Online poker is up and running in Pennsylvania following the passage of an omnibus gambling expansion bill in late 2017. This page provides an overview of online poker in PA with tips about how and where to play, information about bonuses and other offers, as well as an overview of how PA online poker got to this point and what is to come.
The state of PA online poker
With the launch of PokerStars PA in early November 2019, Pennsylvania became the fourth state in the U.S. where players can play poker online, joining Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.
Several other Pennsylvania casinos currently have licenses to run online poker rooms as well, which means other sites are expected to launch in the near future to give additional options to online poker players in the Keystone State.
Currently online poker in Pennsylvania is intrastate or “ring-fenced” only, meaning players can only play against others within the state. However, the new gambling law does permit Pennsylvania to join compacts with other states that offer online poker in order to combine player pools. It is expected Pennsylvania eventually will do just that — much as Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey have already done via the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement — although it will require approval from the state’s gaming regulators for that to happen.
Where to play online poker in PA
While options are limited at the moment, a number of other casinos have partnered with online poker operators in anticipation of launching their own rooms, among them some of the world’s most recognizable brands in online poker. Here are the current partnerships between casinos and online poker operators in Pennsylvania, each of which have had their licenses approved by Pennsylvania regulators and should launch at some point:
|POKER SITE||CASINO PARTNER||SOFTWARE||STATUS||LAUNCH DATE|
|PokerStars||Mount Airy Casino Resort||PokerStars||Live||Nov. 4, 2019|
|PartyPoker PA||Valley Forge Casino||PartyPoker||Approved||TBD|
|SugarHouse||Rivers Philadelphia||Rush Street||Approved||TBD|
|Penn National||Hollywood Casino||IGT||Approved||TBD|
|Parx Casino||Parx Casino||GAN/Kambi||Approved||TBD|
|Wind Creek Casino||Wind Creek Casino||TBD||Approved||TBD|
Each of these seven casinos also has live poker rooms. The largest is at Parx Casino with 48 tables while the Mount Airy Casino Resort features one of the smaller rooms in the state with a dozen tables.
Live PA online poker sites
As noted, right now PokerStars PA is the only game in town for online poker players in Pennsylvania. The site has proven a hit since first going live on November 4, 2019, exceeding early expectations and consistently attracting higher traffic than is the case on the PokerStars NJ site. One factor is the fact that Pennsylvania is the fifth-most populated state in the U.S. with about 12.8 million, while New Jersey has around 8.9 million.
Another element boosting traffic at PokerStars PA has been the frequent running of well-attended tournament series such as the Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker, the PokerStars PA Winter Series, and the PokerStars PA Bounty Builder Series. All events in these series have featured guaranteed prize pools, and in many cases those guarantees were not just met but were exceeded by wide margins. In fact, for the inaugural PACOOP series some of the later events’ guarantees were increased after especially big turnouts in the early events.
According to PokerScout, PokerStars PA averages about 350-400 players with around 250-300 of those playing cash games at any given time, with traffic having peaked at more than 800 players at various times. Usually there are more than twice as many players on PokerStars PA than on PokerStars NJ. (In New Jersey, PokerStars NJ consistently ranks second in traffic behind WSOP.com / 888.)
There are several different games and formats currently available on PokerStars PA:
- Cash games ranging from $0.01/$0.02 to $25/$50 for no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha, and for fixed-limit games from $0.10/$0.20 up to $100/$200 in the 8-game mix
- Sit & Go’s with buy-ins ranging from $1 to $500 (all NLHE or PLO)
- Multi-Table Tournaments ranging from freerolls to weekly events like the $100 Sunday Special, the $200 Super Tuesday, the $200 Thursday Thrill, and the $250 Sunday High Roller
As noted above, since its launch PokerStars PA has also run popular tournament series on about a once-a-month basis, a trend that is likely to continue.
PokerStars PA does not currently offer Spin & Go’s, Zoom Poker, or some of the other formats found on its global site, although those may be introduced at a later date.
Typically there is not a great deal of traffic at the higher-stakes cash tables on PokerStars PA, which is not atypical for ring-fenced sites with necessarily limited player pools. There are often many tables of no-limit hold’em and pot-limit Omaha running up to the $2.50/$5 limits, with some fixed-limit games attracting participants as high as $3/$6 (and occasionally higher).
Nearly all of the players on PokerStars PA at any given time are playing NLHE or PLO, although the site does spread limit hold’em, limit Omaha hi-lo, limit stud, limit stud hi-lo, 2-7 triple draw (limit and pot-limit), razz, PLO hi-lo, five-card PLO, and the 8-game mix.
