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Online poker is legal in Pennsylvania, something only a handful of other states can boast. If you’re a poker playing living in or visiting PA, congratulations! You’re among the lucky few.
Gov. Tom Wolf signed the PA online poker bill in 2018, but it took over a year for the market to get off the ground. PokerStars was the first legal PA poker site to launch, in November 2019. It has since been joined by BetMGM, WSOP and Borgata. Our guide to Pennsylvania poker will help you select the best PA poker site for your needs.
The Pennsylvania poker market has now reached maturity, so you’ll find all the same perks and features you would in a longer-standing market. Cash games, sit-and-go’s, scheduled tournaments and tournament series, promotions: It’s all here.
Unfortunately, the one thing that Pennsylvania lacks at the moment is interstate poker. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) is being very cautious, legally speaking. Though the questions about the Interstate Wire Act appear to have been answered, the PGCB has not moved forward with pooling its player pools with other states under the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).
Fortunately, the state’s population is the fifth-highest in the country, allowing for plenty of traffic and a good selection of games, even without traffic sharing.
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Pennsylvania currently has four active online poker sites. After holding a monopoly in Pennsylvania for nearly two years, PokerStars was joined by three other poker sites in 2021.
PokerStars is the biggest poker operator in international markets and now in the US as well since the addition of new states in recent years. In Pennsylvania, it is far and away the number one site, and likely to remain in that position. In addition to its familiar name and reputation, the general consensus is that it has the best online poker software in the business. Its high traffic is another selling point.
For new players, PokerStars offers a 100% first deposit match up to $600 plus $50 in free play. The latter requires you to play one raked hand to collect it, however, so it isn’t a true no deposit bonus.
BetMGM Poker is a relatively new brand, but one with a lot of potential. Taking all verticals together, BetMGM is the US market leader for online gambling, but it hasn’t yet had as much success with its poker product as its casino or its sportsbook.
The company, which was formerly known as Roar Digital, is a joint venture between MGM Resorts International and the European online gambling conglomerate Entain. The latter owns Partypoker, and BetMGM Poker is built on the same software and offers a similar array of cash games and tournaments. Borgata Poker (see below) is another skin on the same network, so there are really only two truly separate poker rooms in PA.
BetMGM Poker offers a straightforward poker experience without a lot of bells and whistles. Crucially, from a pro player’s perspective, it offers cash back on rake paid at the end of each month, through what it calls its Regular Rewards program. This is in addition to MGM’s M Life Rewards loyalty program, which spans all its online products and its retail casinos and hotels.
Finally, it’s got a great welcome package for new users, consisting of a 100% first deposit match up to $600 plus a $25 no deposit bonus.
Borgata Poker is a skin of BetMGM Poker, which arrived in Pennsylvania the same day. Because of their connection, they both come equipped with the benefits of MGM Resorts. Borgata’s entrance into Pennsylvania came via a partnership with Rivers Philadelphia.
Almost everything about the two is identical. Whichever brand you choose, you’ll have the same games and features available, and be facing the same opponents. Even when it comes to promotions, the differences are slight.
Borgata Poker has the same rakeback program as BetMGM, but calls it The Grind. It’s also included in MGM’s M Life Rewards. The $25 no deposit bonus is the same as well, but the first deposit match has a $600 maximum.
Borgata online casino is also available in the state.
WSOP.com became the fourth online poker app to launch in Pennsylvania when it went live in July 2021. Since the WSOP is a Caesars property, it is partnering with Caesars’ casino in the Keystone State, Harrah’s Philadelphia.
WSOP is, obviously, the online version of the world’s most famous and prestigious poker tournament series. Most non-poker players have heard of the WSOP, particularly with its coverage on ESPN. Thus, even though the site enters an increasingly crowded market in Pennsylvania, WSOP.com’s brand recognition should secure plenty of interest. In addition, WSOP.com PA offers a PA-exclusive bracelet series as a stopgap for the geofenced Keystone State until multi-state poker becomes available.
