Pennsylvania is preparing for a much-anticipated launch of regulated online poker. Once it does, it will make regulated online poker play available to the population a nearly 13 million people that live in the Keystone State. With its population, Pennsylvania will be the largest state to legally offer online poker in the United States, eclipsing that of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware, and adding a welcomed boost to the regulated US online poker market.
Whether you’re an experienced online poker player or someone that’s new to the virtual felt, you likely have questions surrounding what to expect when real-money online poker finally becomes live in Pennsylvania. To help provide you with some answers, PocketFives tapped into the community and spoke to those with experience playing online poker in the new regulated landscape.
We spoke with some of the top players from New Jersey, where online poker is legal, regulated, and growing. Here’s what Michael ‘Gags30’ Gagliano, Daniel ‘centrfieldr’ Lupo, Jon ‘itsmejon’ Borenstein, and 2012 WSOP Main Event champion Greg Merson had to say.
What can Pennsylvania players expect when online poker launches in the state?
Michael ‘Gags30’ Gagliano: “Like others, I’m not positive what we’ll see, but I think players can expect a nice mix of cash games and tournaments from the various sites. Players need to remember, though: these sites won’t be like you remember them from 2011 – they are going to be much smaller. That means fewer games at off-peak hours and less liquidity when it comes to things like sit-n-gos. But this shouldn’t’ discourage Pennsylvania players. Just because you can’t win $100,000 on a Sunday doesn’t mean that there won’t be good tournaments. Don’t let a ‘small’ first-place prize turn you off. A smaller field means you have a much higher chance of winning that tournament. So sure, $10,000 isn’t as alluring as $100,000, but having a real shot at winning a tournament instead of buying into what can sometimes feel like a lottery ticket is a positive in my book!”
Daniel ‘centrfieldr’ Lupo: “Based upon experiences with New Jersey’s intro and when the Nevada merger came on board, there were some initial hiccups around the launch times. So I would recommend signing up early and preparing yourself for some early bumps in the road, such as potential software or geo-location issues, but not to be deterred by them as they tend to be short-lived. But the initial ‘bumpy road period’ will have its perks, too. I’m assuming (hoping) there will be a number of welcome bonuses, new-player bonuses, welcome freerolls, as well as some sort of initial online tournament series to celebrate the expansion… so signing up early would definitely be to a player’s benefit to take advantage of these timely promotions.
“I would also recommend that Pennsylvania players make sure they have viable internet connections, and back-up options like some sort of mobile hotspot option, as well as a strong wifi signal which will help alleviate a lot of the early potential geo-location headaches.”
Jon ‘itsmejon’ Borenstein: “Pennsylvania players can expect to have a new poker outlet in addition to the many casinos in the Pennsylvania area, which should only help grow the game and draw new players in that wouldn’t otherwise be able to make it to a casino regularly.”
Greg Merson: “I think when Pennsylvania launches there will be a decent amount of traffic to start, but unfortunately with only approximately 12 million people, I don’t think it will be all that special in the long run.”
What are the benefits of regulated online poker and why should players in Pennsylvania be excited about it?
Gagliano: “The by far biggest benefit of regulated Pennsylvania online poker is safety and peace of mind in playing online poker again. Legal and regulated sites mean that players won’t have to worry about having to deposit using cryptocurrencies, or worrying that a site won’t pay out their cash-out. It means that players won’t have to worry if a site is ‘rigged’ and can come to expect the same level of game security that they get when they play in Pennsylvania brick-and-mortar casinos.”
Lupo: “Having a regulated site where your money is safe has been a huge peace of mind for me versus playing on unregulated sites, which always give you a sense of worry. Payouts are fast and secure and there are numerous safe deposit options. But overall, the best thing about online poker in my experience has been the convenience of it. With a family, it allows me to be home more, versus spending time in a casino, and work around my family’s schedule so I can have dinner with them every night and put the kids to bed. And if you’re playing a cash session and just not feeling it, you can comfortably stop playing and do something else, whereas a casino trip has a lot more overhead and commitment time-wise.”
Borenstein: “It’s nice to play online without worrying about shady practice or the sites getting shut down out of nowhere. You know your money is safe. I think that for anyone who is serious about poker or wants to get serious about poker, regulated online sites are a great tool to have as a way to practice and get in exponentially more hands than you would if you were playing live, and being able to do it all from the comfort of your own home.”
Merson: “The benefits of playing in a regulated industry mean you know your money is safe, the play is secure, and there are no ways for outside countries to VPN the system.”
With the anticipation of Pennsylvania online poker being very high, what are you most looking forward to when thinking about having Pennsylvania on board for online poker?
Gagliano: “The thing I look most forward to with Pennsylvania poker is just another state coming online, thus giving more players in the Northeast a chance to play online poker again. It also brings the U.S. one state closer to allowing everyone the ability to once again play poker from the comfort of their homes.”
Lupo: “Being primarily a tournament player, it’s always nice when the increased player pools can generate larger prize pools. These larger prize pools are like a domino effect and not only encourage players from Pennsylvania to join the action but will also increase the traffic in other states that previously may have been skipping some tournaments due to smaller guarantees than they would like.
“I’m also looking forward to a new influx of players. After playing in a small market like New Jersey for the past 4-5 years, some fresh faces would be a welcomed change.”
Borenstein: “I’m looking forward to increased prize pools, player traffic, and more multi-table tournaments to play each night. I’m also looking forward to what it means to overall growth of online poker in the US. Hopefully, more and more states will follow suit and begin legalizing online poker.”
Merson: “I actually don’t think Pennsylvania will join the New Jersey pool anytime soon, if at all. This Wire Act issue may cause Nevada to pull out of New Jersey and if that happens I think the hopes of more states joining in are bleak. If they do join, I gladly welcome the liquidity as volume has dropped a good bit in New Jersey over the years.”