Poker will soon follow sports betting and casino games and begin online in Pennsylvania. PokerStars, in partnership with Mount Airy Casino, is expected online as soon as September 2019. In total, seven casinos have licenses to run online poker games.
Initially, PA poker games will be ring-fenced. This means that tables will not be shared with poker players from other regulated states like New Jersey and Nevada.
This page covers everything poker-related for Pennsylvania. You’ll find a list of the poker rooms expected in the Keystone State, along with their live casino partners. After this, you’ll find a brief explanation of how the new online poker sites will work. Bonuses, deposits and a detailed PA poker FAQ are located at the bottom of this page.
Pennsylvania online poker partnerships
Three major international brands already partnered with Pennsylvania casinos. More announcements are expected soon to clarify plans for online poker.
Here are the high-profile partnerships:
#1 – Mount Airy Casino and PokerStars: This partnership is expected to be the first major site to go live in Pennsylvania. PokerStars is the biggest online poker room worldwide. They are known for their excellent software platform. Expect innovative games like Spin & Go and Zoom Poker, alongside the regular cash games and tournaments.
#2 – Valley Forge Casino and GVC / partypoker: One of the oldest poker brands, partypoker (owned by GVC holdings) already has established partnerships in New Jersey. Their software has changed dramatically since they left the US in 2006, though this brand remains popular among recreational players.
#3 – Harrah’s Casino and 888 / WSOP.com: 888 has worked with Caesars Entertainment properties in other states and are expected to run under the Harrah’s Philadelphia license in Pennsylvania. By combining the WSOP.com and 888 player pools, this site currently has the biggest active player pool of the state-regulated sites.
This is the full list of the PA casinos which have licenses to open online poker rooms:
An alternative PA option: Sweepstakes poker
A legal online poker site which operates nationally is already available in Pennsylvania. Global Poker uses sweepstakes gambling laws to offer cash games and tournaments. Instead of cash, you play for ‘Sweeps Cash’, a virtual currency used to enter contests (poker games). You can cash out by exchanging your accumulated sweeps cash for dollars.
To stay legal, Global Poker and similar sites can’t sell you sweeps cash directly. Instead, they give you this for free when you purchase Gold Coins, which are for entertainment / fun play only. This is a popular option around the country with a range of cash games and tournaments running around the clock.
How regulated online poker sites in Pennsylvania will work
For online casinos and sportsbooks, you’ll normally access the website to enjoy gambling. Poker sites are different. Most players prefer to download a desktop software client to access the games. This gives you all the game types, and the ability to comfortably multi-table (play more than one table at a time). It also ensures the games are stable. Avoiding the client crashing just as you get dealt pocket aces is important.
You will also be able to download Android apps for some sites, giving you mobile options. Apple apps are expected to follow once new technical requirements requested at the App Store have been resolved.
When you access the poker rooms, you will find four main poker formats. Which are available (and have games running) will depend on the size of the player pool at each site.
Here are the main formats:
- Cash games: Your chips have a real monetary value and can be topped up to the table maximum at any time. Online poker cash games start at $2 buy-ins (micro-stakes) up to around $1,000+ buy-ins. The stakes at these tables range from $.02/$.04 to $1,000/$2,000. Tables typically have two, six, or nine players.
- Poker tournaments: A knockout format where each player starts with a stack of chips in exchange for their buy-in. The bet sizes increase steadily, and play continues until one player has all the chips. Expect 10% or so of the field to get prizes. There are many variations in speed, poker game type, and the ability to rebuy or re-enter if you bust.
- Sit & Go tournaments: Usually single table games, these kick off whenever a table is full. New variations include PokerStars’ Spin & Go. These are three-handed games with a random prize pool of up to 10,000x your buy-in.
- Fast-fold poker: This innovation dispenses with the waiting time while other players finish hands by taking you to a new hand as soon as you fold. Players sit in pools rather than individual tables. Fast fold poker is used for both cash games and tournaments.
At international sites, there are a lot of poker variations to enjoy. The smaller player pools in Pennsylvania will mean that only No-Limit Hold’em and some Omaha variations like PLO and PLO8 will be available. If PA joins a wider group of state sites then Stud, Draw, and mixed games could become available.
