Pala Poker opened in July 2017 and is the first venture of the Pala Band Mission Indians tribe into online poker. They have a track record in the gambling arena, however, operating the Pala Casino & Spa resort in California since 2001. The New Jersey market is a relatively small one though, so Pala will definitely face tough competition. Their partnership with NJ heavyweight Borgata Casino should help them in the long run though.
How to sign up for Pala Poker
Signing up to Pala Poker wasn’t difficult and we were inside the lobby in minutes. The only (mildly) difficult step to complete, was when Pala asked for our Social Security Number. This step was taken to prevent non-American players from signing up, so it was understandable. Just remember that identification documents will be needed before making any withdrawals.
We were also happy to see that Pala Poker’s tables could all be played in the browser – no download required.
Bonuses on Pala Poker
Pala Poker offers a $15 no deposit bonus on sign-up, split between $5 cash and $10 in tournament entry credits. There’s also a 100 percent first deposit bonus up to $500. However, Pala releases this into your account in $5 chunks as you accrue their status points. Every 1,250 status points chunk releases $5 of the deposit bonus, and 50 status points are earned for every $1 spent on rake or tournaments fees.
Essentially, this means for every $25 you spend on the rake (which is 5 percent on most games) or tournament entry, you’ll unlock $5 of your bonus. This equates to 20 percent rakeback.
Pala Poker traffic
Pala doesn’t have a very big player base at the current time. We tracked less than 20 players playing cash games during weekday night and only slightly more than that on weekends.
Games on Pala Poker
Pala Poker currently only offers Texas Hold ‘Em & Omaha variants – with SevencCard Stud promised in the near future.
What they do have though, is an excellent software platform that rivals industry leader PokerStars in smoothness and responsiveness. Some of the sound effects are extremely loud, however, but luckily you can turn them down (or off) in your user settings.
Pala’s mobile poker client is also top tier and allows multiple table play – even on older devices. Users can download it from the App Store on iOS, or directly from the Pala website for Android. This method takes a little technical know-how for Android users, but Pala explains it well enough on their website.
The only Hold‘em variant available at Pala is no-limit. Buy-ins range from $0.10 to $2 dollars – so high-rolling players might be disappointed. All active tables seat six players only.
Omaha enthusiasts can play basic Pot-Limit Omaha at Pala, and that’s it. There were even fewer people playing these when we looked, however than the small groups who were playing Hold‘em.
As of June 2018, there are no stud poker variants available for play at Pala. It seems they simply don’t have the traffic to support the less popular titles and have instead put most of their effort into low-stake Hold‘em tables.
Multi-table tournament players might be happier here though. There are 5+ tournaments scheduled every day of every week, all with guaranteed prize pools between $50 and $250. The majority of these tournaments (at least 90 percent) are No-Limit Hold ‘Em but there are a few Omaha tables in the mix as well. Buy-ins range from $0 to $20. Hardly the World Series – but certainly good enough for casual to moderately experienced players.
No-Limit Hold ‘Em Sit & Go tournaments run throughout the week at Pala, with buy-ins at $5, $10, and $20. They start at 6 p.m., one hour after the cash game lobby opens.
The $250 dollar weekly tournament is held on Fridays and is called the GTD Turbo. Entry to this NL Hold ‘Em competition costs $10 and the tournament starts at 8 p.m. sharp.
Pala operates a dual reward system – with both Status Points and Reward Points on offer. Status points are earned at a rate of 50 for every $1 in tournament or rake fees. Every status point you earn will also give you reward points, at a base ratio of 4 to 1. However, this ratio increases as you rank up levels using status points. These levels are:
- Pearl = 1,500
- Gold = 7,500
- Platinum = 50,000
- Elite = 250,000
Above Gold level, the ratio of reward points earned per single status point goes up from four to six and then more for each level after that. At Elite status, you’ll collect 10 reward points for every status point earned. However, these ranks reset on a monthly basis. To retain Elite status you’d have to be a very serious player, which probably isn’t possible given the site’s poor traffic volumes.
Reward points can be exchanged for cash or tournament entry dollars. for example, 5,000 reward points get $1 cash or you can pay a reduced rate of 4,900 RP for $1 in tournament entry fees.
So if you’re at Elite status, on a 10-1 reward to loyalty point ratio, you’ll be getting 500 RP for every $1 spent. Therefore, $10 spent gets you $1 cash back in rewards – but only until the end of the month when it resets.
Let’s look at a more moderate example – if you maintain Gold status during an average month, and cash in your reward points each time, you’ll be swapping 30,000 points for $6. This means you spent $150 in fees for $6 cashback in rewards. Not that great to be honest, but better than nothing.
Pala Poker offers a decent range of deposit options, covering nine methods. These are:
- Online Banking
- Pala + Prepaid Card
- Borgata Cashier
- Check by mail
Due to banking restrictions imposed on online gambling in the US by many card providers, we do not recommend using VISA or MasterCard as your first port of call when depositing at Pala Casino. Many NJ customers have found their transactions canceled after a long wait when using their standard debit or credit card. The best option on this list, objectively, is probably PayPal or Neteller – they do nearly instant transactions and can also be used for withdrawals.
If you live in or near Atlantic City, paying at the Borgata cashier might also be a viable option. You will need to have a valid ID and your Pala account details with you though. Deposits made at the Borgata cashier are also unlimited, compared to the $10,000 maximum for PayPal, Neteller, and online banking deposits.
Only PayPal, Neteller, a prepaid Pala Card, the Borgata Cashier, and postal checks can be used as a withdrawal method at Pala Poker. Most convenient of these, again, is probably Neteller and PayPal – both of which offer instant withdrawals, after processing. If you live in or near Atlantic City though, cashing out at the Borgata Cashier might be fairly easy, too.
Last come postal checks. These can take a very long time to arrive and then even longer to cash in, so we wouldn’t recommend them unless you have no other option.
During June 2018, Pala is running a free tournament dollars promotion on every deposit over $25. Just input the code PokerDollars25 and you’ll be credited with $5 in tournament entry credits to your account, within 72 hours. Once they’re in, you have 15 days to use them before they expire.
The other ongoing promotion Pala offers to Poker players is a free spin on their exclusive $1,000,000 slot – every single day. We know it’s not strictly poker, but it is completely free. So why not?
Customer support is one of Pala’s greatest strengths, alongside its in-house software. With 24/7 e-mail, phone and live chat support, it’s unlikely you’ll need to wait long to get a response. When we contacted them, the live chat agents were extremely friendly, helpful, and efficient – although we have yet to try them at unusual times of day.
Pala’s FAQ section is also great, answering a wide range of queries and common problems using easy-to-understand language. You can also participate in a live Q&A that other website visitors will then be able to see, and hopefully learn from.
Pala Poker has a lot going for it, but we can’t see it knocking PokerStars off the top of the market anytime soon. Its proprietary mobile and desktop software are surprisingly smooth and user-friendly and the customer support section is top tier.
However, Pala does suffer from not being open 24 hours a day, with cash games only starting at 5 p.m. on weekdays. It also has a disappointingly small game selection. Poker sites live and die by their player numbers – and Pala just hasn’t brought in enough regular traffic to sustain a wide variety of tables or provide big money tournaments for high rollers.