New Michigan Rivalry? BetMGM Poker, PokerStars Announce Easter Tournaments

Posted By Martin Harris on March 23, 2021 - Last Updated on March 25, 2021

Michigan online poker players suddenly have choices to make.

After waiting patiently for the state’s first online poker site, PokerStars MI, to launch in late January, BetMGM Poker MI arrived as well this week, providing a second option and some competition.

As if to highlight the new rivalry, both sites have announced special events happening on the same day: April 4, or Easter Sunday.

In this heads-up battle, PokerStars MI will be running its first Michigan Classic, a $300 buy-in tournament with a big $500,000 guaranteed prize pool.

Meanwhile, BetMGM Poker MI will run a smaller, free-to-play event, a $50,000 Freeroll Invitational Tournament open to all players joining the site.

PokerStars swings for fences with $500K gtd. Michigan Classic

PokerStars MI has already run its first major tournament series here, the inaugural Michigan Championship of Online Poker (MICOOP). The 60-event series was a success, with initially conservative tournament guarantees having to be increased and more than $2.2 million awarded.

That performance no doubt encouraged PokerStars MI to set this big $500,000 guarantee for the Michigan Classic. The tournament follows a model provided by the recurring Pennsyl-MANIA events at PokerStars PA.

Like Pennsyl-MANIA, the Michigan Classic will be a two-day no-limit hold’em tournament allowing up to five re-entries during the late registration period. Pennsyl-MANIA tournaments have cost $200 to play, but the Michigan Classic is sporting a $300 buy-in.

Day 1 of the Michigan Classic begins at 5 p.m. Eastern Time on April 4. Play will continue until 12:45 a.m. The surviving players will restart at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 5, at which point they’ll play down to a winner.

The tournament will likely be the largest in PokerStars MI’s short history. So far, that distinction belongs to the MICOOP Main Event. That tournament also featured a $300 buy-in, attracted 1,284 total entries and had a $359,520 prize pool.

The largest Pennyl-MANIA event on PokerStars PA was the first one staged in May 2020. That event featured a prize pool of almost $516,000.

PokerStars MI is also running a Michigan Classic Depositor Freeroll on April 4. Players depositing $30 or more using the bonus code “CLASSIC” between now and 1:59 p.m. on Apr. 4 receive entry into the 2 p.m. tournament.

The top 200 finishers in the Michigan Classic Depositor Freeroll will win seats in the Michigan Classic later that day. That adds up to PokerStars giving away $60,000 worth of entries for Michigan online poker players.

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BetMGM Michigan lays out welcome mat with $50K freeroll

Speaking of freerolls, that’s what the fledgling BetMGM Poker Michigan site is offering MI poker players as a kind of counter-programming on April 4.

The $50,000 Freeroll Invitational Tournament has yet to appear in the BetMGM Poker MI client but will be available on Monday (March 29), according to a spokesperson for BetMGM. The $50,000 prize pool will consist of tournament tickets into other events, with prizes going to the top 1,000 finishers in the tournament. Those finishing 751st to 1,000th will earn $10 tickets. Players finishing from Nos. 501-750 will receive $25 tickets, and those from 251st to 500th will receive $50 in tickets.

The top 250 will each win entry into a $109 buy-in Main Event in the yet-to-be-announced BetMGM Grand Online Series, likely to be the first major tournament series on the site.

On top of that, the top five finishers will win additional tournament entries going from $100 for fifth up to $500 for the winner, according to BetMGM.

Obviously, Michigan online poker players need not choose between the two Easter Sunday events, but can play them both. The BetMGM Poker MI freeroll does seem a worthwhile way to encourage players to download the client and create accounts, readying them to continue playing on the site.

The Easter duel between the sites won’t provide much indication of how the PokerStars-BetMGM competition will go in Michigan. But it does serve as a first round of sorts, hinting at the battle to come.

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Freerolls vs. paid tournaments

For new online poker players, a freeroll tournament is exactly what it sounds like. It is a tournament for which there is no entry fee. The prize pool is entirely donated by the hosting site.

Sometimes, the prize pool is cash. Other times, the prizes come in the form of tournament tickets, such as in the case of the BetMGM Poker freeroll. In the latter case, the freeroll is essentially a free satellite tournament, for which prizes are entries into other tournaments.

By contrast, a paid tournament requires players to post an entry fee in order to play. The Michigan Classic on PokerStars MI is one example, requiring a $300 fee in order to register for the event. With online sites, if you change your mind and do not wish to play a paid tournament, you are generally able to unregister at any point before the tournament’s start time and be refunded your entry fee.

Michigan online poker players should keep an eye out for freerolls. They can provide a good way to start building a bankroll at little expense, or none at all. New sites in particular often offer them. It’s no surprise to see both PokerStars MI and BetMGM Poker MI doing so as they try to establish themselves in a new state.

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Martin Harris

Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. In 2019, his book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books.

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