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  1. In what is seen as a big win for interstate online poker, the First Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission in their case against the U.S. Department of Justice and its revised opinion of the Wire Act. As originally reported by OnlinePokerReport.com, the ruling upholds the decision of a lower court that the reinterpretation of the Wire Act by the Department of Justice in 2018 is incorrect. In that revised opinion, the DOJ sought to expand the coverage of the Wire Act beyond sports betting to include all forms of gambling which included lotteries and online poker. The Wire Act of 1961 was originally enacted to prohibit the use of "wire communication" to assist in the interstate placing bets or wagers (or the collection of earnings) in any "sporting event or contest." In 2011, the DOJ released an opinion that events and activities that fall outside of the "sporting event" wording are outside of the Wire Act's purview. Then, in 2018, the DOJ reversed itself and attempted to extend the law's coverage. The appellate court’s decision is a potential boom for online poker in the United States. Even though online poker was not at the forefront of the New Hampshire Lottery Commission’s case, the industry should benefit providing the decision stands. It clears up the legality of whether states that legalize online poker, as Pennsylvania and Michigan have recently done, can join or create their own interstate network as Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have already done with WSOP.com being the first and only network to date to take advantage of the opportunity. In addition to opening the gates for new states to join an interstate network, it also reinforces that what has already been established can continue to grow. Prior to the 2019 World Series of Poker, organizers were unclear if players in New Jersey would be allowed to participate in online bracelet events as they had in year's past due to the language in the DOJ’s 2018 interpretation. After an initial loss in federal court about the Wire Act, the DOJ let it be known that they would not start enforcing on other forms of gambling until 2020 at the earliest. Now, the decision by the First Circuit Court of Appeals leaves the DOJ, should it choose to proceed, the final option of appealing to the Supreme Court of the United States. Given the current political landscape, the DOJ may choose not to do this in which case the lawsuit would be complete and the interpretation nullified. The Supreme Court may also opt not to hear the case which would be an end to matters as well. The new presidential administration will likely be a factor as well. According to Bloomberg News Network, President Biden is on record as not supporting the DOJ’s Wire Act expansion. Additionally, as reported by CDC Gaming Reports, back in December 2019 the Biden campaign issued a statement saying that Biden “doesn’t support adding unnecessary restrictions to the gaming industry like the Trump Administration has done.” With this being the likely end of the line for the case, players in New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware are likely to see some new screen names at the tables as online poker in the U.S. prepares to expand in 2021.
  2. It’s not easy to crack into online poker’s worldwide top-100 rankings. But for Americans who play inside U.S. borders on regulated sites, it’s even tougher. United States-based players don’t have access to the massive player pools and huge guarantees that some of the top players grind in order to rack up leaderboard points. For these pros, it takes a doubling-down of volume and effort in order to earn their spot and recognition among online poker’s best. And this week, four of America's best have succeeded in doing just that. Frank ‘thewholefunk’ Funaro Jr. (#52) New Jersey’s Frank Funaro is the current #1-ranked player in the United States and currently sits at #52 in the world. Funaro is in the midst of a career run, sitting just one spot off his career-high ranking and speed toward $1 million in total online poker earnings. Funaro has been stockpiling PLB points all summer including 19 PLB-qualifying scores in August. However, he really heated up after he took down the September 14 edition of the WSOP.com $100,000 Player Appreciation tournament for $19,741 and 325.69 PLB points. Just two weeks later, Funaro grabbed gold again by winning the WSOP.com $2,000 buy-in $150,000 guaranteed NLH High Roller for another $44,489 and 446.65 points. For the entire month, Funaro pulled in 38 cashes for a total of just over $102,000 in earnings. After a solid two-month grind, Funaro has been taking it easy. With just 11 cashes in October and, as of yet, no major recorded scores in November, he’ll find himself slipping down the rankings soon. But after all his hard work, he’s still likely to have a spot in the top-100 for a little while longer. David ‘dehhhhh’ Coleman (#62) David Coleman has just added to his long list of accomplishments, which includes a win in the New Jersey WPT Online Poker Open earlier this year, by reaching a career-high worldwide ranking of #62. Coleman, who is perpetually in the conversation when one talks about the best U.S. online poker players, has been steadily picking up PLB points throughout September and October. However, on October 28 he really received a boost with a pair of five-figure scores. Coleman just narrowly missed out on picking up a WSOP Circuit ring with a third-place finish in the WSOP Circuit Event #13 ($100,000 NLH High Roller, 6-Max) for $25,183 and 273.63 PLB points. The same day, he took down the WSOP Tuesday Showdown for another $17,302 and 246.39 PLB points. Coleman has continued his grind into November, already picking up some key PLB points including a win in the PokerStars NJ $250 Super Tuesday for $5,318. As more results come in, Coleman has a clear shot at cracking the top 50. Yong ‘ykwon17’ Kwon (#90) World Series of Poker gold bracelet winner Yong Kwon currently sits at #90 in the world having been ranked as high as #47 just last year. Known for his dedication to grinding, Kwon has spent years being known as one of the most dominant players from the Garden State racking up accolades and often times holding the #1 U.S. ranking for months at a time. After taking the first two weeks off in October, Kwon racked up 47 in-the-money finishes with 15 scores of four-figures or higher. His heavy PLB point push came as the month was coming to a close with back-to-back victories on WSOP.com. First, he took down the $20,000 Weekly Thursday for $7,162 and 157.16 PLB points. Then he added a win in the $10,000 Weekly Friday for another $2,800 plus 100.00 PLB points. His spotlight score took place in the WSOP.com PLO Mania Event #13 ($25,000 PLO) for $9,770 and 193.29 points. Kwon kicked November off with a fast start taking third place in the PokerStars NJ Sunday Special for another $4,721 adding to his more than $3.75 million in lifetime online earnings. Angel ‘ChromeKing’ Lopez (#92) Angel Lopez broke through into the top 100 this week for the first time, rising 16 spots to a career-high ranking of #92. Lopez used a flurry of PLB-qualifying cashes in recent weeks to propel himself up the rankings. It got started with a third-place finish in the October 21 edition of the WSOP.com Tuesday Showdown for $6,398. He followed that up with a run in the WSOP Circuit Event #11 ($250,000 NLH Main Event) for $1,319. Then, he went on a three-tournament tear in earl November picking up points in bulk. First, a deep run in the November 2 WSOP.com $100,000 GTD Sunday brought him $2,707. He followed that up two days later with a third-place finish in the PokerStars NJ $250 Super Tuesday for $2,707. Finally, he capped it all off with a victory in the BorgataPoker.com Mega $535 Tuesday and taking home the $5,759 first-place prize. Players qualify for the online poker worldwide rankings by adding their screen names to their PocketFives profile.
  3. As Pennsylvania continues to discuss the specifics of an online gaming framework in the state, a new bill and continued debate over proposed tax rates have taken center stage. On April 4, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passedH 271, which legalizes tablet gaming in airports. Although this bill only authorizes tablet gaming, legislators see this as their path to becoming the fourth state to legalize online gaming since 2013. Pennsylvania Rep. George Dunbar recently told PocketFives that the ball was in the Senate’s court when it comes to finalizing the deal for online gaming and that’s exactly what H 271 represents. By passing H 271 without many details on online gaming, the House is allowing the Senate to essentially fill in the blanks with their preferred options on an online gaming market. Once the Senate can agree on their framework for online gaming and pass a bill, it will then be kicked back over to the House for final approval. As the Senate continues to mull it options, there are a couple of factors that could trip up the process. Could the Tax Rate Cause Trouble? The Senate continues to have a number of gambling options on the table, including aspects from one proposal introduced by Sen. Thomas Killon. This bill is identical to the original gaming bill proposed by Dunbar in the house. Additionally, Sen. Jay Costa has introduced a gaming bill and one of the biggest differences between these two proposals is the tax rate. Costa has proposed a 25 percent tax rate, which is nearly twice as high as Dunbar and Killon’s 14 percent proposal. The higher the tax rate, the more concern that iGaming may not be sustainable in Pennsylvania. To further complicate matters, a new threat, in the form of an even higher tax rate, has emerged. OnlinePokerReport.com has recently reported that Republican Sen. Tommy Tomlinson is trying to rally colleagues to support an online tax rate equivalent to what land-based casinos pay – 54 percent for slots and 16 percent for table games. If Tomlinson’s advocacy gains enough momentum, it may be enough to quelch any prospect of an iGaming market in Pennsylvania. With deliberations ongoing, the Senate is expected to vote on online gaming within the next two weeks. Video Game Terminals Also on the Docket Another potential speed bump for online gaming in Pennsylvania could be a proposal for video game terminals (VGT) in bars, private clubs, and other places around the state. This has been a topic discussed and rejected previously, but reports show that the effort may have more support this time around. According to the Pennsylvania State Police, there is an estimated more than 40,000 illegal VGTs throughout the state and supporters of VGT legislation are looking to regulate and tax this underground market. But for casinos, the fear is how these VGTs would presumable eat away at their bottom line. There’s a lot for Pennsylvania lawmakers to dig into and time is starting to run short. May 26 would appear to be the deadline for lawmakers as that is the date that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave lawmakers to fix the local tax share on slot machines after it ruled the current setup to be unconstitutional.
