Currency: United States Dollar ($)
State Name Abbreviation: PA
Time Zone: UTC-4
Pennsylvania is an important gambling center in the US. It produces the second most in annual commercial land casino revenue among the 50 states, only behind – naturally – Nevada.
This is despite the fact the worldcasinodirectory.com lists “only” 31 casinos in PA. That is not even in the top 10, according to the site’s numbers regarding venues per state, yet those couple dozens of casinos manage to outperform states like California (173 land casinos) or Montana (a whopping 500+ casinos).
The Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh has a special significance in poker history. This is where both Brains vs. AI poker challenges were held. These were experiments where elite poker pros battled the Carnegie Mellon University computer science department’s creations in heads-up NLHE.
In 2015, when the human team’s line-up featured Doug Polk, Jason Les, Dong Kim, and Bjorn Li, the humans defeated the poker bot named Claudico. In 2017, however, the new and improved AI named Libratus bested the team of Les, Kim, Jimmy Chou, and Daniel McAulay in a 120,000-hand sample. This was the first time artificial intelligence was able to beat people in the game of poker – a historic moment often likened to Deep Blue’s victory over Garry Kasparov in chess in 1997.
The state of Pennsylvania started making headlines in the poker media in late 2016. A bill was proposed in the state’s House of Representatives which would make them the 4th state in the Union – beside Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware – to offer legal and regulated online poker to their residents.
After about a year of anticipation, the bill was finally passed in October 2017. The first ever online poker room licenced by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was PokerStars PA which launched in November 2019.
Famous Pennsylvanian Poker Players
Joe McKeehan won the WSOP Main Event for $7.683 million in 2015. He went on to win two more WSOP gold bracelets, one in the $10,000 Limit Hold’em event for $311,817 in 2017; and another in the $3,200 No Limit Hold’em High Roller online event for $352,985 in 2020.
McKeehen is recognizable for his scruffy look as well as his habit of wearing sports gear in highly publicized poker events.
Jake Schindler, born and raised in Bryn Mawr, PA, sits on top of Pennsylvania’s all time money list on Hendon with $25.270 million in live tournament earnings. In May 2017, he came in 2nd in the $300,000 Aria Super High Roller Bowl for $3.6 million. That is the biggest single live tournament cash of his career to date. He lost the heads-up battle for the title to German poker pro Christoph Vogelsang.
– Playing Live Poker in Pennsylvania –
Live Poker Legislation in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has fully legal and regulated land based gambling. The relevant legislation in effect today is the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act, passed in 2013.
Licencing and regulation are under the purview of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Evidently, private and foreign companies can apply for licences as well.
The Keystone State’s Gaming Board made it into the poker tabloid in March 2019, when they imposed a $30,000 fine on the Sugarhouse Casino (called Rivers Casino today) in Philadelphia. The gambling house was forced to pony up the hefty sum because after a shoot of the TV show Poker Night in America, two of the players, Doug Polk and Jeremy Kaufman, decided to have a $42,000 flip of 10-Card Stud. The problem was the casino didn’t have a licence to deal this made-up game.
Live Poker Venues in Pennsylvania
While you can’t play 10-Card Stud in the Rivers Casino in Philadelphia, you can certainly play No Limit Hold’em tournaments there. They usually put on multiple events a day with buy-ins ranging from $65 up to $150. They have a $150 Daily Deepstack event.
In March 2020, they hosted the Big Rush event, a large $340 tourney with three Day1’s and a $100K guarantee. Rivers also has another venue in Pittsburg, as we mentioned in our intro.
In Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack, you can play NLHE cash games on $1/$2, $1/$3, $2/$5 and $5/$10 stakes, PLO on $1/$2 stakes, PLO8 on $5/$10 stakes, and even 7-Card Stud on $20/$40 stakes.
The Parx Casino in Bensalem has hosted WPTDeepstacks events in the past. On top of that, they have their own tourney series called Parx Big Stax with buy-ins ranging from $340 all the way up to $2,500.
– Casinos and Poker Rooms in Pennsylvania –
Rivers Casino Philadelphia
Rivers Casino Pittsburgh
Harrah's Philadelphia Casino & Racetrack
Parx Casino Bensalem
Online Poker in Pennsylvania
As we wrote in our intro, Pennsylvania became the fourth state in the US to legalize online poker in October 2017. The passing of that piece of legislation also gave a green light to sports betting and casino games on the internet as well.
We also mentioned that PokerStars PA was the first online room ever to launch in the state in November 2019. Unibet, a European sports betting site that also offers online poker, got their permanent licence from the Pennsylvania Gaming Board in August 2020.
Two other sites, partypoker and WSOP.com had previously announced their plans to enter the new market. However, there has been some unexpected delay with issuing their licences, and thus with their launch as well.
Nonetheless, even though as of now their only choice is Stars, Pennsylvanian online poker players have a much brighter future to look forward to than most players in other parts of the United States.
Parx Casino Philadelphia
If you think of live poker in Pennsylvania, most will think of Parx Casino. The venue is located just 20 minutes north of the city center of Philadelphia.
Rivers Casino Philadelphia
Rivers Casino Philadelphia, formerly SugarHouse Casino, is a casino entertainment development along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s Fishtown neighborhood.