Online poker is now a reality in Pennsylvania. Since 2019, players throughout the Keystone State have been able to access a full slate of poker games through their mobile devices and laptops.
At present, there is a single online poker app available in Pennsylvania. Thankfully, it’s the worldwide leader for online poker, PokerStars. If you are a Pennsylvania-based poker player, there are plenty of great games, tournaments, and bonus opportunities available right now.
However, more sites are forecast to launch sometime in the next year or so. Competition means that operators will be trying even harder to attract your business, so promotions and offers are going to get even better.
The bottom line is that it’s a good time to be a poker player in Pennsylvania right now. Read on for all the latest news, bonuses, and information about all things online poker in the Keystone State.
Play online poker in PA at PokerStars
Is online poker legal in Pennsylvania?
Yes, when Gov. Tom Wolf signed bill H 271 into law on Oct. 30, 2017, online gambling became legal in Pennsylvania. This bill includes poker, casino table games, slots, and sports betting. That made Pennsylvania the fourth state to legalize online poker.
Seven of the 13 casino license holders in Pennsylvania applied for licenses to operate online poker sites.
The PGCB put together regulations to govern Pennsylvania online poker sites that include the following rules:
- Players must be 21 years or older.
- Sites must verify the identification of all potential players.
- Players must be located inside state lines to play.
- Sites must verify all players’ location using geolocation software.
- Operators must pay a 16% tax on gross online poker revenue.
How online poker works in PA
Poker players who want to give online poker a try in Pennsylvania have one option right now – PokerStars. So, they will need to get either the PokerStars client on their laptops or their mobile devices.
Once your account is active, you will find yourself in a virtual lobby. Within this area, you can access games of almost every type and size under the sun.
One thing to note, however, is that every player you encounter will be physically inside Pennsylvania at the time. In fact, in order to play on PokerStars PA, you will have to verify your location through geolocation software before you will be allowed to compete.
While that requirement might be a bit irritating, the good news is that the player pool you’re facing might not be only from Pennsylvania for long. Pennsylvania regulators have long hinted they are interested in joining the Multi-state Compact, which would allow players from New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware to come together on Pennsylvania poker sites.
There’s no timeline for sharing of liquidity at this time. However, PokerStars has reported very strong demand in the opening months of service in Pennsylvania, so you should be able to find a game whenever you log onto the site.
There are four main types of games that you will find in Pennsylvania’s online poker sites. They are:
- Cash games – You can buy into these games at any time, and the chips that you buy to play correspond with the cash you invest at a 1:1 ratio. In other words, the money in front of you on the table is at the par value of regular cash. Most cash game tables prescribe minimum and maximum buy-in limits, and play is available for almost any amount of money. Tables usually seat 6 or 9 players, although it is possible to play heads-up.
- Tournaments – These events run at a prescribed date and time, and you must register and invest your money before then, generally speaking. Each player will receive a set number of tournament chips to play the event, and these chips have no intrinsic monetary value to them and cannot be cashed out before the end of the tournament. Players compete until they run out of chips or are declared the winner. Prizes are derived from the pool of cash taken at buy-in, and tournaments tend to pay between 10 – 20% of the field.
- Sit n’ Go Tournaments – These events run when they reach a certain number of entrants and buy-ins. They also have predetermined prizepools and payouts, and tend to be smaller events than the scheduled tournaments. Some of these tournaments can come with a jackpot feature, which can give each player a chance at an outsized payout.
- Fast-fold games – These games are cash games at their core. However, as you play, you are switched to a new table immediately after folding the previous hand. Thus, you will end up playing with a larger group of people, but you will end up seeing far more hands than at a typical cash table.
Real money poker vs. free
PokerStars is the first site in Pennsylvania to offer real money poker to residents in the state. However, Pennsylvanians have been able to play poker online for many years prior to the debut of the worldwide leader.
Social casinos like Zynga and Governor of Poker have millions of players who play every day. There are hundreds of games that run constantly on sites like these.
So, you may be wondering how the experience on these sites compares with a site like PokerStars. It turns out that the ability to win or lose actual money changes how people play in a radical fashion.
For one thing, poker players on play money sites have no regard for playing wisely or skillfully. Since they can only lose faux currency, anyway, they figure that there’s no reason not to chase a draw, even if it’s a minute one.
So, it makes sense that play money sites will play more haphazardly than most games. Even $5 and $10 games between friends will require more skill to defeat.
However, real money sites are not equivalent to friendly games, or even live poker games in a casino. As a general rule, in fact, they require far more skill and focus to master than equivalent live games.
Most long-term successful players on real money sites keep detailed notes on their play, study the game all the time, and are always looking for ways to improve their return. Even breakeven players have to be more cautious, since the ratio of sharks is so much higher.