  4. [caption width="640"] Zachary Gruneberg is among the players looking forward to the return of online poker to Pennsylvania (WPT Photo)[/caption] Poker players in Pennsylvania rejoiced when the state formally signed online gaming into legislation, making years of waiting finally a reality. From his home in Boalsburg, PA, Zachary ‘hustlergrune’ Gruneberg was among those celebrating as the recent homeowner is now able to go back to his roots in online poker. A lot has changed for Gruneberg since Black Friday, and he looks forward to seeing what the future holds for his home state once button clicking commences in 2018. In his heyday, the Season XV World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open runner-up was playing, in his estimation, 60-70 hours per week grinding online MTTs. Those hours added up to roughly $3 million in online earnings for Gruneberg. Today, the 28-year-old Gruneberg travels to the occasional live tournament and plays in home games in the State College, Pennsylvania area where he has lived his entire life. Online poker is something Gruneberg is happy to have back in his life but says he will not be devoting a full-time effort to it the way he once did. After Black Friday, Gruneberg bounced around between Costa Rica and Canada as moved forward with his online career. Eventually, a substance abuse addiction forced Gruneberg home where he was able to clean up his life through rehabilitation. Since 2014, Gruneberg has maintained his sobriety and credits the change for the ascension in his poker career. That summer, Gruneberg made three World Series of Poker final tables and fully immersed himself in the live scene. Gruneberg never planned on fully giving up his life as a Pennsylvanian and coincidentally closed on his new home only a few weeks prior to the recent news. Having familiarity with Pennsylvania’s player pool gives Gruneberg a unique perspective on what expectations should be for when play begins in the nation’s sixth-most populated state. “Online poker should be one of the greatest things that have ever happened to the state,” Gruneberg said. “All the people I see around the state, they love gambling and playing poker. There’s a lot of farmers in the area. What better than working out in the field and playing online poker to end the day?” The numbers that Gruneberg speaks of bear out, especially at Parx Casino. Located just outside of Philadelphia, the acclaimed Big Stax series runs five times per year and draws tens of thousands entries for 14 total tournaments. Gruneberg thinks those numbers will carry over to the online side of things. In terms of drawing new players, Gruneberg is looking more toward the younger market for how sites should be attracting that audience. A trend that Gruneberg has noticed in his home games is most of the players he is up against are in their 40s and 50s. When Gruneberg first came up in the online ranks, he played primarily on Full Tilt Poker due to his preference for the more appealing software choice. Given the popularity of video games for the early 20s demographic, Gruneberg senses they might be willing to try poker if, similiar to Full Tilt, there’s a video game design element to it. “I think there’s a good chance of a boom happening. The sites need to adjust their interface to attract people who play e-sports and hit them in the right way. If you hit the younger generation, there could be a poker boom in the state.” Gruneberg estimates that adding online poker to his day-to-day routine will help improve his overall bottom line. Playing cash games rather instead of tournaments also gives him the freedom to enjoy more of a social life with his fiance and spend time with friends in the area. When he came up in his late-teens and early-20s, Gruneberg burnt out from playing in front his computer for the dozens of hours each week. Once online comes back, Gruneberg admits he will have a long way to go to catch up to the technology he thinks his opponents will be using to try and gain any edge they can. “I’m behind the times. I’ve never used a HUD or watched a training video. As a whole, online is getting harder and harder. The great thing is, you can always get better at poker.” Another major question on the plate of the state’s poker development is the addition of primary online brands. Pennsylvania is one of the richest states of homegrown poker talent with 2015 WSOP Main Event champion Joe McKeehen, Paul Volpe, and Mark Herm earning their stripes online before moving on to the live game. The trio are current residents of the state and Gruneberg is curious about how much volume top players who also play live cash games will put in as the games get started. There are also potential expectations of players moving from other states to play in Pennsylvania, regardless of whether or not the state joins the joint player pool coalition forged by Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. Gruneberg, for one, is utilizing a “wait and see” approach. “Right away, that could happen. Word of mouth is pretty important. You hear about Jake Toole crushing games [in New Jersey] and how easy it is. If you can get that type of hype, people will move there. Grinders will move where their ROI is the highest. I’m more about balance.” There are many stories roaming through Pennsylvania of players whose lives have changed or may change with online poker available. Gruneberg’s is one of many and when the first hand is dealt in 2018, the next chapter of his poker career will officially begin.
  5. Hosted by PocketFives President and Editor in Chief Lance Bradley and poker writer Matt Clark, The Fives runs each week and covers the latest poker news, preview upcoming events, and debate the hottest topics in poker. On this week's episode, Lance and Matt talk about the latest DDoS attacks on online poker sites and the manner in which each site responded. They also recap the Seminole Hard Rock Poker Open Big 4 and partypoker Russia while also looking forward the European Poker Tour stop in Barcelona that gets underway this week. DOWNLOAD THIS EPISODE IN ITUNES GET THIS EPISODE ON STITCHER GET THIS EPISODE ON GOOGLE PLAY
  6. 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."
  7. A lot of people go to Atlantic City for their 21st birthday. The casinos give the birthday boy or girl the first opportunity to drink and gamble legally in one fun combination of some adult-only vices. Just a few days after hitting that milestone birthday, Pennsylvania online poker player Mike McNick made his way to the Borgata Hotel, but it wasn't necessarily about hitting the clubs or trying out the Wheel of Fortune slots. McNick went to play some poker. Even though he's played poker since he was in high school, McNick hasn't been able to play a live tournament in his home state of Pennsylvania or neighboring New Jersey until now. McNick, who has been playing online since June 2017 and is now one of the top-ranked online players in PA, picked up some cashes early in his online career and that only served as a catalyst for him to take the game more seriously. Every time he runs deep or earns another big score, it gets him excited to put in the work away from the table. "If I cash big in a tournament, that kind of just motivates me to study more," McNick admitted. "Even more recently, I got Raise Your Edge and I met one of the guys online who's 21, his name's Ian Matakis, 'RiverRiot72' on ACR. He's just a crusher and I've learned so much from him in general. Just seeing his success has motivated me too." Having first learned the game playing small-time stakes with buddies in high school, McNick didn't take the game too seriously. It wasn't until he got the bartending job he has now when he was introduced to the idea of playing poker professionally. "My manager, Anthony Mastragostino, used to be a professional and he still plays a lot. He got me into online poker and got me more seriously into it and showed me the ropes," said McNick. Even though he's one of the best players in Pennsylvania, he doesn't consider himself a professional poker player and might never actually go that route. "I call myself a semi-retired bartender and I work two days a week and then just grind poker Sundays and then maybe one or two days a week if I can fit time on my schedule," said McNick. He's currently in college and remains committed to a career in finance, preferably with a hedge fund or in investment banking, with poker serving more as a hobby. "Finance was my first passion. I would like to be in that field because, poker's just such a high variance, high turnover field if I go pro," said McNick." I'll definitely be playing in some capacity. But it's just a matter of, where I'm at there in life. But I would say hopefully having a job and then playing poker on the side." This summer, McNick will be making time in his schedule for his first trip to Las Vegas to play in some World Series of Poker events. The opening few weeks of the schedule come with a few opportunities for him to test his chops against WSOP crowds in lower buy-in, big field events. "I have it booked. I haven't booked the flight yet, but I booked the hotel at the Hard Rock, so I'm going to play the Big 50 and then the Millionaire Maker. Then I'm thinking about just doing a one-way ticket there. If I have some success there and try and just parlay it and stay out there," said McNick. He's also looking forward to being able to play on the regulated sites in Pennsylvania once they launch during the summer. He's also considered making the drive into New Jersey to play there while a number of the better players are living in Las Vegas. "I think I should definitely be open to that going forward. If it doesn't (happen) in PA or whatever, I could play there easily in the summer. It's an hour drive, " said McNick. Even though he's fortunate enough to live in a state that will soon have regulated online poker, McNick longs for the day when every US online poker player is playing on the same network. "I can't wait till it's just fully back in the U.S.," said McNick. "I just don't know if that's ever gonna happen." Whether it does or not, McNick has all of his options open.
  8. Pennsylvania poker players got the good news Wednesday – the launch of legal, set for July 15. Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole made the announcement at last week's PGCB board meeting, and the options will be plenty when the Keystone State’s poker rooms go live this summer. Seven casinos have been approved to operate online poker in Pennsylvania. Three of these casinos are partnering with big-name brands (WSOP/888, PokerStars and partypoker) that will expand their presence in the United States with the launch of their PA poker clients. Here’s a look at the seven companies, along with their land-based casino partners, approved to offer online poker in Pennsylvania. An eighth potential operator, Marina District Development Company/Borgata, has a pending petition filed with the PGCB. Approved Pennsylvania Online Poker Operators POKERSTARS (MOUNT AIRY CASINO RESORT) The world’s largest online poker operator returned to the U.S. in 2016 with the launch of PokerStarsNJ. PokerStars’ parent company, The Stars Group, announced a partnership with Mount Airy Casino Resort in August 2018, with the intention of operating online poker in Pennsylvania. The launch of a PokerStars PA site would put The Stars Group in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The addition of Pennsylvania’s 12.8-million population would more than double the market for PokerStars’ US operations. For now, as a result of the DOJ reversal of opinion on the Wire Act, these NJ and PA player pools are separate, as gambling-related transactions cannot cross state lines under the new ruling. Mount Airy Casino Resort operates one of the smallest live poker rooms in the state, but this partnership with The Stars Group indicates big plans for the online market. WSOP/888POKER (HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA) Caesars Entertainment is the parent company of both Harrah’s and the World Series of Poker. When Harrah’s Philadelphia launches its online poker room, the WSOP/888 brand will be operating in four states, but the PA player pool will be segregated from the merged WSOP/888 network operating in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. It’s currently unknown if this means both WSOP.com and 888Poker skins for Pennsylvania (like the New Jersey business model), or if this offering from Harrah’s will be a single WSOP-branded site. PARTYPOKER (POTENTIAL PARTNERSHIP WITH VALLEY FORGE CASINO) Valley Forge Casino is one of the seven casinos approved for the operation of online poker in Pennsylvania, but as of this writing doesn’t have an official partnership with an existing online poker operator. We can expect this partner to end up being Partypoker. Valley Forge Casino is owned by Boyd Gaming, which has a strategic partnership with GVC, the parent company of Partypoker. Partypoker returned to the U.S. in 2013 with the launch of Partypoker NJ, and this potential offering from Valley Forge could make Partypoker a big player in the Pennsylvania online poker economy. Like PokerStars and WSOP/888, however, partypoker’s offering will operate as a Pennsylvania-only network. GAN/KAMBI (PARX CASINO) Parx Casino is the leading casino brand in Pennsylvania and also home to the state’s largest live poker room, with 48 tables and regularly occurring special events. How this will translate to the casino’s online poker offering remains to be seen. Technology partners GAN and Kambi will provide the platform for Parx Casino’s online poker room. Both software companies are known for expertise in sports betting and other forms of online gambling, but neither has extensive experience producing online poker. Parx is a huge brand in Pennsylvania, but lacks a prominent online poker partner like PokerStars or Partypoker. IGT (HOLLYWOOD CASINO) Hollywood Casino is teaming up with gambling tech giant IGT for its online poker site, and while IGT is more known as an industry leader in slot machine technology, the company could end up being a major player in the online poker world. IGT introduced a completely revamped online poker platform at the 2016 Global Gaming Expo, and is the currently the operator of choice for all of Canada’s state-run, regulated poker sites. IGT’s poker software includes an impressive mobile platform and new games like Poker Challenge, a tournament where each player’s chip stack returns to the starting stack size after every hand, and chip gains and losses are tallied separately. A final score is tabulated at the end of the tournament to determine the winner. It’s clear that IGT wants to be a force in online poker, and the Hollywood Casino partnership will be its first shot at the U.S. market. RUSH STREET INTERACTIVE/KAMBI (SUGARHOUSE CASINO) Rush Street Gaming, parent company to Sugarhouse Casino, will roll out its poker platform under its in-house Rush Street Interactive company, and in partnership with Kambi, which is also one of Parx Casino’s technology partners. Much like the Parx brand, it remains to be seen what role poker will play in the overall strategy for Rush Street Gaming’s online gambling efforts. The Rush Street Interactive/Kambi partnership already operates an online casino and sports betting platform in New Jersey, but without online poker. Pennsylvania could see more of that same business model, as it’s currently unclear when the Sugarhouse Casino poker platform will actually launch. SANDS BETHLEHEM The Sands Bethlehem will be the last of the seven approved operators to launch an online poker platform. The casino is currently owned by Sheldon Adelson, one of the most powerful and fierce opponents of online gambling. The casino is slated to be sold to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians within the next year, however, and part of the conditions of the sale required current Sands Bethlehem ownership to apply for an online poker license. The license is approved, but the sale of the casino isn’t final yet.
