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Pennsylvania online poker went live in November 2019 with PokerStars PA the first site to launch.
Not much has changed since then. While more than a half dozen other Pennsylvania casinos have interactive licenses to offer poker, PokerStars still has the market to itself. The good news for PA online poker players is PokerStars is among the largest online poker operators in the world, with an app considered the most player-friendly and intuitive in the industry. There’s always plenty of action.
Gambling.com is a trusted source worldwide for online gambling, and in addition to our review of PokerStars PA, will independently evaluate all PA internet poker sites after each comes online. Gambling.com only reviews legal online poker websites and never recommends playing at offshore-based sites, which are unregulated and operate with no oversight.
Gambling.com has been reviewing online poker sites for years. We sign up and play, know what to look for and consider several key factors in determining which deliver the best overall online and mobile experience. Among them
Safety and security: We only recommend legal, regulated sites that are licensed by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Playing online poker at an offshore site means playing with a far lower level of security and trust.
Mobile and online experience: How do the games translate to the online app? What about speed and functionality? Does the site offer a selection of games other than No-limit Texas Hold’em? We test software and evaluate game selection.
Bonuses and promotions: Bonuses are a part of doing business in online gaming, including poker. Bonus offers provide players with free money, but usually include some form of wagering requirement. We evaluate which are the most lucrative and restrictive.
Yes. Online poker became PA law on Oct. 30, 2017, along with online casino gambling and sports betting. Online poker officially launched two years later when PokerStars became the first PA site to offer games for real money. Several other PA casinos have licenses and announced partnerships to join the state’s online poker marketplace, but with no specific launch dates.
RELATED: : Check out the top sportsbooks inn Pennsylvania
In online poker, unlike casino games, players compete vs. other players, not against the house. Thus, player liquidity - the number of players available - is a key component. The types of poker game available (No-limit Texas Hold’em is by far the most ubiquitous) is determined by the number of players at each online poker site.
When you enter a PA online poker site, you will find a selection of cash games and tournaments. Cash games are offered at various betting levels, from pennies to high stakes. Players can also enter competitive tournaments or Sit & Go events. In tournaments, players buy-in for a predetermined amount and multi-table play continues until one player scoops all the chips, with a guaranteed prize pool. In Sit & Go events, only one table is used and play normally ends within an hour.
Online poker players in PA are only permitted to compete against other PA players. That’s different from online poker states New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, which have an interstate compact to allow players from all three states to compete against each other on selected poker websites. For now, PA gaming officials have opted not to join that pact.
The rules are the same for online and land-based poker, but the strategies are different.
In land-based games, betting and bluffing strategies may be determined by reading and gauging other players at the table. Physical “tells” can be ascertained by another player’s body language, their reaction to specific cards, or even how chips are handled. In online poker, there’s no body language to read since players aren’t physically sitting at the table. Instead, strategies are based more on the betting patterns of other players.
Playing poker at a brick and mortar casino with other players or friends is a more social experience, but playing online offers several advantages. Among them:
Comfort level: Sitting down to play in a casino poker room can be an intimidating experience. Playing internet poker allows you to make decisions and experiment with different strategies without judgment or criticism from others at the table.
Lower stakes, game selection: Several online poker games can be played for micro-stakes - with minimums in the pennies - to higher stakes, making it easy to find a game or tournament that fits your bankroll. Players are also more likely to find a wider selection of games beyond Texas Hold’em to choose from.
Pace of play: Online poker moves at a quicker pace. With no time spent on shuffling or player distractions, your time is spent more efficiently.
Bonus offers: Online poker operators offer bonuses and promotions to new players and sometimes to existing ones. These bonuses are not available to land-based poker players at Pennsylvania casinos.
Multi-table play: Skilled online players can increase their win rate by simultaneously playing at multiple tables. That’s hard to do at land-based games, where players can only sit at one table at a time.
PokerStars PA is the state’s only online site offering poker games for real money. Other PA land-based casino operators have been awarded interactive poker licenses, but not yet launched.
PokerStars, partnered with Mount Airy Casino, launched in November 2019. One of the leading online poker operators worldwide, PokerStars offers PA online players an extensive list of daily cash games and tournaments for a variety of stakes and buy-ins.
PokerStars features a full menu of No-limit Texas Hold’em, along with some Pot-limit Omaha and 7-Card Stud. All of those games are part of the PokerStars PA 2020 Pennsylvania Spring Championship of Online Poker, which features 100 events and $2 million in guaranteed prize pools.
The PokerStars app allows you to play on your mobile device from anywhere in the state and is available on iOS or Android. You can check out PokerStars PA here, sign up for an account, collect a bonus and start playing.
In addition to Mount Airy, other PA casinos with licenses to offer online poker include Harrah’s Philadelphia, Hollywood at Penn National, Parx, Rivers, Valley Forge and Wind Creek Bethlehem. Harrah’s has a partnership with 888, which is a major worldwide player in online poker. Parx, which operates the state’s largest land-based poker room, is partnered with GAN/Kambi for its online casino and sportsbook operations. Valley Forge Casino has a partnership with PartyPoker.
