Gambling in the Steel City, A Pittsburgh Poker and Casino Tour

Written By Anthony Cicali on November 2, 2022 - Last Updated on April 10, 2024
The city of Pittsburgh includes several great places for poker.

Pittsburgh is known for its rich history in the steel industry, culture and sports teams. Recently though, the Steel City became a highlight on the Pennsylvania poker map.

Rivers Casino Pittsburgh set a world record for the largest poker bad beat in history. When the jackpot finally hit, it was over $1.2 million.

The Pittsburgh poker scene had caught my attention. As a tournament grinder, sticking to the headlining events is generally the plan. Being a resident of the northeast, Pittsburgh never crossed my mind for a gambling road trip until the news of the jackpot made an impression.

After doing some quick research on apps like Bravo, I discovered a couple other active poker rooms were located in the area of the Steel City. It was time for a road trip.

Examining Pittsburgh’s poker scene

Heading west allows for plenty of chances to roll the dice or in this case, hit the felt. The Pittsburgh area currently has three legal poker rooms open to the public. Only Rivers’ poker room is located within the city limits. The rooms include:

  • Hollywood Meadows – Washington, PA
  • Live! Pittsburgh – Greensburg, PA
  • Rivers Casino – Pittsburgh, PA

With a lack of poker tournaments in the tri-state area still, I had some free time on my hands. I reached out to my gambling roadster friend, Joe Samero, and another road trip was now on the agenda. In early October, we scheduled a few free days in our calendar, booked an Airbnb and now the plan was in motion.

Our idea was to head toward Pittsburgh and stop at four different casinos within three days. We did our research and mapped out the best route.

Poker and casino table games have been live since 2010 in the Commonwealth, but Pittsburgh generally falls in the shadows of the big name casinos in the Philadelphia / Atlantic City regions. Most Pennsylvania casinos offer poker, roulette, blackjack, slot machines and sports betting.

On the road again – The Pittsburgh Poker Tour begins

With three free days on the agenda, Joe and I decided to hit four casinos, three of which offered poker. With five plus hours of driving ahead of us, “The Pittsburgh Poker Tour” was underway.

Casino No. 1: Hollywood Casino Morgantown (Morgantown, PA)

Coincidently, like a previous trip we took, we arrived in a downpour. Joe looked at me as we were about to get out of the truck and said, “Here we go again!”

For the Pennsylvania native, it is known this casino is nowhere near Pittsburgh. Though when you’re coming from New Jersey, this is the perfect first “Pitt stop” to take a break before continuing the journey west. The casino is located at exit 298 on the PA Turnpike.

The casino has a decent size gaming floor with over 750 slots and 22 table games. The area that caught our eye immediately was the Barstool Sportsbook and bar/gaming space. The unique sportsbook looks like it is game day, even on a rainy Monday morning. The sportsbook offers a full food menu and even has old school bleachers, as if I was stepping back into my old high school gymnasium.

Other food choices included a Tony Lukes. For the non-Philly native, an Italian roasted pork sandwich with broccoli rabe and cheese is a must.

Unfortunately, this casino does not offer a poker room, so we decided to hit the gaming floor. This proved to be one of my best decisions of the trip. We each pulled out $100 and said whoever won (or didn’t lose) the most was buying dinner. I had no qualms about buying our meal that night after I hit for almost a $1,000 win on the popular Dragon Links slot machine. This win now meant I was freerolling for the trip, always a great way to kick off a gambling adventure.

Other highlights of the facility include:

  • Free surface parking
  • Sports betting kiosks
  • Simulcast horse racing kiosks

Cup of Joe

After securing our cash, we headed back on the road. To liven up the adventure, Joe and I always look for quirky things off the beaten path. We found one in Bedford, PA.

Our next coffee break on the road led us to something that percolated our interest. The world’s largest coffee pot is a ride-side attraction that has caught the eye of passersby since 1927. According to the world record academy:

“When it was originally built, the Koontz Coffee Pot was used as a small restaurant. In 1937, it became a bar and was attached to a hotel. It also served as a bus stop, but, rather interestingly, it was never a coffee shop.”

Casino No. 2: Hollywood Meadows (Washington, PA)

Located about 10 minutes from the border of West Virginia and about 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh is Hollywood Meadows. This is connected to the other Hollywood Casinos of the state. On first impression, the size of the gaming floor caught my attention. The casino is spacious with over 2,500 slots and 65 tables.

Barstool Sportsbook at Meadows

We ventured around the casino and found a few surprises, including a professional bowling alley beside the horse track. The casino also had a Barstool Sportsbook and bar area, as well.

Even though we took a brief tour of the ground, we had one thing on our mind, “Let’s hit the poker tables.” We grabbed a fresh casino card at the rewards center, got our $10 free slot play and then migrated toward the card room.

Hollywood Meadows poker room

Hollywood Meadows offers 14 poker tables and is open daily. The room is open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends. Unfortunately, Meadows does not offer poker tournaments, only cash games.

We jumped into a $1/$3 no limit hold ’em game and got to work. Even though there were plenty of tables, the card room only had one game running that Monday night. We spoke to the locals and they said this was pretty standard. The poker room finds the occasional $2/$5 game on the weekend, but $1/$3 is the standard.

There isn’t a lot of action, so I would recommend calling ahead to check seating availability. Some of the standouts of the poker room include:

  • Progressive bad beat jackpots
  • Great view of the horse track
  • Play four hours and get a $25 food comp
  • Up to $200 bonus cash wheel when a player hits quads

Joe and I try not to rely on common online sites for food choices. Generally we try to bring this up as a topic of conversation at the poker table for some recommendations. The locals all agreed that the best place in the area was actually located in the casino. Tablemates highly recommended Bistecca Steak House.

