This is our guide to Online Poker in Pennsylvania. Recent changes in legislation have led to a regulated online poker industry in the state, and this page will present you all the pertinent information on the topic – how the law came to pass, what sites are licensed and operating in the state, and how to choose one site over another.
A brief history of legalized online poker in the state
Online poker was once a great source of happiness for many Americans. Throughout the 2000s, the game grew by leaps and bounds, and the future looked bright for a group of players who ranged from social to professional. However, that all came crashing down in 2011 when the Department of Justice shut down the sites that were taking American players.
At that point, some states decided to take measures into their own hands, creating the framework for a state-driven set of laws for online gambling. New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada led the way into this new frontier, launching regulated sites back in 2013. Pennsylvania decided to throw its hat in the ring in 2017, passing a law that would see online casino, poker, and sports betting (pending federal law changes) become regulated in the state.
As part of the new legislation, 14 licenses would be issued, equivalent to the number of land-based gaming properties that existed in the state at that time. Each of the three verticals would have its own individual license, with an application fee of $4 Million. This could be reduced if an applicant chose to take all three licenses, dropping the total fee to $10 Million. This massive upfront fee caused the industry some concern – this was far more than the other states were charging and seemed like a cash grab by the state. Regardless, by 2018 almost all the casinos had paid the fee, and the regulatory process had begun. The licenses that were not picked up by Pennsylvania-based casinos were put out to auction to operators from outside the state.
Where you can make online poker in Pennsylvania
Seven online poker licenses have been spoken for, which means there could be up to that many different sites for players in Pennsylvania. However, as of January 2020, there is only one site currently live – PokerStars. They are the largest poker company in the world, but in Pennsylvania, they are limited to players from within the state currently, so players from Pennsylvania cannot access the massive games PokerStars offers in other jurisdictions.
Other poker sites will likely launch in 2020 to provide some competition to Poker Stars. Here are the other groups that have licensed for online poker:
- Hollywood Casino
- Valley Forge
- Wind Creek
Types of online poker games available in Pennsylvania
While you are waiting to see what each of the different sites is going to offer in Pennsylvania, let’s have a look at all the different types of card games that are available in the freshly-regulated environment.
Cash games are exactly as they sound – these are tables where you sit down with an amount of cash and bet according to the stakes level. If you run out of money, all you have to do is add more to the table and you can continue playing. This is the type of game where players who are trying to make a living spend a lot of their time – sessions can last multiple hours. However, you can play as little or as long as you want, and at whatever stakes feel the most comfortable for you – games start as low as pennies per hand. You can play cash games at most sites in Hold’em, Omaha, and Stud as well as other variants if they are offered. However, the most popular games are still No-Limit Texas Hold’em.
Sit and Go Tournaments
If you like to play tournament poker but you don’t want to wait for a timed event to start, you can take advantage of a Sit and Go tournament. These events, which are set to start once they are full, no matter what time, are great because of their flexibility. There are single table and multi-table versions of Sit and Go events, and they can be set up to play with standard timing rules or to be played faster to make them even more efficient.
If you like to get great value out of a poker tournament, you should look for any Freeroll events that are happening on a site. These tournaments are free to enter, and usually give you a chance to win real cash, so it is a no-brainer to search out these events. The play in these events is typically not as strong as a tournament that costs money to enter, so be patient, and you could find yourself scooping up some great rewards for playing
These are the standard tournaments you see on a site. They are usually not limited by numbers, which means that there could be thousands of players by the time the tournament starts. Most online poker sites have a full schedule of daily and weekly events, so you know when the tournaments you like to enter start each day. These tournaments are designed to pay somewhere between the top 10-15% of players depending on the event. A large multi-table tournament could last several hours depending on the format, so if you are going to play one, be prepared to invest a lot of time in making it to the top of the leaderboard.
Satellite tournaments are events that qualify players for larger tournaments. These are great for players who want to play in a larger tournament but don’t have the bankroll to enter directly. Satellite tournaments are also used by sites like PokerStars to qualify players for land-based tournaments like the World Series of Poker – the site became famous for sending Chris Moneymaker to the 2003 WSOP from a $40 buy-in satellite, where he went on to become the World Champion!
Payments to and from online poker sites in Pennsylvania
Once you have created your online poker account, you need to get some money into it so you can hit the tables! The good news for Pennsylvania residents and operators is that with legalization came many more payment options. These payment methods include:
- Debit Cards
- Credit Cards
- Cash at the Casino Cage (where possible)
There will be fees associated with each of these payment methods, so check with the site to make sure you find the payment solution that works the best for you.
Do offshore poker sites still exist?
After the Department of Justice shut down the major online poker sites in 2011, there have been a few smaller sites that have remained open to U.S. players including those residing in Pennsylvania. However, getting money to and from these sites is increasingly difficult, and several sites have shut their doors over the years leaving players with no way to get the money that is rightfully theirs. We always tell our readers to avoid these sites, and now that poker is legal again in Pennsylvania, you will have all the choice and excitement you need without the risk of playing with a site operating outside the law.
Can I use cryptocurrencies at legal online poker sites in Pennsylvania?
No. Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and LiteCoin are still in their infancy, and the volatility of the value of these coins makes them a risky proposition for players and operators alike. With so many ways to process payments legally in Pennsylvania, there is no need for an operator to accept the digital currencies, and we don’t see that being an option anytime soon.
Can I bet from my mobile device in Pennsylvania?
Absolutely! Sites like PokerStars and other online poker operators have apps that you can download to your device, which gives you full access to the same games you would find on your computer. The quality of the apps has improved dramatically over the years, and you can now easily switch between multiple tables, all from the convenience of your phone or tablet.
How long does it take to get paid by an online poker site?
Each payment method has its own timeline for processing withdrawals. Sites like PokerStars will have a pending period where they hold your request while the fraud team does their job, then the payment is processed to whichever solution you have suggested. In a regulated environment, it is most likely that the time between you requesting payment and the money being in your bank will be less than 7 days.