[toc]Pennsylvania casinos started offering live poker in 2010. The PA live poker scene has grown into one of the biggest in the country since that time.
There are now 10 Pennsylvania casinos that have poker rooms and most offer a regular tournament schedule. Some have even developed seasonal tournament series with guaranteed prize pools that make them destinations for poker players from across the country.
Here’s a look at the top five major live tournament series in PA and the reasons why they are the best:
1. Parx Big Stax
The conversation about the biggest and best poker tournament series in the state often begins and ends with Parx Casino and its Big Stax series.
Parx’s close proximity to Philadelphia helps make it the top-grossing poker room in PA, but things really heat up during the Parx Big Stax.
The casino has hosted the Parx Big Stax poker tournament series since February 2013. The series runs five times annually in February, May, August, October, and December.
The series’ generally feature three main events. This includes the Big Stax 300, Big Stax 500, and Big Stax 1500 or Big Stax 1100. The main events feature multiple starting flights and the biggest guaranteed prize pools in the state.
Preliminary and side events almost always include bounty, survivor, and seniors events.
Over the years, Parx Big Stax has regularly hosted a WPTDeepStacks main event as a part of the series.
In 2012, Parx also hosted the WPT Parx Open Poker Classic, a televised event that was part of the World Poker Tour’s 11th season.
2. Sands DeepStack Extravaganza
Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem is probably the only real challenger to Parx’s crown as the top-grossing poker room in the state.
Its DeepStack Extravaganza series is also the only challenger to the Parx Big Stax dominance of the tournament series scene. The name may have been borrowed from Sands Casino’s Venetian in Las Vegas. However, the PA version of the DeepStack Extravaganza holds its own.
The March 2017 incarnation of the series exceeded guaranteed prize pools across six events, including $250,000 for the main event. In fact, the $550 main event drew a solid 712 entries, creating a $348,880 guarantee-crushing prize pool.
The Sands Bethlehem DeepStack Extravaganza has been running since 2012, and even ran twice a year in 2014 and 2016. Although it only went off once in 2017, there are no signs its going anywhere or slowing down.
3. Heartland Poker Tour at The Meadows
Pittsburgh’s The Meadows Racetrack and Casino jumped in the major poker tournament series game in 2017 when it hosted the Heartland Poker Tour (HPT) in the fall.
The series ran Oct. 26 through Nov. 6 and the televised $1,100 HPT main event more than doubled its $200,000 prize pool guarantee. In fact, the event drew 462 entries, creating a $448,140 prize pool. Plus, the winner’s share was $102,248.
The series also kicked off with a $350 event that more than doubled its $100,000 guarantee when a $227,400 prize pool was created. Bounty, seniors, and main event satellite events filled out the schedule.
Doubling both its big guarantees pretty much ensures the HPT will want to come back. Plus, it puts The Meadows Racetrack and Casino on the major tournament series map in PA.
4. The Pittsburgh Poker Open
Pittsburgh has been proving it has a big appetite for big poker tournament series since Rivers Casino started hosting the Pittsburgh Poker Open in 2013.
The casino even moved up to hosting seasonal Pittsburgh Poker Open events twice a year, although there was just one festival held in 2017.
In the past, the main event has been filmed for broadcast on “Poker Night in America.” However, the big event on the Pittsburgh Poker Open is usually the Pittsburgh Hammer. This tournament features as many as eight starting flights and a ton of daily satellites helping bloat the prize pool.
In March 2017, the $220+$30 Pittsburgh Hammer drew a whopping 621 entries creating a massive $175,650 prize pool. In terms of bang for your buck, the Pittsburgh Poker Open and its Pittsburgh Hammer event are the best in PA.
5. SugarHouse SugarRush Challenge
Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino and its Poker Night in America Poker Room have managed to boil a major tournament series down to a single event.
The room ran multiple $100,000 SugarRush Challenge events in 2016, but really perfected it in December 2017. From Dec. 13 through Dec. 17, SugarHouse ran eight $250 starting flights for the tournament, two each day. They even let players buy in directly on Day 2 for $1,100.
The result was an event with a massive 650 entries and a huge $150,270 prize pool. SugarHouse has tried to start other local tournament series in the past, but seems to have found its niche with the multi-entry SugarRush Challenge.