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

PA Online Casinos Lead Gaming Recovery with Record $80 Million January

Online slots, table games and poker in PA crossed $80 million in revenue in January 2021, helping PA gaming post a 2.7% YoY revenue increase.

Despite ongoing disruptions from virus-restricted business conditions, overall gaming revenue in Pennsylvania is up 2.7% over last year, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Revenue during January from all forms of gaming, along with fantasy contests, was more than $311 million. Revenue regulated by the PGCB includes slot machines, table games, internet gaming, sports wagering, fantasy contests, and VGTs.

Total tax revenue generated collectively through all forms of gaming and fantasy contests was more than $127 million during the month.

Restrictions from virus boosted online gaming

And as a likely by-product of COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, January was a record month for PA online casino games. The PGCB reported total iGaming revenue of more than $80.4 million.

That’s the highest amount ever, beating the previous high of $71.6 million set in December 2020 by an impressive 11%.

Online slots revenue was just above $51 million, a huge jump from a year ago when it was $7.2 million. The year-over-year percentage increase comes out to a staggering 609%.

Online table games revenue was nearly $26.7 million, up from just over $4.6 million a year ago. The percentage increase YoY was almost 479%.

Tax revenue generated from internet gaming play during January was more than $32.2 million.

Online poker generated more than $2.7 million with just one operator, a 26.4% boost from a year ago. That was on par with December numbers.

Virus disrupts gaming revenue nationwide in 2020

The virus clearly wreaked havoc on the land-based gaming across the country, according to figures this week from the American Gaming Association.

Commercial gaming revenue totaled $30.0 billion in 2020, down more than 31% YoY, according to the AGA’s Commercial Gaming Revenue Tracker.

The year marked the first market contraction for the gaming industry since 2014 and the lowest gaming revenue total since 2003.

Retail casino numbers hammered

In PA, January’s gross revenue from casino-based slot machines was $140.7 million, a 26.1% decrease compared to the $190.3 million generated in January 2020.

Tellingly, the number of slot machines in operation this past January was just 18,703 compared to 24,126 a year back.

Table games revenue in casinos was likewise off for January with just more than $50.8 million, a decrease of 29.9% from the previous January, when revenue was $72.5 million.

Sports handle up, revenue down slightly

January’s sports betting handle was nearly $615.3 million or 12.2% above December’s record total of $548.6 million. But the taxable revenue for January declined slightly from $34 million to just above $33.9 million.

In January, PA crossed the $100 million mark in lifetime sports betting tax revenue.

VGT and daily fantasy back on track

Video Gaming Terminals, or VGTs,  produced gross revenue of more than $2.2 million and daily fantasy sports (DFS) kicked in revenue of more than $2.9 million. The two segments seem to have recovered from pandemic headwinds.

Online poker was up slightly at $2.7 million compared to $2.4 million in November. There is still just one operator, PokerStars PA, via Mount Airy Resort.

January PA online casino breakdown by operator

A complete breakdown of January revenue, including slots and table games by operator (online gaming license holder), can be found here:

Casino OperatorTotal RevenueSlots RevenueTable Games Revenue
Penn National (DraftKings, Hollywood, BetMGM)$27.6 million$16.2 million$11.4 million
Rivers Philly (SugarHouse & BetRivers)$21.0 million$16.5 million$4.5 million
Valley Forge (FanDuel)$14.7 million$6.8 million$8.0 million
Parx Casino$5.3 million$4.8 million$509,000
Mt. Airy (PokerStars & Fox Bet)$3.6 million$2.2 million$1.4 million
Mohegan Sun Pocono (Unibet)$2.8 million$2.2 million$534,000
Harrah's Philly (Caesars)$1.4 million$1.2 million$244,000
Wind Creek Casino$552,000$380,000$173,000
Live! Casino Philadelphia (PlayLive!)$487,000$451,000$37,000
Presque Isle Downs (BetAmerica)$182,000$282,000-$100,000
Totals:$77.7 million$51.0 million$26.7 million

Casino operators by the numbers

The clear front-runners in PA’s online casino race remain Penn National (which includes DraftKings, Hollywood, and BetMGM), Rivers Philadelphia (which includes SugarHouse and BetRivers), and Valley Forge, with FanDuel.

