As PA Online Poker Countdown Continues, Pro Hopes Big Things Lie Ahead

Sean Chaffin September 19, 2019 2041 Reads
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As poker players in Pennsylvania await online poker, many are growing impatient for the virtual tables to open. With the markets in New Jersey and Nevada treading water, the Keystone State offers hope for expansion and growth.

With sports betting growing and casino gambling now legal in Pennsylvania, the state also has a vibrant poker scene.

Professional poker player Zach Gruneberg knows quite a bit about the poker scene in the state. He offered his take this week to USPoker.

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The player’s view and the waiting game

A regular at the online poker tables before Black Friday in 2011, Gruneberg won millions online. He also has $1.8 million in live tournament winnings.

He’s seen the poker scene in the state and NJ firsthand and recently won two events at the Borgata Poker Open. He’s also found success in the Borgata’s World Poker Tour events.

In 2016, Grunberg finished runner-up in the Borgata Poker Open for $490,617. He took third in the Winter Poker Open in 2018 for $321,533.

What is the mood among players in the state waiting for online poker to debut? Gruneberg echoes the frustrations of many.

“The feeling is that everyone is just getting a little impatient because everyone keeps hearing that it’s going to be soon,” he said. “Apparently it was supposed to be in August; well that didn’t happen.”

Could online poker be huge in PA?

The state has a big tournament and cash game scene. Several casinos and players are also jumping in major NJ events.

The WPTDeepStacks tour makes stops at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh and Parx Casino near Philadelphia. Harrah’s in Philly has hosted the WSOP Circuit in the past.

How does Gruneberg think online poker will play out in Pennsylvania? He believes it will do well overall and can kickstart the industry a bit.

“I think everybody’s pretty excited for it and I think it will be pretty awesome,” he said. “Generally, we have no idea when it’s going to come.”

Looking ahead to PA online poker launch

Pennsylvania offers another populous state for online poker. With 13 million, the hope is that it will eventually add considerably among shared liquidity markets with NJ, Delaware and Nevada.

Three major poker companies already have deals in place in the state:

  • PokerStars – The largest online poker operator in the world has a deal with Mount Airy Casino. The company already operates in NJ.
  • PartyPoker – Another major platform already operating in NJ. In Pennsylvania, the company has a partnership with Valley Forge Casino.
  • 888/WSOP.com – 888 partners with WSOP and Caesars in New Jersey and Nevada. That should continue in Pennsylvania in conjunction with Harrah’s Philadelphia.

Some recent news also points to Penn National Gaming’s interest in poker in the state. In a Two Plus Two forum post in mid-July, a user posted a response to an inquiry of Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course.

The response came from the executive administrative assistant to Hollywood vice president and general manager Dan Ihm. Along with poker, the post outlines the property’s plans for its mobile betting app.

The post noted, “Poker will not be initially available on the app. We are hoping to have poker integrated by the end of 2019.”

Other Pennsylvania casinos with licenses for online poker include:

  • SugarHouse
  • Parx
  • Wind Creek

Poker in September?

Bettors were initially told that an online poker launch in PA would happen by mid-July, but is now delayed. Rumors have pointed to PokerStars being the first platform to go live in the state.

That isn’t a certainty, and players continue to wait. However, there may be some good news. A recent report by Online Poker Report points to a September online poker launch.

Beyond simply playing against other PA players, shared liquidity could offer expanded fields in major online events. That could include a regular PokerStars series and even the opportunity to compete for WSOP bracelets, much like in New Jersey. (Shared liquidity is not currently a guarantee, however.)

The WSOP also offers circuit events exclusively for online players. Those are some of what players hope for, including Gruneberg. He says poker and gambling are extremely popular in the state and players are getting impatient.

“It will be good if we get online soon,” he said. “Hopefully the prize pools will be connected to New Jersey pretty soon also. I’ve waited nine years since Black Friday, so it will be nice to get back online and start playing again.”

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