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Three Can’t-Miss Tournaments On The PA Poker Circuit


Pennsylvania casinos got the okay from state lawmakers to start offering live poker in 2010. Ten of Pennsylvania’s 12 casinos now have poker rooms with regular tournament schedules. Plus, the casinos regularly run tournament series and special events that draw some pretty big crowds.

The local poker scene has grown into one of the most successful the country and PA tournament series and events always seem to put up impressive numbers.

Here’s a look at the top-three live poker events in PA and the most important details regarding each one:

Parx Big Stax

Parx’s close proximity to the state’s largest city of Philadelphia helps make the revamped 48-table poker room that debuted on the property in January 2018 the top-grossing poker room in PA. Parx is PA’s cash game king, but it also hosts the top tournament series in the state as well.

Parx Big Stax is far and away the biggest poker tournament series in Pennsylvania.

The casino has hosted the series since February 2013. It runs five times annually. Generally, the series runs in:

  • February
  • May
  • August
  • October
  • December

The past two February editions have also featured a WPTDeepStacks main event.

However, Parx Big Stax usually features three main events. These are:

  • Big Stax 300
  • Big Stax 500
  • Big Stax 1500 or Big Stax 1100

Often there is also a Big Stax 2500. The main events feature multiple starting flights and usually boast the biggest guaranteed prize pools in the state.

Bounty, survivor, and seniors preliminary and side events are almost always part of the schedule as well.

Parx Big Stax XXV ran in May 2018 with Big Stax 300, Big Stax 500, and Big Stax 1100 main events. Together, these three tournaments made for a combined prize pool of almost $1.5 million.

The $300 + $40 Big Stax 300 was actually the biggest of the bunch, drawing a whopping 1,765 entries to create a $503,025 prize pool.

The $1,100 + $100 Big Stax 1100 drew 471 entries, creating a $502,557 prize pool. Plus, the $500 + $50 Big Stax 500 drew 874 entries, creating a $415,150 prize pool.

A schedule has yet to be released, but Parx Big Stax XXVI will likely run in August 2018.

SugarHouse SugarRush Challenge

The 28-table Poker Night in America Poker Room at SugarHouse Casino is inside Philadelphia city limits.

There’s cash game action 24 hours a day and tournaments running six days a week and twice on Saturdays and Sundays.

The room’s affiliation with Poker Night in America also means it hosts televised events on a semi-regular basis as well.

But as far as live poker events are concerned, the best of the room has to offer are clearly its $100,000 SugarRush Challenge events.

These events appear to take an entire tournament series and jam it into a single event. An affordable $250 buy-in, as many as eight two-a-day starting flights, and the chance to buy in directly on the final day for $1,100 have helped SugarRush Challenge events draw some big numbers.

SugarHouse started running SugarRush Challenge events in 2016 and actually ran four of them that first year. Last year saw another four go off and there have already been two in 2018.

The last $100,000 SugarRush Challenge ran in March 2018, drawing 656 players to create a guarantee smashing $154,460 prize pool.

SugarHouse also ran a $100,000 guaranteed $150 Little Rush event in April that proved even bigger. It drew 1,365 entries, creating a $163,800 prize pool.

The Poker Night in America Poker Room at SugarHouse Casino has clearly found its niche with these low buy-in multi-entry SugarRush Challenge events and they will continue.

The next one is schedule for June 20 to 24 with eight starting flights and the familiar $100,000 guaranteed prize pool.

Heartland Poker Tour Pennsylvania

The poker room at Meadows Racetrack and Casino just outside of Pittsburgh is far from Pennsylvania’s largest.

In fact, it’s got just 14 tables. However, it still manages to pack them in with its seven-day-a-week tournament schedule and cash games running 24 hours.

The televised Heartland Poker Tour picked the property to run one of its events back in November 2017.

The first-ever HPT Pennsylvania $1,100 Main Event drew 462 entries, creating a $448,140 prize pool. In fact, it was such a successful event, the tour came back to Meadows again in March 2018.

This time, the $1,100 Main Event at Meadows Racetrack and Casino drew a total of 422 entries, creating a $409,340 prize pool. There was even a series of side events and satellites surrounding it, with buy-ins as low as $60.

With two $400,000-plus prize pool events under its belt at Meadows, it appears the HPT is going to be making the casino a regular stop on the tour.

In fact, the HPT is heading back to Meadows in September 2018 for an HPT Mini-Series. A schedule has yet to be released. However, past HPT Mini-Series at other locations have generally featured at least four tournaments with a $350 Main Event and side event buy-ins ranging from $150 to $200.

Only the HPT knows when it will return to Meadows Racetrack and Casino for another one of its televised $1,100 Main Event tournaments. However, the spring of 2019 is probably a good bet.


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.