Online poker has seen incredible highs and lows in the United States in the last two decades. From the moment that the World Poker Tour started showing hole cards on camera, the way we understood the game changed, and when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003 after qualifying online at PokerStars, the entire industry would never be the same.
Players from across the country were playing online with millions of players across the globe, making massive prize pools and the largest tournaments in the history of the game. When the industry came crashing down in 2011, it seemed as though online poker might be gone forever in the U.S. Thankfully, states like Pennsylvania decided to take measures into their own hands, and in 2017 the state passed comprehensive online gambling legislation that would lead to the return of online poker to the landscape in 2019.
This page will walk you through everything you need to know about the online poker industry in Pennsylvania – where to play, what to play, and why this is only the beginning of poker’s return to glory in America.
Who is allowed to offer online poker?
As part of the regulations that were set out in the 2017 legislation, enough licenses were made available for each of the 14 land-based gaming facilities to apply for them if they wanted them. With two of properties owned by the same group, this meant a total of 13 licenses would be available. However, there was a major string attached to these licensed -the upfront fee for applying would be $4 Million per individual license (sports, casino, and poker) or a combined $10 Million for those applying for all three. This caused a major slowdown in the application process as companies had to weigh the risks in making such a large investment.
Finally, all the licenses were applied for, and those poker licenses that did not get scooped up by the land-based companies have gone up for auction to brands from outside the state. Having said that, the road to launching regulated online poker in Pennsylvania has been very slow, and finally, in November 2019,p the first site launched when Poker Stars PA opened its virtual doors. Ironically, the first site that is open in the new regulated environment is from a site that was shut down as part of the Department of Justice action in 2011 (and subsequently paid a $750 Million fine).
With Poker Stars up and running, it is very likely that we will see more sites available in Pennsylvania in 2020. Here is a list of companies that have licenses that we anticipate launching very soon:
- Wind Creek
- Hollywood Casino
- Valley Forge
Poker Games Available in Pennsylvania
With only one site open, you might think that there aren’t very many options for game selection, but this would be an incorrect assumption. Poker Stars is the largest poker company in the world, and they are bringing their global expertise into the Pennsylvania market.
If you are a cash game player, you will find tables open at almost every stakes level from micro tables of pennies a hand to high roller games which can have blinds into the hundreds of dollars. While there are definitely far more table available at lower stakes, cash games are a great way to build your bankroll and give you the opportunity to play long sessions without worrying about the escalation of blinds. You will even find cash game tables in some of the other poker disciplines like Omaha and Stud, but these will be far less popular than the Hold’em tables.
Tournament lovers will be happy to hear that Poker Stars is back to their old ways in offering a large weekly Sunday event with a very nice guarantee. This is an event that you can satellite into for far less than the $100 entry fee – Poker Stars is the king of satellite tournaments, ever since Mr. Moneymaker made them popular back in 2003. Aside from the Sunday Major, you will find poker tournaments of all buy-in levels spread out across the weekly tournament schedule, and as the industry gains momentum, we will see more events scheduled for players to enjoy.
Tournament Festivals have become very popular across the globe at online poker sites, and in Pennsylvania, Poker Stars has taken early steps to building a festival of their own. The site hosts a series of special events once a quarter that have larger guarantees than its regular schedule. This is a great opportunity for players to find some value in a tournament that misses the guarantee, meaning there is money added by the site.
Learning to play poker games
If you are someone who is keen to learn how to play a certain type of poker or wants to start playing better Hold’em, online poker offers you the chance to do so without much investment. Our online poker guides give you the basics of each game, and the sites will offer free play tables meant for you to practice the tactics you have learned. While the play on these tables is not always indicative of what the real money tables are like, they do give you a chance to learn and get comfortable with the flow of a game like 7 Card Stud which plays out very differently than No-Limit Hold’em.
Pennsylvania Online Poker FAQs
Why aren’t there more sites available in Pennsylvania?
Even though companies are clamoring to get into the regulated online gambling space in the United Staes, poker needs liquidity to be successful. With only one place to play currently, all potential poker players are funneled into one site, meaning that the pools are larger for tournaments and cash games. As the new sites launch in 2020, it will be difficult for them all to maintain the number of players needed to keep sites active 24 hours a day. It is very likely at that point that Pennsylvania will try to find its way into the agreement made between Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada to share poker traffic.
I see ads sometimes for sites, not on the above list. What gives?
While the majority of poker sites were shut down in 2011, some smaller sites managed to escape the long arm of the law. These sites, most of which are based in Latin America, still accept players from the U.S. but come with added exposure to risk. A couple of these sites have closed their doors without notice in the last few years, leaving players without any way to access their money. We do not recommend playing with these sites even though you may see very attractive bonus offers to register an account.
How do I make deposits and withdrawals at an online poker site?
Online gambling sites in Pennsylvania offer players several options for payment processing. Starting with using your bank account directly via an eCheck, you can add funds to your account in minutes. Credit and Debit Cards, historically the most attractive way to make deposits before the banking laws changed in 2006, are available once again as a payment method (some banks still choose not to accept online gambling transactions). Companies like PayPal and Skrill have become very popular eWallet solutions, not only for gaming but other online payments as well. Finally, if you live near a casino property that has an online site, you can make your deposits (and sometimes withdrawals) in cash right at the casino cage.
Will I be able to use my poker balance to play casino games and bet on sports?
If the site you choose offers more than poker, then you should be able to choose what product you choose to spend your money with. Poker Stars, for example, already has online casino and sportsbook options integrated, so your account is a multi-functional gaming account.
Can I play online poker from my mobile device?
In Pennsylvania, you can gamble from your phone or tablet. While not every site may offer this (check out review pages for confirmation), sites like Poker Stars have a robust app that allows you to perform all the same actions as you could from your PC.