PN East Coast Road Trip (Day 5): Pennsylvania's Mount Airy PokerStars Poker Room
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Last year, PokerNews sent a team down south for a weeklong “Texas Road Trip” to visit various cardrooms and local historical poker spots. On Monday, we did the same thing by sending PokerNews Community Manager Jesse Fullen and US Live Reporting Executive Matt Hansen to Philadelphia for the start of our “East Coast Road Trip.”
Over the course of the next week, we will be updating this piece daily documenting our adventures, which will include visits to live poker rooms, checking out the online poker sites in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and even meeting up with some notable East Coast players. You can also follow along on PokerNews social media.
Day 1 – Live Poker Rooms in Philadelphia
After traveling from Las Vegas to Philly on Sunday, Matt and Jesse got a good night’s rest before checking out the live poker rooms in the “City of Brotherly Love.” First up was Parx Poker Room, which houses a massive 48 tables. It was there we were welcomed by Director of Poker Operations Bill Entenman, an industry veteran.
He started in poker after watching Rounders when he was 21. Since then, he has worked in every position you can imagine in a poker room starting as a dealer before taking a floor position. Two decades later, he’s been at Parx for several years and has seen lots of change over his tenure.
He told us some great stories about local players such as Matt Glantz and Shaun Deeb, and he also shared his love for the game. While tournaments haven’t come back to Parx yet post-pandemic, daily tournaments appear to be coming back in June 2023.
If you’re in the area north of Philadelphia, you have to check out Parx – they currently have a Bad Beat Jackpot sitting at $424,000 – and tell them PokerNews sent you! Here's a look at the Parx Poker Room:
From there, the crew headed to Rivers Philadelphia, formerly known as Sugar House Casino. Their 28-table enclosed poker room is gearing up for their $1,100 Ultra Rush Event this weekend. The $200K GTD tournament kicks off with Day 1a on Thursday, May 18 at 6:15 p.m. Days 1b and 1c will take place at 11:15 a.m. on Friday and Saturday respectively, and the survivors from all flights will return at 11:15 a.m. on Sunday, May 21 to play down to a winner.
The last stop of the day was over at Live! Philadelphia, which is home to a 29-table poker room with plenty of tournaments on their calendar.
Day 2 – Commemorating Ryan Depaulo's Whole Foods Victory
Back in 2020, the pandemic lockdown was in full swing. Because the traditional World Series of Poker (WSOP) couldn’t be held in Las Vegas, officials opted to host a summer online bracelet festival open to players in New Jersey and Nevada. One of the highlights from that virtual festival came out of Event #12: The BIG 500 No-Limit Hold’em, a tournament that attracted 1,624 entries and offered up a $159,563 prize pool.
The final table of that tournament had some heavyweights in Shannon Shorr (7th - $22,826), Terry Fleischer (6th - $30,143), Hayden Fortini (4th - $53,625), and Sean Ruane (3rd - $72,410), but in the end it came down to Jack Salter and Ryan Depaulo.
Depaulo, who hails from New York, had traveled across the state border and was playing on a laptop from inside his car parked in a Hoboken Whole Foods parking lot. It was there he defeated Salter to win the tournament for $159,563 and his first gold bracelet.
In the early morning hours with few souls in the parking lot, Depaulo got out of his car and shouted a cheer of victory. It was the stuff of legends, so naturally, Jesse Fullen and Matt Hansen needed to visit that very spot on their East Coast Road Trip, and wouldn’t you know it, Depaulo was there!
Check it out in this video:
On Tuesday, Jesse and Matt also paid a visit to the home of 2012 WSOP Main Event champ and Player of the Year Greg Merson, but we’re going to save details and highlights on that for a standalone article coming up this weekend!
Day 3 – Discovering Ivey's Fake ID in Atlantic City
On Wednesday, Jesse and Matt made their way to Atlantic City, which at one point in time was the only other place to find legalized poker games outside of Las Vegas. You might recall in the cult classic poker film Rounders it’s where Mike McDermott went to after his friend Worm said of A.C.:
“Rolled up aces over kings. Check-raising stupid tourists and taking huge pots off of them. Playing all-night high-limit Hold'em at the Taj, ‘where the sand turns to gold.’ Stacks and towers of checks I can't even see over.”
Well, the days of poker at the Taj are long gone, but there is still a trio of poker rooms in Atlantic City. The first stop was over at the Tropicana, which has 10 tables spreading primarily $1/$2 no-limit hold’em, the sort of place Mike and Worm might be found on a Saturday night.
While there, PokerNews spoke with a player who actually had a fun piece of poker history and was kind enough to share it with us. Before Phil Ivey became the legend that he is, it’s well-known he used to play in Atlantic City using a fake ID. He used that piece of identification, which had him listed as Jerome Graham (AKA “No-Home Jerome”) to get a Tropicana Player’s Card that listed him as simply “JG.”