Pennsylvania is also the testing ground for WSOP’s new mobile app. WSOP technology partner 888 has produced Poker 8, a new platform that represents a massive upgrade in performance, navigation, and customization from the previous version of the app. Players can now play pot-limit Omaha on their phones, and the site’s table interface dramatically takes advantage of the device’s orientation.
New players can receive $10 for free if they join WSOP.com with our promo code, 10NOW. You can also take advantage of the extremely generous deposit bonus onsite, where WSOP will match every dollar you deposit up to $1,000. First-time depositors also receive $50 in free play for signing up on the website.
When you want to play poker on your phone or tablet, you’ll need an app. Unlike casinos, online poker rooms don’t generally allow you to play in your browser.
All the major US online poker operators have developed both a mobile app and a downloadable client for PC and Mac desktop computers. You can play on whatever device you want with a single account. You can even log out of one device between hands and jump back into the game on another, though you can’t be logged in on two devices at once.
Mobile devices are actually the most popular way to play poker these days, at least for recreational players. However, they have some limitations.
Most significantly, mobile poker apps usually only let you have one table on screen at a time. You can play more than one, but won’t be able to see what’s going on at tables other than the active one. Sites using Partypoker technology, which include BetMGM and Borgata, handle this better than the others, but it’s still best to do your multi-tabling on desktop.
The PokerStars mobile app is among the best in the business. It’s built from scratch, not merely the desktop client adapted for a smaller screen. That makes it very slick and efficient, yet also unfamiliar at first if you’ve been playing on desktop previously.
There are three tabs at the top of the main lobby for Cash Games, Sit & Go Tournaments and Scheduled Tournaments. Within each, you can scroll vertically through a list of game types, and then swipe left or right to see the available tables within each type. You can also tap “More” to get a screen with various filters and stakes sliders to narrow the selection down further.
Once you’re seated at your table, playing poker will be familiar and intuitive. The visual presentation is a bit different than on desktop, but all the controls are located where you expect them to be and work in an intuitive manner. If you play more than one table at once, the controls to navigate between tables are at the top of your screen.
The PokerStars mobile app works in portrait mode while you’re in the lobby, and switches to landscape orientation once you start a game.
BetMGM and Borgata have effectively identical apps, because they both use Entain’s Partypoker technology.
The app got a major update this spring, and is now among the most modern in the business. International Partypoker players have been using the new app since late 2019, so the company had plenty of time to test and improve on it before its release in the US market.
The biggest difference between the BetMGM/Borgata app and competitors’ is that it allows users to stay in portrait mode both in the lobby and at the tables. The vast majority of poker rooms use landscape orientation for tables, because that’s how things work on desktop. However, portrait mode has two big advantages: it makes one-handed play easier, and allows up to four tables on the screen at once. Both of these are hugely important for mobile users.
Compared to previous versions of the app, it also includes a better hand replayer and new social features.
The WSOP app in Pennsylvania represents the first time that US players have gotten a look at WSOP.com’s Poker 8 platform. The updated platform is a massive upgrade over the previous incarnation, which had become quite dated, if functional.
The new version features the familiar black and red of the WSOP, but in a slick and razor-sharp presentation that is both easy to use and easy on the eye. The lobby features different tabs for Omaha (cash games), hold’em (cash games), BLAST, tournaments, and sit & go’s. Each tab can be filtered for numerous dimensions and preferences. It is simple enough to customize the app for the games that you want to play.
Finally, upon sign-up, you are automatically enrolled in the Caesars Rewards program, which allows you to earn perks, prizes, and other goodies for your play. So, there are plenty of reasons to give WSOP.com PA a try.
For the most part, downloading legal real money poker apps is the same as any other mobile app.
If you’re using an Apple device, clicking a “Play Now” link on our site or visiting the operator’s download page should take you to the App Store, where it’s as simple as tapping “Get” and confirming with your password or Touch ID.
If you’re using Android, the process is now much the same. Thanks to a change in Google’s policies, as of Mar. 1, 2021, gambling apps are permitted in the Play Store.
