Going for the Gold: First WSOP Online Bracelet Series in PA Coming in August

The brand-spanking-new World Series of Poker Pennsylvania online poker room had only just launched last week when the WSOP shared some big news. Like players on WSOP sites in other states, those in Pennsylvania will be able to play for WSOP gold bracelets as well…and very soon.

The first ever WSOP Online Bracelet series in PA will take place August 6-16 on WSOP PA during which eight WSOP gold bracelets will be awarded.

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WSOP PA bracelet series schedule

The series begins and ends with two multi-flight tournaments. The initial “kick-off” event has a $500 buy-in and three starting flights on Aug. 6-8, with the final day Aug. 9. The series concludes with the $1,000 buy-in No-Limit Hold’em Pennsylvania Championship for which there will be three starting flights Aug. 13-15 with the finale Aug. 16.

Each of the eight tournaments are no-limit hold’em, including two that will employ the progressive knockout bounty format. Buy-ins range from a couple of $400 tournaments up to a $3,200 high roller event.

PA WSOP Online Bracelet series schedule

No.DateTime (ET)EventBuy-in
1Aug. 6-9 (Th-Su)5:30 p.m.No-Limit Hold'em Keystone Kick Off$500
2Aug. 9 (M)5:30 p.m.No-Limit Hold'em PKO$500
3Aug. 10 (Tu)5:30 p.m.No-Limit Hold'em High Roller$3,200
4Aug. 11 (W)5:30 p.m.No-Limit Hold'em 6-Max$400
5Aug. 12 (Th)5:30 p.m.No-Limit Hold'em Lucky 7's$777
6Aug. 13 (F)5:30 p.m.No-Limit Hold'em PKO$400
7Aug. 14 (Sa)5:30 p.m.No-Limit Hold'em Monster Stack$600
8Aug. 13-16 (Th-Su)5:30 p.m.No-Limit Hold'em PA Championship$1,000

WSOP PA already has the events listed in the client and open for registration. There are currently $10 satellites running for those first two $500 buy-in events. More satellites will likely appear for all of the other events once the series draws nearer.

The quick announcement of a bracelet series starting less than a month after WSOP PA’s launch might have surprised some. Many expect a WSOP Online Circuit series awarding WSOP Circuit rings to take place on the site thanks to earlier hints regarding from the WSOP. That may happen sooner than later, which if it follows other similar series, will be a 12- or 18-tournament series.

Pennsylvania bracelets help push overall WSOP total to record high

The bracelet series on WSOP PA arrives as sort of a supplement to the currently in-progress WSOP Online Bracelet series running on the WSOP Nevada and WSOP New Jersey sites. That series runs from July 1-August 1 and features 33 events.

Thanks to a multi-state agreement, WSOP NV and WSOP NJ share a player pool for their bracelet events. By contrast, the new WSOP PA site is a ring-fenced site. Only players physically located in the state of Pennsylvania can play real money games on the site. That will likely mean smaller tournament fields for the series on WSOP PA. However it could also increase players’ chances to win a WSOP bracelet.

A second half to the WSOP Online Bracelet series will run on the international GGPoker site from August 1-September 12 during which another 33 bracelets will be awarded. Although available in dozens of countries around the world, GGPoker is not open to US players.

Meanwhile, the traditional in-person WSOP series will happen at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas this fall. A total of 88 bracelet events will play out from September 30-November 22, including the $10,000 WSOP Main Event.

That adds up to 162 bracelets awarded by the WSOP in the US during 2021. Still more will be won at WSOP Europe at the King’s Resort in Rozvadov, Czech Republic in November and December. As of now, that series schedule features 15 more bracelet events.

Bracelets carry prestige, fifty years of tradition

Barring any schedule changes, poker players will win more WSOP bracelets this year than in any of the previous years of the World Series of Poker.