Many players on real money sites play multiple games at once, too. This practice can lead to higher profits for the very skillful, but please be careful not to overwhelm yourself.
Don’t misunderstand – real money poker sites are still fine to play. It’s just important that you know what you’re getting yourself into before you begin trying to win real cash.
Poker apps vs. desktop
For most online gambling games, using a mobile app is preferable for maximizing one’s experience. However, due to the nature of poker, many players actually prefer to use their laptops or desktops to play.
There are a couple of reasons for this preference. For one thing, a laptop/desktop with a larger screen and mouse can make it much easier to play multiple games at the same time.
Another reason to prefer a land-based computer is that it might come with a more stable internet connection and setup than a mobile device. Losing a connection can result in a hand being lost, and depending on the situation, such an outcome could be disastrous.
Nevertheless, you can play online poker using either your laptop or your mobile device. PokerStars offers both options, including apps for both iPhones/iPads and Android users.
Please be aware that you will have to verify your location using a specialized app if you choose to use a personal computer for access. The apps will use your device’s GPS to determine your location automatically.
Most of the action in the online poker market revolves around No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha. That said, some sites offer other poker variants.
Find yourself on the right site at the right time and there may be your favorite poker variant running, including RAZZ, HORSE, or 2-7 Triple Draw.
The biggest cash game in real money poker is far and away No-Limit Hold’em. You’ll find stakes ranging from $0.01/$0.02 to $25/$50 with six-max and nine-handed tables.
That said, most of the games are micro- and low-stakes action. Games beyond $1/$2 do not run regularly. Neither does the more pedestrian Limit Hold’em version of the game, where the stakes go as high as $100/$200, but the player pool is rather small.
You’ll find Pot-Limit Omaha at online poker sites, just not as many tables running as No-Limit Hold ’em. Stakes range from $0.01/$0.02 to $25/$50. However, there isn’t much action in the micros. Instead, it’s $0.50/$1 and $0.25/$0.50 tables running most days.
Other Omaha variants, like Hi-Lo, may be available on the sites, but again, the player pools are small to non-existent.
You might find poker clients that claim to offer stud games, even RAZZ. What you won’t find are too many players to play. Stakes will generally range from $0.50/$1 to $40/$80, but it’s $0/$0 with a nonexistent player pool most of the time.
HORSE, 2-7 Triple Draw, other variants
Poker is more than hold ’em and Omaha, but PA poker online isn’t really. Some of the more notable poker brands claim to offer games, including HORSE and 2-7 Triple Draw, but it usually applies to specialized tournaments.
Cash games for variants like this do not run regularly because the demand isn’t there. But never say never. After all, most sites’ clients support these formats, and if their popularity increases, you’ll perhaps find action.
Most online poker clients support some version of fast-fold games like PokerStars’ Zoom tables, though not at first. Once you fold your hand, you are instantly transported to a different table to start another one. This format requires a large player pool, so it will not always be running on the PA sites that eventually will have it.
All online poker clients offer a daily schedule of No-Limit Hold’em multi-table tournaments (MTT) with buy-ins ranging from $1 to $50. Some even come with prize pool guarantees.
There’s plenty of micro- and low-stakes action daily, but the bigger buy-in MTTs are usually reserved for Sundays. The larger online poker operators run Sunday majors with buy-ins from $50 to $500 and guaranteed prize pools of up to $50,000.
Sit & Go tournaments
Poker sites offer No-Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, and Pot-Limit Omaha Hi-Lo Sit & Go tournaments. Most have nine-handed, six-max, and heads-up formats. Buy-ins range from as low as $0.25 to $500. These games go off when the players are there, which is usually limited to peak prime-time hours.
Lottery Sit & Go tournaments
Lottery Sit & Go tournaments, like PokerStars’ Spin N’ Go tournaments, are three-handed Sit & Go tournaments with randomized prize pools, ranging anywhere from two buy-ins to 1,000 buy-ins.
The odds are slim that you’ll be playing for the max, but Lottery Sit & Go tourneys, from $1 to $25, should run regularly. This format has become more popular than standard Sit & Go tournaments themselves.
Bonus offers, reward programs
The best poker sites offer a variety of no-deposit and deposit-match bonuses to try to attract new players. Also, they offer various rewards programs that are intended to help retain players.
Here’s a look at some of the larger operators, and the types of bonus offers and rewards programs they are offering players.
PokerStars PA is giving new players a choice of either one of two welcomes bonuses.
Players can claim a $30 free package using the marketing code FREE30 on first deposits of $20 or more.
It includes $20 in cash, $10 within 36 hours and the rest after seven days. It also includes five Spin N’ Go tickets valued at $10.
Meanwhile, another welcome package offers a 100% match of up to $600 on first deposits. Players can claim this one using the PokerStars PA bonus code STARS600. This bonus clears at a rate of $10 for every 100 VIP Player Points earned, which works out to 55% rakeback.