I ended up down one buy-in for $300 on the table, but I thought the reward of a top-notch steak house would make up for my woes. We headed upstairs salivating after a long day on the road. To our demise, the steakhouse is closed on Mondays. The Bistecca review will have to wait until our next time in the area.

We settled for a Joe’s Crab Shack when we got into Pittsburgh for the night.

Casino No. 3: Live! Pittsburgh (Greensburg, PA)

After some rest we headed to Live! Pittsburgh the next morning. Live! is located about 30 minutes outside the city in Greensburg, PA. It is also home to the only daily poker tournaments in the Pittsburgh area. We packed up our poker bags and got on the road to jump in the 11:15 a.m. Fat Stacks daily event.

On our quest to the casino, we discovered something big. When looking for a breakfast place on our journey, we found out that the “World’s Largest Big Mac” was along the way. The choice was clear. McDonald’s it was.

Standing at 14 feet tall in Irwin, PA, this Big Mac pays homage to Pennsylvania resident Jim “MJ” Delligatti. In 1967, he created that original Big Mac and it has been one of McDonald’s best sellers since it was invented.

Live! Pittsburgh poker room

The Live! poker room is also known as the Westmoreland poker room, due in part to its location in the Westmoreland mall shopping center. Recently opened in early 2022, the poker room is the newest one in Pennsylvania. When entering the casino, it is located upstairs above the gaming floor.

The card room is small, but is one of the most aesthetically pleasing rooms I have ever played in over the years. It didn’t feel like I was in a casino, but more like an underground private home game. The wood framed walls complemented the seven-table room nicely.

The tournament allows for some decent play in the beginning because of a “Fat Stack.” The tournament got about 30 entries. Local players said this was about the norm for a Tuesday tournament.

The room was abuzz about the upcoming Pokerstars Platinum Pass Tournament occurring later in the month. They were expecting a lot of people and planned to hold the tournament in a different area of the casino.

Due to the blind structure of the Fat Stacks tournament, it does not benefit the player to show up and late register into the tournament. My personal advice is to arrive early to get an advantage.

More information on the Tuesday Fat Stacks:

  • $125 buy-in
  • $25 bounties for each player knocked out
  • 20,000 starting stack
  • Re-entries are allowed
  • 20-minute levels

The locals were friendly and the game was run well by the staff.

Poker success and victory dinner

As per usual, we asked around and found out that there were about three Chinese/hibachi restaurants in the immediate area that offered good food for an affordable price.

At the end of the tournament, Joe and I found ourselves in the final four of the tournament. I placed in fourth for a little over $200 plus bounties. While Joe chugged along, I jumped into a newly formed $1/$3 cash game. As I was rooting on Joe, I was able to cash in another $350 profit from the game.

After about an hour, Joe took down the tournament, along with some solid cash. Joe was on deck to pay for dinner after his win.

After we cashed out, we checked out the gaming floor downstairs. The room had over 750 slots, but it was jammed into a small area. The casino floor is tight. There is also a Fanduel Sportsbook Bar and over 40 table games.

After a quick tour, we headed to dinner. As recommended, we hit a local Chinese place and indulged in an all-you-can-eat buffet. We were kindly asked to leave after we ate for about two hours. What can we say, victory makes you hungry.

Casino No. 4: Rivers Casino (Pittsburgh, PA)

For our last casino stop, we hit the record-hitting home for the largest bad beat jackpot in history. The 30-table Rivers Casino poker room was the final destination for the trip. This is the only poker room in the city limits and has regular running games. We got to the tables late on a Tuesday night and found at least eight solid tables running, as well as a $5/$5 no-limit game.

The casino is located in the sports stadium district and is only minutes from the home of the Steelers and Pirates. Be aware though of parking prices on a busy day.

“The casino changes prices on a game day,” says local poker player Paul Fero. “Parking can cost up to $60 during a football game unless you have an upgraded players card.”

Rivers Pittsburgh poker room

Rivers is the place for regular cash games in the area. They currently host two poker tournaments monthly which are generally on a weekend. At the moment, they do not host any daily tournaments.

Regular promotions included:

  • Bad beat jackpot
  • Monthly Deepstack Tournament
  • Hourly high hands

From the outside, the 24-hour gaming complex can be deceiving, but inside, the casino gaming floor and sportsbook are large. There is plenty of space and over 2,400 slots.

Rivers provided a one buy-in loss for myself in the $1/$3, but Joe found victory in the $1/$3 game. For a Tuesday night, the games were very lively and I could only imagine the action on the weekends.

Joe and I met a lot of friendly players at the casino and our interest in local restaurants continued. Over the few days we were in the area, players constantly told us we had to hit Primanti Bros before leaving.

Headed home with a sandwich and quarter

After a financially profitable trip, we knew we had to hit the highly recommended Primanti Bros on our way out of town. This world famous sandwich shop now has multiple locations, but the original is located at 46 18th Street in Strip District.

Our plan was to hit the shop at opening to avoid any crowds and we were glad we did. The place was packed within the first 30 minutes of opening. We got some large sandwiches, packed with french fries, coleslaw and more. The recommendations did not disappoint and the sandwich hit the spot for a long ride home.

Overall, we had a great trip and realized Pittsburgh was filled with poker action. The tables may not be as packed compared to some other casinos, but there was plenty of loose money to be won. Pittsburgh people were very friendly and accommodating.

On the drive home we had to hit one more “World’s Largest Exhibit” before calling it a trip. With some money in our pocket, we found the perfect last stop.

The World’s Largest Quarter is located in Everett, PA.

For more poker action, check our PA monthly updates for live and online tournaments around the state.

Photo by Gene J. Puskar / AP
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