The series first began in 1970 as a small, intimate gathering of gamblers who came together at Binion’s Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas. In fact, tournaments weren’t even introduced until the second year, and bracelets only became the standard winner’s “trophy” a few years after that. In 1974, WSOP Main Event champion Brian “Sailor” Roberts was given a gold bracelet for his victory, and starting in 1975 bracelets were given to winners of all tournaments, including the preliminary events.

Even so, for many years the WSOP only featured a modest number of bracelet events. In 1977 the total reached double-digits for the first time with 13 bracelets awarded. It took until 1992 for the total to reach 20. In 2004, the first year events began to take place at the Rio, players won 33 bracelets.

The “poker boom” of the mid-2000s increased the WSOP’s profile significantly. More players took part, and thus the schedule continued expanding. The WSOP first added online bracelet events in 2015, helping the overall total grow even more. Players won more than 100 bracelets both in Las Vegas and at WSOP Europe in 2019, the first year the figure reached triple-digits.

Phil Hellmuth currently tops the all-time list with 15 bracelets, well ahead of nearest challengers Doyle Brunson, Johnny Chan, and Phil Ivey who each have 10.

Despite the explosion in the number of bracelets, they still carry a great deal of prestige among poker players. Winning one of the first at WSOP PA will no doubt provide some memorable early highlights for PA players.

Lead photo John Locher/AP

High Hand Alert: Pennsylvania Poker Options Expanding Both Live and Online

Live and online poker options continue expanding for Pennsylvania players, along with some juicy welcome back promos at poker rooms around PA.

After a long year of live poker rooms being closed and online poker options limited, Pennsylvania poker players have a lot to be encouraged about heading into the summer months.

There are now multiple online poker rooms to try, and many of the state’s live rooms are welcoming players back as well.

Here’s a quick overview of what is currently happening poker-wise in the Keystone State. Let’s start with online poker, where options for Pennsylvania players have recently increased and might do so again sooner than later.

Online poker options in Pennsylvania

Right now there are three PA online poker sites:

  • PokerStars PA
  • BetMGM Poker PA
  • Borgata Poker PA

For nearly a year-and-a-half, PokerStars PA enjoyed a monopoly as the only legal, real money online poker site in the Keystone State. First launching in Nov. 2019, the site has built a sizable player pool as demonstrated by the large turnouts during recent tournament series.

In Feb.-March the Bounty Builder Series on PokerStars PA awarded over $2 million with more than 35,000 total entries. The Pennsylvania Spring Championship of Online Poker in April-May then topped those figures with more than $2.6 million won and over 47,000 total entries.

In late April, PokerStars PA finally faced a competitor — two of them, in fact. BetMGM Poker PA and Borgata Poker PA both launched sites, albeit using the same software and sharing a player pool over the partypoker US network. Like PokerStars PA, the new sites are “ring-fenced” meaning only Pennsylvania players can play on them.

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The BetMGM and Borgata sites are off to slow starts in Pennsylvania, having only just begun attracting players.

In early May an initial 10-event PartyPoker Network Online Series was announced for later in the month featuring $320,000 in total guarantees. However the series was subsequently cancelled and will likely run at a later date, perhaps after the sites attract more sign-ups and the number of active players increases.

WSOP PA poised to make the PA online poker game four-handed

A fourth online room waiting in the wings is the long-promised World Series of Poker site, WSOP PA.

Back in Sept. 2020, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board approved an interactive gaming manufacturer license for WSOP-owner Caesars‘ online poker partner 888 Holdings, and it appeared WSOP PA may launch soon thereafter. But a month later a Caesars representative indicated no launch would happen until 2021 at the earliest. Despite various hints during the first part of the new year, nothing new developed.

In late April during an investors call, 888 Holdings CEO Itai Pazner stated the company planned to launch WSOP PA “in the first of half of this year, which basically means in the next couple of months.”

There have been other indications the company would like WSOP PA to be up and running well ahead of the in-person World Series of Poker in Las Vegas scheduled for Sept.-Nov. 2021. That said, if WSOP PA does launch before then, it is unclear whether WSOP online bracelet events will be hosted on the site.

