In 2003, former accountant Chris Moneymaker sparked a nationwide poker boom after winning the World Series of Poker Main Event through an online satellite. At the time though, PA card players didn’t have a convenient place to enjoy live poker legally inside the state, and were relegated to making long trips to the poker rooms at Borgata, Foxwoods and elsewhere.
The following year, PA lawmakers passed landmark legislation allowing for the construction of several casinos and authorizing limited forms of gambling, like slot machines. Unfortunately, the bill did not include provisions for table games like poker, or casino staples such as blackjack and craps.
That all changed in 2010, when Pennsylvania casinos and racinos were given the green light to offer peer-to-peer poker along with a wide array of table games.
Now, Commonwealth poker players have their pick of 10 poker rooms, scattered throughout the territory, and are choosing to spend their money at local casinos instead of taking their cash out of state. With the passage of a new online gambling law, they will soon have the opportunity to play online as well.
The addition of poker and table games has, in short order, helped turn Pennsylvania’s gambling industry into the second largest in the US, behind only Nevada.
Here we take a closer look at each of PA’s brick-and-mortar poker rooms, highlighting what they have to offer in terms of cash games and tournaments, signature series, amenities and more.
Parx’s poker room is widely considered to be the state’s premier poker destination, and is by far the biggest and most profitable in PA.
In 2018, the casino completed a $50 million expansion which included the construction of a brand-new 48-table, state-of-the-art poker venue. Patrons can now enjoy their favorite games surrounded by high-end finishes and nearly two dozen high definition TVs.
The room now also features a VIP poker “enclave” for highrollers, or anyone brave enough to take a shot at high-stakes.
Parx’s cash game selection is second to none in the state. Casual players will have no trouble finding low to mid-stakes No Limit and PLO games, and can even jump into one of several $10/$10 NLHE tables which run most nights.
$15/$30 Limit games get going most evenings as well, with bigger Mixed games coming together during high-traffic hours. $6/$12 O/E and $10/$20 Big O/SuperStud are also popular games, which generally can’t be found at other PA poker rooms.
Parx is well-known for its Big Stax tournament series, and offers the chance to make a nice score in nightly tournaments as well.
Parx will be bringing its brand into the online realm when PA online gambling sites get the green light to launch later this year. The company inked a partnership deal with gambling software provider GameAccount Network back in 2015, which will power the casino’s iGaming sites.
Sands Casino is home to PA’s second-highest grossing brick-and-mortar poker room, which boasts a total of 30 tables.
Players can always find $1/$2 and $2/$5 NLHE tables running, with higher stakes action kicking off sporadically, especially on weekends. Omaha, Limit Hold’em, and Stud games also come together, but do not run as regularly.
Tournament players will enjoy nightly events at Sands and special series like the DeepStack Extravaganza.
The poker room is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, a dozen plasma TVs, and offers massage service along with complimentary beverages.
As one of the top poker operators in the state, Sands would be well-positioned to open its own poker site under PA’s new online gambling law. Company CEO Sheldon Adelson, however, is a staunch opponent of iGaming and has spent a great deal of resources in an effort to shut down the industry entirely. That said, it’s difficult to imagine that Sands will be opening its own online poker site anytime soon.
SugarHouse Casino’s Poker Night in America poker room lies 60 miles south of Sands, and is a popular choice for grinders in Philadelphia and beyond.
The venue boasts 28 tables and offers mostly low stakes NLHE, with the option to play PLO and a few other variants a couple of times a week.
Tournaments run on most days, and currently feature a $5,000 guarantee. The room is also known for its Sugar Rush Challenge, a special $250 buy-in, $100,000 guaranteed event.
The card room is the home of Poker Night in America, a CBS Sports Network television series which broadcasts marquee poker tournaments from around the country.
SugarHouse is owned by Rush Street Interactive, which operates the successful SugarHouse Casino online gambling site in New Jersey.