What kind of bonuses do PA poker sites offer?
Signing up to play real-money online poker is an exciting step for any player, just like walking into a poker room in real life. With online poker, there are added benefits that come in the forms of bonus money. Nearly all online poker sites offer bonus money to both new and existing players, and Pennsylvania is no different.
These bonuses are great for kick starting your initial bankroll or for helping to maintain and boost your current one. Online poker sites offer bonuses in different shapes and sizes. Read on to learn more about the different types of online poker bonuses that PA sites offer.
With no-deposit bonuses, you can receive money or other perks just by signing up. That’s right. Just as the name suggest, no-deposit bonuses don’t require you to make a deposit. Simply sign up to the online poker site to receive the bonus money and/or gift.
The most commons types of no-deposit bonuses are cash or tournament tickets. When there is a no-deposit cash bonus, players likely need to meet certain play-through or wagering requirements in order for the bonus money to be eligible to be cashed out. Tournament tickets can also be offered as a no-deposit bonus, giving new players entries into exclusive events where prizes can be won. In some cases, online poker sites offer a combination of a cash bonus and tournament tickets as part of one no-deposit bonus.
Deposit bonuses are the most popular bonuses offer by PA online poker sites. In order to receive a deposit bonus, you must make a real-money deposit to your account. Deposit bonuses come in the form of a percentage match on the deposit amount, and it’s not out of the ordinary to see deposit bonuses that give players the opportunity to double their initial deposit.
As an example, let’s say an online poker site offers a 100% match bonus on your first real-money deposit. Whatever you decide to initially deposit, the site will match 100%. There is often a maximum bonus amount that can be applied, though, so be sure to read the details of the promotion to understand the maximum deposit bonus that can be earned.
Players usually will have to play to release the bonus, and it generally gets released in incremental amounts rather than one lump sum. While the thought of this may make you think less of a bonus offer, deposit bonuses that release incrementally are a great way to frequently have money coming back into your bankroll as you play.
Be sure to enter the correct promo code to receive any deposit bonuses for a specific site.
Reload bonuses are bonuses that a player can receive for reloading his or her account. No-deposit and deposit bonuses are often only offered for new players, but with reload bonuses existing players can benefit by adding more money to their online poker bankroll.
Similar to a deposit bonus, a reload bonus will require a player to load money into his or her account. The site will then match a percentage of the reload amount or provide another reward for making another deposit. Also similar to a deposit bonus, a reload bonus will likely require a player to meet certain play-through requirements as the bonus gets released incrementally.
Loyalty programs are built by online poker sites in an effort to keep players playing on the site for extended periods of time. With loyalty programs, the more you play the more you may receive back in loyalty rewards from the program. Unlocking certain loyalty status levels or reaching certain milestones may trigger an online poker site to offer a player a loyalty bonus. This is the site’s way of showing its appreciation to its regular players.
One-off promotional bonuses
PA online poker sites may offer special one-off promotional bonuses as well. These one-off bonuses can come in different shapes and sizes. One example is a jackpot bonus. A bad beat jackpot or a jackpot for the site reaching a certain milestone, such as volume of hands dealt, may be offered. Another example is a bonus awarded to a player for a certain achievement, such as playing a certain number of hands over a period of time or winning a tournament series leaderboard.
How to sign up for a PA online poker account
Online poker rooms in Pennsylvania operate much like they do in other states and around the world, requiring players to download a software client in order to play. That is to say, unlike online casinos which often are accessible directly via a website, you’ll need to download and install the client in order to play on your desktop or laptop computer.
Many sites are also accessible via mobile devices and require players download an app.
The following describes the average process for signing up for an account, deposit funds, and begin playing online poker in Pennsylvania..
Once you’ve downloaded the client either to your computer or mobile device, you will be prompted to create a new account.
Creating an account is simple, requiring players just to pick a username or login, and to choose a password. Some sites offer additional options to increase security, including creating a special PIN and RSA token.
Other requirements to play on Pennsylvania online poker sites include the following:
- Players must be 21 years of age or older
- Players must be physically located within the state of Pennsylvania when playing, although they need not be PA residents
- Players must have and provide a Social Security Number and a U.S. mailing address
- Players wishing to play for real money will need to complete an electronic account verification
Players wishing to try out an online poker room before depositing can usually do so by joining “play money” games. PokerStars PA has this option, enabling players to join play money “cash” games or sit-n-go’s first in order to get a feel for the software.