In any case, like the other three PA online poker sites, WSOP PA will also be in-state only with no sharing of player pools at WSOP sites in other states, at least not at first. PA regulators will have to approve a multi-state agreement with other states first before such could occur.

Live poker options in Pennsylvania

Meanwhile, PA poker players currently have a number of live poker options at the state’s casinos. Following the closure of rooms due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, many have now reopened for business.

Most rooms have begun removing plexi-glass dividers and eased other protocols while continuing to ensure player safety. As of the start of June, seven live poker rooms are open in PA. These include rooms at the following casinos:

  • Live! Casino Philadelphia
  • Mohegan Sun Pocono
  • Mount Airy Casino
  • Parx Casino
  • Rivers Casino Philadelphia
  • Rivers Casino Pittsburgh
  • The Meadows

Three other poker rooms remain closed, the ones at Hollywood Casino, Presque Isle Downs, and Wind Creek Casino. Neither Hollywood Casino nor Presque Isle Downs have indicated if and when their rooms will reopen. Wind Creek Casino plans to reopen its room by this fall.

Additionally, the Harrah’s Philadelphia poker room permanently closed last November.

Promotions, tournaments scheduled to bring players back to poker rooms

All of the poker rooms are running promotions and other events designed to bring PA players back to live poker.

For example, the newest casino and poker room, Live! Casino Philadelphia, just saw a lucky group of players split a $600,000-plus Bad Beat Jackpot over Memorial Day weekend.

Live! Casino Philadelphia features a 29-table room with several promotions. There are $40/$80 HOE (Hold’em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Seven-card Stud 8 or Better) games on Thursdays and Sundays and a $5/$10 Omaha 8 Full Kill on Fridays. The room plans to begin hosting tournaments soon as well.

Looking at what other rooms are up to, the one at Rivers Casino Philadelphia is hosting a $240 buy-in Welcome Back Tournament with a $20,000 guarantee on June 27. They are also awarding $500 High Hand Jackpots every hour from noon to 10 p.m. throughout June, amounting to over $200,000 in awards.

The Mohegan Sun Pocono room has daily tournaments and $300 high hand jackpots every half-hour from 2 to 10 p.m. Rivers Casino Pittsburgh will award over $80,000 in high hand jackpots during June. And Parx Casino‘s Bad Beat Progressive Jackpot is just about to exceed $400,000.

All of which is to say, there is plenty of shuffling up and dealing happening around the state for players eager to get back to the tables.

Image via Dreamstime.

What Will US Online Poker Look Like When PA And MI Join Shared Player Pools

The future of PA online poker seems bright, but when will Pennsylvania get more operators and join the shared liquidity market?

Pennsylvania poker players continue to wait and watch for a second online poker site to launch. Since November 2019, PokerStars PA has been the lone online poker option in PA.

When will PokerStars’ Pennsylvania monopoly end? It’s a question PA poker players have been wondering about for some time.

Once other online poker sites finally emerge to compete with PokerStars in Pennsylvania, those same players will have other questions, too.

When will PA online poker players get to play against players in other US states with legal and regulated sites? And what will that new online poker landscape look like?

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BetMGM Poker, WSOP soon taking seats at PA online poker table

More than six months ago came whispers that one and perhaps two new online poker sites would soon launch in PA. Those whispers became slightly louder in the fall when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) began approving licenses that would pave the way for the new sites.

In late October, the PGCB approved BetMGM for licensure as iGaming operators. Entain, formerly GVC Holdings, owns the partypoker platform. Along with MGM, Entain jointly owns BetMGM (formerly ROAR Digital). BetMGM operates the partypoker US network that is presently up and running in New Jersey.

In December, BetMGM launched an online casino and an online sportsbook in Pennsylvania. Expectations are that a BetMGM Poker site could launch in Pennsylvania soon as well.

