The day is finally here for Michigan online poker players to compete with players in New Jersey. On Friday, PokerStars announced it will combine player pools across Michigan and NJ beginning on Jan. 1, 2023. They will also host some exciting tournaments to celebrate the big day.
It’s welcome news for Michigan players who have been sidelined from shared player pools since getting online poker in early 2021.
Legislators included language for interstate poker expansion directly into the proposed bill, though it took until May of 2022 before the Michigan Gaming Control Board signed an agreement to move the dream forward.
Almost seven months later, the dream came true.
“Michigan and New Jersey joining forces is great news for our players in these two states, and poker, more generally, as it promises a better experience and even more value, all with the confidence provided by a trusted, licensed operator,” said PokerStars US Managing Director, Severin Rasset.
At the start, only PokerStars MI is offering interstate poker tournaments and cash games for players in Michigan and New Jersey. Keep reading to learn what changes you can expect at the virtual tables in Michigan moving forward.
What do merged player pools mean for Michigan poker players?
Big tournament series will be one of the most notable highlights from interstate poker. All sites have run successful series in their individual states, and we look for aggressive guarantees that could be double what Michigan players are used to seeing.
“Our community will experience more breadth and depth of games, more tournaments with bigger prizes to win, amped-up promotions, and more choice,” said Rasset. “To kick start, we are offering generous guarantees on our debut multi-state tournaments, that will no doubt provide lots of value for those who take to the tables. We worked closely with the regulators of New Jersey and Michigan, and we hope that more will follow this great example.”
Regular traffic and tournament guarantees will increase, too, but they will probably be in the range of a 30-50% increase rather than doubling current Michigan tournaments.
Lastly, interstate poker makes the long-term outlook brighter for each state. Increased prize pools can attract new players, some of whom may have been uncertain about the legitimacy of online poker. Those concerns of legitimacy also fade away as more states get on board.
All this further creates the right conditions for other states, such as Pennsylvania, to come into the agreement and sets a model for future states to legalize online poker. If more states come along, the domino effect can increase.
PokerStars MI celebrates shared liquidity with big guarantees
The Jan. 1 kickoff will include two special tournaments in which Michigan and New Jersey players can legally compete against each other for the first time.
- 6 p.m. ET: $100 buy-in, $100K guaranteed
- 6:30 p.m. ET: $10 buy-in, $50K guaranteed
Registration for both events opens on Dec. 27.
Expect more exciting announcements in terms of large guarantee tournaments and online poker series in the coming weeks.
Software updates were the missing piece to interstate play
The remaining question is when Michigan’s other sites – BetMGM Poker and World Series of Poker MI, will join player pools.
Both BetMGM and PokerStars rolled out software updates on their desktop and mobile apps within the past month, signaling the beginning of Michigan’s foray into shared liquidity within the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement.
BetMGM got the ball rolling by upgrading the software on its New Jersey client, which previously ran on a years-old version from long before it entered the Michigan and Pennsylvania markets in 2021. With the upgrade, BetMGM NJ now runs on the same software as it does in Michigan.
PokerStars followed suit on December 12-13, conducting scheduled maintenance that shut down its MI and NJ platforms. Its announcement stated players in both states should look forward to more games and tournaments with bigger prize pools and guarantees.
Michigan’s official entrance into the MSIGA marks the first interstate poker venture for either site. Before, WSOP was the only site to spread interstate poker, offering tournaments for players in New Jersey and Nevada.
Like BetMGM, WSOP’s software in Michigan and the ring-fenced Pennsylvania market is an upgraded version. Until it upgrades elsewhere, or Pennsylvania joins the interstate compact, WSOP MI will remain only for Michiganders.
Each site will see different results from interstate poker in Michigan
Despite being less than two years old, Michigan’s online poker traffic is significantly larger than New Jersey’s, where WSOP.com has operated for over nine years.
As each of Michigan’s counterparts in New Jersey has different traffic levels, each site will experience a different impact from combined player pools.
PokerStars, Michigan’s largest site, has a smaller presence in New Jersey. Similarly, BetMGM’s NJ skins are the smallest in the state. For both rooms, New Jersey players likely have more to gain with access to Michigan’s player pool.
However, New Jersey’s prospective pool nearly doubles Michigan’s current one. WSOP dominates New Jersey, where players can already engage in interstate competition.
PokerStars and BetMGM’s biggest opportunities to gain a larger piece of New Jersey’s online poker market come from interstate expansion into Michigan, especially with WSOP looking to be the last to interstate play.
Meanwhile, WSOP stands the most to gain from Michigan due to its dominance in New Jersey and Nevada. It currently operates the smallest room in Michigan, though it has the most recognizable brand in poker. A post-MSIGA WSOP.com will have tournaments with players competing from three states. That could give it the bump it’s been missing.
Will WSOP MI launch interstate play in time for the 2023 World Series of Poker?
We already know WSOP.com was the first online poker site to enact interstate poker play between New Jersey and Nevada. Still, it needs to upgrade its software to become compatible with its Michigan platform.
New Jersey and Nevada merged player pools on WSOP.com on May 1, 2018, just in time for that year’s World Series of Poker festival in Las Vegas. This allowed New Jersey players the chance to win one of several online bracelets from home for the first time in history.
But nearly seven months passed from the initial October 2017 announcement before pools came together.
If seven months pass from now, the summer WSOP online series in Michigan will be wrapping up. That seems unlikely, though.
More plausibly, WSOP updates its software during Q1 2023, before or in conjunction with the full 2023 WSOP schedule announcement. Its potential revenue from multi-state expansion into Michigan is too significant.
As a result, Michigan players could compete for prestigious WSOP bracelets this summer without braving 100-plus-degree temperatures.