Not every operator has yet had its app approved by Google, however. If you can’t find the app you want in the Play Store, you’ll have to download it directly from the operator’s website. You can get there via the same “Play Now” links here on Online Poker Report.
If you have to download an Android poker app from the operator, you’ll first have to go into your phone’s Settings. From there, navigate to the Security tab, and tick the box to allow app downloads from “Unknown Sources.” You can then download the app file manually. Once it downloads, you’ll be prompted again to confirm installation.
Once the app is on your phone or tablet, then you just need to log into your account, or create one if you don’t have one already.
Seven of the land-based Pennsylvania casinos have certificates to offer online poker in the state.
Four of these have launched a poker room to date:
The other three, which have not yet used their certificate, are:
Parx has the technology (through GAN) to launch a poker product under its own brand, but hasn’t done so yet. To date, there’s no word on what Valley Forge or Wind Creek have planned.
PokerStars hit the ground running in Pennsylvania, offering several online tournament series during its first few months of operation. Most mirror the major recurring festivals found on the operator’s global dot-com site, including:
WSOP.com launched in July 2021 as a PA-exclusive site. Until Pennsylvania joins MSIGA, PA players can only play with other people in the state. It is not possible to play for a true WSOP bracelet from Pennsylvania at this time. However, WSOP.com has announced the creation of a PA-exclusive bracelet series. The eight-tournament event should tide Pennsylvanians over until the multi-state issue gets sorted out.
BetMGM and Borgata will surely join in the fun at some point. As newer brands, they haven’t yet developed flagship series like PokerStars’ COOPs. Their first series in both Pennsylvania and Michigan were given the simple title Online Poker Series, and came with modest guarantees.
While PokerStars PA is currently the only online poker room operating in the state, the banking options it offers aren’t terribly different from what you’ll find for most online gambling sites in other states.
There are a variety of ways to deposit funds, including:
Withdrawal methods aren’t quite as plentiful, although there are multiple options for players.
When depositing or withdrawing from online poker sites in Pennsylvania, be sure to make note of minimums or maximums, expected wait times for withdrawals, and any other policies.
Sites also allow players to set deposit limits for themselves if desired.
Whatever state you’re playing in, most and probably all the operators will have some selection of bonuses and promotions on offer. These will provide you with a little extra money and, in some cases, some added fun while you’re at it.
Online poker bonuses come in several different forms. Some are automatic, while others require you to opt in through the client. Those you receive for signing up or depositing may need you to enter an appropriate bonus code.
Here are the basic categories of poker bonus:
Many sites offer you a small, strings free bonus just to get you in the door. These may or may not require a special promo code. Some may even be exclusive to our readers, so make sure to sign up using our links.
A typical no deposit signup bonus could work out anywhere between $10 and $50, though rarely more than that. Some sites may give you cash, possibly with a play through requirement. Others may give you some mixture of cash game credit and tournament tickets.
First deposit bonuses are similar to no deposit signup bonuses, except that they take effect when you fund your account rather than when you register. Some sites offer one of each, often called a welcome package.
First deposit bonuses almost always take the form of a deposit match. This will have a percentage and a maximum. For instance, a 100% match up to $500 would mean that whatever amount you deposit, you’ll get the same amount in bonus credit, to a maximum of $500. If it was only a 50% match, you’d need to deposit $1000 to receive the same bonus.
There will almost always be a play through requirement with deposit matches. You’ll have to generate a certain amount of rake or each a certain number of loyalty points to unlock the bonus and turn it into real money that you can play with or withdraw. This usually happens in increments, for instance in $10 blocks every time you hit a milestone in your play.
Reload bonuses are another form of deposit bonus, available for subsequent deposits after the first. They usually require bonus codes and a certain minimum deposit. There may even be multiple bonus codes available at one time, forcing you to choose which one you want to deposit with (or make multiple deposits to use them all).
Reload bonuses can take the form of a deposit match, similar to first deposit bonuses. However, there are other types as well, often available only for a limited time.