It was back in October the PGCB approved an interactive gaming manufacturer license for 888 Holdings, the online poker partner of Caesars who own the WSOP.

Soon after players in PA began receiving emails intimating WSOP.com PA was coming soon. However, a Caesars representative made clear that wouldn’t happen until 2021. A January announcement of the 2021 WSOP Online Circuit Series hinted that WSOP.com could be launching soon “in a newly regulated market,” with Pennsylvania seeming a likely candidate.

But still PA players wait.

What needs to happen for PA to join a multi-state agreement?

That WSOP Online Circuit Series takes advantage of WSOP’s ability to share player pools in multiple states. Players on both WSOP Nevada and WSOP New Jersey can play in WSOP-branded events, including online bracelet events.

In addition, the WSOP/888 network pools players from three states, NY, NJ, and Delaware. Currently no other U.S. online poker sites have been able to follow suit and join player pools.

PokerStars (for example), has sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and now Michigan (since late January). But in each case the sites are “ring-fenced” meaning players can only compete against others within the same state.

In order for Pennsylvania players to be able to play against those in other states, two things need to happen.

First, an online poker site must launch in PA that also operates a site in another state with which it could form a network. So far PokerStars is the only candidate with its NJ and MI sites.

Second, the PGCB will have to approve entering a multi-state internet gaming agreement with other states in order to permit sites in multiple states to combine player pools.

Favorable Wire Act ruling should lessen PA regulators’ concerns

Most observers believe Pennsylvania had been previously hesitant to pursue joining such an agreement thanks to a revised Department of Justice‘s Office of Legal Counsel opinion regarding the Wire Act.

In January 2019, the DOJ office issued an opinion dated a couple of months before stating that the Wire Act did not just apply to sports betting, but to all forms of gambling (including online) conducted across state lines. That position reversed an earlier DOJ opinion from 2011 that the Wire Act applied to sports betting only.

In response, the PGCB issued a letter to online gaming licensees in the state recommending strongly that they comply with the new opinion and be particularly diligent about disallowing any wagering to occur across state lines.

The PGCB’s stance didn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of joining a multi-state agreement for online poker. However, it was clear the new DOJ opinion had halted any momentum in that direction. The PGCB would not be pursuing the idea, at least not in the near term.

Meanwhile the New Hampshire Lottery filed a lawsuit against the DOJ objecting to the new opinion. In June 2020, NH received a favorable ruling, thereby vacating the new DOJ opinion. The DOJ appealed, and in January 2021 that appeal was denied by the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

The January ruling should be regarded as good news for Pennsylvania poker players. The PGCB has not indicated its plans going forward. However, the Wire Act and the DOJ should no longer present an obstacle should PA regulators choose to enter into a multi-state agreement.

Multiple sites…and multiple networks for PA?

Among the states with whom Pennsylvania could begin sharing player pools, New Jersey would be a likely first candidate. Michigan could come later, perhaps by the end of the year or early 2022.

Delaware, a much smaller state, would be less of a priority. Meanwhile West Virginia has also legalized online poker, although has yet to launch any sites.

Such combined player pools will obviously be a game-changer for US online poker generally and Pennsylvania poker in particular.

If and when PA does join a multi-state agreement, Pennsylvania may well have both BetMGM and WSOP.com sites up and running.

In other words, the near future could well see multiple online poker sites become available for PA players. Then a little farther down the road, PA players might even have multiple multi-state networks from which to choose as well.

Lead image via Dreamstime.com

When Will WSOP.com Stop Hinting and Start Dealing in PA?

WSOP teased an impending launch in a new market with their recent Online Circuit Series announcement. Could it mean good news for PA poker players?

It’s a new year. Much as was the case throughout the last one, online poker players in Pennsylvania continue to watch for the arrival of WSOP.com to the Keystone State.

Neither the WSOP nor the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) have shared anything new during the first two weeks of 2021 regarding the launch of WSOP PA.

However, there have been hints, including one this week suggesting WSOP.com could be coming sooner than later.

