It’s been a long wait, but American players received some good news about the state of online poker on Monday. With the launch of PokerStars, Pennsylvania was officially open for business.
As with any launch, there were a few hiccups, but by mid-afternoon players were on the site and playing. For many in the Keystone State, it was a welcome experience. Players can now access real money online poker from the biggest poker site in the world.
Many may not have played legal online poker since Black Friday, and can now play in the fourth legalized jurisdiction.
The site will use the first two days as a testing phase with full-scale tournaments and ring games underway afterward. That should include some big Sunday tournament action this weekend.
PokerStars Pennsylvania creates buzz for the industry
A few others reported slow download times. By later in the afternoon, most players seemed to be able to get on the platform and play however.
While still in test mode, players found that the site wouldn’t offer 24/7 gaming in its first two days. The platform noted that it would only be available from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Monday and 2 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday.
Due to the limited hours, the site ran only 12 scheduled tournaments, mostly lower buy-in turbo and time-limited events. Those paid out total prizes of $12,305.
The biggest tournament of the day was the $20 Moonlight Express, won by “TallnessBink” for $652.
At one point on Monday, the number of seats filled on Pennsylvania PokerStars topped the number in New Jersey. The player pool reached just over 600 seats while there were around 500 in NJ.
“We’re very pleased with our first day in Pennsylvania,” FOX Bet President Matt Primeaux told USPoker. “The early numbers and the reception from players have been really positive and puts us in a good position going forward. There are plenty of larger buy-in tournaments to look forward to in future – maybe Pennsylvania should get its own online championship?”
A look at the first PokerStars hand in Pennsylvania
When play kicked off on Monday, it was a player named “JeremyBearimy” winning the first hand with a pair of 3s. He collected $3.82 from a pot in a $0.01/$0.02 six-max cash game.
“The first real money hand was a really exciting moment for our players and for everyone here at FOX Bet and PokerStars,” Primeaux said.
And the first hand is dealt! pic.twitter.com/5PpGMaY99q
— pokerfuse (@pokerfuse) November 4, 2019
Along with cash games and multi-table tournaments, there were almost 400 Sit and Go’s run on the first day. Those ranged in buy-in from $1 to $100 with the total number of concurrent players on peaking at about 745 around 8 p.m.
Company officials hope that continues to grow and shows how big the market can be.
Primeaux added: “We’re looking forward to welcoming more Pennsylvanians over the next few days and seeing more great wins.”
PokerStars multi-tabler scores some cash on Day 1
With a new online poker environment, USPoker spoke with a couple players about the Day 1 experience. While there are certainly pros who play online poker, most are recreational players simply looking for some fun. A nice score would be nice, or even just making enough to help fund a family vacation.
John Downs Jr. is 42 and falls into that category. A married father of three from Williamsport, he runs a manufacturing plant in his day job. Downs has been an avid recreational player since 2007, but hasn’t played online since Black Friday.
Downs downloaded the app on Monday. After playing an hour, he notched a runner-up finish in a Sit and Go and and won $55 in a cash game.
After his test drive, Downs found the software very user friendly. There were a few things he liked and a couple additions he hoped the company would make.
“I base my play on other people’s bet sizing,” he says. “I don’t use PokerTracker or HUDs [Heads Up Display, a type of online poker tool] as I feel it’s too robotic and try to pretend it’s live. I like how when players are all in, PokerStars shows the win percentage next to a player’s name.”
A player search function would be a nice addition, Downs says. A quicker option for showing or mucking a hand would be nice as well, he adds.
“Hitting enter to bet only works if you click in the bet amount box, which is nice for us who multi-table,” he says.
Another online regular reports pleasant experience
Matt LoPresti, 37, is originally from Riverside, NJ, but now lives in the Pennsylvania town of Lititz, near Lancaster. He’s single, works as a project manager, and has a deep history playing online.
After waiting for Pennsylvania to online, LoPresti was happy to get in the game on Monday.
“So far everything has gone about as smooth as it could’ve gone, at least for me,” he said. “Download, registration, deposit, gameplay – it’s all been flawless so far. The software is the classic PokerStars layout. The gameplay has been smooth with no glitches.”
After depositing, the site’s free $20 from the site’s free $30 offer instantly hit his account. The other $10 is credited in tournament tickets.
Only a handful of tournaments were available so far as of Monday. However, LoPresti viewed some nice early registration numbers as a good sign.
He played in the Hot 10 Turbo, featuring a $10 buy in with a $500 guarantee. The tournament drew 148 entries for a total prize pool hit of $1,347.
PokerStars rolls out red carpet for PA poker players
PokerStars is making it worth players’ while to get in the action. Several welcome bonuses and promotions have already been unveiled and PokerStars has promised even more.
Here is a look at what the company also already unveiled:
- Free Money Tournaments: Daily $1,000 welcome freerolls from Nov. 7-16.
- $20,000 Welcome Freeroll: Open for all players on Nov. 17.
- First Deposit Bonus: The offer features $30 in free play.
- Deposit Bonus: Earn a 100% deposit bonus up to $600.
The company became the first operator to launch an online poker product in the state. However, WSOP.com and partypoker have applied for licenses and are believed to be undergoing the regulatory process.
Those approvals could bring even more publicity for the market. West Virginia has also legalized online gaming. Those in the industry hope this momentum could spur more states to get on board with legalization.