For instance, when a site hosts a special tournament series, it will often have an associated reload bonus. Using a code corresponding to the series in question, the bonus you’ll receive will often take the form of tickets to smaller events in the series, or satellite entries to try to win your way into the Main Event.
Most poker rooms also have a loyalty program of some sort. Each dollar you pay in rake or in tournament entry fees will earn you points. Beyond those basic facts, such programs can vary widely from site to site.
Many loyalty programs are tiered, offering better rewards for higher volumes of play. Some award cash only, others have randomized prizes. Some instead have a store built into the app, allowing you to purchase gifts. Some loyalty programs are specific to the poker room, while other companies have a unified rewards program for poker, casino and sports betting.
Exactly how a site’s loyalty program works is one of the major differentiating factors between operators, so be sure to read up on them before making your decision.
Many poker operators run special promotions on a regular basis, some more frequently than others. These can be limited time deposit bonuses, happy hours, freerolls, challenges, mini games, or almost anything else you can imagine.
Sometimes, the poker room will bring these promotions to your attention via email or with a pop-up when you log in. Other times, they’re hidden away in a tab of the client and require you to opt in.
These days, most poker operators don’t go as wild with special promotions as they did in the years before the US crackdown on online gambling. However, what promotions they do have are often geared towards recreational players. Some can work out to be better than 100% rakeback if you’re only playing a small amount and for low stakes, so it’s worth keeping an eye on what’s available.
There are a lot of different ways to play poker, not all of which are available everywhere. The main reason for this is the available player base. The less popular a given format or game is, the less likely you’ll find it in an area with a limited player pool.
This is will continue to be an issue for legal online poker in the US until such time as interstate poker becomes widely adopted. Fortunately, Pennsylvania’s population is sufficient that the options aren’t too limited. PokerStars tends to have more variety than its competitors, however, so what’s available now is probably not going to change as other sites launch.
Here are some of the options you’ll find in Pennsylvania:
Also known as ring games, cash games are what the average person thinks of when they hear the word “poker.” Chips in these games are equivalent to real money, and you can add more money to the table in between hands, up to a certain maximum, usually 100 times the big blind. You can also stop playing whenever you like and cash your chips out.
Ring game tables come in various sizes, from heads-up (two players) up to a maximum of nine seats at most sites.
Also known as multi-table tournaments or MTTs, scheduled tournaments run at specific times, as the name implies. Once you’ve signed up for one, you’re locked in until you run out of chips or are the last player standing, so make sure you leave yourself enough time to finish.
Some of these tournaments attract large fields, often in the hundreds of players. Typically, the top 10% to 15% of finishers receive a payout, with a large chunk of the prize pool going to the eventual winner. This makes tournaments the style of poker with the highest volatility, and even professionals can go on very long downswings. Conversely, a single win in a big enough tournament can be life changing.
Most sites have a few special series each year, in addition to their regular weekly schedules. These will feature bigger fields, more prize money, and sometimes formats that you won’t see much the rest of the year.
Traditional sit-and-go (SNG) tournaments can be either single table or multi table. In most respects, they’re identical to scheduled tournaments except for the fact that they run on demand and have a fixed number of seats. For instance, a 27-player SNG will take signups until three 9-handed tables are filled, then start immediately with no further entries allowed.
SNGs are a good option if you like the tournament experience but not the time commitment. Single-table SNGs typically take under an hour to complete, and ones with Turbo or Hyper-Turbo structures are faster still.
Lottery sit-and-goes (LSNG) are often known by trademarked names specific to each site. For instance, PokerStars calls them Spin & Go, and Partypoker just Spins. Players call them by these names more often than the generic term. The concept was originally pioneered by the French site Winamax in 2013, but has been adopted almost industry-wide since then.
LSNGs are very high-speed, very short-handed SNGs. Three players and three-minute blind levels are pretty typical. They are usually winner-take-all.
The “lottery” aspect is what distinguishes them from conventional SNGs, and refers to their variable prize pools. Once all players are seated, the spin of a wheel or slot machine reel will determine the prize pool they’ll play for.
