The poker scene in Pennsylvania was hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Pennsylvania casinos shutdown in March 2020 and most didn’t reopen until June. However, poker rooms weren’t included in reopening.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia was the first casino to bring back live poker in PA on Oct. 23. In late June 2021, Rivers Philadelphia poker room was also the first in the state to bring back poker tournaments.
Pennsylvania poker players pined for the return of poker and Jim Moore completely understands. Moore started as a poker dealer at SugarHouse (now Rivers) and climbed the ranks. In April 2021 he was named manager of poker operations.
Poker tournaments at the Rivers Philadelphia poker room run Monday and Wednesday evenings at 7:15 p.m., and Sunday mornings at 11:15 a.m.
How he started his career
What attracted you to poker and kept you in the gaming industry?
Moore: I graduated college (go Pitt!) the year poker came to Pennsylvania in 2010. I was looking for summer work and was hired as a poker dealer. I fell in love with the poker industry, the game, and this region’s players, and haven’t looked back.
You were promoted to the role held by Tommy Bates. What are some of the things you learned while working with him?
Moore: It’s impossible to list everything I learned from having Tommy Bates as a mentor. He’s really an innovator in our industry. Tommy taught me how to have a player’s mindset at all times. We spent a lot of time working together on building this poker room into a brand that the whole team can be proud of and that our players continue to visit. The number one thing I learned from Tommy is team building – putting people in the right place to succeed and motivating them to do so. Our success comes from the team he solidified, and I’m unbelievably honored to continue his vision.
The Rivers Philadelphia Poker Twitter is very entertaining. Who is behind that?
Moore: Thank you, I’m glad you like it! I’ve had a hand in our social media presence since we opened in 2014. Tommy Bates really helped me develop and grow our Twitter brand and voice while he was here. I love interacting with players on Twitter and keeping everyone up to date with what’s going on in the room.
A great poker room is all about atmosphere
Rivers was Philadelphia’s first and only poker room since 2010. You started as poker tournament manager in 2014. How did Rivers establish and grow its poker room?
Moore: Our poker room didn’t open when Rivers (formerly SugarHouse) first opened its doors. The SugarHouse Poker Room had a humble beginning that I was proud to be a part of. In the fall of 2014, we opened in a temporary location that got people excited for the opening of our current, permanent home in 2016 as part of the casino’s expansion.
My first job here was as a poker dealer, and I’ve grown with our poker room every step of the way. Manager of Poker Operations is actually my sixth position at Rivers. I’ve also worked as a supervisor in various roles, in addition to being tournament poker manager.
I’m far from the only person to have grown with the casino over the years. Our staff has many Day 1 poker Team Members. We’ve all grown with this property, and our experiences with each other and the players have had a lasting impact on the culture and atmosphere here. We established our room by never settling. We tried a lot of different tournaments and promotions before finding the successful ones we have now. By always listening to our players, and not being afraid to try something new, we’ve carved out a defined space in this region with this room.
What makes a great poker room?
Moore: Atmosphere. Every room has a different type of atmosphere that I feel defines the room. I feel like Rivers is great because of the fun atmosphere that’s created by a fantastic player pool and our amazing, friendly, professional team, plus being located in the heart of the City of Brotherly Love makes our room fantastic.
The return of poker in Pennsylvania
When casinos started to reopen in June, poker rooms weren’t included. I’m sure you got a lot of questions about when it would reopen. Some casinos like Harrah’s Philadelphia closed their poke room permanently and some have yet to reopen. What has it been like at the Rivers Poker room since it reopened to present?
Moore: We’ve been cautiously optimistic and have always put the safety of the players and our Team Members first. When poker resumed in the fall of 2020, the entire Rivers Philly team bought into making this room as safe as possible. We reduced the number of tables in operation and limited the number of players at each one. We made sure there was plexiglass between every seat, and our dealers wore both face shields and masks. Also, we sanitized chips on a daily basis, and the team constantly sanitized their hands as well as the poker tables.
As the commonwealth and city have eased restrictions, we’ve been slowly getting back to normal, and we’re seeing more and more players return every day. Our team’s and players’ patience have paid off, and seeing a lively poker room makes it all worth it.
Why live poker is different than online poker
There are three online sites for live poker in PA. As a manager of a poker room, you see and hear a lot more than me. What advantages does brick-and-mortar poker have over online poker?
Moore: Playing online poker pales in comparison to playing the game in person, especially at Rivers Casino Philadelphia! Face-to-face poker creates a unique bond among players that you don’t have online. Whether it’s cash games or tournaments, you see a camaraderie among players, as well as between players and our poker team.
We’ve created a fun atmosphere that includes a huge video wall where we showcase every big game, including all the Philly sports teams. There’s nothing like playing poker while rooting on your team in a room full of people; playing in our room is an experience.
Poker tournaments are back at Rivers Philadelphia
What has been the response to the return of poker tournaments at Rivers Philadelphia?
Moore: The turnout has been phenomenal! We’ve had amazing fields and prize pools – both are much larger than we had pre-pandemic.Tournament poker is thriving and players are thrilled to be back at the tables. It feels like a family reunion where everyone is having fun! I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about poker’s return to Rivers Casino Philadelphia, especially about our tournament team – Andrew, Harry, Marty, and Jimmy.
The entire team has been working hard to manage the biggest fields we’ve had for our daily events. None of this would be possible without the hard work and dedication of the dealers. They continue to rise to the occasion to accommodate unprecedented volume. We’re lucky to have an amazing team.
Our Saturday Special this weekend (Aug. 28) is all about giving the players what they want. We had 414 entries for the “Welcome Back” tournament in June, and with additional space, players know we could have easily had more than 500 entries. For the Saturday Special, we raised our price point to $350 and extended the length of each level. The plan is to have a special weekend event every month.
$100K guaranteed “Mini Rush” event coming in September
Details are now out for their next big tournament, the “Mini Rush.”
This $100,000 guaranteed tournament will have starting days on Sept. 24 and 25, with Day 2 on Sept. 26. One entry and re-entry is allowed per day (including Day 2).
Players receive 30,000 in tournament chips and levels are 30 minutes on Day 1, and 40 minutes on Day 2.
Moore and his team expect another great turnout for this one.