Pittsburgh is rapidly transforming into a poker hub, according to the poker community.
A large number of players from Western Pennsylvania take part in the World Series of Poker (WSOP), an annual live tournament series held in Las Vegas. They also play in lesser known poker events with large prize pools, such as the Borgata Open and the World Poker Tour (WPT).
Last month, the company associated with Poker Night in America, a poker TV series, arrived at Pittsburgh to take videos of local pros playing high-stakes cash games with internationally acclaimed professional poker players.
Jack Schanbacher, a poker player from Reserve, said:
Poker in Pittsburgh is actually pretty big. There are some high-stakes games that go on in Pittsburgh that you don’t find across the country. There are some wealthy guys that enjoy playing poker. We get some very big games.
Schanbacher played against Greg Raymer, champion of WSOP 2004 Main Event; Joe Cada, champion of WSOP 2009 Main Event; and four other major poker players at the filming of Poker Night in America.
According to Nolan Dalla, Poker Night in America’s creative director, Pittsburgh was the best place to film the series. Calling it a “fresh, new market,” he said that poker is actually growing in Pittsburgh as it has players who are “excited and open to what” the company was trying to do in fresh and new poker locations.
Schanbacher, who specializes in cash games, said that this put him at an advantage over tournament players during the Poker Night filming. He said:
Even though these guys are big names and poker pros, I feel like they were playing more in my element. I felt comfortable and in control the whole time.
According to Jim Tinney, poker manager at Rivers Casino, Pittsburgh has a number of “action players” who are comfortable with high-stakes cash games. He remarked that Pittsburgh is definitely more interested in the game at present.
Rivers Casino has the fourth biggest live poker room in the state, which has generated as much as $3.45 million in poker revenue from July to December last year, a figure that is definitely larger than the $3.38 million generated during the same months in 2012.
Schanbacher says that poker attracts a lot of people because it is competitive and requires excellent decision making skills. Besides, it is a social game, which requires players to observe their opponents and interact with them.