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Michigan became the sixth US state with legal online poker when lawmakers passed the Lawful Internet Wagering Act (HB 4311) in 2019. The law authorizes up to 15 Michigan poker sites, a maximum of one apiece for each of the state’s eligible casino license holders.
In practice, poker is a sufficiently niche product that this limit won’t be approached. There are only two brands known to be coming to the state, and a third which seems likely but has not made firm plans.
Michigan online poker finally launched in January 2021, exactly one week after the arrival of Michigan online casinos and sportsbooks. Less than two months later, with the launch of BetMGM Poker, it became the only state other than New Jersey to offer players the choice of more than one legal online poker room.
Michigan online poker went live when PokerStars opened its virtual doors in January 2021. The worldwide leader had a monopoly on the action in the state for two months. Then, BetMGM, which already had its sportsbook and online casino up and running in the state, joined the party with BetMGM Poker in March 2021. With the launch, Michigan became only the second state in the country with multiple online poker options for its citizens.
The third major US poker operator, WSOP, isn’t live yet in Michigan. However, its parent company, Caesars, now owns William Hill, which operates in the state. It plans to switch all of William Hills’ US operations over to its own brand, and WSOP will probably launch shortly thereafter. All of this is expected to take place in the second half of 2021.
Unlike online casinos and sportsbooks, online poker generally isn’t available to play in browser. Rather, there is typically a download client for desktop computers, as well as mobile apps for iOS and Android. The good news is that the geolocation technology is included in the software, so there’s no need to install a browser plug-in as there is for casinos and sportsbooks. Here’s a closer look at the different sites that you can play in Michigan.
PokerStars is the largest poker operator in the world. However, the site is polarizing among players. It’s known for having the slickest, most reliable software out there, good customer service, and a decent array of games. On the other hand, it often faces criticism for being stingy with its promotions and making moves that are unfriendly to professional players, such as charging a high rake on certain games and limiting multi-table play.
With that said, its welcome package offer two choices to new players. The easier option for casual players to redeem requires playing one hand and get $50 free play.
The alternative bonus is worth much more, but takes more work. Promotional code STARS600 will cause the site to match every dollar of your first three deposits, up to $600 total. However, be aware that there is a playthrough requirement for this bonus. You will have to contribute $3.60 in rake for every bonus dollar cleared.
BetMGM Poker became the second online poker room in the state in March 2021. The debut put an end to the speculation about which brand would represent MGM in Michigan, since strategic partner Entain also owns partypoker. When it was all said and done, however, the use of the BetMGM brand allows for easier integration with the online casino and sportsbook of the same name. BetMGM is not a terribly big player in other markets, but Michigan may represent an opportunity for a fresh start for the company.
BetMGM Poker has an extremely generous signup bonus for new players. Upon registration, you get $25 free. In addition, BetMGM will match your first deposit dollar-for-dollar up to $600.
More and more people are playing poker on their phones. In online poker’s boom days, desktop clients were king, but these days players want to enjoy their favorite games on the go. As a result, you won’t find a single online poker operator that doesn’t offer both desktop and mobile play.
That said, there are upsides and downsides to either platform. Fortunately, you only need a single account for both the desktop and mobile versions of your chosen poker site, so you can switch back and forth as needed.
There’s one big reason to play poker on your phone or tablet, and that’s convenience. You can play on your couch, in bed, on the go, wherever you like, as long as you stay within the borders of Michigan.
If you’re playing cash games, you can pull your phone out to play a few hands whenever you like, and put the game down just as easily. If you’re playing tournaments, you can get up for a drink or a snack – or, yes, even a bathroom break – without needing to miss a hand.
Convenience often comes with a cost, however. When it comes to online poker, the small screen and touchscreen interface of a mobile device mean sacrificing some of the features available in a desktop client.
One limitation of most mobile poker apps is that they can only display one table at a time. You may be able to play multiple tables at once, but will have to switch between them, which means not keeping an eye on the action when it isn’t your turn to act.
The lack of a real keyboard also makes typing in bet sizes and player notes more of a chore. You may find yourself relying on the bet slider and player labels instead.
The good news is that poker operators are in an ongoing arms race to improve mobile functionality. With each app update, these issues become less of a bother, as companies find ways to work around them and adapt the game to mobile play.
Playing poker on your mobile device is extremely easy, perhaps even more so than on a desktop computer. Thanks to a change in Google’s policies in early 2021, that’s now as true for Android as it is for iOS, as legal gambling apps are now available in both the Play Store and the iOS App Store.
Poker apps – and indeed, all real money gambling apps – are 100% free to download, install, and sign up for. If you’ve already got an account with your chosen site, you can skip the sign up step, as the same account works for both desktop and mobile play. If you don’t, then the signup process is much the same either way, but perhaps easier on mobile since you can take photographs of your identifying documents instead of scanning them.