Pennsylvania online poker: Bonuses and promotions
The online poker sites which have the most players in PA will have a huge advantage. As the number of players grows, bigger tournaments, better promotions, and a wider choice of cash games become available. This has the effect of attracting more players. Once a site creates a positive feedback loop, the biggest poker rooms will dominate the rest.
For this reason, when poker comes online in Pennsylvania, there will be fierce competition for new players. You can take advantage of this by getting your bankroll off to a great start thanks to the site’s big marketing budgets and generous bonus offers.
Based on poker rooms in other regulated states, here is what to expect:
- No-deposit bonuses: Some poker sites will offer completely free chips, no deposit needed. This will sometimes come in the form of buy-ins to different tournaments or cash games. You’ll need to play this money through a set number of times before it can be withdrawn.
- Matched welcome bonuses: Expect your first deposit to be given a 100% (or better) match. Some sites offer up to $1,000 in bonus money this way. This is usually released in increments as you play.
- Freeroll tournaments: New players will be given access to beginners or depositors freerolls with real money prize pools. There may be additional entries based on loyalty schemes or future deposits.
- Reload bonuses: If your bankroll gets depleted, you will usually be offered an extra bonus to reload. Be advised these are usually smaller offers than the initial deposit bonus.
- Loyalty schemes: Poker sites all handle their loyalty programs differently. For PokerStars PA, expect to be awarded treasure chests, which have prizes tailored to your individual gambling preferences.
Depending on the brand, you might also be offered cross over promotions for the different gambling verticals. Sports betting and casino games are well established in Pennsylvania, with many of the license holders for poker involved in all three industries.
Online poker licensing and legality in PA
Seven casinos took up the poker license, most as part of a package deal.
Instead of $4 million per gambling vertical, several PA casinos paid $10 million for poker, online slots, and online table games licenses. Many also spent $10 million for a separate sports betting license.
It has taken a long time since the gambling expansion act (H 271) of 2017 was passed for online poker games to appear. License holders prioritized sports betting and casinos as these have higher revenue than poker. At 16%, the tax rate for online poker games for the operators is lower than for slots (54%) and sports betting (36%). It shares the same tax rate as online table games.
Depositing and withdrawing at PA online poker rooms
With poker being a skill game, more players will withdraw money than the other gambling verticals. You’ll have a lot of choices for how to get your money on board and your profits back off again.
While not all the online poker rooms will have all of the methods listed, the deposit methods below are the most commonly accepted.
- Credit / debit cards: Instant payments can be made with your regular bank cards. Visa and MasterCard are accepted by all the sites. Some sites will also allow deposits with Discover cards as well.
- Prepaid Play+ cards: Many gambling sites have branded debit cards. These add security and can be used for withdrawing your winnings. Then players can access funds via ATMs.
- Casino cage: You’ll be able to deposit and withdraw at the casino associated with each of the poker room brands.
- PayNearMe: This is another way of depositing cash, this time via 7-Eleven or CVS stores. Note that the fixed costs make this expensive for smaller deposits.
- PayPal: This is a popular online wallet system. It is used as a secure bridge between your bank and online merchants. PayPal is used for both deposits and withdrawals. However, do not be surprised if this option is not available at most online poker sites. The fees associated with PayPal, combined with the high tax rates for PA online operators mean this will be a rare option, not a common one.
- Neteller / Skrill: Owned by the same company, these wallet services work in a similar way to PayPal. They have been popular with poker players internationally for many years. Like PayPal, there is a chance these will not be available at every site because of hefty fees.
- eChecks: Also known as ACH transfers, this poker deposit method comes directly from your bank. You can get pre-verified, making your eCheck deposits and withdrawals instant.
- Bill pay: If you use a major bank, you might already pay your utility bills with Bill Pay. Paying into your poker account works in the same way. This banking option is not used for withdrawals.
- Bank wire: This is a slower way to transfer from your bank, though can still be used if you wish to securely transfer large amounts.
- Money order / paper check: Another slower banking method welcomed by many sites. If there are no alternative ‘online’ methods, you can withdraw your profits via a paper check.
