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Will Online Poker Drive Live Poker Tour Operators back To PA?


The World Series of Poker Circuit hasn’t been back to Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack in Chester since 2014. However, it has been even longer since the World Poker Tour has stopped in Pennsylvania.

Sure, the WPT’s mid-major WPTDeepStacks tournament circuit is set to hold an event at Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh in October 2018. Plus, WPTDeepStacks has stopped at Parx Casino just outside Philadelphia the past few years.

However, the WPT’s televised Main Tour has not been in PA since August 2012. That’s when Parx hosted the WPT Parx Open Poker Classic and a $3,500 Main Event.

Pennsylvania’s casino industry has grown into the second-largest grossing in the country outside Nevada. Local poker revenues may not have wowed anyone, but they remain a vital part of that growth.

They forgot about PA

Still, major US poker tours seem to have forgotten about PA the past few years.

Fortunately, that’s most likely about to change.

Regulators have approved the first group of PA online poker license applications. The launch of the first legal and regulated PA online poker sites is set to go off sometime in the fourth quarter of 2018 or early 2019.

Online satellites into live events built the poker industry into what it is today and there’s no getting around that fact.

If casinos use their PA online casinos and online poker sites to help market the live game as they are expected to, they’ll do it through online satellites.

Ultimately, the creating of a robust online satellite system will help draw major US poker tours back to the state. It’s a win-win, as, in turn, that will help the local live and online poker industry not only survive, but thrive.

Satellites sparked the poker boom

Chris Moneymaker winning an $86 into the 2003 World Series of Poker Main Event through a PokerStars online satellite practically sparked the poker boom all by itself.

Online poker gave players the chance to qualify for live events where they could win life-changing money for pennies on the dollar and people flocked to the sites for the opportunity.

Online poker started out as something rather small, but online satellites helped it grow big at breakneck speed.

PokerStars built the European Poker Tour on the back of online satellites. It was a small tour for poker enthusiasts in Europe. PokerStars got involved, built an online satellite program around it, and the EPT grew into one of the richest poker tournament series in the world.

Several different live tournament series around the world have followed this model to great success. In fact, without online to live satellites providing these tours the numbers they need to survive, most major tours around the world wouldn’t even exist.

Until the US Department of Justice effectively shut down online poker in America, charging the industry’s biggest operators with various illegal gambling and money laundering offenses, American players qualified online for major poker tours in the US and around the world in increasing numbers.

Online poker is back

Online poker came back in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware in 2013. The number of online to live satellites and the number of people playing them has grown every year since.

PokerStars now runs qualifiers for the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure online in New Jersey. Plus, WSOP.com qualifies more players for the WSOP in Las Vegas each and every summer.

The newly launched playMGM Poker in NJ even teamed up with the WPT last year. Together, they offered online satellites into the WPT Bellagio Five Diamond World Poker Classic.

In New Jersey, Borgata Poker cash games and online poker tournaments don’t do great numbers. However, the online satellites into live events on the property always draw big.

The path to success for PA online poker sites is clear. If they build a robust online to live satellite system, people will play.

If people play online satellites into live events at PA poker rooms, major US poker tours will take notice.

They can’t ignore it if the numbers are there. And it won’t be long before tours like the WPT and the WSOPC are back in PA once again.


Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.