The minimum payout is usually the most common, and often amounts to 2 times the buy-in. The size and odds for higher payouts varies from site to site. PokerStars offers a 1 in 1,000,000 shot at a jackpot paying 10,000 times the buy-in to the winner and 1000 times to each runner up as a consolation.
Since the poker boom of the early 2000s, No-Limit Texas Hold’em (NLHE) has become virtually synonymous with “poker” in the public’s imagination. However, there are plenty of other poker variants.
For starters, you’ll see Limit and Pot Limit betting structures. Limit games have a fixed bet size, which increases only once per hand, usually on the third betting round. Pot-Limit games work similarly to No-Limit, but there’s a maximum bet or raise, determined by the number of chips already in the pot.
Aside from NLHE, the most popular poker game these days is Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO). Omaha gives players four cards each instead of two, and features the rule that a player’s hand must be formed using exactly two hole cards and three community cards.
Any reasonably populated poker site should have ample NLHE and PLO tables available. Other formats exist too, but you may have a harder time finding opponents.
Stud variants are a less common option these days, though they were the most popular game type prior to the 1990s. These games have no community cards, but players’ personal cards arrive one at a time, some face up and others face down.
Draw variants have neither community cards nor face-up personal cards, but allow players to discard cards and draw new ones one or more times during the hand.
Lowball games reverse the order of hand values, tasking players with making a hand of low-valued unpaired cards. Lowball draw games are the most common. There are also Hi/Lo variants, including of Omaha and Stud, where players seek to form both the highest and lowest hand, often resulting in a split pot.
Online poker isn’t available legally in most of the US, and Pennsylvania players are very fortunate that it is in their state. Given that you have the opportunity to play on a legal real money poker site, you should take it!
Here are some of the advantages to playing legally:
How do you know whether a given site is legal or not? It’s usually pretty simple:
Besides real money poker sites like PokerStars PA, BetMGM, Borgata, and WSOP, players in the state can also play on Global Poker — a sweepstakes site available in 49 states.
Sweepstakes online poker does have some advantages for Pennsylvanians, including access to a multi-state player pool. Some players will, however, always prefer the traditional model of real money online poker.
Below are some common questions and answers related to online poker in Pennsylvania.
Yes. Real money online poker in the state is legal, as long as you are playing on a regulated PA online poker site. Sweepstakes online poker is legal as well.
There are four legal options for online poker in PA. There are four brands: PokerStars, WSOP.com, BetMGM Poker and Borgata Poker. However, the latter two operate on the same network, share traffic and are more or less identical products, so it’s probably more accurate to think that there are three options.
Just like in the brick-and-mortar poker rooms in the state’s casinos, players must be at least 21 years of age to play poker online in Pennsylvania.
Players need not be PA residents to play online poker, but they do need to be physically located within the state in order to play. Sites use geo-location software to determine players are indeed within state lines when trying to play online poker in the state.
Yes. PokerStars returned to Pennsylvania in November 2019, opening the state’s first fully legal and regulated online poker site.
When it comes to regulated, real-money online poker sites, the answer is not yet.
Pennsylvania sites are “ring-fenced,” meaning players can only play against other players in the state. The law does permit the creation of compacts with other states with legal online poker, however, so PA interstate poker could happen at a later date.
Meanwhile, sweepstakes poker sites like Global Poker do allow players from different states to play against each other.
The first online poker room to open in the state, PokerStars PA, generated an average of more than $2 million gross revenue per month and an average of around $365,000 in taxes per month during its first four months in operation.
Online poker sites in PA must pay the state 16% tax the total win. That’s considerably less than the tax rates faced by online casinos where the tax rate is 34% for table games and 54% for slots.
Click here for monthly updates on revenue and tax totals for Pennsylvania online poker rooms.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) licenses and regulates most forms of gambling in the state, including online poker.
PO Box 69060
Harrisburg, PA 17106-9060
Email: [email protected]