All you have to do is search for your chosen brand in the appropriate store, download it like you would any other app, then launch it and follow the on-screen prompts to sign in or sign up. If you’re registering for the first time, make sure to use an appropriate bonus code so you’re not missing out on a potentially lucrative bonus offer.
Theoretically, every land-based casino operator in Michigan is entitled to have one online poker brand. In practice, the state is unlikely to ever get close to that limit. Looking at New Jersey, for instance, we see roughly 30 online casino brands, yet only four online poker rooms (one of which, Pala Poker, is effectively nonexistent due to lack of players).
Once WSOP launches, Michigan will have the same three major brands as NJ and PA:
It’s quite likely that these will be the only options for a long time. However, there are some other brands that could launch a poker product:
Players in Michigan now have access to most major forms of poker, including both cash games and a variety of tournament formats.
Poker isn’t a single game, but rather a family of games, the most popular of which you’ll be able to find in Michigan. No-Limit Texas Hold’em remains the most played poker game in the world, having been popularized by televised broadcasts from the likes of the World Series of Poker and World Poker Tour. Its four-card variant, Omaha, is the runner up, and gradually gaining in popularity.
Depending on the site, you might also find other variants like Stud games, Draw games and Lowball or Hi/Lo games. However, the more obscure the variant, the less likely it is to find a table running. Smaller sites often have only Hold’em and Omaha for this reason.
Stakes typically range from a few pennies into the thousands of dollars for both tournaments and cash games in other regulated markets.
Here’s a quick rundown of the main forms of poker you’ll find at legal online poker sites in Michigan.
Cash games, also known as ring games, were at one time the only way poker was played. They’re also what you’ll see most commonly depicted in TV shows and movies.
Players exchange real money for chips of the same dollar value. They then play as many or as few hands as they like. When a player wants to stop, they simply get up and trade their chips back in for cash. The poker room makes its money by taking a small amount out of each pot, called the rake.
In live poker rooms, cash game tables typically seat up to nine or ten players. These tables are called full ring. Online, however, shorthanded play has become increasingly popular due to its faster pace, with six-handed tables receiving the most traffic on many sites.
When searching for a site to play cash games, the main things you’re looking for are low rake (or a good rewards program) and soft competition. Traffic is usually only a secondary consideration, but small sites might not always have the game or stakes you want running at any given time.
Scheduled tournaments, also known as multi-table tournaments (MTTs), represent a way to try to win large amounts of money on a relatively modest buy-in. Players show up at the designated time (or during the late registration window) and pay a fixed fee to enter. Most of this goes into the tournament prize pool, while the site withholds a small tournament entry fee in lieu of rake.
Players receive a fixed number of chips, which have no cash value. The blinds and/or antes increase steadily throughout the tournament to keep the action moving. Once a certain percentage of players (usually around 80% to 90%) have been eliminated, the remaining players are “in the money” and will receive a prize based on their finishing order. The last player standing receives a significant chunk of the prize pool, which can end up being tens or hundreds of times the buy-in depending on the size of the tournament.
You can read more about the scheduled poker tournaments in Michigan below.
Sit-and-goes (or SNGs for short) are a faster version of scheduled tournaments. They often consist of only a single table (STTs), or a small and fixed number of tables. Rather than being scheduled for certain times, they run on demand as soon as the requisite number of players sign up. Usually they don’t take more than an hour to play, or considerably less for ones using a turbo or hyperturbo structure.
Lottery sit-and-goes (or LSNGs) are the fastest tournaments of all. This format dates back less than a decade, and is usually known by a trademarked name that differs from site to site, such as Spin & Go at PokerStars. There is no one standard generic name for these, but LSNG is the most common.
These differ from regular SNGs in three main ways:
For a typical three-player LSNG, the prize will often be just twice the buy-in, but can sometimes be higher, with rare jackpots that can be thousands of times the buy-in or more. Generally speaking, smaller prizes are winner-take-all, but big ones might leave some money aside as a consolation to the runners-up. The exact rules and pay tables for these tournaments vary by site, so make sure to read up on the game before you play.
The bigger the poker site, the bigger its tournaments. There’s perhaps no aspect of online poker so dramatically impacted by a site’s popularity than the size of its tournament guarantees and prize pools.
What that means in Michigan at the moment is that PokerStars is usually going to be the go-to destination for tournament play, as its player pool is at least twice as large as BetMGM Poker’s.
In terms of weekly events, you’ll find the biggest ones taking place each Sunday, which is common practice everywhere. The Sunday majors at PokerStars Michigan range from the $10 Sunday Storm up to the $100 Sunday Special and the $250 Sunday High Roller. You can win entry to any of these by way of satellites, as well.