Matt and Jesse then made their way over to Harrah’s Atlantic City, which has played host to many WSOP Circuits over the years. In fact, there was no shortage of WSOP branding in the room, which had 23 tables, five of which were full with a decent list at 11:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. Among the games to be found were $3/$6 limit hold’em and both $1/$2 and $1/$3 no-limit hold’em.
Finally, it was over to the Borgata, which has long been the poker heavyweight in Atlantic City. While they used to host some of the biggest tournaments on the East Coast including World Poker Tour (WPT) stops, as well as their own in-house series (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Poker Opens), the pandemic really disrupted all of that.
In fact, it wasn’t until January of this year that the Borgata began dipping its toes back into the tournament pool. It was there that Bin Weng, who is currently at not one but two WPT final tables, bested a 1,142-entry field to win the $5,300 The Return at Borgata for a smooth $1,000,000!
Since then, the Borgata has hosted several other events and looks to continue its “tournament comeback.”
Day 4 – Visiting Delaware and Maryland
On Thursday, Jesse and Matt headed south for a stop at Delaware Park Casino & Racing, the first of four stops for the day. It was home to 25 poker tables plus a live horse race track attached to the venue, not to mention a big beautiful golf course they drove through to get there.
One of the cool things they offer is a “Poker Nights” promotion with rake-free games.
From there, it was into Maryland for a quick stop at Hollywood Casino Perryville, which has a handful of poker tables for lower stakes $1-$2 NLH games.
Next up was a stop PokerNews had been looking forward to for quite some time – Maryland Live!. One of the East Coast’s premier poker destinations, the two-story poker room has 25 tables on each floor. Cash games were located downstairs while tournaments took place on the upper level.
The day's final stop was at the Horseshoe Baltimore, another Caesars-owned property that has played host to the WSOP Circuit in the past. Given the WSOP connection, PokerNews did a fun giveaway by handing out two old decks of Binion’s Horseshoe cards to the players, as well as a signed poker chip by 16-time gold bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth.
Hanging in the poker room were some cool photos including Greg Merson’s winner pic and images of Bobby Baldwin, Chris Moneymaker, and Jennifer Harman. Also, thanks to Caesars being an official sponsor of the NFL, the purple tables were branded by the local NFL team the Baltimore Ravens.
On Sunday, May 28 at 11:15 a.m., the poker room hosts a WSOP Mega Satellite to the Main Event in Las Vegas. It’s a $260 buy-in with two $10,000 seats guaranteed.
Day 5 – PokerStars Poker Room at Mount Airy in Pennsylvania
On Friday, the final day of the East Coast Road Trip, Jesse and Matt started with a visit to Maryland's MGM National Harbor. The poker room at MGM National is equipped with 45 tables, including an elevated High-Limit platform and exclusive High-Limit Salon, and offers cash games at various stakes in addition to daily tournaments. The poker room is also equipped with automatic shufflers, massage food and drink service and jackpot promotions.
On any given day or night, expect to find No-Limit Hold'em games starting at $1/$3 and climbing to $5/$10, as well as a $4/$8 Limit Hold'em game. In addition to the poker room, MGM National Harbor offers a full collection of casino games and plenty of entertainment and dining options.
From there, the duo drove up to Pennsylvania where they made a stop at Mohegan Sun Pocono Poker Room in Wilkes-Barre. The property features a nine-table poker room that is smoke-free and equipped with televisions and full drink service.
The Mohegan Sun Pocono Poker Room offers both cash game and tournament action at various stakes, including formats such as No-Limit Hold'em, Stud, and Omaha. $1-$2 no-limit hold'em and $1-$3 pot-limit Omaha are often spread, and there's a $125 Daily Bounty Event.
The final stop of the day was at Mount Airy Casino in Mt. Pocono, Pennsylvania. You might know the property as the official online gaming partner of PokerStars PA, and you might be interested to know that there is a 12-table PokerStars Poker Room at Mount Airy.
There were no tournaments happening when PokerNews visited, but there were three full cash games spread. Apparently, the action is pretty good as one player told us, “I have to remind myself every time I come here — they do not fold.”
The room is professionally run by experienced staff and dealers. If and when PokerStars looks to host live events in the United States, don't be surprised if Mount Airy is a stop.
Jesse and Matt spent the night at Mount Airy before driving back to the place where the road trip began - Philadelphia. They managed to squeeze in a couple of cheesesteaks and grind a bit at Rivers Philadelphia but then caught a flight back to Las Vegas. It put an end to the "road trip" portion of the project, but be sure to stay tuned to PokerNews as we'll have some more content in the coming days including a feature on Greg Merson and a discussion on the next PokerNews Podcast.
Executive Editor US, PokerNews Podcast co-host & 2013 WSOP Bracelet Winner.