Pennsylvania Poker Legislation
Online poker in Pennsylvania might be thriving now, but that hasn't always been the case. A massive revival in the popularity of online poker began in the early years of the millennium. This was thanks, in no small part, to poker games being broadcast on cable television.
But then the federal government got involved with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. In 2011, the Justice Department went after the CEOs of major online poker retailers for money laundering and illegal gambling.
Following that push to make poker illegal, the federal government began to rein in its power via the Federal Wire Act. It was then that Pennsylvania and other states saw an opportunity to be in charge of their own gambling laws.
In 2013, lawmakers began talking about PA online gambling legislation. A study of the idea in 2014 encouraged advocates of legalization.
In 2015, the debate in the statehouse began in earnest, and in 2017, a bill was finally passed that was then signed by Governor Tom Wolf. Online gaming was a reality, and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board could now distribute online poker licenses to qualifying retail and online casinos.
Pennsylvania Online Poker Rules
- All online poker players must be at least 21 years old.
- When playing for real money, all customers must be inside Pennsylvania state lines.
- Online poker players must report winnings to the IRS.
Pennsylvania Online Poker Sites
Retail Casino Partner: Mount Airy Casino
Technology Partner: The Stars Group
If you have been inside an online poker room, played poker, watched poker, or enjoyed poker, there is a really good chance you are familiar with PokerStars. It is quite simply the largest online poker provider in the world, and its popularity in Pennsylvania is undeniable.
PokerStars, in a partnership with Resorts Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City, began offering online poker to New Jersey residents in 2013. Its Pennsylvania partnership with Mount Airy Casino didn’t start until the end of 2019, but it has already passed the Garden State in terms of players, tournaments, and guaranteed prize pools.
PokerStars offers a pair of first deposit bonuses for new players. The first is a $30 free play bonus, and the second is an extra $20 in cash and $10 in spin-and-go tickets. Players can opt instead to take a deposit match of up to $600, but that will require a playthrough, and won’t act as free plays or bonus cash.
PokerStars also has a rewards program called Stars Rewards, special prices on tournament buy-ins, reload bonuses, and a long list of daily and weekly tournaments to go along with its standard cash games.
PokerStars is the best online poker site in Pennsylvania by default since it’s the only poker site currently live and operating. But if there was competition, it would likely still come out on top. It’s a top site providing players of all skill levels exactly what they want in an online poker experience.
Fox Bet, a new face on the market for both Pennsylvania sports betting and casino gaming, is also part of The Stars Group and has taken the place of BetStars. You can access your PokerStars account through both the Fox Bet app and online casino.
Harrah’s Philadelphia and Caesar Online Casino also claim WSOP.com as part of its family of gambling websites. WSOP is not yet offered in Pennsylvania, but Harrah’s does hold a license for online poker, and the two do have an active online poker room available in New Jersey. WSOP is the most likely poker room to join PokerStars in Pennsylvania.
Valley Forge Casino and Resort has an online poker license, and through a partnership with Roar Digital, it has a relationship with PartyPoker - one of the first online poker rooms anywhere in the world.
There has not been an announcement that PartyPoker is on its way to Pennsylvania. However, given the success it has had in New Jersey, a move across the border at some point is expected.
Sweepstakes poker sites like Global Poker are technically not real-money poker sites. This means that they can legally operate in 49 states, including Pennsylvania, and pit players from different states against one another.
To get around the legal technicalities, players purchase gold coins and sweeps coins and then play poker games with those. The coins do not have any real monetary value but can be redeemed for cash.
Land-Based vs. Online Poker
Land-based and online poker are the same game. A flush still beats a straight, and a straight still beats a full house. Cards are drawn, bets are made. There are winners and there are losers.
However, ask anyone who has been in both a poker room at a casino and a poker room online, and they will note several differences.
Pace of Play
The first thing you will notice is just how much faster the pace of play is online.
In a live game, there is talking, as well as time spent sizing up the other players. The deal, the grabbing and pushing in of chips, it of that also takes time in a land-based poker room.
This isn't the case when playing online poker. At least not to the same extent. Everything happens faster online, and the amount of talking with and studying of opponents is negligible.
This can lead to a couple of issues for players that you need to be aware of. If you are going from online to live, the pace might become boring. And boredom can lead to a lack of focus.
Of course, that can lead to a quick exit. So be sure to do all that you can to remain focused on the players, their styles, and their tendencies. This is an excellent way to combat the creeping boredom of a slower pace.
On the flip side, if you are going from live poker to online poker, the increased pace can be a shock to the system. You may struggle to keep track of how each player bets.
You have to think about your moves faster and earlier. If you’ve never played online, but are used to playing at a table, spend a little time practicing in an online entertainment room before playing for real money.
Even if you live a block off Las Vegas Blvd, you will have far fewer options at a traditional poker room than you would online. The game types at a land-based venue will be less varied, and the blinds and tournament fees will be higher.
At an online poker site, you will find a game to your liking and with blinds and buy-ins to suit any budget.
This one is a no-brainer. As much fun as it is to sit across the table from your opponents, getting to an actual poker room at a casino can be an hours-long journey.