Wait continues for WSOP in PA

The last we heard on the matter was in October 2020 when a Caesars representative noted it would be at least 2021 before WSOP.com would launch in PA.

By then the PGCB had already approved an interactive gaming manufacturer license for Caesars‘ online poker partner 888 Holdings. Indeed, some Pennsylvanians began to receive promotional emails at the time suggesting a WSOP.com PA launch was imminent.

Among other clues being parsed then were changes to the WSOP.com website. Those included the addition of a Harrah’s Philadelphia logo and a PA-specific “House Rules” page.

Such co-branding of Harrah’s Philadelphia resurfaced on a promo page in recent days, although it has since vanished. That said, this week’s announcement of a new 2021 WSOP Online Circuit Series includes an even more tantalizing suggestion.

WSOP Online Circuit announcement teases new WSOP.com site launch

The year-long series actually involves multiple tournament series of 12 or 18 events each. The schedule somewhat follows the one used by the WSOP Circuit live tour. Such live events have understandably been postponed for now due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently only players on WSOP New Jersey and WSOP Nevada can participate in the events. Each awards a WSOP gold ring to the winner. There is also an ongoing leaderboard with a championship tournament scheduled at the end of December.

There are 12 series overall, one for each month in 2021. However, the announcement mentions “An additional 13th online circuit event is earmarked pending launch of the WSOP.COM service in a newly regulated market” (emphasis added).

With no other discussion, such a reference sounds as though it might indicate an additional WSOP Online Circuit “stop” could take place on WSOP.com PA soon after it launches.

Making moves in Michigan, online sites soon to launch

Then again, the reference could mean something else.

Stepping back to survey the national picture, Michigan is on the precipice of launching its first online casinos, likely in the coming days. Online poker may be part of the picture there as well, although perhaps not at the very start.

On Tuesday the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) had its first public meeting of 2021. One consequence of that meeting was regulators giving the go-ahead to approved operators to launch their sites when ready. According to Online Poker Report, the first sites should go live by early next week.

That includes online poker, although “testing requirements” will likely delay the opening of the first online poker room (or rooms) in Michigan by “four or five days.”

WSOP.com is not among sites in the running to launch a poker room in MI at the start. Meanwhile PokerStars, still the only online poker room operator in Pennsylvania, appears poised to do so via its partnership with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

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Prospects for multi-state agreements, shared liquidity

Of relevance to Pennsylvanians is the fact that earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a bill allowing interstate compacts for online gambling. That means the MGCB can permit operators in MI with online poker to enter multi-state agreements with sites in other states that also permit such compacts, thereby allowing shared player pools.

Michigan online poker rooms will not be sharing liquidity with other states for a while yet, however. According to OPR, any sharing of Michigan player pools with those from other states will not happen until late 2021 at the soonest.

New Jersey could be Michigan’s first choice for such an agreement. MGCB staff are presently in discussions about an interstate compact with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Pennsylvania would likely be less quick to enter a multi-state compact, given the caution PA regulators have shown to this point regarding uncertainties surrounding the US Department of Justice‘s interpretation of the Wire Act.

In any case, stay tuned here to find out if and when WSOP.com PA stops hinting and starts dealing.

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

BetMGM Online Casino Launches Live Dealer Games in Pennsylvania

The popular collection of live dealer games from Evolution is making its way to the new BetMGM online casino in Pennsylvania.

Online casino players in Pennsylvania who enjoy live dealer games now have another option to try. BetMGM has now launched multiple live dealer games in its PA online casino.

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Blackjack and roulette are early BetMGM live dealer choices

To provide the games, BetMGM has partnered with leading live dealer game supplier Evolution Gaming. The news comes a little over a week after the BetMGM online casino launched on Dec. 4.

Currently, players can enjoy four different live dealer games in the BetMGM online casino:

  • Infinite Blackjack
  • Blackjack Live
  • American Roulette
  • American Auto Roulette

BetMGM plans to offer additional live dealer options going forward, including more blackjack and roulette variations as well as other casino games.