The land-based poker rooms in PA:
Harrah’s Philadelphia: Owned by Caesars Entertainment, the 28-table World Series of Poker Room takes advantage of WSOP branding opportunities. Plenty of limit and no-limit cash games, along with busy tournament schedule.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National: A 17-table poker room located in Grantville, outside of Harrisburg. Offers Omaha and stud games in addition to Texas Hold-em.
Mohegan Sun Pocono: Eight-table poker room at Wilkes Barre casino. Offers daily bad beat jackpots for both cash and tournament play, along with progressive royal jackpots which roll over when not hit.
Mount Airy Casino: Poker room in Mount Pocono brick and mortar casino has 12 tables. Dominates the PA online poker marketplace with its PokerStars partnership.
Parx Casino: The largest poker room in the state with 48 tables and VIP high-limit area. The Bensalem casino and racetrack is the state’s overall leader in gaming and poker revenue.
Presque Isle Downs: One of the state’s smaller poker rooms with seven tables. Poker room at Erie casino offers multi-table and single table events (Sit & Gos). Remains open each night as long as there is substantial play.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia: Formerly SugarHouse Casino, Rivers Casino was the first poker room to open in Philadelphia. The 28-table poker room often hosts televised tournament play.
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh: Home to huge 30-table poker room, the largest in the western part of the state. Offers at least two daily tournaments and multiple cash games.
The Meadows Racetrack & Casino: Located in Washington (about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh), poker room has 14 tables with open view of live harness racing. Promotions include progressive bad beat jackpot.
Wind Creek Bethlehem: A 26-table poker room in one of the larger casinos (formerly the Sands) in the state. Ranks No. 2 in the state in total gaming revenue behind Parx.
No-limit Texas Hold’em: The most popular poker game in PA and everywhere else. Texas Hold’em cash games and tournaments with guaranteed prize pools are available on a daily basis at various buy-in levels. While PA does not share players with other states, there are always plenty of online Texas Hold’em games to choose from.
Pot-limit Omaha: Ranks a distant second to Texas Hold’em, but still a popular game. Unlike Texas Hold’em, players are dealt four hole cards instead of two, and must use two hole cards to complete the best five-card hand. Cash games are usually available.
Stud games: Seven-card is the most popular stud game. Razz is another variation in which players try to make the lowest hand possible. Some form of stud poker is generally available online, depending on the size of the player pool.
Zoom Poker: Is not yet offered in Pennsylvania, but will eventually find a home. In zoom poker, players can immediately jump to another table after folding a hand.
Joining a PA poker room is simple and similar to registering at top NJ online poker sites for players who have played in that state. Visit your PA online poker website of choice and you will be guided to the registration process. To play for real money, you will need to provide your name, address, a password and last four digits of your Social Security number, which is needed to verify your identity and prevents underage players from signing up. Some sites will request your complete SSN, and may ask for government-issued ID or other verifying information.
Once registration is complete, fund your account, claim whatever bonuses are available, and you are ready to play. You can also download the free software for your iOS or Android device to play on the go.
Players must be at least 21 years of age and physically located within the state of Pennsylvania to play.
Players want to deposit and withdraw money from their online poker account quickly and efficiently. Several payment options are generally available:
Play+ card: A personalized prepaid card account that allows deposits and withdrawals to your online poker account. You can fund your Play+ card with a credit card or from your checking account. Play+ cards can be used on multiple sites, and you can withdraw winnings from your card at ATMs.
E-check/ACH: An electronic connection is established between your checking account and online poker account for transactions. ACH (Automated Clearinghouse) uses a third party to facilitate the transaction and is a preferred method for high rollers because of its higher limits.
E-wallets: PayPal is the most popular e-wallet option, with some online operators accepting Neteller and/or Skrill. E-wallet accounts can be set up with a credit or debit card, securely stores all of your payment information, and can be used for deposits or withdrawals will little or no fees. You typically can withdraw funds back to an account you have used for making a deposit.
PayNearMe: A convenient deposit option for players without a credit card or checking account. You receive a barcode that is scanned at the counter at any PA 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy or Family Dollar and your cash is transferred into your online poker account.
Credit and debit cards: The most widely used method to fund an account, but also one that has caused the most aggravation. Be aware that some banks may automatically refuse to authorize gambling transactions, and many that allow deposits treat them as cash advances and charge fees. Visa and MasterCard are the most accepted options.
Cash at casino cage: All PA online casinos and poker rooms must have a land-based casino partner. In the case of PokerStars, players can visit the cashier cage at Mount Airy Casino.
To recruit new customers and keep existing ones, extending bonus offers is standard procedure for online poker rooms. PokerStars PA, for instance, is offering two bonuses for new sign-ups: A welcome bonus of $30 after you make a first deposit of $20; or a bonus match of up to $600. Most of the offers include some form of wagering requirements before all of the bonus money can be redeemed, so it’s important to read the terms and conditions.
Generally, the most common bonus offers from online poker sites are:
No deposit bonus: Simply register for an account and a small bonus will be paid before the player makes a first deposit.