  9. In part, much of what makes up a poker player’s journey are the opportunities that are presented to them. For 28-year old Philadelphia-based poker player Thai Ha, being granted big opportunities are something he has been afforded as of late. Not only did he win a coveted Platinum Pass to attend January’s PokerStars No Limit Hold'em Players Championship in the Bahamas but the launch of legalized and regulated online poker in Pennsylvania is seemingly right around the corner. “The Platinum Pass was a very fun experience,” Ha said. “I got really lucky to win the Pass and PokerStars made sure I had the best experience throughout the year even before the tournaments. It would have been so much better if I had made a deep run in it, but it’s all good. I have the best time there!” It’s true that even though Ha got to experience the thrill of being in the field of the PSPC, he was unable to secure a cash in the event. But the opportunity alone is one that any player would covet. Just like the opportunity to return to online poker inside the U.S. is one that many professional and recreational players are hoping to have back one day. “I have been waiting for Pennsylvania to legalize online for a while. I will, for sure, play on PA sites when it goes live if I can.” While no longer a full-time online grinder, there was a time when Ha put in plenty of volume online, including spending a number of years as a pro. “I have been playing poker since about 2013 when I was still in college - six years ago,” Ha said. “Since 2014, after I graduated and couldn’t get the job I wanted until very recently, my only income was from poker.” Since he began working full time, Ha has not put in the same kind of volume as he did when he was a pro, however, he’s still trying to make an online grind fit into his life. “I play online whenever I’m free from my [day job]. So, I play online whenever I get a chance, usually night time. I mostly play at Bovada and ACR, and to be honest, I only play because that is the only option I have at the moment. Those sites are great and all, but it is still unregulated. Whenever I have some large sum of money in there, I always either try to sell it right away or cash out ASAP. I’m not comfortable having lots of money on those sites,” Ha said. “I would say because those sites are the only option that I have, I have to play there.” Since the beginning of his own poker journey, Ha has also turned his attention to playing live. In fact, nowadays he considers himself closer to being a live pro with the current state of online poker. He has over $900,000 in total live earnings, including a mammoth first-place victory in the opening event of the 2016 Lucky Hearts Poker Open. It was a $350 buy-in that brought him over $230,000. Today, Ha’s work in performing franchising duties with Mr. Wish, a bubble-tea store he is bringing from Houston to Philadelphia, keeps him incredibly busy. But even with a packed schedule, poker is never too far from his sights. As PA poker goes live, Ha is just one of the many local players that will be diving into the player pool as a vital part of the initial growth stage. “I know many poker players from the East Coast and I’m sure that a lot of people that play poker have hopes for when Pennsylvania goes live. I know a few people who have asked me about this recently and they’ve been waiting for one of the poker sites to open at any time.” As for what Ha hopes to see when he’s able to log on from his Philly home, it’s the same as many poker players across the country. “I think the future of U.S. online poker is very exciting. I’m hoping to see more and more young talented poker players living the dream that I once did. It is the opportunity that right now not many young poker players get to experience.”
  10. A 15-year veteran of the online poker scene, 34-year-old Andrew 'Head218' Carnevale is one of many top-ranked online poker players in Pennsylvania looking forward to the impending launch of legalized and regulated online poker in his home state. Carnevale, who currently works full-time in providing investment products to investment professionals, has been playing long enough to remember the heyday of online poker and the pain of Black Friday. The return of online poker to Pennsylvania represents a big step for the evolution of US online poker as well as the next step in Carnevale's own poker journey. “I guess my first experience was obviously kind of playing at the dinner table with my grandma and grandpa…stupid card games, probably like five card draw and whatever game the old times used to play," Carnevale said when reflecting on his start in poker. “I really didn’t get into Hold’em until I was in college. I went to school in Washington, DC and I was of the age when the World Series of Poker was on TV,” Carnevale recalls. “Watched that. It might’ve been even before Moneymaker won and I just fired up an account on PokerStars. Just kinda…got going.” Like many who took a flyer on the fledgling field of online poker, the game provided him an avenue of entertainment and competition. He played small stakes cash and tournaments, just looking to bink a tournament or two. “I would just fire online and probably didn’t even have any idea what I was doing.” But over time, Carnevale leveled up, taking online poker more seriously and he even thought about taking a shot at going pro. “I had some aspirations [of turning pro]. After I graduated college I was a caddy for a private golf club. I had cash on me and we would go down to Atlantic City and play live. That was when I was 21, 22, 23 and I thought about it. But as much as I loved the winning sessions, I couldn’t stand losing. I didn’t have the right mentality to handle the swings that you need to in order to be a professional,” he said. But those swings didn’t stop him from staying in the game. Not by a long shot. Carnevale has been a member of PocketFives since 2007, playing small-mid stakes tournaments whenever his busy schedule would allow. He currently has over $200,000 in lifetime earnings and sits as the #4-ranked player in Pennsylvania. Nowadays, he continues to play tournaments on off-shore sites like America’s Card Room and he’s been splashing around in PLO cash games. Having spent some time in New Jersey, he’s ready to take the plunge into the soon-to-be alive regulated online sites of PA. “I’ve been waiting for it for quite some time now,” Carnevale said. “To be honest, I would much prefer to play on the regulated sites, such as the New Jersey sites, then the non-regulated sites - just based on my experience there. "But, yea, I’m totally excited. I don’t know if it’ll change my schedule as far as how much time I spend with it, but it will certainly add an option that I’m looking forward to.” Having played on the regulated sites in New Jersey, Carnevale is hoping that not only will online poker in the U.S. continue to grow but the online operators that are currently offering poker in New Jersey and are coming to Pennsylvania will continue to grow as well. “I just hope that these companies, if they decide to get into it, really spend time with the software,” he said, expressing frustration at some of the current options that are currently rolled out in New Jersey. “I also hope it becomes a competitive landscape that does right by the online community that wants to play and offers the best services that they can in order for everybody to have the best capability to log on and enjoy it.” Carnevale has long since put those pro aspirations behind him, but he continues to 'log on and enjoy' online poker. Although he not sure how often he’ll be playing, he still does have ideas of what may be next for him. “I’m really enjoying PLO cash games in general. One thing though, especially in live poker, I’d love to have a big score again…kind of get your name out there. I’d love to take a trip to the World Series of Poker and have the opportunity to play the Main Event."
  11. Legal online poker in Pennsylvania finally goes live on July 15. Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Executive Director Kevin O’Toole made the announcement at a PGCB meeting Wednesday, and players in the Keystone State can look forward to enjoying regulated online gambling and poker this summer. Seven Pennsylvania casinos have been approved to offer online poker, which became the fourth U.S. state to legalize online gambling in October 2017. Online poker giants like PokerStars, partypoker, and 888Poker have partnered with some of these casinos and will finally debut their PA-based poker clients. The Pennsylvania casinos slated to offer online poker, along with their technology partners, are as follows: Mount Airy Casino Resort (PokerStars) HARRAH’S PHILADELPHIA (WSOP/888poker) VALLEY FORGE CASINO (partypoker) Parx Casino (Gan/Kambi) Hollywood Casino (IGT) Sugarhouse Casino (Rush Street Interactive/Kambi) Sands Bethlehem (TBD) An eighth potential operator, Marina District Development Company/Borgata, has filed a petition to offer online gambling in the state as well. DOJ Opinion Delays Launch Originally expected in early 2019, the launch of legal online gambling in Pennsylvania has been delayed, partly due to the US Department of Justice issuing a reversal of opinion on the Wire Act in January. The unexpected reversal mandated that all infrastructure related to Pennsylvania’s online gambling launch must be entirely contained within state borders, and put an end (for now) to hopes of merged player pools across state lines to other states offering legal online poker. “The recent federal Department of Justice opinion regarding the Wire Act has caused all to take a step back and make sure any online gambling (including other casino-type games and sports wagering) will adhere to that federal law,” PGCB Communications Director Doug Harbach told PocketFives in February. “We have requested from the operators individual plans on how it would adhere to the tenets of this opinion." The original 1961 Wire Act stated that any kind of transfer of money across state lines for a gambling-related transaction was illegal, but in 2011 the DOJ issued an opinion that this language only applied to sports betting. With this clarification of the Wire Act in place, WSOP/888 went forward with a merger of its U.S. player pools in May 2018, giving the US its first multi-state online poker network. WSOP/888 was expected to add the Pennsylvania player pool to its already existing U.S. network and create a merged player base, allowing Pennsylvania players to compete against players from other states (Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware) in the network. Partypoker and PokerStars, both of which operate legal online poker in New Jersey, were expected to do the same. On January 14, 2019, however, the DOJ issued a reversal of the 2011 opinion, stating that the language in the Wire Act applies to all forms of gambling, and would therefore make any kind of interstate poker network, including the already existing WSOP/888 network, illegal. The ruling forced Pennsylvania’s prospective poker operators to rethink their strategies, with the aim of adhering to the new DOJ opinion. Waiting for the Launch of Legal Online Poker Since the October 2017 legalization of online gambling, the state’s 13 land-based casinos have engaged with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) in the process of applying for permits to offer “interactive gaming”, an umbrella term which includes online poker, slots, and table games. The casinos that wanted to start offering online gambling were required to apply for separate permits in each of the three interactive gaming categories. All seven of the casinos approved to operate online poker also applied for permits to operate slots and table games as well. Sports betting, which was also legalized in Pennsylvania in October 2017 when Governor Tom Wolf signed off on legislation to expand casino gambling in the state, hasn’t experienced the delays seen with online gambling. Land-based sports betting was up and running at several Pennsylvania casinos as of December 2018. O’Toole originally announced the reasons for the delay of the state’s online gambling launch at a House Appropriations hearing in February. The PGCB issued a letter to the state’s prospective online gambling operators shortly after the DOJ Wire Act ruling, advising to adhere to the new opinion. “What we wanted to accomplish in that letter was to make sure that the casinos thoroughly read that reinterpretation and looked very closely at their plan for implementing interactive gaming in Pennsylvania,” O’Toole said at the hearing. “There had been an expectation that those iGaming operators who were partnering with our casinos in Pennsylvania, if they already had infrastructure in another jurisdiction, that they could leverage that to reduce the cost of implementing iGaming. But with that reinterpretation, it became quite obvious that everything had to be on an interstate basis.” The DOJ ruling certainly contributed to the delay, but it appears that PA’s online poker operators have met the challenge, and players in the Keystone State will soon have access to legal, regulated online poker.