Live poker in Pennsylvania
There are 10 live poker rooms in Pennsylvania. They are:
- Harrah’s Philadelphia: This poker room is branded using the World Series of Poker name. It is open 24/7 and has 28 tables featuring cash games and tournaments. Types of poker include the popular No-Limit Hold’em, Seven-Card Stud, and Omaha.
- Mohegan Sun Pocono: Located close to Wilkes-Barre, this poker room holds 18 tables. Daily tournaments include bounty events. The room also offers bad beat and royal flush jackpots for cash games.
- Parx Casino: This is one of the bigger poker rooms, hosting 48 tables including a separated three-table high-limit poker room. Parx is located at Bensalem, northeast of Philadelphia. They hold big buy-in tournament events, as well their own regular schedule of tournaments and cash games.
- Rivers Casino: Located in Pittsburgh, Rivers Casino hosts a 30-table poker room, which covers more than 8,000 square feet. Hourly high-hand bonuses keep the cash games lively, while bigger buy-in tournament events run alongside their busy weekly schedule.
- The Meadows Casino: Rather than a separate room, the 14 poker tables at The Meadows are on the main casino floor. You’ll have a view of the live racing while you play. This room is located 25 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, at Strabane Township.
- Hollywood Casino: This live poker venue is located at the Penn National Racecourse, at Grantville, PA. They have 17 tables and run cash games with a high hand promotion. Tournaments include both standard and turbo blind options.
- Mount Airy Casino: The poker parlor at the Mount Airy resort in northwest PA is a smaller live poker venue. With only nine tables, Texas Hold’em is the only variation you will find here.
- Presque Isle Casino: This is the smallest poker room in Pennsylvania, with only seven tables. While most rooms are 24/7, this one opens at 10 a.m. / 12 p.m. and continues only as long as there is substantial play. Single and multi-table tournaments are advertised, in addition to cash games.
- Sugarhouse Casino: Located in Philadelphia, Sugarhouse offers a 24/7 poker room which holds 28 tables. High hand and bad beat jackpots are run. Buy-ins for their cash games range from $60 to $3,000.
- Wind Creek Casino: This 28-table live poker room is located close to Bethlehem, PA. This was previously known as Sands Casino. With a complimentary beverage service, tableside dining, and a lot of TV’s showing sporting action, this poker room is advertised as state of the art.
Pennsylvania online poker FAQ
Is Pennsylvania online poker legal?
Yes, online poker became legal as part of the gambling expansion act of 2017. Sites are licensed under existing B&M casinos. They are under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board.
Who can play online poker in PA?
You need to be 21 or over, and inside state lines to play online poker in Pennsylvania. Note that there is no requirement to be a permanent resident of the Keystone State.
When will PokerStars launch in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania poker players keep getting teased that PokerStars PA is good to go in the Keystone State, only to find themselves still waiting.
It is clear that PokerStars will be the first to launch in the state, but when is a tougher question to answer. September is looking less likely, but a fall launch does appear to be, pardon the pun, in the cards.
Can I play against players from other regulated states or foreign countries?
No, the player pools at PA poker rooms are ring-fenced. You will only play against others from inside state lines. The state has the option to compact with other states eventually, but likely won’t pursue shared liquidity until the ongoing DOJ and NH Lottery Wire Act court case is resolved.
Can I access the games from outside of PA?
No, geolocation technology will only allow you to play if you are inside state lines. If there is any doubt, or location masking technology (for example a VPN) is detected, you will not be able to play. If caught, you stand the chance of having funds confiscated and your account banned.
What forms of online poker will be available?
Cash games, tournaments, and Sit & Gos will all be available. Formats like fast-fold poker should get added at some point as well.
Texas Hold’em and Pot Limit Omaha will be the main game formats available.
Are PA online poker games fair?
Yes. All sites will need to demonstrate the integrity of their random number generator (RNG) software, which controls the shuffle of cards. Despite many rumors to the contrary, there has never been any mathematical evidence that the deal at major sites are rigged. They are overseen by PGCB and subject to rigid testing and regulations to ensure the product is nothing but fair.