A look at top PA online casino operators in January:

  • Penn: Total revenue $27.6 million (slots: $16.2 million; table games: $11.4 million).
  • Rivers Philly: Total revenue $21.0 million (slots: $16.5 million; tables: $4.5 million).
  • Valley Forge: Total revenue $14.7 million (slots: $6.8 million; tables: $8.0 million).

Image via Dreamstime/Anke Van Wyk.

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.

April Promos Bring Big Bonuses To PA Online Casino Players

Check out the latest PA online casino promotions and sign-up bonuses for April, plus current games and progressive jackpot payouts.

April showers bring May flowers. April also brings some spring specials for new and existing players at PA  online casinos.

Pennsylvania’s 12 land-based casinos have been closed since March 17 due to a nationwide effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). However, residents of the Keystone State can still play.

PA is one of four states with legalized and regulated online casinos. In addition, playing online provides a way to play all the casino favorites, like slots, poker, baccarat, blackjack and roulette, while staying safe at home.

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FanDuel casino

Are you a new player? Then check out FanDuel’s risk-free new player sign-up bonus: 100% back on losses (up to $200) during your first 24 hours.

Also, FanDuel added 10 new slots games, expanding to 22 titles. The new ones are:

  • Wheel of Fortune Triple Extreme Spin
  • Wheel of Fortune Hawaiian Getaway
  • Red Hot Tamales
  • Triple Red Hot 7s
  • Treasures of Troy
  • Jumanji
  • Butterfly Staxx 2
  • Mercy of the Gods
  • Bloodsuckers 2
  • Guns N Roses

Progressive slots:

  • Divine Fortune’s Mega Jackpot was up to $120,274 on April 8.
  • Mercy of the Gods’ Jackpot was at $17,821 on April 8.

Table and card games:

For the closest thing to a brick-and-mortar casino, try the live casino games, including blackjack, baccarat and roulette. There are two types of blackjack (minimum $0.10 bet) and three types of roulette (minimum $0.10 bet). Plus, FanDuel offers Game King Video Poker.

BetRivers PA online casino

At present, BetRivers offers new players a first deposit matched bonus of 100% up to $250.

Additionally, the current promotion for all players  includes:

  • Race to Rivers Casino Pittsburgh: Get wheel spins that are based on earned loyalty points every day. Wheel spins translate to mile amounts or bonus money. If you earn a total of 2,193 miles (Rivers Pittsburgh to Las Vegas), you win the grand prize.

Check out BetRivers’ extensive library of 87 slot titles.

Progressive slot: Mercy of the Gods’ Jackpot is $120,020 as of April 10.

Table and card games: 

Play two types of blackjack (min $0.10), baccarat (min $1) and four types of roulette (min $0.10), along with Game King Video Poker (min $0.10).

PlaySugarHouse casino

PlaySugarHouse offers a first deposit match bonus up to 100% of $250. Also, new players get a chance to spin and win up to $250 for same-day play.

Here is the current promotion:

  • Race to Rivers Casino Philadelphia: Get wheel spins based on earned loyalty points every day. Wheel spins translate to mile amounts or bonus money. If you earn a total of 2,475 miles (Rivers Philadelphia to Las Vegas), you win the grand prize.

Currently, the slot library holds 87 titles.

Progressive slot: The Divine Fortune Mega Jackpot is currently over $45,000.

Table and card games: 

There are two types of blackjack (min. $0.10), baccarat ($1 min), four different types of roulette (min $0.10) and Game King Video Poker (min $0.10).

Unibet PA online casino

Presently, new players get $10 risk-free and a  100% matched deposit bonus up to $500.

Also, the current promotions for all players include:

  • 21k Blackjack Tournament: Try to top the leaderboard with Unibet’s 21k Blackjack Tournament. It runs daily from Monday 12:00 a.m. – Sunday 11:59 p.m. until May 3.
  • Weekly deposit reload bonus: 25% bonus (up to $50) on the first deposit on Thursdays.

Check out the extensive 76 slot titles.

Progressive slots:

  • Divine Fortune’s Mega Jackpot is currently over $65,386.
  • Jackpot Shores’ jackpot is up to $81,134 as of April 10.

Table and card games: 

Also, there are four types of video poker, two different blackjack games (min $0.50), six games of roulette (min $0.10) and baccarat (min $0.20).