  12. In late 2013, Ryan Smart’s passion for poker was flickering like a lightbulb in its final moments of usefulness. Smart had been grinding since 2007 and was starting to feel the impact of the travel necessitated by the fallout of Black Friday and he’d also discovered that the games weren’t the berry patches they once were. “The games had gotten a little tougher at that point and I probably was a bit lazy, but I think I was actually still studying pretty hard. It’s just, the results weren't coming and in the live cash I was still doing okay at but at that point, I hadn't been playing live nearly as much as I used to in the past, and I had pretty much shifted to mostly online MTTs,” Smart said. In the throes of a downswing that he didn’t see ending, Smart figured it was time to go and do something else with his life that provided him with a steady income and didn’t involve dealing with the headaches and stress of grinding. “I’d had the worst year that I'd had up to that point and at the point, I was playing professionally,” said Smart. “I've always kind of split time between online and live cash and it was a rough year. I pretty much just decided to get back to doing something else that I could make consistent money at because at that point I think I had been on a downswing for 8-12 months.” That was six years ago. Now 31, Smart works in restaurant management and has been dabbling in online poker. He’s not on a full time grind like he once was, but he’s one of the top-ranked online poker players in Pennsylvania and routinely holds down the #1 ranking in his hometown of Pittsburgh. “(Poker) is something I've always enjoyed doing and I, had a bad couple of years there where my mental state wasn't good for how I was playing and everything,” said Smart. “So, you know, trying to take it slow, getting back into it and I've been lucky to have some results lately.” The drive from Pittsburgh to New Jersey is a little over five hours. Given that the Garden State already has regulated online poker, Smart has thought about making the drive a few times to get an old school Sunday grind in while he waits for Pennsylvania regulators to officially launch legal online poker. “I have thought about it, especially because I have a couple of friends who live in New Jersey and for the most part, play online poker,” Smart said. “So, I'm sure I can have somewhere I can crash for a weekend or whatever to do it. Since I'm just getting kind of back into it, it's not something I've thought about a lot about as of yet, and I was hoping this PA thing would come along a little faster.” As for now, Smart plays exclusively on unregulated offshore sites. Having had his life turned a little bit by Black Friday, he’s always cautious about how much money he leaves on the site. “Unfortunately, as of now, that's about the only option. I used to play on Merge and after Black Friday I kind of moved around a bit to play but that didn't really work out so well, so pretty much just been ACR lately,” said Smart, who had his biggest online score just weeks before Black Friday. “I was sitting at my computer. I had just finished a session of playing sit and gos and I had closed it out and then I couldn't pull anything back up,” Smart remembered. “At the time I had won, I think it was the Big $55. It was my biggest score. It was not long before that, maybe a few months, and I had taken some of the money off but I still had quite a few thousand sitting on Poker Stars, which was, I don't know, half of my life roll at the time, and I was like ‘oh no’. So, I definitely learned from that feeling of that day that I do not keep much money on ACR.” In October 2017, Pennsylvania regulators passed House Bill 27, which put the wheels in motion for players in that state to have regulated online poker. Smart noticed and that helped rekindle his interest in the game. “That was actually one of the big motivators to start playing at least a decent amount again was once I heard that PA had passed legislation because I was hoping that eventually, I could get back into it,” Smart said. Smart is getting married later this year and hopes to start a family in the coming years. He doesn’t foresee a full-time return to poker as his sole source of income, but he does like having the opportunity to have a decent side hustle. Like many players in his state, he’s anxious and excited for what is coming, even if it is taking longer than some had hoped. “I thought this would be a lot quicker of a process, especially because a lot of the licenses have gone to people who partnered with partypoker and PokerStars,” said Smart. “I'm not sure what the guarantees and everything are gonna be out of the gate for Pennsylvania. I'm assuming it's not going to be very high, and especially, trying to play low-mid stakes.“
  13. “I definitely don’t consider myself a pro. I’m a school psychologist.” Chris ‘Billypoker1’ Bilinsky may not be a professional online poker player, but he’s not your typical school psychologist either. Bilinsky is a long-time New Jersey online grinder who has recently made the move from his home in Pennsauken, NJ to the City of Brotherly Love - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Now, in just under a year of making the move, he’s taken Pennsylvania online poker by storm. “Honestly, it all got started because I had a couple of good sessions over at our local [card room]. That led me to play online. I was like, 'I’m gonna get better playing really low stakes online so that I can do better live'...but I just started doing really well online. It’s so much more convenient. So, I just kinda stuck with [online] more than live. Live is still fun but you can’t beat the convenience of your house.” He’s done really well online indeed. He currently sits as the #8-ranked player in the Keystone State and is rapidly approaching $400,000 in total lifetime online cashes. However, despite having more success than most in the online poker arena, Bilinsky keeps it all in perspective. “This is my second year working full-time, and poker is definitely a nice little side job. At this point I’m doing so well with it, it’s not really a side job...actually, it’s kind of like a second income. But I definitely like the [work/poker] balance because I don’t know if I would be able to sustain being a professional for a long period of time.” Online poker's place in his own life isn’t the only thing he has a good perspective on. Having played in the legalized, regulated online poker market of New Jersey, Bilinsky also has a first-hand view of what to expect when online poker finally goes live in Pennsylvania on July 15. Having spent much of his twenties regularly playing on sites like PokerStars NJ, Borgata Poker and WSOP.com he has experienced how potential players gravitate to online sites in a regulated U.S. market. “I think it’s really important that they get the word out and let people know that it’s regulated now. They talk about the population of Pennsylvania and how that’s supposed to drive customers, but that alone isn’t just going to bring people in. They really have to market this and make sure that people are aware this is happening.” He’s certainly aware that his online options in his new home state are about to open up dramatically, with as many as seven online operators, including online poker heavyweights PokerStars, partypoker and WSOP.com, approved to offer online poker in the state. “I’m just waiting for regulated online to start,” Bilinsky said when talking about what he hopes will follow the impending launch. “Short term, I really have no idea what to expect. I hope to see something every Sunday, like a $100K [guarantee]. Maybe more than $100K! New Jersey and Nevada have $100K every Sunday and I’m hoping that there’s something in Pennsylvania to match it, we’ll see. “Long term, you really want everyone to get together. It’s fairly obvious you want Pennsylvania to get together with New Jersey and Nevada and just build that network. You want New York to be involved and, hopefully, California. All that stuff seems to very slowly be making progress.” For now though as he waits to see what is in store for the Pennsylvania online poker community, Bilinsky continues to occasionally make it out to Sugarhouse Casino for some live tournaments and occasionally dabble online. “I like to stay sharp, I like to keep playing so that when the launch does happen, I’m not rusty at all,” he said. That said, life stays hectic for Bilinsky and poker is just a part of it. From coaching a middle school baseball team and balancing his full-time job, he has scaled back a bit from of his former volume in New Jersey. It has been a good thing for him, both personally and for his poker game. “I am very excited by there finally being a lunch date and I’m watching the New Hampshire lawsuit closely,” Bilinsky said. However, Bilinsky, the school psychologist, is good at keeping perspective. “It’s also important to keep doing other stuff.”
  14. With legal online poker in Pennsylvania set to launch July 15, players are wondering if the Keystone State’s poker sites will allow for merged, interstate competition against players from other states with legalized online poker. For now, the answer is no. The online poker sites will be available only within Pennsylvania state borders, and will not share liquidity with already existing networks in Nevada, New Jersey and/or Delaware. PokerStars, partypoker, and WSOP/888Poker will all offer online poker in Pennsylvania, and all of these brands offer legal U.S. online poker. The Pennsylvania offerings from these companies, however, will be limited to a Pennsylvania-only player pool for the foreseeable future. State of Online Poker in the U.S. WSOP/888Poker operates the only merged multi-state U.S. online poker network, as players who log into any network skin (WSOP Nevada, WSOP New Jersey, 888Poker New Jersey, and the 888Poker network in Delaware) all get to play against each other. The brand’s Pennsylvania offering will run in partnership with Harrah’s Philadelphia, but this Pennsylvania operation will be segregated from the NV/NJ/DE player pools and only allow players to compete against other players within state borders. Pennsylvania’s population of nearly 13 million is equal to the combined population of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, so if the networks were to merge at some point, WSOP/888Poker would house the largest U.S. player pool for regulated, legal online poker. PokerStars and partypoker operate poker networks in New Jersey (PokerStars NJ and partypoker NJ), but the Pennsylvania clients from both of these brands will also be limited to a PA-only player pool and not be merged with their New Jersey counterparts. Merged U.S. Networks in the Future? The DOJ reversal of opinion on the Wire Act, which states that all gambling transactions that cross state lines are illegal, almost certainly had an impact on the decision to keep these poker operations strictly within Pennsylvania borders. That ruling came as a surprise when the DOJ made the announcement in January 2019, especially considering that WSOP/888Poker just recently launched its merged, three-state network in May 2018. The ability for different states to share liquidity among its online gaming player pools is made possible by the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). This agreement started to come together shortly after both Delaware and Nevada became the first U.S. states to legalize online poker (post-Black Friday) in 2012. This legislation was crafted by the governors of the two states, with Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell singing the agreement in 2014. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed into the agreement in 2017, laying the groundwork for the current three-state online poker network operated by WSOP/888. While it appears that the DOJ ruling might prevent Pennsylvania from joining the MSIGA, there’s still a chance we could see it happen in the future, according to Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Communications Director Doug Harbach. Harbach didn’t comment directly about the DOJ ruling, but contends that Pennsylvania’s online gaming operations could still merge player pools with other states at some point. “It is permitted under the PA Gaming Act,” Harbach said. “The market will decide if that is something it feels is necessary. Though PA is certainly different from states like Nevada and Delaware, due to its much larger population.” Outlook for the Future After months of delays from the original expected start date, the launch of Pennsylvania’s online gaming operations is now just a few weeks away. Players will have no less than seven different poker clients to choose from when all of the state’s approved operators are up and running. It’s a Pennsylvania-only player pool for these operators, for now. When asked about the timeline of a possible entry into the multi-state agreement, Harbach said it’s too soon to speculate. “Until online gaming is launched and reaches some maturity, it would be difficult to answer that question,” Harbach said. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf would have to sign into an agreement to join the MSIGA, which would make Pennsylvania the fourth state to join the multi-state network. Five states have legalized online gambling and poker, with West Virginia becoming the fifth in March 2019. What impact would joining the MSIGA have on Pennsylvania’s online gambling economy? Harbach stated that it’s too soon to tell. “Again, can’t speculate at this point because we have yet to launch and see any result of an iGaming poker market exclusive to play just in the Commonwealth,” Harbach said. Options for Online Poker in the United States Nevada/New Jersey/Delaware (Merged Player Network) WSOP Nevada WSOP New Jersey 888Poker New Jersey 888Poker Network Delaware (Delaware Park, Dover Downs, Harrington Raceway) New Jersey Only PokerStarsNJ partypoker NJ/Borgata Poker/PlayMGM Pala Poker Pennsylvania Only PokerStars (Mount Airy Casino Resort) WSOP/888Poker (Harrah's Philadelphia) partypoker (Valley Forge Casino) GAN/Kambi (Parx Casino) IGT (Hollywood Casino) Rush Street Interactive/Kambi (SugarHouse Casino) Sands Bethlehem (TBD) West Virginia Online Poker legalized March 2019, Operators TBD
  15. While Pennsylvania online poker on the cusp of becoming a reality, former PocketFives #1 Paul Volpe has been in Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker, where he continues to pile up results - especially in one event in particular. Pennsylvania's Volpe is the winner of three WSOP gold bracelets and more than $8 million in live tournament earnings, but it's his performances in one specific WSOP event that have grabbed the attention of many. One of Volpe's three bracelets comes from the $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw tournament, and it's a tournament that Volpe has crushed over the years. When Volpe won the WSOP $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw in 2014, it became his first gold bracelet and he scored $253,524 for the victory. It was his second time finishing in the money in the highly respected tournament. The year before, 2013, Volpe finished eighth for $22,399 and just missed out on the official final table due to the tournament playing seven-handed. Volpe returned with an eighth-place finish in 2017 worth $24,498. That’s not all, either. In 2018, Volpe took 14th for $14,691. That made for one win and four cashes in six years in the WSOP $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw. In 2019, Volpe reached the official final table of the event for the second time in his career. He finished seventh for a payday of $31,556. Volpe's $10,000 NL 2-7 Results YEAR ENTRIES FINISH PAYOUT 2013 87 8th $22,399 2014 87 1st $253,524 2017 92 8th $24,498 2018 95 14th $14,691 2019 91 7th $31,556 All told, Volpe has cashed for $346,668 in the WSOP $10,000 No-Limit 2-7 Single Draw alone.
