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BetMGM has announced its inaugural Online Poker Series in Michigan. This is a quick start for the site, which only went live a fortnight ago.
BetMGM Poker, which is powered by Partypoker technology, has released the schedule for the series, which comprises 10 events. These consist of one tournament every evening from Apr. 18 to Apr. 25. With one exception, buy-ins start at $109, and the two top events each offer a $75,000 guarantee.
There is one Pot-Limit Omaha event on the schedule, while the remainder consists of No-Limit Hold’em. Two are progressive knockout events.
There is also a $109 Sunday Special the week before the series starts. While not part of the schedule for the main series, it features a higher guarantee than any of those events, at $100,000, and is branded as a “Main Event.” This is an unusual strategy, so it will be interesting to see if it pays off for BetMGM to put its biggest event first, and disconnected from the remainder of the series.
|2||Apr 19||$215||NLHE||8-Max PKO||$20k|
|5||Apr 22||$215||NLHE||8-Max 40-Stack||$20k|
|6||Apr 23||$320||NLHE||8-Max PKO||$25k|
PokerStars’ Michigan Championship of Online Poker comprised 60 events. The total guarantees were initially $1 millino, but rose to $1.4 million thanks to some mid-series guarantee boosts. It included many events for mid-level players priced at $20 to $50, while BetMGM has just the one. The result was a series with over 28,000 entries, which paid out over $2.2 million in prize money.
BetMGM’s partial month revenues won’t be out for a week. However, its daily average cash game traffic is about one-fifth that of PokerStars. Between that and the conservative nature of this tournament series, its revenue figures will presumably be well behind those of PokerStars.
Michigan online casinos and mobile sports betting launched simultaneously in January, with poker following a week later. This synchronized launch is significant because poker is often seen as a marketing tool to attract customers before cross-selling them on those other verticals.
Across the US legal poker markets, the big operators compete ferociously for market share. Poker players tend to be more loyal to the sites they use than casino customers. That means they’re more valuable to an operator than dollars alone would suggest.
These big tournament series occupy a special place in poker marketing. They provide an opportunity to attract new players with headline grabbing prize pools.
For example, the winner of the PokerStars MICOOP Main Event pocketed $56,398.93. “Over $50,000 for the winner” makes a useful claim for PokerStars, as was the event’s $200,000 guarantee.
PokerStars is expected to announced the Michigan Spring Championship of Online Poker in coming weeks. If it’s similar to PASCOOP, which kicks off next week, it will probably guarantee $2 million. That may explain BetMGM’s haste to run its first series, as well as its short length. If it can’t compete with PokerStars’ series for sheer size, it wants to avoid having the two overlap.
Current figures from PokerScout show PokerStars with a 24 hour peak of 897 cash game seats. BetMGM is trailing with a peak of 154 seats. Over in New Jersey, WSOP/888 leads the field with a 24 hour peak of 428. Stars is second with 262 and the Partypoker US Network, of which BetMGM is a part, is in third with 183, though it occasionally creeps into second in terms of revenue.
Michigan has a population about 10% larger than New Jersey’s. All other things being equal, we can expect the Michigan total market to be similar in size.
BetMGM does have one thing going for it in Michigan, which it that it’s in the market before WSOP. It will clearly want to do better than it is doing in New Jersey. That said, poker isn’t as key to its business as it is for PokerStars. BetMGM had a 34% share of Michigan internet gaming in February — and that’s before it even launched online poker.
While the inaugural series is a reasonable start, BetMGM will need to find a way to attract more players if it hopes to challenge PokerStars, or at least not lose out once WSOP launches.