Hollywood Online Casino

To begin with, new players get $25 risk-free with no deposit. Additionally, the 100% first deposit matched bonus is up to $500.

There are 89 slot titles and popular progressive slots like Divine Fortune and Mercy of the Gods.

Table and card games: 

Check out the two types of blackjack, baccarat and three different games of roulette along with Game King Video Poker.

Other PA online casinos and poker

More PA online casinos include:

For poker lovers, PokerStars PA holds the title of PA’s only online poker operator for now. And it is currently holding its largest US-based poker festival to date.

The inaugural Pennsylvania Spring Championship of Online Poker runs through April 20. With 100 tournaments and $2 million in prizes guaranteed, plenty of players flocked to participate to capture a portion of the prize pools in the first week of the series.

There is still plenty of poker action to get in on. Plus, there is currently a 100% matched deposit bonus up to $600, along with $30 in free play for new players.

Following Strong Weekend Launch, PokerStars PACOOP Ups Guarantees Twice In Three Days

The opening weekend of the PokerStars PACOOP tournament series was so popular, the online poker site has upped the guarantees twice this week.

Talk about pent up demand. PokerStars PA has upped their guaranteed prize pools for the PA Championship of Online Poker series twice since the tournament series started on Nov. 30.

The upwards resets came after a successful weekend round of tournaments which launched the tournament series.

Sweet smell of success for PACOOP

For instance, the opening $100 No-Limit Hold’em event had a guarantee of $20,000.  The turnout more than doubled that number though,  with a prize pool of more than $50,000. The third event, with a $15,000 guarantee, finished with a nearly $35,000 prize pool.

The most significant event of the opening weekend, a $200 buy-in Sunday Special, had a $50,000 guarantee, but the final prize pool was $63,426. The top player took home nearly $12,000.

Here is a look at the remaining events on the schedule and what guarantees have been bumped up from the original number:

EventDateTournamentNew GuaranteeNewer Guarantee
17Dec. 5$200 NL Hold'em [Thursday Thrill SE]$30,000$40,000
18Dec. 5$50+R NL Hold'em$15,000$20,000
19Dec. 5$100 NL Hold'em [BigStack Turbo]$15,000
20Dec. 6$300 Eight-Game [6-Max]$15,000
21Dec. 6$150 NL Hold'em [Turbo, 6-Max]$15,000
22Dec. 7$100 NL Hold'em [Deepstack, 8-Max]$20,000$30,000
23Dec. 7$150 NL Hold'em [Saturday Speedway SE]$15,000
24Dec. 8$100 NL Hold'em [Marathon]$25,000$30,000
25Dec. 8$100 PL Omaha [8-Max]$10,000$12,000
26Dec. 8$150 NL Hold'em [6-Max, Big Antes]$25,000$30,000
27Dec. 8$300 NL Hold'em [Sunday Special SE]$60,000
28Dec. 8$200 NL Hold'em [Progressive KO]$35,000
29Dec. 8$100 NL Hold'em [Sunday SuperSonic SE, Hyper-Turbo]$12,000
30Dec. 9$300 NL Hold'em [4-Max]$30,000
31Dec. 9$500 PL Omaha [High-Roller, 6-max]$20,000$25,000
32Dec. 10$200 NL Hold'em [Super Tuesday SE]$50,000
33Dec. 10$100 No Limit Omaha Hi/Lo [8-Max]$8,000$10,000
34Dec. 11$30+R NL Holdem [6-Max]$10,000$15,000
35Dec. 11$200 NL Hold'em$20,000$25,000
36Dec. 11$100 Stud Hi/Lo$8,000$10,000
37Dec. 12$250 NL Hold'em [Thursday Thrill SE]$30,000$35,000
38Dec. 12$150 NL Hold'em [Turbo]$20,000
39Dec. 13$200 FL Holdem [6-Max]$10,000$12,000
40Dec. 13$200 NL Hold'em [Deep, Hyper-Turbo]$10,000$15,000
41Dec. 14$300 NL Hold'em [6-Max]$30,000
42Dec. 14$75 NL Hold'em [Zoom]$15,000
43Dec. 15$100 NL Hold'em [Big Antes]$15,000$20,000
44Dec. 15$300 NL Holdem [Main Event, 2-Day Event]$125,000
45Dec. 15$50 NL Hold'em [Main Event Structure]$25,000$35,000
46Dec. 15$100 NL Hold'em [Progressive KO]$20,000
47Dec. 15$100 PL Omaha [6-Max]$10,000$12,000
48Dec. 15$75 NL Hold'em [Sunday SuperSonic SE, Hyper-Turbo]$10,000$12,000
49Dec. 16$150 NL Hold'em [Nightly Stars SE - PACOOP Wrap-Up]$25,000
50Dec. 16$100 NL Hold'em [Deep, Hyper-Turbo, 6-Max]$10,000$15,000