  16. If you tuned into the World Series of Poker Main Event broadcast on Sunday, you were mostly viewing a feature table that had Nick Schulman and Loni Harwood as the prominent players. If you stuck around to watch, you likely noticed the player in Seat 2, well-built with a neatly trimmed beard and strong table presence. That's Ryan Pochedly. Living in Pennsylvania, Pochedly got his start in poker "like everybody else." He started playing in college, deposited some money with an online poker site, and never looked back. Today, poker is Pochedly’s profession and he's looking forward to regulated online poker coming to his home state. "I started playing online," Pochedly said. "I put like $30 on Pacific Poker and grinded it up from there." Pochedly performed well under the bright lights and television cameras, picking up chips and confidently building his stack. It was evident that he might’ve done this before. "I was on a live stream once when I final tabled a turbo event at the World Series a few years ago, but this was the first time for me being on live television," Pochedly told PocketFives. "It was really cool and I enjoyed it." Looking up Pochedly’s records, he had a deep WSOP Main Event finish in 2012, taking 182nd for $44,655. Scanning Pochedly’s list of results a little more reveals that he’s had 14 prior WSOP cashes, including the 2012 WSOP Main Event run and a WSOP final table in 2016 when he placed eighth in a $1,000 turbo event. "It definitely helps because I’m not as nervous as I would have been years ago," Pochedly said of how his prior WSOP experience has been helping him this year. "The first time I had a deep WSOP Main Event run, I had trouble sleeping and stuff like that. So far, so good. I’m sleeping like a baby, and I’m not tired or anything." Pochedly's career-best score is $101,105 from 2015 at Parx Casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. In the Big Stax XI $1,600 event, Pochedly topped the field of 259 entries for the victory. The following year, he won another tournament at Part. This time it was the Big Stax XIX $340 tournament for $78,244. In that one, Pochedly topped a much larger field of 1,722 entries. In May 2019, just before the World Series of Poker, Pochedly finished fifth for $50,797 in the WPTDeepStacks Big Stax XXIX $340 event. All of those results are live tournament scores, but Pochedly is as excited as anyone about the thought of PA online poker opening up soon. When he was asked about how he felt about it, a smile came across his face before he gave his answer. "I'm probably one of the most excited guys about [online poker returning to Pennsylvania]," Pochedly said. "I used to play a lot online, and I’m looking forward to playing cash and then tournaments on Sundays and pretty much every day." Pochedly finished Day 2c of the 2019 WSOP Main Event with 182,000 in chips and will be back in action on Monday at 12 p.m. PT.
  17. Pennsylvania online poker players hoping to be able to start check-raising and three-betting from the comfort of their own home on July 15, when regulated online gaming launches in their state, are going to have to show a little bit of patience. Unfortunately, no online poker rooms will launch on July 15. Officials from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board confirmed this week that none of the approved online poker operators will be in action on the first day of regulated play. The focus for most companies appears to be on casino products, most notably slot machines. There was no timeline provided by PGCB for when the first online poker sites would go live. In October 2017, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed House Bill 271 and a few short days later, Governor Tom Wolf signed the bill into law. BH 271 regulated and legalized online gambling including online poker and other player-to-player games, table games, and slot machines. Eight of the 15 companies licensed by PGCB plan to have online poker in their suite of products. CASINO PARTNER Parx Casino GAN/Kambi Harrah's Philadelphia 888/WSOP.com Mount Airy Casino Resort PokerStars Hollywood Casino at Penn National IGT Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem TBD SugarHouse Casino Kambi Valley Forge Casino Resort partypoker MGM Casinos partypoker The delay may come as a surprise to many Pennsylvanians as there are multiple operators, including Caesars Interactive and PokerStars, which already have online poker rooms operating in neighboring New Jersey. All online poker software will need to be tested and approved by PGCB before it can go live, regardless of whether or not the software is operational in another state. Officials from Caesars Interactive, which operates WSOP.com, and PokerStars both declined to comment on their expected Pennsylvania launch date. Once online poker rooms are ready to go live, there will be a testing period of an indeterminate amount of time before the site can begin giving the public full access to their product. This is similar to the beta testing period that New Jersey online poker players dealt with in the days and weeks leading up to its official launch in November 2013. Those hoping that PA online poker rooms will join the interstate online poker compact currently enjoyed by New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware players will once again have their patience tested. There are no immediate plans for Pennsylvania to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association and share online poker liquidity with the three other states. The Pennsylvania legislation does include a framework that would allow it to join in liquidity sharing with other states, but that is not expected to happen in the immediate short term. For it to become reality, Governor Wolf would have to sign into an agreement to join the MSIGA. With a population of 12.8 million, Pennsylvania will be the largest regulated online gaming market in the United States. The combined population of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware is 12.9 million.
  18. The name Chris Moneymaker is forever attached to the World Series of Poker. We all know of the storybook run of Moneymaker in 2003 that began with an $86 online poker satellite. Now, 16 years later, Moneymaker is looking to turn another $80 online poker satellite into a life-changing sum of money. "Overall, I feel really good," Moneymaker said later on Day 3 of the 2019 WSOP Main Event. "It's been a good day. The first two days were tough, I never caught any cards, but I’m trying to stay patient and realize that this is more of a marathon than a sprint. In years past, I’ve probably sprinted out a little bit too much and buried myself, so I’m trying to stay composed and not get in a hurry." The 2019 WSOP Main Event attracted its second-largest field ever, drawing 8,569 players to the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino. The winner will take home $10 million. That's a far cry from the 839 players to play in 2003 when Moneymaker won it. Although he said there aren't really any comparisons between now and then, Moneymaker did say the turnout this year was a bit like what was experienced in 2004. That’s when the field size grew by more than 1,700 entries to 2,576, showing just how popular and healthy poker was. "There’s really no comparison," Moneymaker said. "We’re breaking the record for the second-biggest crowd ever. It doesn’t even really compare to what we had. I guess the closest thing we could compare it to would be 2004 at Binion's. We had so many people that we were playing 11-handed and I started out playing on my knees in the first hour. The lines to get in Sit & Gos were three, four hours long. It was just insane. Obviously we don’t have that issue here at the Rio. We just have so many people, which is amazing to see that we got over 8,000 people this year. Poker has been growing every year. It’s great to see after everybody was proclaiming that poker was dead a couple of years ago. I’m glad to see that all of the tours seem to be growing and that the game is popular and it’s only going to improve." Going from 7,874 entries in 2018 to 8,569 in 2019 proved quite the rise in attendance, and this is without widespread legalized online poker in the United States. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have regulated online poker, which is a start, and as more states come on board it can only mean good things for the industry and the WSOP. Pennsylvania is next in line. Legislation passed in the Keystone State and now it's just a waiting game for when Pennsylvania online poker is going to launch. A date of July 15 is pegged as the launch date, but there’s plenty of word on the streets that things may be delayed a little bit. Nonetheless, online poker is coming to Pennsylvania and it will be the largest state by quite a big margin to have legal online poker. Of the three states to currently have legal online poker in the US, New Jersey has the largest population at 8.9 million people. Pennsylvania’s population is 12.8 million, so nearly 4 million more. As an ambassador for PokerStars, Moneymaker has a lot of experience pushing for the advancement of legalized US online poker. Although he lives in Tennessee, he’s spent plenty of time in New Jersey with PokerStars. He’ll likely be doing the same once Pennsylvania is on board. "Hopefully, we can get sharing of player pools," Moneymaker said. "For Pennsylvania, I’ll be up there close to when they open to check out the site. I think it’s going to be great. I still think we need a state like California, New York, or Florida [to get on board]. Pennsylvania, landmass wise, is a huge state, but we still need a New York or California to push it over the hump. Once they see the tax revenue dollars coming in from a big state like that, I think that’s when it will start going similar to how marijuana and sports betting have gone." Right now, it’s a waiting game for Pennsylvania online poker players, but launch day will be here before we know it. When legal PA online poker does become available, Moneymaker suggests to take it slow and get yourself acclimated with the current game. "Most people used to play online poker back a certain number of years ago, so start off small, step your toe in, and get used to it again because the game has changed a lot," Moneymaker said. "If you haven’t played in a decade because you used to be an online player and you don’t play anymore, or you’ve been playing live, the online game, if you remember, is quite different. Start small, get your feet wet, and get used to it again." Another tip for Pennsylvania online poker players is to do some research and get up to speed and what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. This can be done while waiting for launch day. "Do some research to find out what tools are out there that you can use as far as HUD trackers and things like that, or if those things are illegal," Moneymaker said. "Make sure that you’re up on all of the regulations and have fun with it."