Evolution and BetMGM first announced their partnership in late August. The agreement covers BetMGM’s online offerings throughout the United States.

BetMGM live dealer now in NJ and PA

In November, BetMGM debuted Evolution-powered live dealer games in its New Jersey online casino.

Matthew Sunderland, vice president of gaming for BetMGM, referred to the new NJ live dealer games when expressing enthusiasm about the launch of live dealer games in PA.

“We’ve seen great successes with our live offering in New Jersey and are expecting similarly strong results in Pennsylvania as we establish BetMGM Casino’s presence in the state.”

Johan Nordstrom, CEO of Evolution Malta and chief commercial officer, was similarly buoyant about the launch of live dealer games at BetMGM’s PA online casino:

“We are delighted to see BetMGM live with our Live Casino offering in Pennsylvania, and we very much look forward to supporting the continued growth of BetMGM’s Casino offering across the US.”

Live dealer games add to expansive BetMGM online casino offerings

The live dealer games build further on the selection of games featured at the time of BetMGM online casino’s launch. BetMGM was the 13th online casino to go live in Pennsylvania.

The online casino features over 120 slot games, including seven different jackpot slots.

There are also 10 different roulette games, two blackjack games, baccarat and multiple video poker games.

Those in Pennsylvania can access and play at BetMGM Casino either via a web-based browser or through mobile apps. Apps for both iOS (Apple) and Android devices can be downloaded directly from the BetMGM online casino site.

BetMGM online sportsbook coming soon to PA

In addition to its interactive gaming license, BetMGM has received approval for a sports wagering license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

To offer sports betting, BetMGM has partnered with the new mini-casino, Hollywood Casino Morgantown, that will open its doors in 2021.

The BetMGM online sportsbook is expected to launch in the coming days.

Lead image via BetMGM casino.

Which Pennsylvania Live Poker Rooms Are Currently Open? (Updated Nov. 19)

Just as five poker rooms in Pennsylvania have gotten back to dealing cards, spikes in coronavirus cases are beginning to force some to close once again.

It was just over a month ago that the first Pennsylvania poker rooms began to reopen after all of them were forced to close in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alas, a renewed surge in cases has made it necessary for PA poker rooms to deal with the situation once again. In some cases, rooms have opted not to deal at all — not to deal hands, that is.

When Pennsylvania’s casinos began reopening over the summer, the poker rooms were all forced to remain shut per COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols issued by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

In early October, the PGCB began accepting reopening plans from some of the rooms. A couple of weeks later, the first few poker rooms began reopening. But with coronavirus-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths on the rise, those plans are being revisited and revised once more.

Here is a quick rundown of the current status of all 10 of the state’s poker rooms — or perhaps we should say all nine rooms, as one of them appears to have closed for good.

Reopened and still operating – Meadows, Mohegan Sun, Mt. Airy, Rivers Pittsburgh

Four of the five poker rooms that reopened continue to welcome players, at least for now.

The rooms at Mohegan Sun Pocono and Mount Airy Casino both reopened on Oct. 16. A week later, on Oct. 23, the poker room at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino reopened. Then a week ago, on Nov. 11, the room at Rivers Casino Pittsburgh reopened as well.

All four currently remain open and are operating as follows:

  • Mohegan Sun Pocono (eight tables) – open daily, 12 p.m. to 3 a.m.
  • Mount Airy (12 tables) – open 24 hours
  • Rivers Casino Pittsburgh (30 tables) – open Mon.-Thurs., 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Fri.-Sat., 12 p.m. to 4 a.m.; Sun., 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.
  • The Meadows (14 tables) – open daily, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Mt. Airy is the land-based partner of the only online poker site in the state, PokerStars PA, which will continue dealing virtual hands through pandemic closures.