In addition, PokerStars runs a rewards program for players, which offers chests of valuable and varying rewards. In the end, it adds up to be about 55% rakeback as well.
How to get money on and off the sites
The goal of every PA poker site will be to make the process of moving your funds as easy as possible.
That means each site will offer a variety of easy-to-use deposit and withdrawal methods and are always on the lookout to add new ones. It usually will mean that whatever way you used to make a deposit, you can also use it to make a withdrawal. However, other options are available, too.
Here’s a list of all the poker deposit and withdrawal methods available:
Visa and Mastercard: You can use the most well-known credit card brands in the world at most PA online poker sites. However, some issuing banks may not authorize online gambling transactions, meaning another deposit method will need to be employed.
The following list of issuing banks decline online gambling transactions regularly:
- Bank of America
- Capital One
- Chase/JP Morgan
- Wells Fargo
- TD Bank
- Santander Bank
- Huntington Bank
Types of deposit options available
- Play+: This prepaid credit card acts like both a credit card and an e-wallet account, and several Pennsylvania online poker sites accept it. You can fund the Play+ prepaid card using a Visa, Mastercard, or Discover card, or even a checking account.
- Prepaid Cards: Prepaid cards are a safe and convenient alternative method of depositing on PA online poker sites. You can load money onto a prepaid card and then use it to deposit on a poker site. Several credit card companies offer prepaid credit cards, and some online poker sites have a branded-prepaid card.
- Cash at the casino cage: Legal, regulated online poker sites in Pennsylvania are all affiliated with a PA casino. Most will accept cash deposits at the cashier cages inside these casinos.
- PayPal: PayPal is the largest third-party payment processor in the world. PayPal allows you to funnel money to the sites from several sources, including your bank account.
- ACH e-checks: ACH allows you to write an electronic check to the online poker site of your choice. In other words, ACH helps you move funds between your bank account and that of an online poker site.
- PayNearMe: The convenience store 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacies, and financial services provider PayNearMe have created a financial services management app, which allows users to make bill payments. You can make payments to PA online poker sites with cash at these locations.
- Online banking: If you can make bill payments online, the chances are that you can deposit at an online poker site from your bank account as well.
PA online poker gears up for launches
The prospect of mediocre returns brought about by stagnant numbers in the New Jersey online poker market could explain why no operator was in a rush. Launching potentially more lucrative online casinos and sportsbooks seemed to be a bigger priority.
The inevitable finally rolled out for testing on Nov. 4, with full approval by authorities on Nov. 6 through PokerStars via Mount Airy Casino: www.pokerstarsmtairycasino.com.
The PA site attracted more players than PokerStars drew on its established site in NJ. Players were in a variety of cash games and tournaments.
The primary game was Hold’em, followed by Omaha.
Sunday tournaments at PokerStars in PA are offering reasonable buy-ins and larger guarantees than their counterpart site in New Jersey.
Online poker in Pennsylvania began as a fenced-in market; however, at least a couple of sites should eventually join forces to create a PA-only network.
Right now, only WSOP.com and 888 Poker sites do this.
Pennsylvania will eventually join the compact known as the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association compact, which gives sites in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey the right to share player pools with the Keystone State, boosting the pool.
Introductory promotions include several bonuses and freeroll offers, meant to lock down market share right out of the gate.
To retain players, each site will also likely offer their customers competitive rakeback or a loyalty program. PokerStars uses a randomized chest-base program with real money prizes.
PA poker and compacts
Online poker in PA is launching as a fenced-in market. That means only players inside PA can play, and also that sites in the state are not sharing player pools with others on the outside.
There’s no need for residency to play, but PA poker sites will use geolocation software to verify that you are within the state; there’s no getting around that.
Considering the population, online poker in PA is expected to quickly become the largest intrastate online poker market in the US.
The nature of the fenced-in market means PA poker sites won’t be sharing player pools with those in any other states, but that should happen eventually.
The state ultimately anticipated joining such agreements when it built provisions into its online poker legislation allowing for shared liquidity.
This legislation gives the PGCB the authority to enter into these kinds of agreements with other states. Plus, it allows licensed operators to offer games to out-of-state players, and local players to participate in out-of-state networks.
PA could join shared liquidity compact
Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware launched the first licensed and regulated online poker sites in the US in November 2013.
At the time, all three states launched as fenced-in markets. Nevada and Delaware then signed an interstate compact known as the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association (MSIGA), allowing sites in each to start sharing player pools in 2015. New Jersey signed on to that interstate compact in October 2017.
WSOP.com and 888 Poker are the only operators with sites in all three states and were the first to apply to launch tri-state shared liquidity games.
The first-ever real money poker games featuring players in all three states launched on April 30, 2018. Since then, WSOP.com has been able to host multi-state online WSOP bracelet events in New Jersey and Nevada.
