When Pennsylvania first legalized table games and live poker in early-2010, few imagined that within three years the Keystone State would usurp New Jersey as the nation’s second most profitable gaming market.
- 1 Pennsylvania’s best live poker rooms
- 2 Other live poker rooms at PA casinos
Unbeknownst to most, Pennsylvania played host to a thriving bar and social poker scene long before the first card was dealt at a state-regulated casino. But for locals looking for something more, namely in the way of high stakes cash and tournament action, there were only two options: play online or make the arduous trek to Atlantic City.
With the advent of live poker in PA, not only did it become more convenient for the state’s poker community to find a game, it provided those situated in New York City and northern New Jersey with better alternatives — alternatives they would soon take advantage of.
And thus began a major shakeup in the East Coast’s gambling scene.
Today, Pennsylvania plays host to a burgeoning poker scene. But given the wide disparity in size and offerings among its rooms, finding the right one at a PA casino can be a bit of a crapshoot.
To simplify matters, here’s a quick look at some of the best live poker PA has to offer.
Pennsylvania’s best live poker rooms
Judging by pure size, Parx Casino and its 80-table poker room is undoubtedly PA’s crown jewel. In fact, as the gross revenue leader among PA poker rooms, it’s also far and away the most profitable.
Parx hosts a bevy of daily poker tournaments, an illustrious higher buy-in tournament series (Big Stax), and the most varied selection of cash game offerings in PA. Its high stakes area is teeming with life, with games ranging from 10-10 NLHE all the way up to 150-300 mixed games.
Casuals and players with lesser monetary ambitions can try their luck at one of a myriad of lower stakes No Limit, PLO and O8 games.
Plus, things are about to get even better for players at Parx.
The Parx Poker Room is planning to move to a new location inside the main building as part of the casino’s upcoming expansion.
The new room will host 48 tables and boats some high-end finishes. This includes 22 high definition TVs and an exclusive 3-table VIP high-limit poker enclave.
Sands Bethlehem’s poker room also makes the grade.
At 30 tables, Sands’ dedicated poker area is notably smaller than Parx’s, and its location smack dab in the middle of the casino floor may prove oft-putting to those who prefer quieter settings.
But make no mistake, Sands attracts a wealth of players from PA, northern New Jersey, and New York City.
Given its smaller size and exceedingly high popularity, players will often find themselves regulated to the wait list, especially during peak hours. However, management does everything within its power to accommodate player needs.
Like Parx, Sands holds a semi-regular deep stack series (DeepStack Extravaganza) and daily tournaments. Overall, Sands’ tournament schedule proves to be a bit more varied than the one found at Parx.
Now, if only Sands weren’t owned by casino mogul and staunch internet gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson.
Nipping at Sands’ heels is Harrah’s Philadelphia. The 28-table poker room’s claim to fame is it’s affiliation with the WSOP, of which the most notable benefit is its permission to host WSOP Main Event satellites.
Branding aside, Harrah’s poker room in many ways resembles the Sands, albeit smaller and slightly less profitable.
Harrah’s poker foray holds a slight edge over PA’s top poker rooms in the areas of game selection, room management, and most notably, promotions. A Bad Beat Jackpot and high hand rewards are just a few of the delectable promos to be had at Harrah’s.
It’s also the only PA casino that accepts the vaulted Total Rewards card.
The Poker Night in America Poker Room at SugarHouse Casino calls itself Philadelphia’s first poker room.
The room hosts 28 tables and runs tournaments six days a week and twice on Saturdays and Sundays — not to mention the huge slate of cash games.
There are 24/7 food options, in-seat text-to-order food service, and complimentary alcoholic beverages. Promotions include an instant high-hand progressive jackpot.
The poker room’s affiliation with the “Poker Night in America” TV show also sees it host televised events.
Other live poker rooms at PA casinos
Rivers has the advantage of boasting the only large poker room in western PA. And while the 30-table room has yet to fully realize its potential, the inclusion of the Pittsburgh Poker Open should solidify its place among Pennsylvania’s poker heavyweights.
For now, Rivers is the best of the rest.
Hollywood Casino at Penn National
For a 16-table poker room, an annual non-banking gross revenue margin of more than $4 million is very impressive.
Hollywood serves up a variety of cash games and plays host to a multitude of qualifiers into bigger events. But it’s hard to imagine such a tiny room ever hosting an attractive tournament series of its own.
Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs
Another highly profitable, yet smallish, poker room, Mohegan Sun’s live poker room features 18 tables and spreads a variety of the most popular poker games with a range of limits.
Mohegan Sun Pocono runs daily tournaments with Texas Hold’em and bounty structures. Promotions include a Bad Beat Jackpot for both cash games and tournaments.
Plus, there is a progressive Royal Flush Jackpot promotion, adding $25 to the pot for each of the four suits daily.
Give Mohegan credit for its Bad Beat Jackpot and relaxed atmosphere; just don’t expect to find big action.
At Pittsburgh’s other poker room at the Meadows Casino, players are treated to a full menu service and an awe-inspiring view of live horse races.
The room features 14 tables with an open view of the live racing action on the track. Texas Hold’em and Omaha are both spread 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The room runs a regular tournament schedule, hosting tournaments twice a day, six days a week, and one on Sundays.
The venue also hosts special events throughout the year, now including a stop on the televised Heartland Poker Tour.
Promotions include a High Hand Jackpot Progressive paying out when a Royal Flush is hit and a set Bad Beat Promotion paying off when Four-of-a-Kind is beaten.
Mount Airy Casino
A once thriving poker room, Mount Airy has lost the majority of its poker faithful to the nearby Sands.
The new upstairs location was a welcome change, but the lack of business has caused the casino to cut back its amount of poker tables significantly, all the way down to nine.
The Poker Parlor at the Mount Airy Casino Resort is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week. The room spreads Texas Hold’em, Stud, and Omaha, no-limit and limit. Promotions include random seat and high hand promotions.
Presque Isle Downs & Casino
A beautifully positioned, reasonably well-managed poker room located on the coast of magnificent Lake Erie, Presque Isle’s offering is quaint yet hardly a poker player’s paradise.
Unfortunately, lately the room’s popularity has waned, with revenue margins among the lowest in PA.
The room now runs with just seven tables. Games spread include Texas Hold’em and Omaha. The room opens at noon on weekdays and 10 a.m. local time on weekends, staying open as long as there is action.
There are regular multi-table and single-table tournaments. The Presque Isle Downs & Casino poker room also offers full-service dining.
In addition to regular comps, poker players can earn a $10 dinner voucher after only three hours of play.