Deposit match: Make an initial deposit and the online poker operator will match that amount up to 100%. You will need to meet specific wagering requirements to unlock the bonus money, which is released incrementally.
Reload bonuses: For existing or inactive players whose accounts may be depleted.
Loyalty programs: Varies by operator, but points, cash or prizes are accumulated based on level of wagering. The more a player wagers, the greater the potential rewards.
Players can choose between playing online poker on their desktop or laptop computer, or playing on a mobile app, which adds a level of convenience and allows for play on a mobile device anytime from anywhere within the state of PA.
PokerStars offers a free mobile app for both iOS and Android devices. To download, go to the PokerStars PA website and follow the simple instructions. If you use an iOS mobile device, you can also download from the App Store.
Players also have the option of playing on computer with no download required. The advantage of playing on computer is a wider screen; or you may have an older smartphone that is not compatible with newer apps.
PokerStars: PokerStars uses its own software and its mobile app is considered one of the most player-friendly in the industry, offering a mobile experience equal or better than playing on your computer. PokerStars even offers a separate TV app to watch televised poker competitions. Read more about PokerStars here.
888: Approved to launch WSOP.com poker site in PA in partnership with Harrah’s Philadelphia. 888 is a worldwide leader in online poker and 888 network software allows players in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware to compete against each other as part of a shared pool.
PartyPoker: Licensed and partnered with Valley Forge Casino but yet to launch online poker. Operates online poker site in New Jersey, where it offers fastforward or Zoom poker, in which players can be spread across multiple tables. PartyPoker owner GVC is a leading multi-national e-gaming operator.
Rush Street Interactive: Owner of PlaySugarHouse, Rush Street already offers PA bettors an online casino and sportsbook, and is licensed to offer online poker. A major player in New Jersey online gambling, Rush Street is the producer of the “Poker Night in America’’ television series.
PA lawmakers legalized online poker in 2017. More than two years later, the first online hand was dealt by PokerStars PA.
The H271 bill that legalized online poker was part of a massive PA gambling expansion that also legalized online casinos, online sports betting, daily fantasy sports, video gaming terminals and an online lottery. Gov. Tom Wolf signed the bill on Oct. 30, 2017, making PA the fourth state to legalize online poker in the U.S., along with Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board subsequently crafted online rules and regulations for poker and other forms of legalized gambling. But confusion over differing interpretations of The Wire Act, which questions the legality of online gaming interactions across state lines, and PA’s high tax rates on online gaming revenue prompted caution from potential online operators.
PA’s first online sportsbook finally launched in May 2019 and the state’s first online casino began taking bets about six weeks later. It would take nearly another four months before PokerStars launched PA’s first online poker site on Nov. 4, 2019.
PA online poker operators pay a tax rate of 16% of revenue, the same rate as for online table games. That’s far lower than the tax rate on PA online sports betting revenue (36%) and online slots revenue (54%).
Yes. Online poker in PA was legalized in 2017, and PokerStars PA launched the state’s first online poker site for real money on Nov. 4, 2019.
PA online poker players must be 21 or older.
Yes, as long as you are playing at a state-licensed, regulated site. Playing online poker at offshore-based sites is not recommended. Offshore sites are unregulated, risky and operate with little oversight.
Yes. Players can play for free and improve their skills before playing for real money. They can also play online poker for free at social casinos.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board regulates online gambling in the state, enforces the laws and regulations and awards gaming licenses.
Yes. PA poker players can only play against other players from inside the state. Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey are part of a three-state compact that shares players. Pennsylvania is not part of that agreement, but could decide to join in the future.
No. You don’t need to go anywhere. Simply visit the website of your PA online poker operator, register for an account and you are ready to play.
One as of spring 2020. PokerStars PA is currently the only online poker operator in the state, though several others are licensed to launch online poker.
Yes. PokerStars PA offers a huge selection of tournaments and Sit & Go events on a daily basis. Most involve Texas Hold’em, but others include Omaha and stud games.
You can set up an account and deposit funds from anywhere.
Yes. Just about all legal online poker sites in the U.S. offer loyalty programs to keep and reward existing customers. Generally, the higher and more frequent the level of play, the more generous the rewards.
PokerStars PA is currently the lone online poker operator in the state and boast a terrific site.
It shouldn’t be. Several deposit options are available. The option that sometimes causes problems is credit or debit card, which is also the most popular. Some credit card banks automatically reject gambling deposits, though that number is declining as online sports gambling becomes more mainstream.
Consider the factors that are most important to you. For example, does it offer the selection of games you want, stakes you are comfortable playing and software you find responsive? Select a site that gives you a high comfort level.
Yes, though you can usually find games with a wide range of limits, from micro stakes in the pennies to $100/$200 and up.
Yes. You must be physically located within state lines to play online poker in PA.
Through geolocation technology, which accurately tracks your location whether playing on computer or mobile device. State regulators require this, and your information is secure.
No, there is no residency requirement. You just need to be located in the state when playing.
New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada. Online poker is also legal in West Virginia and Michigan, but has not yet launched in either state.
"A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade."
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