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PokerStars has gotten off to a good start in Michigan, and the results of the inaugural MICOOP prove it. At the same time, they raise an important question: Might the series have been bigger if PokerStars hadn’t been so cautious in setting the original guarantees?
The Michigan Championship of Online Poker ran from Feb. 20 to Mar. 8. What would ordinarily be a fall series took place in the late spring because PokerStars Michigan only launched in January. An actual spring series, MISCOOP should be coming up, in April or perhaps May.
PokerStars presumably didn’t want to wait that long for its first major series in the Wolverine State. Doing so would have meant missing out on post-launch hype. As we saw in Pennsylvania, the first appearance of a legal online poker site in a state brings high traffic and soft competition. Over time, enthusiasm wanes, and the weakest players tire of losing their money and move on.
At the same time, however, the design of the schedule and particularly the guarantees were very conservative for what was sure to be an exciting series for Michigonians. The series guaranteed $1 million in total, just half of the prize pools generated by PACOOP, the equivalent fall series in Pennsylvania.
Michigan cash game traffic in the early weeks was greater than that in Pennsylvania. PokerStars therefore had room to guarantee more.
There may have been some worry about player fatigue resulting from running MICOOP and MISCOOP in rapid succession, since the two year’s two COOP series usually come six months apart. If that’s the case, though, PokerStars contradicted its own decision by jacking up the MICOOP guarantees halfway through.
PokerStars did exactly the same thing partway through the original PACOOP in December 2019. It’s a bit perplexing that the company didn’t learn from that and set them higher to start with here. Perhaps its marketing team felt that boosting guarantees would make for better press than setting them high immediately.
If that was the plan, then it may have come at the expense of some revenue. Field sizes increased along with the guarantees, so early events probably could have been larger as well if the higher guarantees had been present from the start.
A typical tournament series starts off strong but loses steam gradually as it wears on. It will then finish on a high note on the weekend of the Main Event. The sophomore PACOOP last November demonstrated this pattern quite clearly.
The impact of the MICOOP mid-series change is equally obvious when placed side by side with PACOOP. Prize pool excesses came down sharply to be in line with PACOOP’s, but field sizes actually grew through the middle portion of the series following the guarantee boost.
If and when other states (like Illinois) legalize online poker, it will be interesting to see what PokerStars does. It may repeat the same strategy as in PA and MI. Conversely, it may attempt to capitalize on the excitement of newly-legal poker by coming in with large guarantees for its first series.
The guarantee increase and reversal of the mid-series trend aren’t the only interesting takeaways from Michigan’s first major tournament series. Here are a few other statistics and observations that provide us some insight into the Michigan market:
Finally, here are all the results of the series in one place:
|22||$30||5-Cd. PLO||6-Max Turbo||$3k||$5.4k|
|51||$50||NLHE||6-Max Turbo Zoom||$15k||$23.7k|
|60||$20||NLHE||HU Turbo PKO Zoom||$10k||$15.9k|
*: Boosted guarantee
**: Overlay (collected prize money shown – actual prize pool equals guarantee)