Which deposit methods are available?
When it comes to depositing methods, most poker sites will be offering the following:
- Instant e-checks (ACH)
- Visa or Mastercard credit or debit cards
- PayNearMe (7-Eleven, CVS)
- Play+ Card
- Instant online banking
- Cash at the site’s casino partner cage
Not all of the same options are available for withdrawing funds, normally. Withdrawal methods include:
- Instant e-checks (ACH)
- Play+ Card
- Cash at the casino cage
Worth pointing out as well, real money transfers between players are not allowed, per Pennsylvania gaming regulations.
The future of PA online poker
The success of the PACOOP on PokerStars PA in November-December 2019 suggests a bright future for Pennsylvania. The fact that six other casinos have paid their fees to be able to offer online poker should mean at least some of them will finally move ahead in 2020 and open online poker rooms. That said, significant growth for online poker in PA will no doubt depend on regulators approving a multi-state compact to allow sites to share liquidity with other states’ player pools.
One factor perhaps tempering regulators’ eagerness for Pennsylvania to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement is current uncertainly about the status of the Department of Justice’s opinion of the Wire Act.
In January 2019, the DOJ released a memorandum reversing the 2011 opinion that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting, saying that in fact the law applies to any form of gambling that uses wire communication (including over the internet). The memo initially gave operators 90 days to comply with the new interpretation of the law, then delayed that deadline another 90 days until June 2019. Meanwhile states with legal online lotteries and other forms of online gambling objected to the new interpretation, and after a lawsuit was brought to challenge it in New Hampshire, a District Court Judge ruled in favor of the state, thereby effectively vacating the DOJ’s new opinion. Industry observers characterized the ruling in New Hampshire as a big win for online poker operators in the U.S. hoping to enter interstate compacts.
Unsurprisingly, the DOJ appealed the ruling, and it appears the case will go to the U.S. Supreme Court to be settled. Meanwhile the deadline for compliance with the new opinion has been extended again as everyone waits to learn how the Wire Act will ultimately be interpreted.
Pennsylvania regulators will no doubt be more comfortable entertaining the idea of entering a multi-state compact should the final ruling on the Wire Act uphold the ruling vacating the DOJ’s revised opinion on the law and thus reaffirm the 2011 opinion it only applies to sports betting.
Whatever happens, the future of online poker in Pennsylvania is certainly brighter today than was the case even just a short while ago.
History of PA Online Poker
Pennsylvania is not just a newcomer with regard to online poker, but also when it comes to gambling and casinos, generally speaking.
Betting on horse races first came to Pennsylvania in the late 1950s, and about 30 years later the state legalized off-track betting. The state also legalized the lottery in 1972. But it wasn’t until the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act of 2004 that legalized slot machines in select locations that the state began to introduce casino-style gambling, and in 2010 the legislation was expanded to allow table games. There are now a dozen casino gambling properties in the state, most of which opened in the late 2000s.
Pennsylvanians played online poker on various non-U.S. sites up until Black Friday in April 2011 when those sites stopped serving U.S. customers. Later that year an opinion upon the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 emanated from the Department of Justice indicating the law applied to sports betting only, thereby opening the door to some states to pass their own online gambling legislation. Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey were the first to do so, and all three states launched their first online poker sites in 2013.
It was in 2013 that Pennsylvania lawmakers first proposed and began debating an omnibus gambling expansion bill that included online gambling, though it would take four years before a bill was agreed upon and passed into law in October 2017. The law covered an array of gambling and provided for additional satellite casinos or “mini-casinos” to be built, the addition of Video Gaming Terminals at certain locations, and the regulation of Daily Fantasy Sports. It also legalized online casinos and online poker rooms, with the latter news making poker players in the state excited to start playing online again.
Early expectations were for online poker rooms to begin opening perhaps even by the summer of 2018, but regulators took longer than anticipated and players had to be patient. Then when regulations were at last finalized, the casinos prioritized online sports betting and online casinos over online poker. The first online sports betting app in Pennsylvania went live in May 2019 with several others launching throughout the rest of the year, and the first PA online casinos went live shortly thereafter in July 2019.
Meanwhile the above-mentioned seven casinos all applied for licenses and received approvals to open online poker rooms during July-October 2018, and most announced intentions to launch online poker rooms at some point during 2019. However, only PokerStars PA and their partner Mount Airy Casino Resort managed to do so before the end of the year.