  19. As the launch of Pennsylvania online poker approaches, PocketFives takes a look at how players from that state did at the 2019 World Series of Poker. Pennsylvania poker players accounted for 2,439 total entries at the 2019 WSOP, ranking the state 15th out of all states to have players participate in the series. Per official numbers sourced from the WSOP, US-player participation made up for 129,154 entries from live tournaments at the 2019 WSOP. With 2,439 of those entries coming from PA poker players, Pennsylvania accounted for nearly 2% of the US participation at the 2019 WSOP. Pennsylvania’s participation wasn’t that far off of what New Jersey’s was, another state with legalized online gambling and online poker. Players from NJ accounted for 3,501 total entries in live events at the 2019 WSOP, which was just more than 2.7% overall. US players accounted for 18,571 cashes at the 2019 WSOP, which was the most for any single country. Players from Pennsylvania accounted for 338 of those cashes, including some of the top performers below. Pennsylvania's Top Performers at the 2019 WSOP Of all the Pennsylvania poker players to compete at the 50th annual WSOP, Garry Gates was the highest earner with $3,006,881 won. The bulk of Gates’ winnings came via his fourth-place finish in the WSOP Main Event, a score worth $3,000,000 that landed Gates in the top 10 of the Pennsylvania all-time money list. Gates also cashed in the $1,500 Monster Stack and $1,000 Mini Main Event at the 2019 WSOP. Thomas Parkes of Alburtis, PA, finished 59th in the 2019 WSOP Main Event and took home $142,215. He was the second-highest finisher from the Keystone State. Chad Power (89th - $82,365) and Kenny Smaron (92nd - $69,636) also placed in the top 100. Jake Schindler, the PA poker all-time money list leader at time of writing, cashed three times at the 2019 WSOP. His first was a fifth-place finish in the $10,000 Heads-Up Championship worth $31,151, his second was in the WSOP.com $500 Turbo Deepstack for $1,113, and his third was a 67th-place result in the WSOP Main Event for $117,710. Joe McKeehen, winner of the 2015 WSOP Main Event and second on the Pennsylvania poker all-time money list, cashed just once at the 2019 WSOP. He finished 65th in the $1,500 Millionaire Maker event. John Hennigan, who is originally from Philadelphia, only cashed one time at the 2019 World Series of Poker, but that cash was a victory in the $10,000 Seven Card Stud Championship to the tune of $245,451. Hennigan defeated Daniel Negreanu in heads-up play to win that tournament. Matt Glantz, the player who was fourth on the Pennsylvania poker all-time money list at time of writing, finished in the money of seven WSOP events in the summer of 2019. His best finish was a third-place result in the $10,000 Dealer’s Choice Championship for $139,126. He also had a deep run in the WSOP Main Event, finishing 205th for $50,855. PA Players in the WSOP Big 50 In the record-breaking WSOP Big 50, 345 entries came from Pennsylvania poker players. Of the 28,371 entries, PA poker players made up 1.22% of the total field. As it pertains to US participation in the Big 50, US players made up 23,972 entries in this tournament, meaning Pennsylvania players accounted for 1.44% of US participation in the Big 50. The highest finish in the Big 50 for a Pennsylvania player came from Fabio Garofalo. Garofalo, who hails from Mercer, PA, took 66th and turned a $500 entry into $14,958. Pennsylvania’s Gregory Fishberg (90th - $10,233) and James Gilbert (98th - $8,539) also placed in the top 100 of the 2019 WSOP Big 50. PA Online Poker Gives Potential for More WSOP Participation With the launch of PA online poker looming, exciting times are ahead. Legal, regulated online poker platforms in the Keystone State should help grow the game in the region and be a catalyst for increased participation by Pennsylvania players in the WSOP. Although it will take some time for the state to get up to speed with the likes of its neighbor, New Jersey, Pennsylvania's upside is quite large. New Jersey has a growing online poker market in the 11th most populated state in the country with nearly 9 million people to pull from. Pennsylvania will be drawing from the fifth largest population of nearly 13 million people when online poker goes live. The potential is there and it wouldn't be out of the question to see Pennsylvania's WSOP participation meet or surpass that of New Jersey's in 2020 or 2021.
  20. It’s not just online poker that is coming back to Pennsylvania, the online poker dream is returning with it. The notion that a player can fire up online tournaments and cash games on demand, take a small bankroll and run it up, and even spend a Sunday taking down a big-time score. It’s no secret that initially it won’t be as big as the pre-Black Friday era. It’s going to take some time to grow, but there's little doubt that there is a new crop of PA-based online poker players out there, ready to make a name for themselves. But before the future king of PA emerges, we took a look back to pay homage to some of the best online poker players to crush in the Keystone State. Paul ‘paulgees81’ Volpe You can’t talk about the best poker players from Pennsylvania without mentioning Paul ‘paulgees81’ Volpe. Sure, Volpe earned the nickname ‘The Main Event’ for his sustained success at the World Series of Poker where he’s a three-time bracelet winner. And, yes, Volpe has over $8.2 million in lifetime live earnings but while the Philly crusher was racking up titles in the live arena, he was also ascending the PocketFives rankings where he eventually topped the online charts solidifying himself as one of the very best. Volpe became the #1-ranked online player in March of 2011, arguably one of the toughest times to conquer the online world, just before Black Friday. He’s a PocketFives Triple Crown Award winner and he also has a Monthly PLB title on his resume. A big part of what helped Volpe claim the rankings top spot was his victory in the PokerStars Sunday Million in January of 2011 that brought him an online career-high cash of $253,895. Throughout his career Volpe also took down WCOOP, SCOOP and MiniFTOPS titles as well. While it will take some time for the Pennsylvania market to mature and joining a larger player pool will be necessary for growth, PA players looking to model their career after one of the greats in the state could not choose player better than Volpe. Zachary ‘HustlerGrune’ Grunberg Another former member of the PocketFives top 10 to come out of PA is Zachary ‘HustlerGrune’ Grunberg who, in 2011, reached as high as #4 in the world. Gruneberg has over $2.8 million in career online earnings and another $1.8 million in live earnings. At the height of online poker, Gruneberg routinely found himself atop the payouts of some of the most prestigious online tournaments including taking down the PokerStars Sunday Warm-Up in 2009 for an online career-high cash of $118,692. Gruneberg also took down the PokerStars $109 Rebuy, one of the most lucrative tournaments the 2010 era, for $86,085. In total, ‘HustlerGrune’ picked dup over 60 five-figure scores before the end of 2015. Nowadays, he can regularly be seen playing live, including picking up eight cashes at the 2019 World Series of Poker. Mark ‘dipthrong’ Herm One of Pennsylvania’s original online superstars is Mark ‘dipthrong’ Herm. A well-known online poker backer and coach, Herm used his knowledge to reach #5 in the world back in 2010, racking up impressive total online earnings of over $5.1 million. A three-time Triple Crown Award winner, Herm took down one of the most prestigious of online tournaments when on 10/10/2010 he bested the 7,661 runner field of the PokerStars Sunday Million for a career-high online cash of $229,834. That Sunday Million victory was the second six-figure score of his online career having taken down the Full Tilt Poker $750,000 Guarantee for over $147,000. Herm also has some impressive podium finishes that in his day as well, just missing out on FTOPS and SCOOP titles while finishing second in the popular Full Tilt Sunday Brawl twice and finished third another time, all for healthy five-figure scores. In addition to his prolific online resume, Herm also boasts over $1.7M in live earnings. Chris ‘SLOPPYKLOD’ Klodnicki Chris ‘SLOPPYKLOD’ Klodnicki may reside on the West Coast now, but when he was coming up through the ranks of online poker his PocketFives profile had him racking up wins in Pennsylvania. Before Klodnicki took second place in the 2013 WSOP $111,111 One Drop High Roller for nearly $3 million, he was grinding online in PA, putting together a resume that included $2.58 million in online earnings with 59 total five-figure scores. His online career-high score came in 2010 when he won $97,070 in the $530 Sunday 500 on PokerStars. Klodnicki’s online success mirrored his live poker achievements as he has over $9.7 million in lifetime live earnings, a World Series of Poker bracelet and circuit ring, a 2nd place finish in the WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship, a victory in the ill-fated Epic Poker League for over $800,000, and 16 total live cashes of six-figures or better. At the height of his online powers, Klodnicki reached #30 on the worldwide PocketFives rankings. Jesse ‘JMaster130’ Cohen With over $3.3 million in career online earnings, Jesse ‘JMaster130’ Cohen is another one of Pennsylvania's elite with an impressive resume that spans over a decade. ‘JMaster’ was a runner-up in both Full Tilt Poker’s FTOPS series as well as PokerStars WCOOP, racking up over 40 five-figure scores including a career-best takedown of $85,206 by finishing in second place during the 2010 FTOPS. While it’s been over a year since Cohen has recorded an online cash, at his height, he scaled as high as #66 in the PocketFives Rankings. Although Cohen may have slowed down in the online arena he continues performing in live tournaments with over $1.7 million in career live earnings. In fact, Cohen just recorded a new career-best live score of over $203,000 on June 29 finishing as the runner-up in the DeepStack Championship Poker Series.