The COOP is part of the PokerStars brand

While this is the first COOP in PA, the COOP format is a signature brand for PokerStars in many jurisdictions. it is the first tournament series for the PA online poker site, which launched in PA just last month.

The recently launched poker site initially promised $1 million in guarantees across the 50 PACOOP events.

However, that changed Monday. PokerStars added $125,000 in guarantees. The Main Event, originally featured a $100,000 guarantee. Stars decided to bump that number up to $125,000.

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Guarantees now stand at $1.225 million

Then on Wednesday, PokerStars went all in, jacking up the guarantees again. The site added an additional $100,000 in guarantees, bringing the total to $1,225,000.

The second round of added money boosted the prize pool of the majority of the remaining events, though the Dec. 15 Main Event prize pool still stands at $125,000.

Final PACOOP day is Dec. 16

The PACOOP action started last weekend and continues through Monday, Dec. 16.

There are at least two tournaments to choose from daily and as many as six on one day. Buy-ins range from $50 to $500.

Heavy player traffic on PokerStars PA makes the added guarantees a less risky prospect for the site. Only one event required the company to make up the difference to hit a guarantee, and that fell short by only $200.

PokerStars Brings $1 Million Championship of Online Poker To PA

The PokerStars PA Championship of Online Poker will guarantee more than $1 million in prizes to Pennsylvania poker players.

Online poker in Pennsylvania is on a roll.

PokerStars and PokerStars Casino launched on the FOX Bet app in Pennsylvania earlier this month, making the world’s largest online poker site the first poker operator to go live in PA.

Now they have announced a championship with a $1 million guarantee beginning this month.

Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker – PACOOP

Known as the Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP) series, the 50-event series from PokerStars PA runs Nov. 30 to Dec. 16.

PACOOP will include a variety of tournaments with buy-ins from $30 to $750.

Satellite games start at just $1.

The $300 buy-in Main Event closes out the championship on Dec. 15 with a $100,000 guaranteed prize pool.

COOP events are a PokerStar signature

PokerStars markets the COOP series wherever they are in a market, including in nearby New Jersey.

Matt Primeaux, president of FOX Bet, explained:

The Championship of Online Poker, or COOP, is one of our most prestigious events and we’re proud to give Pennsylvania its own. Players in PA have already shown their excitement for PokerStars so we took things to the next level with a $1 million series guarantee and plenty of ways to get in on the action.

There are a variety of ways to get in on the action and find a set at the table beside the satellites.

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COOP  add-ons

  • Main Event Depositor Freeroll: This will award 25 Main Event tickets, worth a total of $7,500. That takes place on December 15 at 2 p.m. ET. See the PokerStars site for details.
  • Second Chance Freeroll: PACOOP players who get knocked out without making money still have a shot. Each freeroll will award $1,250 in satellite tickets and entries to PACOOP events, totaling $20,000. Freerolls run daily beginning at 6 p.m. ET from December 1 to 16, except on Sundays when they begin at 3 p.m. ET.

Strong opening for PokerStars

At several points during launch week, more players were online in PA than on the company’s established site in NJ.

PokerStars Ambassador Jennifer Shahade, who lives in PA, said:

I’m thrilled to see PokerStars’ COOP coming to Pennsylvania this December, giving PA players the chance to play in a world-renowned poker series and vie for titles. Having online poker in Pennsylvania has been amazing so far.

PokerStars Casino And Poker Now Available In Pennsylvania

The testing period is underway and PokerStars Pennsylvania is just two days away from fully launching into a 24/7 online casino site.

Online poker finally arrived in Pennsylvania with testing and a soft-launch of PokerStars and PokerStars Casino scheduled to launch at 2 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4.

