PokerStars PA Online Poker And Casino Launch: First Reactions

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“Sorry,” I typed into the chat bar after sucking out on my opponent in the first sit & go I played at one of PokerStars’ Pennsylvania tables. “Bad beat.”

“It’s OK,” the other player replied. “So excited I don’t even care if I win. I just can’t believe this is finally happening.”

That fairly well sums up Day One of legal online poker play in Pennsylvania.

Industry leader PokerStars launched in the Keystone State at 2:10 p.m. on Monday, and despite all the limitations during this soft-launch phase, despite some of the complications downloading the software and getting started, and despite the inevitable bad beats suffered, there was a sense of peace, love, community, and cameradie during the not-quite-eight-hours that the virtual cards were skipping across the digital felt.

Oh, and the numbers were pretty darned impressive for something most casual gamblers in Pennsylvania probably didn’t even know was happening.

The most recent data for PokerStars in New Jersey indicates that cash-game traffic averages about 70 players at a time. During peak prime-time hours on Monday, right around 8 p.m., PokerStars boasted more than 700 cash players in PA.

And the three tournaments with guaranteed prize pools all generated in the vicinity of triple their respective guarantees.

A partial glimpse at the prime-time PokerStars cash game traffic on Monday

Your Monday traffic report

From the jump, really, the traffic from the enthused PA poker hardcores was substantial. An hour after launch, there were 34 cash tables in action, everything from 1-cent/2-cent no-limit hold’em to $2.50/$5 pot-limit Omaha and even a table of $10/$20 8-game mix.

Of the 34 tables at that time, 25 were NLHE. But there are plenty of other poker variants offered. There’s PLO, of course, and there’s also stud, razz, triple draw, and that 8-game mix.

There are no “Zoom” cash tables yet, and the popular “Spin & Go’s” are not offered either. Those short-attention-span favorites will likely both become available when the soft launch period (yesterday from 2-10 p.m., today from 2 p.m.-midnight) is complete.

The sit & go one-table tourneys, a mix of six-handed turbos and heads-up hyper games, were generally slow to fill on Monday — just as they tend to be in New Jersey. Especially during the afternoon, that lobby frequently showed one lonely person waiting for a heads-up opponent and a couple of players waiting an eternity for a table of six to fill.

The multi-table tournaments (MTTs) were much more popular. With buy-ins ranging from $3-$20, eight of the 12 attracted more than 100 entries, with a $20 hyper tournament that started at 8 p.m. reeling in the biggest numbers: 173 entries, $3,252 prize pool. Here’s a complete look at the opening-day MTTs:

Welcome one and all (within PA)

They call it a “soft launch” for a reason, and there were some delays in the early moments as would-be players struggled to download the PokerStars client or labored to figure out whether they could use their existing PokerStars NJ accounts. It wasn’t necessarily obvious at first, but PA players with existing FOX Bet sports betting accounts only needed those credentials to log in, and they quickly learned their wallet is shared across the different verticals.

Once up and running, players were greeted with several bonus offers and incentives to stay and play:

  • 100% deposit match, up to $600
  • First-deposit bonus of $30 of free play
  • Daily $1k welcome freerolls from Thursday, Nov. 7 to Saturday, Nov. 16
  • A $20k welcome freeroll on Sunday, Nov. 17

In terms of making that first deposit (or additional future deposits), PokerStars PA has the following options:

  • PayPal
  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • PayNearMe
  • Instant eChecks
  • Stars Transfer

Casino, too

Along with becoming Pennsylvania’s first regulated online poker site, ’Stars simultaneously launched the state’s fourth online casino.

The games — for now, at least, during soft launch — are similar to what players will find on the state’s other sites. Which is to say, a decent selection on slots, not much in the way of table games.

PokerStars Casino has 44 slots titles, including the popular progressive game Divine Fortune.

For now, though, the table games are only European roulette, baccarat, and blackjack. The minimum blackjack bet? $5. That’s great for the low-stakes crowd at a brick-and-mortar casino, but much higher than the microstakes that players expect to find online.

All three verticals — poker, casino, and sports betting — are available in one application, whether playing on desktop or by downloading the mobile app.

A look at the poker lobby on the iOS app

And for now, having all three sets the ’Stars family apart in Pennsylvania.

“We’re proud to say,” FOX Bet President Matt Primeaux said in a statement, “we’re currently the only online provider offering all three forms of regulated gaming in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

PokerStars is off to a solid start, and it continues Tuesday at 2 p.m. The official launch is scheduled for Wednesday, and players will be eager to see what additional games become available then.

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Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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