For poker players living in Western Pennsylvania, or in neighboring Ohio, Rivers is by far the most attractive option. Located on the Ohio River, the casino’s poker room boasts 30 tables and is the fourth highest grossing room in the state.
No Limit players will always find a few smaller stakes tables running, with $5/$10 and $10/$20 games ramping up during the busier hours. PLO tables come together occasionally, as do lower stakes Limit Hold’em games.
The card room is known to offer occasional freerolls, along with a $10K “Full House Ladders” promotion and High Hand awards.
Tournament players can take their pick of two daily events, six days a week, with an additional tournament added on Saturdays.
Like SugarHouse, Rivers is run by Rush Street Gaming.
Situated on the Delaware River in Chester, Harrah’s poker room is stocked with 28 tables, which spread mostly No Limit and Limit games. Stakes tend toward the lower end, with $2/$6 Limit Hold’em, and $1/$2 – $1/$3 NLHE being the most commonly spread games.
Apart from the two tournaments the casino runs daily, Harrah’s offers the chance at winning a seat into the World Series of Poker Main Event in live satellites, through its affiliation with the WSOP.
In addition, patrons can win extra cash during High Hand promotions and through a Bad Beat Jackpot which triggers when quad 2s or higher go down in flames. A number of modestly priced run throughout the week, with buy-ins topping out at $95.
Harrah’s is owned by Caesars Interactive Entertainment, which is extremely active in the online gambling industry in New Jersey and Nevada. In both states, Caesars has partnered with 888 to power the WSOP.com online poker network. Harrah’s will no doubt open up their own iGaming site, likely using the same software.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National
Offering just 17 tables, the game selection at Hollywood Casino is not nearly as diverse as some of its competitors. You will, however, find $1/$2 NLHE games running consistently, higher stakes NLHE games running primarily on the weekends. Limit and PLO tables run a few times per week.
The room spreads tournaments Monday-Saturday and offers a Bad Beat Jackpot which can grow into the six figures.
Mohegan Sun Pocono
Mohegan Sun Pocono boasts a poker room that is slightly larger than Hollywood’s, yet over the years it’s taken in significantly less revenue. Of late, however, the room appears to be on the upswing, with as many as 20 games running on weekends. The most common game is by far $1/$2 NLHE, but Limit and PLO games do run with some frequency.
The card room is a non-smoking venue, which features a Bad Beat Jackpot and a Royal Flush Jackpot promo.
Players can choose from two daily tournaments, which include Rebuys, Deepstacks, Bounties and Turbos. However, high stakes players may be disappointed with the selection, as the only time Mohegan supports MTTs with buy-ins of $100 or greater is on Fridays and Saturday.
Mohegan Sun operates its own online casino in the Garden State and will likely participate in the PA iGaming market, perhaps in a partnership with PokerStars.
The Meadows Racetrack & Casino
The Meadows is located less than an hour’s drive south of Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, its closest geographical competitor. The card room features just 14 poker tables, but offers a view of live horseracing which can’t be beat.
The poker room offers both No Limit and Limit Hold’em games, occasionally spreading PLO. Tournaments run twice daily, Monday-Saturday, with events occasionally scheduled for Sundays as well.
The Meadows has also become an official stop on the Heartland Poker Tour, a televised poker tournament series.
Mount Airy Casino Resort
With just nine poker tables to choose from, cash game options at Mount Airy are severely limited, usually consisting of a few tables of low limit NLHE. Not surprisingly, the low traffic makes putting together a viable tournament essentially impossible.
Players do have the chance to win extra cash in occasional promotions, however, like the High Hand promo the room is running currently.
There have been musings that Mount Airy is going to move its poker room, which is currently sequestered in a difficult to find second story room, back onto its original location on the main casino floor. There, it thrived.
Presque Isle Downs
Located a short distance from Lake Erie, Presque Isle is the smallest and lowest earning cardroom in the state, featuring a meager seven poker tables.
Surprisingly, the room still manages to put together a tournament five or six days a week, some with surprisingly high buy-ins and guarantees. We do wonder how many of these MTTs actually get off though.
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