Play should last until 10 p.m., then resume on Tuesday at 2 p.m.and run until midnight again. If everything shakes out, full play should begin on Nov. 6.

FOX Bet President Matt Primeaux said:

We’re excited to launch PokerStars as the first and currently the only online poker option available to players in Pennsylvania. Including today’s launch of our highly rated casino product, which is now available in the FOX Bet and PokerStars apps, we’re proud to say we’re currently the only online provider offering all three forms of regulated gaming in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Today is a big day in PA. The online casino for PokerKings also launched and  DraftKings Sportbook is also launching.

Word came of poker’s advent last Wednesday during a meeting of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). Spokesman Doug Harbach outlined the details:

We have staff prepared to initiate and oversee a test launch this Monday of another online casino gaming site, this one licensed under Mount Airy Casino and their suite of casino-type games. At this juncture, it would include the testing of a poker game.

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Resembles PokerStars’s NJ site, but goodies and branding

There’s a resemblance to the established PokerStars site in New Jersey, but with branding for the new site’s brick-and-mortar partner, Mount Airy Casino Resort, Pocono, as Pennsylvania gaming guidelines require.

For now, it is a stripped-down version of what’s available in New Jersey. Around 200 to 300 people were playing during the after. Most were playing no-limit hold’em cash games.

The site promises online poker cash games, tournaments and larger Sunday tournaments with sizeable prizes and guarantees.

Opening goodies included:

  • Daily $1,000 welcome freerolls from Nov. 7 to 16
  • $20,000 welcome freeroll on Nov. 17
  • First deposit bonus offer of $30 free play 
  • 100% deposit bonus up to $600

More poker sites could be in the wings

PCBG Executive Director Kevin O’Toole has also said last week he expects additional online sites to roll out in the coming weeks. Some should provide poker as well as casino and sportsbook offerings.

The others in line to eventually offer poker next are:

PA online sites went live without poker

For anxious would-be PA poker players, its been a long wait.

Parx and Hollywood debuted online casino games July 15, but with very limited titles and no poker.  SugarHouse jumped in three days later, but again with no poker.

Rumors spoke to a September starting date for poker. However, nothing happened until PokerStars went through the vetting process with the PGCB.

PokerStars is the biggest online operator in the world. The company has a solid reputation. PokerStars also arguably has the most advanced poker software in the industry.

Details to sign-up and play

For now, all players must be located in PA, which is determined by geolocation.

While there is room under the 2017 gaming expansion law for a compact agreement that could eventually allow pooled games with players in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware wagering against PA players, regulators are holding off.

That’s likely because of the adverse Wire Act opinion issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier this year. Even with no enforcement yet, until there is a clarifying legal opinion, compacting is on hold.

An appeal of the underlying case involving the New Hampshire Lottery is not expected until well into 2020.

Like other forms of wagering in PA besides the Lottery, players must be at least 21-years-old.

Required information

In order to sign up for an account, you will need to provide the following information:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Date of birth
  • Last four digits of your Social Security Number

Nov. 4 A Big Day For PA With Launch Of DraftKings And PokerStars

It will be an incredibly busy Monday in Pennsylvania with the launch of PokerStars PA, Mount Airy Online Casino, and DraftKings set for Nov. 4.

Get your boots strapped in and giddy up!

After much anticipation, both DraftKings Sportsbook and PokerStars got the green light to launch in Pennsylvania on Monday, Nov. 4. Yesterday, PlayPennsylvania confirmed both impending launches. Until now, fans of PA online gambling have been champing at the bit for news of a launch.

Make way for the ‘king’

DraftKings gained conditional approval for a conditional sports wagering license from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) during the Oct. 30 meeting. In August, DraftKings announced its intention to partner with Penn National Gaming. Notably, it counts as the Keystone State’s sixth online sportsbook.

DraftKings’ chief compliance officer Tim Dent shared with PlayPennsylvania the excitement surrounding the new license.

“DraftKings is excited to receive our sports wagering operator license, moving us one step closer to bringing our top-rated online and mobile sportsbook app to sports fans in Pennsylvania. Working in partnership with the outstanding team at Penn National Gaming, we expect the mandatory soft-play period to begin on Nov. 4 toward the goal of an official public launch a few days later.”

Penn National parts ways with William Hill

DraftKings will be The Meadow’s online sports wagering operator. The retail sportsbook is already open and accepting wagers.