  21. It’s true that the promise of online poker in Pennsylvania has, once again, been slightly delayed. July 15 came and went without the opening of a new online card room, disappointing many of those players were are eager to get back into the online game. There is some forward momentum and some rumblings that one of the major online poker operators will open their virtual doors in the not-too-distant future, giving online grinders their first taste of the new frontier of legal, regulated online poker in the Keystone State. Since it’s been a little while since some of you have had the opportunity to earn an online poker deposit bonus we wanted to take the opportunity to give you some insight on taking that first step when online poker goes live. Ways To Deposit Regulation of online poker has its benefits, one of which is the ease in how players can move their bankroll around. Here are the most popular ways players will be able to get started. Visa/Mastercard For some, putting their first deposit on an online site will be as easy as reaching in their wallet and using their own major credit card. Visa and MasterCard are, for the most part, the most accessible forms of payment in regulated states including Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. A couple of items of note when using a Visa/MasterCard to make a deposit: when you use this method to deposit, however, it usually is not the same method used when you withdraw. This means that online sites don’t put money back on a card as payment. Also, there are some banks that will have a limit or even restrict credit cards from being used in an online gaming situation. Those instances will be bank-specific, so if that happens to be your bank there are plenty of other ways to get funds online. Pre-paid Credit Cards If your bank is one that restricts payments to online poker sites, a pre-paid credit card is another valuable option. These cards can be bought in many mainstream convenience stores and are used just like a credit card with funds being deposited online instantaneously. Cash At Cage Every online operator is paired with a land-based casino. For example, PokerStars PA is a partner of the Mount Airy Casino Resort Spa. Traditionally, those casinos allow players to pay in cash, on-site, for deposit into their online account. So, if a player is looking to put money on WSOP.com, they will be able to do so while they are playing at Harrah’s Philadelphia by simply taking their cash to the cage, then heading home to play online. Online Banking/Instant eChecks Instant eChecks are just like regular checks, but online, with funds being transferred from a checking account electronically (ETF electronic funds transfer). Just like a paper check, those funds aren’t taken out of a checking account immediately, it will usually be overnight and sometimes up to seven days for the deposit to clear. In many cases, the online poker site will credit your account right away, allowing you access to those funds to play. But a player cannot withdraw those funds back until the check officially clears. If the balance in your account is greater than the amount of the eCheck, a player can withdraw the difference. However, only once the eCheck clears are the eCheck funds free to be taken back. eChecks are one of the methods of deposit that is also available to use for withdrawal. PayNearMe The PayNearMe option is available at 7-Eleven stores in Pennsylvania and allows players to use cash to deposit online, similar to paying cash at the cage. Players obtain a barcoded PaySlip from their online casino and can then go to any local 7-Eleven with the PayNearMe service and present both the PaySlip and the cash for an instant transfer of funds to an online account. Other Possible Deposit Methods All of the above deposit methods are currently in use for online gaming in Pennsylvania. However, as online poker expands, popular deposit methods may make their way into the community as additional ways to get money onto poker sites. Skrill Skrill is a popular electronic wallet that allows players to hold funds online and transfer back and forth from an online poker site and their own bank. Skrill accounts are funded from a variety of payment methods, including bank transfers and debit cards, and then used as an intermediary to make payments for purchases or, in this instance, deposit funds on an online site without having to provide credit card information. VanillaDirect VanillaDirect is similar to PayNearMe where you obtain a barcoded slip from the online poker cashier and then present the slip and the amount you wish deposited to a VanillaDirect retailer like Dollar General. PayPal One of the most popular electronic money transfer services on the planet is PayPal. It has had an on-and-off relationship with online poker, including being a former deposit method for a number of online poker sites. Currently, PayPal is widely available for both deposit and withdraw in the regulated states of New Jersey and Nevada and so players in Pennsylvania can be optimistic that PayPal will be up and running when online poker goes live. As you can see, regulation really opens the doors on methods for depositing to your favorite online poker site. There will still be some popular options that are unlikely to make their way into the PA online poker landscape. Direct Crypto Players who have been dealing with the effects of Black Friday by playing in off-shore, unregulated sites are likely to have has some interaction with cryptocurrency and Bitcoin as a method of getting funds on and off those sites. In Pennsylvania, not only will that not be necessary but it’s nearly the opposite of what officials are looking for when they are talking about regulation.
  22. As the launch of Pennsylvania online poker nears, PocketFives takes a look at the top 10 of the Pennsylvania poker all-time money list. The list includes a World Series of Poker Main Event champion, one other WSOP gold bracelet winner, a couple of World Poker Tour winners, and a European Poker Tour champion. The leader falls under none of these categories, though, but he does top the list in a big way with more than $24 million in live tournament earnings. Pennsylvania Poker All-Time Money List Jake Schindler - $24,659,374 Joseph McKeehen - $16,224,026 John Hennigan - $8,472,252 Matt Glantz - $7,110,451 Daniel Ott - $4,726,701 Matt Berkey - $4,152,310 Russell Thomas - $3,770,309 Michael Martin - $3,305,970 Aaron Mermelstein - $3,246,815 Garry Gates - $3,243,129 Jake Schindler Jake Schindler and his career live tournament earnings of more than $24.6 million tops the PA poker all-time money list, and the gap between him and second place is quite large. Schindler is originally from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, just west of Philadelphia. It’s a suburb of Philadelphia with a population of only few thousand people. Schindler’s largest live tournament score to date comes in at $3.6 million for when he finished second to Christoph Vogelsang in the $300,000 buy-in Super High Roller Bowl in 2017. He also has scores of $1.192 million from winning the 2014 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure $25,000 High Roller, $2.151 million for winning the 2018 partypoker MILLIONS Grand Final Barcelona €100,000 Super High Roller, and $1.332 million for winning the WPT Five Diamond $100,000 Super High Roller in 2018. Not only does Schindler’s more than $24.6 million put him on top of Pennsylvania’s all-time money list, but it has him ranked in the top 15 of the United States all-time money list and top 25 of the overall all-time money list. Joseph McKeehen Coming in at #2 on Pennsylvania’s all-time money list is 2015 WSOP Main Event champion Joseph McKeehen with more than $16.2 million in live tournament earnings. Of those winnings, $7.683 million came when McKeehen topped a field of 6,420 entries in poker’s most prestigious event, the WSOP Main Event. McKeehen is originally from North Wales, Pennsylvania. It’s a small town in the southeast corner of the Keystone State. McKeehen proved his wasn’t just a one-hit wonder when, in 2017, he won his second WSOP gold bracelet in the $10,000 Limit Hold’em Championship, scoring $311,817. McKeehen also has a WSOP Circuit Main Event title to his name. McKeehen’s second biggest score came from the 2016 PCA $100,000 Super High Roller. In that event, he finished second to Bryn Kenney for $1.22 million. John Hennigan One of the most well-known poker players in the world, John Hennigan, comes in at #3 on Pennsylvania’s all-time money list. He has $8.472 million in live tournament earnings. Hennigan has loads of big scores and triumphant victories on his résumé, but it’s the six WSOP gold bracelets and one WPT title that really stick out. Hennigan’s largest career score is his World Poker Tour win, coming in 2007 at the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open when he won $1.606 million. His second biggest score came in 2014 when he won the WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship to the tune of $1.517 million. That WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship win came just one year after he finished third in the same event for $686,568. In 2018, Hennigan took second in the WSOP $50,000 Poker Players Championship for $765,837. Hennigan is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Matt Glantz Matt Glantz, from Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, comes in at #4 on the list with $7.11 million in live tournament earnings. His biggest live tournament score came from the European Poker Tour London £20,500 High Roller. He won that event for what converted to $862,837. In 2008, Glantz took fourth in the WSOP $50,000 H.O.R.S.E. event for $568,320, and in 2014 he finished fifth in the PCA $100,000 Super High Roller for $445,520. Glantz has a handful of WSOP final tables on record, but to date, he’s yet to win a WSOP gold bracelet. His closest was in 2005 when he took second in the WSOP $3,000 No Limit Hold’em tournament for $364,620. Daniel Ott Almost smack dead in the center of Pennsylvania is Altoona, where Daniel Ott is from. Ott comes in at #5 on PA’s all-time money list with $4.726 million in live tournament earnings. Nearly all of that, $4.7 million worth, comes from a single score. In 2017, Ott made the final table of the WSOP Main Event and finished second to Scott Blumstein for $4.7 million. Elsewhere on Ott’s résumé, you’ll find a bunch of WSOP cashes, all for small amounts, and an MSPT cash, but that’s it. Matt Berkey Originally from Leechburg, Pennsylvania, Matt Berkey is one of poker’s most popular players. He has more than $4.15 million in live tournament earnings, but that could change rather quickly for as big as he plays. Berkey is a regular in some of poker’s priciest tournaments, including the $300,000 Super High Roller Bowl, which he took fifth in in 2016 for $1.1 million. That’s Berkey’s only seven-figure score to date, but he has several six-figures cashes and it seems like only a matter of time before he nets another cash of a million dollars or more. Russell Thomas Like Ott, the bulk of Russell Thomas’ career live tournament earnings come from a final table in the WSOP Main Event. Thomas has more than $3.77 million in earnings, which lands him #7 on the Pennsylvania poker all-time money list. More than $2.85 million of that comes from a fourth-place finish in the 2012 WSOP Main Event. Thomas is originally from Wallingford, Pennsylvania, which is located in the southeast corner of the state. Michael Martin You won’t see Michael Martin on the poker circuit much these days, but he did well to amass more than $3.3 million in live tournament earnings. Nearly all of Martin’s live tournament cashes come from 2006 to 2010, with one very small cash coming in each of 2013 and 2019. Martin’s biggest score came when he won the European Poker Tour London Main Event in 2008 for more than $1.8 million. Prior to that, earlier in the same year, he banked $666,171 for a fifth-place finish in the EPT Grand Final in Monte Carlo. Martin is originally from Washington Crossing, Pennsylvania. Aaron Mermelstein Philadelphia’s Aaron Mermelstein is still very much grinding the tournament circuit, and with more than $3.25 million in live earnings, he’s #9 on the Pennsylvania all-time money list. Mermelstein doesn’t have a seven-figure score on record, to date, but he does hold two WPT titles. He won both in 2015, topping the WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open for $712,305, his largest score ever, and then winning the WPT Maryland Live! tournament for $250,222. Another big score for Mermelstein came when he won the WPT Seminole Hard Rock Poker Showdown $25,000 High Roller event in 2019 for $618,955. Garry Gates Titusville’s Garry Gates is a newcomer to the Pennsylvania poker all-time money list, thanks to his fourth-place finish in the 2019 WSOP Main Event for $3 million. Gates, a longtime member of the poker industry on both the media and corporate side, now has four WSOP Main Event cashes. Gates’ second-biggest score is a fourth-place finish in the 2012 WSOP Circuit Atlantic City Main Event for $64,530. Gates’ hometown of Titusville is home to notable football player and coach, John Heisman.
