Michigan recently became the fifth state with legalized online poker and offers some momentum for the industry in the US. PokerStars has been operating in the state for 12 days and seems to be gaining some early traction.
The recent Wire Act ruling also is well-timed and paves the way for expanded interstate compacts. For PokerStars, that could eventually mean linking player pools in Michigan, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
This could be a boon to the industry and allow Stars to compete with WSOP.com’s shared liquidity in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. PokerStars has big plans for the Michigan market and sees it as a major opportunity to grow the brand in the US.
FOX Bet (sister company of PokerStars USA) CEO Kip Levin recently spoke with USPoker about where the company is headed in the Wolverine State.
What’s in store for PokerStars Michigan?
For PokerStars, adding a third legalized state in the US has been a major accomplishment. The industry has been slow to grow since online poker returned in 2013. But a fifth legalized state offers an opportunity at real expansion.
“It means a great deal,” Levin says of PokerStars launching Michigan. ”We already have real momentum based on our success in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and we have several key learnings from those states that we can apply to Michigan.”
Players on the sites will find all that most players would expect from the company’s well-regarded software. Some of those include:
- Cash games
- Spin & Go’s
- Daily tournaments
Levin said the company will also be rolling out PokerStars’ popular COOP (Championship of Online Poker) brand in the state soon. These major series also usually feature a couple versions including a SCOOP (spring).
The series has proven popular in NJ and PA. An MCOOP series may bring in plenty of online players in Michigan, where PokerStars remains the only operator so far. The company also remains the only game in town in Pennsylvania.
That head start offers the company an opportunity to grow its player base before competitors move in.
Will PokerStars Michigan have any major differences?
Levin said there won’t be any key changes to the platform in Michigan. However, adding more markets allows the company to improve the experience for US players.
Stars continues to fine tune its product in the American market. The company is continually adding to its offerings and promotional efforts in the US.
In Pennsylvania, that has included one-off events like Pennsyl-MANIA tournaments. Michigan players may see similar efforts.
“[There won’t be] any wholesale differences to the product but we are improving on the experience everyday through features like Home Games, which allows you to set up your own tournament in a virtual environment with your friends and fellow poker players,” Levin says.
Bringing new players to online poker
The shift in online poker recently has been geared toward adding new people to the player pool. PokerStars has been a part of that.
The company introduced more social gaming aspects in recent years. That includes features like “throwables,” allowing players to toss a virtual object at an opponent.
In May, the company’s international platform also introduced the “Rail” feature. This offers players a personalized dashboard to include favorite tournaments, social media, Twitch streams, videos, promotions, and more.
Like in other states, PokerStars Michigan offers a seamless mobile and gaming environment. Players can easily navigate between poker, online casino, and FOX Bet sports betting.
Levin sees this platform allowing players who might not otherwise play poker to “test drive” the product. The FOX Sports player pool allowed the company to hit the ground running.
“As far as engaging new audiences,” he says, “we are able to activate and cross-sell through an existing pool of Super 6 players in Michigan and are working closely with our partners at FOX to continue to engage and entertain their audiences.
“Not only are we the first operator of online poker in Michigan, PokerStars is the largest and most popular online poker product in the world. PokerStars rounds out a powerful trifecta to supercharge the sports, poker, and online betting experience in Michigan as the only operator to offer all three options with the same account and wallet.”
Some long term plans in the state
Expanded player pools offer a great opportunity for the US online poker industry. More states linked together means larger player and prize pools.
That could also help smaller populated states like West Virginia. These states may not support a ringed-in poker environment made of players only within the state.
Combining PokerStars three current states means a population of 31.7 million. By comparison, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware only total 13 million for WSOP.com’s current network.
Beyond virtual poker, PokerStars hopes to one day to bring major live tournament series back to the US. PokerStars Live has run events in the past in New Jersey.
The company is now considering a return when the pandemic is under control. That could also include Michigan.
“We are of course monitoring casino re-openings with an eye toward this in the future in accordance with public safety protocols,” Levin says.
“We have terrific partners in Michigan in the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa along with great partners in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and of course FOX who are interested in exploring the possibility of holding live events whenever it is safe to do so.”
How is PokerStars performing so far in Michigan?
A quick look at the numbers shows that Michigan players have embraced the opportunity to get in the action. According to PokerScout’s online traffic report, the platform has a seven-day average of about 425 players.
That has reached as high as a 967 for a 24-hour peak as of Tuesday. At the tournament tables, the Sunday majors continue to score well and top guarantees.
The $30 Sunday Warmup comes with a $5,000 guarantee and attracted 205 entries. That created a prize pool of $5,597.
The $100 Sunday Special guarantees $20,000 and brought in 301 entries for a $27,632 prize pool. In the $100 Nightly Stars, there were 184 entries for a $16,891 prize pool. That easily topped the $12,500 guarantee.
However, the $250 High Roller featured a layover after a big first Sunday. That event guaranteed $7,500 and almost doubled that on the first weekend.
The second version came with a $10,000 guarantee but only garnered 36 entries to create a $9,000 prize pool. Players were treated to a $1,000 overlay.
Despite that, players seem to be pleased with an online poker option. PokerStars seems pleased to be that option.
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