With the new DraftKings’ partnership, Penn National parted ways with William Hill last week. As a result, the retail sportsbooks at Meadows and Hollywood Casino are now both powered by Kambi odds. In addition, Hollywood transferred back the shared services agreement to Penn Interactive as a more decisive and final disbandment with William Hill.

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Online poker coming on Nov. 4

PA poker players can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The much-awaited promise of online poker is almost finally a reality.  As expected, the first online poker room to launch on Monday is PokerStars.

Douglas Harbach, a PGCB spokesperson, substantiated the news to PlayPennsylvania at the Oct. 30 PGCB meeting.

“We have staff prepared to initiate and oversee a test launch this Monday of another online casino gaming site, this one licensed under Mount Airy Casino and their suite of casino-type games. At this juncture, it would include the testing of a poker game. The caveat is always that if issues come up, then the beginning of the testing could slide.”

While all of Pennsylvania is excited about the beginning of online poker, we should caution that this is the dawn of a new gaming industry for the state. Therefore, there may be potential issues.

The PGCB is notorious for its rigorous testing standards. A test launch does not equate to an official launch. On the other hand, the regulation and extreme measures ensure the safety and security of poker players.

Each online site’s testing has completed without problems. However, the PGCB warns that the Monday testing could be delayed if everything is not in place and ready to go.

Until PA Online Poker Is A Reality, You Can Play PokerStars Virtual Reality

Pennsylvanians who love virtual reality and poker can earn they way onto PokerStar’s list of team pros now that the site is searching for ambassadors.

Does the idea of becoming a PokerStars Team Pro excite you?

Not only could you become a PokerStars Team Pro, but also you could become PokerStars’ first Virtual Reality (VR) Ambassador.

About PokerStars VR

PokerStars announced a search for their newest team member after recently launching its VR poker launch alongside the new Virtual Reality Poker Tour (VRPT).

Notably, the VRPT is a free-to-play tournament series that occurs entirely in a virtual reality world. In partnership with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, PokerStars brings an innovative way to combine the best of live and online poker.

Although the first VRPT series already occurred this weekend aboard the Galaxy Space Station, fear not. The next virtual stop in space is Macau, sometime in October. Lastly, the virtual series concludes at a location yet to-be-determined in November.

Imagine this: shuffling chips, handling cards, reading other players and using various interactive objects, all from the comfort of your own home. In this visually stunning and interactive environment, a player can choose to play against friends, Team PokerStars Pros and Twitch streamers.

In fact, just check out this exciting PokerStars VR Developer vlog:

Easy ways to qualify and become the first PokerStars VR Ambassador

By all means, it appears PokerStars is pulling out all the stops for players to qualify. Significantly, once a player qualifies through one of these means, the player is entered into the Final 10. Currently, there are no further details on what happens after the Final 10 players are chosen.

  • Every hand played is an opportunity for a ticket into the Final 10.
  • Community Hero – The most helpful community members (judged by Lucky VR Devs/PokerStars) across all digital channels gain entry to the Final 10.
  • Most chips won in cash games
  • Leaderboard rings/Spinning tops draw – Each Leaderboard Ring Won counts as 1 entry. Multiple tickets allowed.
  • VRPT Player of the Year – Become the Season 1 VRPT POY winner and a Final 10 seat is yours.
  • Spin to win – Any player who hits the PokerStars VR Ambassador Slot on the lobby spin wheel.
  • Make a royal flush – But, make sure it gets to showdown and gain a Royal Flush finalist ticket draw. From there, PokerStars draws from those finalists for one ticket to the Final 10.
  • Spin & Go – Any player who wins the top chips prize on any stake Spin & Go will also win a ticket to a draw where one winner will advance to the Final 10. Multiple tickets allowed.
  • Discord Ninja – Be the top 5 most helpful and engaging members on for Discord.
  • Popular vote – The in-game voting system will allow any player to cast their vote for who they think should be the PokerStars VR Ambassador using their watch UI.

Notably, the contest runs from Sept. 27 12 pm EST until Feb. 3rd 12 pm EST and is open to PA players, as this is a free-to-play product available across the US.

Online poker in PA still awaiting launch

To emphasize, there still is no real-money online poker in Pennsylvania. On July 15, PA online casinos set up shop with plenty of fanfare but, without online poker.