  23. The World Poker Tour Borgata Poker Open was recently at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It's always a very popular, well-attended series that draws in poker players from all over. Zach Gruneberg, one of the top players on the Pennsylvania poker all-time money list, was one of them. Not only did Gruneberg show up, he won, taking home two Borgata Poker Open titles from the series. With the victories coming at a time when Pennsylvania online poker is working to launch any day now, it felt as good a time as ever to check in with Gruneberg. [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"][ptable zone="888poker"][ptable zone="PokerStars NJ"] "Honestly, it's pretty surreal," Gruneberg said of how he felt getting the two recent wins at Borgata. "Getting a first place ever, especially outright with no chop, is an extremely rare thing in tournaments. To get two within pretty much the same week doesn't seem real. I always say there's nothing like outright winning a poker tournament, well, I’ve got to find something new to say about winning two almost back-to-back (laughs)." The two events Gruneberg won were both bounty tournaments. He first won the $500 Black Chip Bounty Deepstack for $56,073. In that event, Gruneberg topped a field of 688 entries to take home the trophy. The second event he won was the $1,060 Purple Chip County tournament. In that one, Gruneberg bested a field of 232 entries to win $31,502. "The first win was a Black Chip Bounty event," Gruneberg said. "Meaning you get $100 for every person you knock out and the buy-in I believe was like $500 total. In this one, I really didn't make any adjustments. The bounties are pretty much worthless compared to the actual prize pool you are playing for. I ended up getting seven bounties, including my own for winning. However, in the $1,090 Purple Chip Bounty, each knockout is worth $500. This changes things slightly. This exact instance I really didn't change too much because I didn't have the spots to, but you definitely want to be calling some shoves a little lighter and going for those $500 bounties. I ended up getting 10, including my own, so $5,000 in bounties when first place was $31,000 is definitely a decent ratio." Knowing Gruneberg scored $700 in bounties in the first event and $5,000 in the second puts his total haul from these two tournaments at $93,275. That's quite impressive for about one week's work, but it wasn't the first time Gruneberg had scored big from a WPT series at Borgata. In 2016, Gruneberg maneuvered his way to the final table of the WPT Borgata Poker Open $3,500 Main Event. The field had 1,179 entries and Gruneberg ended up finishing in second place to Jesse Sylvia. Although he didn’t get the WPT title, Gruneberg scored $490,617 in prize money. To date, it was his largest live tournament score. In 2018, Gruneberg found his way back to a WPT final table at Borgata, only this time it was in the 1,244-entry WPT Borgata Winter Poker Open $3,500 Championship. Another top-three finish would be had for Gruneberg, as he took third place for $321,533. "Borgata is my main girl," Gruneberg said of his success at Borgata. "She never does me dirty and always does me right. I've considered it my home casino as long as I've played, so to have the level of success I've had there which includes chopping the WPT with Jesse, a third place in another WPT, and now three outright wins, it's wild. At this point now, I just feel completely relaxed and in my element there and I also am able to drive there from my home. Something about just being a car ride away instead of across the entire country or globe makes me feel at ease. It helps that I run like a Greek god at the Borgata, too. I love her!" The other title from Borgata that Gruneberg is referring to is a Saturday Series event during the 2017 Borgata Spring Poker Open. He won that $400 buy-in event for $35,996, topping a field of 415 entries to get the win. Gruneberg mentioned being just a car ride away from Borgata. He's originally from Pennsylvania, which isn't too far of a drive from Atlantic City. Soon though, Gruneberg could be trading in the drive to the casino for a walk to his computer in the comfort of his own home. Pennsylvania has legalized online poker and now it’s just a matter of time before regulated online poker sites launch in the Keystone State. Gruneberg is no stranger to the online poker world, having amassed more than $2.8 million under the alias 'HustlerGrune' on PokerStars and Full Tilt back in the day, and he’s pretty excited for the change to get legal PA online poker in his home state. "I'm super hyped for online poker to come back," Gruneberg said. "Should be any day now, but I am not really sweating it. When it comes back, it comes back, and I am excited to be able to play on partypoker and PokerStars (even though they seem like a shell of the company they once were now)." Whether it’s the live grind or competing on the virtual felt, Gruneberg said he’ll take it slow when it comes to planning out his poker schedule and just see where things take him. "Next for me in terms of poker will be WPT Maryland," Gruneberg said. "Technically, in terms of distance, that's actually the closest WPT to me and I have some good friends that live in the area, so I am excited for that. Mainly, I want to continue to focus on fitness and my health and just freestyle my poker plans. I am definitely trying to put more volume in, which means more WPTs and more WSOP Circuit stops - Vegas in December seems like a must. I'm just going to take it one day at a time and enjoy these wins."
  24. It’s another month at the top of the PocketFives United States Online Poker Rankings for New Jersey online poker grinder Yong ‘ykwon17’ Kwon. After taking the first couple of weeks in August off, Kwon soon himself back on the online grind picking up PLB-qualifying scores in bunches. Throughout the second half of the month, Kwon racked up four qualifying scores and nine cashes worth four-figures or more. Kwon’s highlight score was a final table finish in the August 14 edition of the WSOP.com Tuesday Showdown where he picked up $4,810. In total, he amassed of over $27,000 in cashes for the month. [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"][ptable zone="888poker NJ"][ptable zone="GG Poker"] Kwon’s September is shaping up to be more of the same with two first-place finishes already under his belt including a victory in the September 10 Super Tuesday on PokerStarsNJ for $4,806. His success not only has him as the #1-ranked player in the U.S., but he also sits at #55 in the world. United States Online Poker Rankings Top 10 RANK PLAYER POINTS 1 Yong 'ykwon17' Kwon 5409 2 Daniel 'centrfieldr' Lupo 5339 3 Vladimir ‘Donate_here’ Alexandrov 4847 4 David ‘dehhhhh’ Coleman 4586 5 Ryan ‘shipthesherb’ Hohner 4267 6 Jon ‘itsmejon’ Borenstein 3592 7 Michael ‘JohnnnyDrama’ Haberman 3579 8 Jason ‘JLaw’ Lawhun 3496 9 Michael 'Gags30' Gagliano 3327 10 Matthew ‘MattEMenz’ Mendez 3282 In past months, since his WSOP online bracelet win, Kwon has held a commanding lead in the rankings. This month, however, the #2-ranked Daniel ‘centrfieldr’ Lupo closed the gap and currently sits only 70 PLB points behind Kwon. It’s been a good month for Lupo who finds himself sitting at a career-high rank of #57 in the world. His rise in the rankings can be attributed to nine PLB-qualifying cashes, three of which were outright victories. His largest score in August was his victory in the August 12 edition of WSOP.com’s $30,000 Weekly Sunday Six Max where Lupo took home a $12,852 score. Two weeks later he nearly repeated the feat, coming up just short finishing as the runner up in the same tournament for another $7,229 payday. Another New Jersey player sitting at a career-high in the Worldwide Rankings is Vladimir ‘Donate_here’ Alexandrov. Alexandrov maintains his #3 ranking in the U.S. for another month but rose to #87 in the world on the back of 11 PLB-qualifying cashes in August. In total, he accumulated 1,220.63 points and just over $66,500 in the month. Even though he had four victories in the month, his largest score came from his runner-up finish in the August 19 edition of WSOP.com’s $100,000 GTD Sunday where he won $17,624 and 222.47 PLB points. David ‘dehhhhh’ Coleman jumped up one spot in the U.S. Rankings to #4 by amassing a string of four-figure score in August. Coleman grinded his way to 22 four-figure scores in a month where he added over $76,000 to his already impressive $2.29 million in career online earnings. Coleman also picked up a five-figure cash when he defeated Daniel Lupo heads up in the August 26 WSOP.com $30,000 Weekly Sunday and picked up $12,852. Like a number of his peers, Coleman is enjoying a career-high rank in the Worldwide Rankings, currently sitting at #104 in the world. After taking some time off in July, Ryan ‘shipthesherb’ Hohner added a little more volume in August. Dropping to the #5 rank, Hohner still managed to pick up some impressive scores as well three outright victories. His spotlight score for the month came on August 14 when he took down the WSOP.com $20,000 Weekly Tuesday for just over $9,000 and 178.01 PLB points. Hohner’s September is headed in the right direction as well having just locked up a five-figure score in the September 9 $30,000 Weekly Sunday on WSOP.com for $13,870. Below are the current top 5 rankings for the U.S. regulated states of New Jersey, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, which is expected to go live with regulated online poker this October. New Jersey Online Poker Rankings Top 5 New Jersey online poker players. RANK PLAYER POINTS 1 Yong ‘ykwon17’ Kwon 5409 2 Daniel ‘centrfieldr’ Lupo 5339 3 Vladimir ‘Donate_here’ Alexandrov 4847 4 David ‘dehhhhh’ Coleman 4586 5 Ryan ‘shipthesherb’ Hohner 4267   Nevada Online Poker Rankings Top 5 Nevada online poker players. RANK PLAYER POINTS 1 Jed ‘JCHAK’ Hoffman 2975 2 David ‘bewater’ Goodman 2916 3 PunnyYouSayThat 2618 4 Tanner ‘Bamatide88’ Bibat 2518 5 Bobby ‘bcm4924’ McLawhorn 2302 Pennsylvania Online Poker Rankings Top 5 Pennsylvania online poker players. RANK PLAYER POINTS 1 Thai ‘thaiha91’ Ha 1314 2 Chris ‘Billypoker101’ Bilinsky 810 3 RyJS 763 4 sr86 604 5 Head218 578
  25. Just last week, PokerStars NJ announced their fourth annual NJ Championship of Online Poker schedule with $1 million guaranteed through 50 events over a 17-day period in October. By all accounts, PokerStars is the front-runner to become the first online poker site to launch in a Pennsylvania with many speculating Keystone State grinders could be clicking buttons beginning in October. A Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP) - could very well be a key component of what is sure to be a much-hyped launch period. With a population of 12.8 million, Pennsylvania is a larger potential poker market than the current inter-state group of New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. Using the 2019 NJCOOP schedule as a template and keeping in mind that PokerStars is only available in New Jersey, online poker players in PA just might find themselves in the middle of a two-week-long festival with nearly $1.5 million in guaranteed prize money in the very near future. [ptable zone="Global Poker Article Ad"][ptable zone="PokerStars NJ"] [ptable zone="GG Poker"] Guaranteed Prize Pools For the first time in the four-year history of NJCOOP, the total guaranteed amount across all events took a dive in 2019. The inaugural event in 2016 featured 43 different events and a total guarantee of $1.2 million. In 2017 and 2018, the scheduled expanded to 46 events and the prize pool remained at $1.2 million. For 2019 however, the events increased again, this time to 50, but the total guaranteed amount dropped to just $1 million. This shouldn't be any reason for alarm for Pennsylvania online poker players, however. While the number of events on any potential PACOOP schedule is likely to be in the ballpark of 50, the total guaranteed prize pools will need to reflect the population gap between New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the excitement over the launch of online poker in a new state. Those two factors should push the total guaranteed amount of $1.5 million. Individual event guarantees outside of the Main Event will most likely fall in the range of $12,500 for the smaller events and as high as $90,000 for the Sunday Special Special Edition events. Conversely, given that PA operators have been able to launch their online poker verticals since July 15 and haven't yet done so tells you that PokerStars may take a very cautious approach to the schedule. The Main Event A two-week-long festival with 50 events played on PokerStars is sure to get the adrenalin pumping, but the highlight of every COOP schedule around the world is always the Main Event. Again, a quick look across state lines into New Jersey gives us some perspective on just what to expect. The 2019 NJCOOP Main Event has the lowest buy-in and guarantee in NJCOOP history. For the first three years, the buy-in was $500 with guarantees of $200,000 (2016 & 2017) and $150,000 (2018). For 2019, as part of the overall drop in guaranteed prize pools, the Main Event features a $100,000 guarantee and just a $300 buy-in. It's important to note that in the first three years, the guarantee was never met but fell within a few players of hitting the promised amount. The PACOOP Main Event should feature a $150,000 guarantee with a $300 buy-in. Players looking for bigger buy-in events will need to look to the High Roller events which usually include buy-ins of $500 and $1,000. Game Selection Mixed game players in PA are going to need to show a little bit of patience. A majority of the PACOOP schedule is likely going to be No Limit Hold'em with Pot Limit Omaha players having the second-best schedule to choose from. The PokerStars PA client will probably offer 6+ Hold'em (Short Deck), 7 Card Stud and Duece to Seven varieties, but outside of a single Eight Game event, mixed game players will be on the sidelines watching for now.

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