others found creative ways around the new laws and online poker still flourished.
Online poker’s Black Friday
Five years later, on April 15, 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice put a stop to it. The top executives at major online poker operators including PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet were all charged with various money laundering and illegal gambling charges. The US-facing domains were seized and the sites immediately stopped accepting US customers The door to online poker in America was suddenly closed.
However, signs it could be opening again began to surface by the end of the year.
In December 2011, the DOJ released a legal opinion that the Federal Wire Act only applies to sports betting. It was supposed to clarify things for states interested in conducting online lottery sales. However, it also paved the way for states to begin to consider licensing and regulating online poker and casino sites.
Over the next two years Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey all passed different forms of online gambling legislation and opened up fenced-in online poker markets.
Nevada and Delaware signed an agreement to share player pools in 2014 and started doing so in early 2015. New Jersey signed on to that same agreement in October 2017.
Legal and regulated online poker in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania lawmakers started kicking the tires on online gambling legislation back in 2013. Rep. Tina Davis introduced legalization that would legalize online casino games and online poker. It was modeled on online gambling bills passed in New Jersey. However, it was never really more than the start of the conversation.
The year ended with the PA Senate commissioning a study on the issue.
The Senate got what looked like positive results for online gambling from the study in 2014. Online gambling bills were then introduced in both the House and the Senate. By the end of the year, the Senate Committee on Community, Economic and Recreational Development held an online gambling hearing and Pennsylvania was suddenly seriously considering online gambling.
The legislature appeared more serious about online gambling in 2015, and it ended up in and out of the budget several times during deliberations. It ended up being out.
Every time lawmakers looked close to passing online gambling legislation in 2016, efforts were derailed by the consideration of even more gambling expansions across the state.
Pennsylvania online poker and gaming specifics and regulations
All real-money online gaming operators within PA must follow strict gaming regulations. This ensures player funds and information are secure. Here are some of the regulations set by Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB):
- Players must be 21 or older.
- Sites must verify identification.
- Players must be inside state lines to play for real money.
- Sites must verify player location using geolocation software.
- Operators must pay a 16 percent online gambling tax on gross revenue.
Pennsylvania online poker laws
The gambling expansion bill signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf on October 30, 2017, is officially known as H 271. It ultimately governs online poker in the state.
The new law tasked the PGCB with regulating the industry. The board is also tasked the board with handing out online poker licenses to qualified applicants.
The board began distributing licenses in August 2018. So far, several companies have received online gaming licenses including PokerStars.
The online gambling budget balance
Finally, in 2017, faced with a massive budget deficit and few answers on how to erase it, PA lawmakers turned to online gambling.
In May, the Senate passed an online gambling bill. In June, the House fixed a number of issue with it, including tax rates, then added further gambling expansion initiatives including video gaming terminals.
Only this time the gambling expansion initiatives didn’t derail the bill. Lawmakers went into the summer of 2017 still debating the details of what had turned into a comprehensive gambling expansion bill.
When they got back to work in the fall, they worked out all the kinks and a bill, which included a plan to legalize and regulate online poker in PA, was passed.
The bill authorized the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) to put together regulations governing online poker in the state. It also asked the board to begin a licensing application process for potential operators.
As a result, Pennsylvania became the fourth state in US history to legalize online poker. Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey were the first three. All three of those states have since signed an agreement to share player pools. Language in the Pennsylvania online poker legislation will allow it to enter such an agreement in the future.
Frequently asked questions
Is online poker legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes, PokerStars went live in the state in November 2019 offering real-money poker for players within the state’s borders.
How old do you have to be to play?
Players must be 21.
Can I play on PokerStars with other players around the world and in New Jersey?
Pennsylvania remains a “fenced-in” market and you can only play with others within the state.
Can I earn a deposit bonus for playing real-money poker?
Yes, click here to earn an exclusive deposit bonus for PokerStars PA.