However, it is widely expected that PokerStars, in partnership with Mount Airy Casino, will be the first to begin testing. In the meantime, PA poker players will just have to keep waiting or hit the virtual reality felt.

Morgan Stanley Is Wary Of Poker Bots, But Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Be

Morgan Stanley downgraded the rating of a couple of online poker sites out of concerns over advancing poker AI from Carnegie Mellon.

This month, Morgan Stanley released future price of stocks for several large online poker sites.

Specifically, three major online poker companies inclusive of GVC Holdings (otherwise known as partypoker), Playtech (provider of the iPoker network’s software) and The Stars Group (PokerStars) were downgraded.

But why? According to the global juggernaut investment bank, artificial intelligence (AI) or “bots” is such a concern that online poker could become potentially unbeatable in the near future.

Pluribus beats them all

For the first time in history, an AI poker program consistently beat some of the top poker professionals in the world in a variety of different formats.

Recently, Facebook teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) to create the AI botPluribus.

Pluribus is the pioneer AI poker bot to consistently beat professional opponents in a six-player format no-limit hold’em, according to the research article released in Science.

Astoundingly, Facebook and CMU took eight days, 512 GB of RAM, and $144 to create Pluribus.

According to Morgan Stanley analyst Ed Young, Pluribus is “stronger than human professionals” in the most popular form of poker. It “plays twice as fast as professional players and can be adapted for any poker variant.”

Therefore, the analysts reduced confidence in online poker. GVC and PlayTech faced reductions of 2% and 4%. Notably, The Stars Group only dropped to $17 from $18. However, Morgan Stanley did not mention 888 Holdings (888 Poker) by name. The downgrade also presumably affects them, too.

Well-founded fear for online poker

In 2017, Pluribus’ predecessor Libratus made waves in the poker community sparking fears of bots versus humans. Libratus beat out poker professionals in a no-limit hold’em format for more than 20 days. However, unlike Pluribus, Libratus required millions of dollars plus supercomputing power. As a result, fears that bots would run rampant in online poker diminished.

Then again, Pluribus’ economics of $144 and the short eight days of development comes with a serious pause to the integrity of online poker. With Pluribus, Morgan Stanley analysts noted that scientists refuse to release the code because of the “serious impact” on online poker.

Essentially, online poker consumers and investors may be spooked by the major online poker operators’ ability to kill bots.

The vigilance of poker operators

Online poker operators have long fought against bots and even third-party software tools. For example, Partypoker’s newsletter vigorously publishes poker bot kill rates in recent months.

Check out partypoker’s #FairPlay campaign:

In 2015, poker operators changed their rules and policies on third-party software. Software such as HUDs (heads-up displays), hotkey scripts that allows a user to act more quickly, and seat selection programs received the ax. Partypoker even took its rules a step further by disallowing a player to download hand histories.

In addition, poker sites have long used CAPTCHA during poker sessions in order to authenticate suspected bot accounts. Moreover, poker operators are quick to freeze cashouts or money transfer requests. It requires extensive additional documentation, even in video form, if operators suspect fraudulent activity of any kind.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, poker players themselves provide an important safeguard to the online poker economy. In 2015, a massive poker bot ring was uncovered by TwoPlusTwo user Schwein with the help of the poker community. The poker bots won an estimated $1.5 million. As a result of the investigation, PokerStars subsequently banned the accounts and issued refunds to customers.

It takes a village to keep play fair

On Aug. 15, 2018, PokerStars presented to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). Obviously, game integrity is of utmost importance with online poker to PGCB and PokerStars.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the presentation:

  • PokerStars identifies 89.9% of collusion from proactive alerts.
  • It detects 88.96% of all bots.
  • It has 240+ security employees worldwide.
  • There are 65 game integrity employees to identify and prevent cheating.

Considering how important game integrity is to the poker operators and players, we doubt that anyone needs to fear playing online poker. Honestly, it appears that Morgan Stanley was quick to jump the gun over the success of Pluribus.

Online poker in PA soon, but not yet

Meanwhile, all of Pennsylvania is still holding its collective breath for when online poker launches. Online gambling went live in PA on July 15. PokerStars is likely to be the first online operator to launch in PA after inking a deal with Mount Airy Casino. However, as of now, the Keystone State is still in a holding pattern.