The hope is PA can make it a four-state market within the next year. The US shared liquidity online poker market could potentially double in size if PA comes aboard.
Below is a look at the PA casinos planning to launch online poker. It also includes which online poker operators they’re planning to partner with, when each license was approved, and when they expect to launch:
|Casino||Online Poker Partner||PGCB Approval Date||Projected Launch Date|
|Harrah's Philadelphia||888||Aug. 15||2019|
|Hollywood Casino||IGT||Sept. 12||2019|
|Mount Airy Casino||The Stars Group/ 888||Aug. 15||Nov. 6, 2019|
|Parx Casino||GAN||Aug. 25||2019|
|Wind Creek Bethlehem||None||Oct. 3||Unknown|
|SugarHouse Casino||Rush Street Interactive||Sept. 12||2019|
|Valley Forge Casino||IGT/ GAN/ GVC||Sept. 12||2019|
PA poker and card rooms
Pennsylvania plays host to one of the most extensive live poker scenes in the US. Live poker became legal in 2010.
Here’s a look at the 10 poker rooms in the Keystone State that have launched since then, their locations, and what they have to offer poker players.
Parx poker room
The poker room at Parx has become PA’s premier poker destination.
In 2018, the casino underwent a $50 million expansion, which included a 48-table, state-of-the-art poker room on the property.
The room features low- to mid-stakes No-Limit Hold’em and Pot-Limit Omaha games, plus higher-stakes action most nights.
The $15/$30 limit games also run with higher mixed games featuring variants you won’t find elsewhere, including games like Omaha 8-Or-Better, Big O, and SuperStud.
Parx is also well-known for its seasonal Big Stax tournament series and nightly tournaments.
Wind Creek Bethlehem poker room
Wind Creek inherited the second-highest-grossing poker room in the state when it took over Sands Bethlehem. There are $1/$2 and $2/$5 No-Limit Hold’em runs every day inside the 30-table card room. Higher-stakes action runs on most weekends when there are Omaha, Limit Hold’em, and stud games available.
There are nightly tournaments. However, we have yet to see what Wind Creek will do to replace the popular seasonal Sands DeepStack Extravaganza series.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia poker room
The Poker Night in America poker room at Rivers Casino Philadelphia, the former SugarHouse Casino, is currently the only poker room in Philadelphia. However, Live! Philadelphia Casino is building a room that should open in the city before the end of next year.
Rivers has 28 tables featuring low-stakes, No-Limit Hold’em, a daily tournament schedule and regular Rush Challenge events, which feature a $250 buy-in tournament with a $100,000 guarantee.
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh poker room
The Rivers Casino Pittsburgh 30-table poker room sits across a parking lot from Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. There’s 24/7 No-Limit Hold’em action with stakes running from $1/$2 to $10/$20. Pot-Limit Omaha and Limit Hold’em games also run occasionally.
The tournament schedule features two daily events six days a week, with the room running regular promotions.
Harrah’s Philadelphia poker room
Harrah’s Philadelphia is actually on the Delaware River in Chester. The poker room features 28 tables spreading No-Limit Hold’em and some limit games. For the most part, it’s $1/$2 or $1/$3 No-Limit Hold ’em.
The tournament schedule features two daily events and satellites into the World Series of Poker Main Event in Las Vegas.
Penn National Casino poker room
The 17-table poker room at Hollywood Casino at Penn National is pretty much a $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em room. Although higher-stakes games, Pot-Limit Omaha, and Limit Hold’em sometimes run on the weekends.
There are tournaments six days a week and a Bad Beat Jackpot promotion.
Mohegan Sun Pocono poker room
The poker room at Mohegan Sun Pocono runs daily tournaments often featuring bounty structures. Promotions include a Bad Beat Jackpot for cash games and tourneys.
The atmosphere is relaxed with the action of the low-limit variety. There are sometimes 20 or so $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em, Pot-Limit Omaha, and Limit Hold’em games on weekends.
The Meadows Racetrack & Casino poker room
The Meadows Racetrack & Casino is outside of Pittsburgh. The poker room includes 14 tables, all with a view of the live horse racing action.
It hosts No-Limit Hold’em, Limit Hold’em, and Pot-Limit Omaha cash games. Plus, tournaments run twice daily, six days a week, and special events on Sundays.
The room is an annual stop on the Heartland Poker Tour.
Mount Airy Casino Resort poker room
The poker room at Mount Airy Casino Resort features only nine tables that usually offer low-limit, No-Limit Hold’em. There’s a High Hand promotion.
Presque Isle Downs poker room
Presque Isle Downs, in Erie, features the smallest poker room in the state with only seven tables.
However, it offers a tournament schedule that runs six days a week with guaranteed prize pools.