After Two Days of Testing, PokerStars PA Launches in Full
Wednesday marked a momentous day in regulated online poker in the U.S. PokerStars PA has now fully launched in Pennsylvania, marking the fifth state to offer regulated online poker, and the second with a client branded by the world's leading online poker operator.
The launch followed two "soft launch" days that featured an eight-hour and then ten-hour window of play on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
Positive Early Momentum
The much-anticipated soft launch followed a two-year wait since the passage of a bill clearing online poker in Pennsylvania, and both sessions were well-attended. According to PocketFives, all of the scheduled tournaments easily exceeded posted guarantees, with the biggest of those more than tripling a $1,000 guarantee for a prize pool more than $3,200.
The launch of the full client has expanded the list of offerings to players. As expected, tournaments, cash games and sit-n-gos were all on tap. Lobbies up to relatively high stakes — $25/$50 cash games and $500 sit-n-gos — were available.
Tournament players looking for decent prize pools can circle a nightly $100 tournament with $7,500 guaranteed. Looking ahead, PocketFives' Lance Bradley reported on Twitter that the Sunday tournament schedule will feature some solid guarantees, headlined by the $100 buy-in Sunday Special with a $40K prize pool.
The tournament offerings largely mimic what's available on the main PokerStars site, albeit with scaled-down prizes befitting the smaller market size.
Surging Past New Jersey
Player counts north of 700 were widely reported by industry observers eyeing the action earlier this week, and that looks to be a very encouraging start for PokerStars PA.
Traffic monitor PokerScout recorded a 24-hour peak of 784 players, more than four times the 178-player peak for PokerStars NJ. It's also almost double the number posted for WSOP.com, which has the distinct advantage of serving a combined player pool from multiple states thanks to the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association.
A population of almost 13 million means Pennsylvania dwarfs neighboring New Jersey, and has about the same population as the states in the MSIGA combined. That creates exciting possibilities for liquidity should Pennsylvania eventually join the MSIGA.
However, in the short term, it could mean some cannibalization occurs as players from New Jersey may cross over to Pennsylvania to participate in the bigger player pool. With population center Philadelphia barely a stone's throw from the New Jersey border, that is a distinct possibility.
Revenue numbers from New Jersey aren't looking especially promising at the moment. PlayNJ reported an almost continuous five-year drop since legalization, with 2019 looking like the bleakest yet on record.
There's no doubt Pennsylvanians have a huge appetite for poker given the popularity of rooms like Parx and the Rivers properties. It looks like the enthusiasm for online poker is no less strong, and the encouraging start could mean there's something to build on, particularly if favorable legislation continues to come down.