When playing online, you are only steps away from your kitchen and bathroom and can play whenever you’d like. You simply can’t beat the convenience of an online poker room.
Level of Opponents
Unless you are at the high-stakes table at a casino, the poker online is likely to be more competitive than the games at a live poker room. This is because the players online have access to strategy guides and odds tables and a variety of other tools that can help them make the most informed decision. Plus, there are no tells online.
When sitting at a live table, players only have their memory to guide their decision-making. Also, in a land-based poker room, you will find players who only play occasionally. In contrast, most online poker fans tend to play more regularly.
Available Poker Games
As the poker site of record in the state of Pennsylvania, PokerStars has created a long list of available poker variations.
Texas Hold ‘Em
The world’s most popular poker game. In Texas Hold'em, players use two hole cards and five community cards to make the best five-card hand
Also extremely popular, Omaha gives the player four of their own cards (instead of just two) to make the best hand
Omaha, but with a split pot. The high hand and the low hand each take half the money
This time you have five hole cards, but can only use two of them to make your best hand
Five-Card Omaha High-Low
Exactly like five-card Omaha, but with a split pot between the high and low hands
Other games include:
- Courchevel High-Low
- Seven-Card Stud
- Seven-Card Stud High-Low
- Five-Card Draw
- 2-7 Lowball
PokerStars offers a wide range of tournament and tournament formats. Many of these come directly from what is offered by PokerStars to the rest of the world.
- Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker
- PokerStars Winter Series
- Pennsylvania Spring Championship of Online Poker
- PokerStars Summer Series
And day-of-the-week tournaments:
- Sunday Warm-Up
- The Daily Bigs
- Sunday Storm
- The Hot Turbos
- Sunday Special
- Bounty Builders Series
- Sunday High Roller
- Nightly Stars
- Sunday Supersonic
- Moonlight Express
When it comes to the types of tournaments that you will find on PokerStars, you’ll encounter both sit-and-go tournaments (the tournament begins when enough players sit and pay the buy-in) and spin-and-go tournaments (for three players, with random prizes and jackpots).
Online Poker Bonuses
Just like online casinos, online poker sites need to attract your business. And even though PokerStars controls the market in Pennsylvania, it won’t always be like that, so they too have given out a series of bonuses and PA online casino promo codes, to help draw in new customers and keep them loyal.
PokerStars gives new players a bonus just for signing up and making a modest deposit. Deposit as little as $20 into your account and you'll receive free play cash as well as tournament tickets. These will give you entry into tournaments that can pay as much as 1,000 times the buy-in.
You can reject the Welcome Bonus offer and instead opt for a Deposit Bonus that could be worth a lot more. Make a number of qualifying deposits within 60 days of signing up and you could get hundreds of dollars in bonus cash.
For every $1 you pay in tournament fees or rake, you’ll receive five redemption points. And for every 100 redemption points that you accrue, you will get $10 of your bonus converted into cash that can be withdrawn. You have several months to redeem the full amount of the bonus, so check the terms and conditions for exact details.
PokerStars offers its Stars Rewards program, which awards points for every real money play. Earn more points and get closer to earning one of six prize chests. Each chest contains tournament tickets, reward tokens, and cash.
The six chests and range of value are:
- Blue: $0.25 to $5
- Bronze: $0.60 to $12
- Silver: $1.50 to $30
- Gold $5 to $100
- Diamond: $12.50 to $250
- Black: $35 to $700
Enrollment in Stars Rewards is free.
Other Possible Promotions
Often PokerStars will offer tournament buy-ins at a reduced price. For lower limit players who are often intimidated by a tournament buy-in, these promotions can be particularly useful.
You’ll also find the occasional deposit bonus for regular players. You usually need to be a new player to qualify for this kind of bonus, but PokerStars will open similar bonuses to everyone for holidays and special events.
Signing Up with a Pennsylvania Poker Site
To sign up with PokerStars, you will need to download the client app for your desktop or the available mobile app for IOS and Android. Once you do that, you will need to provide the following information.
- Email address
- Phone number
You will then be asked to confirm that you are at least 21 years old and that you have read the terms and conditions provided by PokerStars. At that point, you are ready to make a deposit and play your first hand.
Pennsylvania online casinos and poker rooms have a wide variety of available methods of banking available, and PokerStars is no exception.
PokerStars allows the following types of deposits:
- Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards
- Stars Transfer (allows a player to make transfers directly from their bank account)
PayNearMe terminals are located inside 7-Eleven stores and will give you a ticket with a barcode that can be scanned by PokerStars. VanillaDirect payments work in much the same way and can be found at 7-Elevens, CVS Pharmacies, Family Dollar Stores, and Kum & Go, and Speedway convenience stores.
Ideally, you will have used a method of deposit that can be reversed for easy withdrawal. But if that isn’t the case, PokerStars does allow the following types of withdrawal.
- Personal check
- Online bank transfer
One thing to note: As a means of ensuring your account is secure and safe from fraudulent activity, you must wait 48 hours to make a withdrawal after your last deposit. This delay can also occur because some withdrawals can’t be credited to an account until the original deposit has settled.