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Reopened, but now temporarily closed – Rivers Philadelphia

Rivers Casino Philadelphia reopened its 28-table poker room on Oct. 23. In fact, just a few days ago, some lucky players enjoyed a windfall when the Bad Beat Jackpot hit.

However, on Monday, the city of Philadelphia issued new restrictions that will force the casino to close on Friday, Nov. 20. The earliest the casino will be able to reopen will be Jan. 1, 2021.

The new guidelines cover a host of different businesses, including restaurants, bars, gyms and fitness centers, and theaters. All Philadelphia high schools and colleges must move to online-only instruction for the rest of the year as well.

Still temporarily closed – Hollywood, Parx, Presque Isle Downs, Wind Creek

The following poker rooms have been shuttered since mid-March and remain closed at present:

  • Hollywood Casino Penn National (17 tables) – closed
  • Parx Casino (80 tables) – closed
  • Presque Isle Downs (seven tables) – closed
  • Wind Creek Casino (26 tables) – closed

It is unknown if or when Hollywood or Presque Isle plans to reopen. Wind Creek appears to be in no rush either, given that slot machines presently occupy the floor of its poker room.

By contrast, Parx does appear to be considering reopening its poker room, the largest in the state. Parx recently sent out an announcement of plans to reopen the room “before the end of December.” But COVID-19 numbers could deter those plans.

Permanently closed – Harrah’s Philadelphia poker room

Meanwhile, in late August, Harrah’s Philadelphia indicated it had closed its large 27-table World Series of Poker-branded poker room, with no plans to reopen.

While there was no formal announcement, employees of the poker room shared information about the closure on social media and elsewhere.

Pennsylvania’s two other casinos, Lady Luck Nemacolin and Valley Forge, are both currently open, though neither has poker rooms.

You can follow our live updates page at PlayPennsylvania for the latest on PA casino (and poker room) closures and reopening plans as they are made available.

When Can Live Poker Return to Pennsylvania? PA Casinos Submit Reopening Plans

PA poker players will soon have many more options, as casinos are submitting plans for reopening live poker rooms and more online sites are on the way.

Nearly seven months have passed since the last hands of poker were dealt in Pennsylvania card rooms. But live poker games may be returning soon, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB).

Some PA casinos submit plans to reopen poker rooms

In mid-March, all of the state’s casinos and their poker rooms were forced to close as part of the effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Casinos began to reopen in June to limited capacity. By mid-July, all 12 casinos were welcoming back guests.

But while the slots and other areas of the casinos were up and running, the poker rooms remained shut down.

Recommendations from both CDC and the PA Department of Health made it impractical to allow players to sit in close proximity to one another while handling and exchanging chips and cards. Thus did the PGCB withhold authorization to reopen poker rooms when issuing its COVID-19 Casino Reopening Protocols in mid-May.

Regarding poker rooms, the PGCB’s protocols included a provision to reexamine poker room operations as health officials’ guidelines evolved.

A spokesperson for the PGCB recently confirmed that at least some of the state’s casinos have submitted their plans for reopening their poker rooms.

Pandemic poker: Short-handed games, plexiglass, masks, temperature checks

Such reopening plans include outlining safety protocols the poker rooms will follow. What those plans specifically entail is unknown, although will likely involve limiting the number of players per table.

Also uncertain is the date when the first Pennsylvania poker rooms will reopen. It appears highly unlikely any will reopen immediately, especially while casinos continue to operate at limited capacity.

Just over 90% of the United States’ almost 1,000 casinos have now reopened after every single one closed in the spring. Most that have reopened are operating at limited capacity, and in many cases, poker rooms have been kept closed, as they are in PA.

Live poker rooms remain closed in neighboring New Jersey. However, rooms in Nevada (see lead image), California and several other states have opened back up.

Some poker rooms that have are employing plexiglass dividers at the tables. Most are dealing short-handed games and requiring masks and often temperature checks for all players.

PokerStars still only online option, other PA sites move closer to launching

With the brick-and-mortar rooms closed, PA poker players have at least had online poker as an option, albeit with only one choice available.

PokerStars PA remains the lone online poker room up and running in the Keystone State, as has been the case since it first launched in November 2019.

There, the just-completed Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker awarded just over $2 million in prize money, well clear of the $1.5M in guarantees.

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More online poker competition on the way in PA

Competition in the virtual poker space is coming, however.

Last week, the PGCB approved an interactive gaming manufacturer license for 888 Holdings, partner of Caesars Interactive Entertainment. That brings WSOP.com closer to launching in Pennsylvania, although no date has been announced yet.

When WSOP PA does go live, the next question will be whether it will be able to enter interstate compacts and share player pools with the other WSOP.com sites in New Jersey and Nevada, and with 888 poker in NJ and Delaware.

Also eagerly waiting on the virtual rail is partypoker.

GVC Holdings owns the partypoker platform and, with MGM, co-owns ROAR Digital, which powers the partypoker US Network. There have been various indications over recent months that the PGCB will approve ROAR’s license to operate in PA. However, ROAR’s application status is still pending.

Partypoker, WSOP Among Challengers to PokerStars’ Online Poker Monopoly in PA

Pennsylvania online poker players will be happy to know they will soon have multiple top-notch poker sites from which to choose.

Experienced poker players know that sometimes you have to be very patient when waiting for the right cards to come. Online poker players in Pennsylvania are going to have be patient a little longer to see when the next online poker room launches.

Since November 2019, PokerStars PA has been the lone online poker option for players in the Keystone State. The site has enjoyed its monopoly thus far, but the race to see which online poker room will be its first challenger continues in earnest.

Who might join PokerStars PA next? A couple of candidates stand out from the pack at present, although both are going to have to wait a bit before launching.

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partypoker and ROAR

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) had its most recent monthly meeting on Aug. 5. It was thought that meeting might produce news that partypoker had moved one step closer to launching an online poker room in PA.

But no such news came from the PGCB. That means another month (at least) before any new online poker sites come to PA.

GVC Holdings owns the partypoker platform. Along with MGM, GVC jointly owns ROAR Digital, operator of the partypoker NJ site.

During the July meeting of the PGCB, the board’s Chief Entertainment Counsel Cyrus Pitre had indicated ROAR might have its licensed approved in August.

But while Unibet and Evolution Gaming received permanent licenses at the meeting, ROAR — including partypoker — continues to wait.

WSOP and Harrah’s Philadelphia

With no live World Series of Poker this summer, the WSOP recently completed the first part of its WSOP Online bracelet series on WSOP.com.

Players from New Jersey and Nevada were able to compete for 31 bracelets and over $26 million prizes during July. But alas, Pennsylvanians had to wait on the virtual rail.

In late May, WSOP officials told USPoker they were working toward obtaining regulatory approval to launch in Pennsylvania, and Doug Harbach of the PGCB confirmed that Caesars’ online poker application was pending.

But there was no talk of WSOP.com PA or Harrah’s at the regulators’ August meeting.

Others potentially seeking seats at PA online poker table

Five other Pennsylvania casinos are licensed to operate online poker rooms in PA, pending regulators’ approval. They are:

  • Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course
  • Parx Casino and Racing
  • Rivers Casino Philadelphia (formerly SugarHouse)
  • Valley Forge Casino Resort
  • Wind Creek Bethlehem (formerly Sands Casino Resort)

Pennsylvania online poker players will surely welcome any new options with open arms.

Brick-and-mortar poker rooms in PA closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus. Since then, the state’s 12 casinos have all reopened with limited capacity. However, their poker rooms have remained shuttered per safety guidelines of health officials and the PGCB.

PokerStars PA has been a popular option during the interim, including most recently during the just-completed Bounty Builder series in which players won nearly $2 million.

But a second online poker room — and perhaps a third and fourth — will bring needed variety and some healthy competition to the nascent PA online poker market.