Adding to this are various annual, occasional and one-off special series hosted by PokerStars. The biggest of these are the Michigan Championship of Online Poker (MICOOP) and its spring counterpart, MISCOOP. Both of these have already had their inaugural runs. PokerStars also tends to host Summer and Winter Series, plus smaller themed series throughout the year like Bounty Builder.
For its part, BetMGM Poker follows a similar weekly schedule, also peaking on Sunday. Its Online Series is a smaller affair than the special series at PokerStars, with the inaugural series consisting of just 10 events, although most of these had big buy-ins of $109 and up.
Indeed, BetMGM seems to prefer higher buy-ins overall. Its biggest weekly event has is the $535 Mega Tuesday, and its flagship Sunday event comes with a $215 price tag.
WSOP should join the market soon too. It remains to be seen what its initial tournament lineup looks like, but once it begins sharing traffic with other states, you can expect it to have the biggest guarantees around, especially when there are WSOP bracelets and Circuit Rings at stake.
Because competitors are only a button press away, online poker sites often have bonuses and promotions that bear the opportunity for extra playing cash, tournament tickets, and other goodies. Some of these promotions could potentially relate to real-world events, like the WSOP or WPT. For the most part, however, online poker bonuses in Michigan are going to fall in one of the following categories:
This type of bonus is one of the best you can find. The site offers to put money for playing directly into your account without you having to come out of pocket. For the most part, these bonuses are reserved for new players, who receive a “test drive” of the site in exchange for their account registration. These bonuses usually pay out with site credits, but they may also involve vouchers for tournament entries.
Deposit bonuses are likely the most common type of bonus available. The way they usually work is that whatever amount you deposit, the site will match, up to a certain maximum. Most commonly, this only applies to your first deposit, and the match is 100%. For instance, if your first deposit is $500, you will receive $500 in bonus credit. This then has to be “cleared” in order to become cash, with a certain amount of play necessary per dollar released by the site.
For instance, a site might release $5 of your deposit bonus to your account for each $25 in rake it collects from you.
Reload bonuses often work the same way as first deposit bonuses, just for subsequent deposits. Usually these are only available on a limited time basis, and will typically come with lower maximums and perhaps less than a 100% match. They may also require the use of a special bonus code.
Occasionally, other types of bonuses are marketed as “reload bonuses.” For instance, a site might give out free tournament or satellite tickets with a certain minimum deposit in the week leading up to a major tournament series.
Sites also want to encourage you to keep playing for as long as possible. After all, the longer you play, the more rake you pay. So, it is not uncommon for sites to create elaborate loyalty schemes that increasingly reward you for your time and money spent onsite. These systems are usually arranged with different levels, and you get a new series of perks and prizes for every level that you achieve.
Most sites also have a Promotions tab somewhere in the app and desktop client. Here you’ll find various limited time offers that usually require you to opt in. These can be extremely simple, quite complex, or anywhere in between. At one extreme, you might receive a small, random reward simply for logging in each day and clicking a button to claim it. At the other extreme are various mini-games that might, for instance, require you to win hands while holding certain hole cards in order to qualify for a prize.
Michigan’s gaming regulations are fairly straightforward, so players have access to the same cashiering options as in other states. Some of the most common deposit methods include:
Sites usually have fewer methods for withdrawing funds, although ACH and online bank transfers are typically among the options.
Players should always check a site’s terms to become familiar with what banking options are available before signing up for an account.
PokerStars and BetMGM are the only sites for legal real money poker in Michigan. However, players who are unhappy with that situation for whatever reason do have another option, in the form of sweepstakes online poker sites such as Global Poker.
Players that use Global Poker don’t use real money but rather play with one of two virtual currencies — gold coins and sweeps coins. Such sweepstakes sites are legally able to welcome players from Michigan and nearly every other US state.
While some will always prefer real-money online poker, sweepstakes sites do offer players in Michigan a chance to compete in larger player pools than are currently available among traditional real money US poker sites.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions related to online poker in Michigan.
Yes. Real-money online poker became legal in Michigan in 2019, though it took over a year to launch. The first legal real money online poker site in Michigan was PokerStars, which went online in January 2021. BetMGM launched its site in March 2021.
Sweepstakes online poker sites like Global Poker also welcome Michiganders.
Those wishing to play online poker in Michigan have to be at least 21 years old. The same is true for those wishing to gamble or play poker in most of the state’s casinos, although there are a few tribal casinos where the minimum age is either 18 or 19.
Players must also be physically located within the state in order to play at a legal MI poker site. Residency is not a requirement, but location is. Sites use geolocation technology in order to ensure that out-of-state players can not participate in their real-money games.
Yes. The Stars Group (now part of Flutter) has a partnership with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. It launched its poker, casino and sportsbook products in January 2021.
Yes, though not right away. Michigan lawmakers passed a bill guaranteeing the MGCB the ability to enter interstate poker compacts at the end of 2020. Furthermore, a US court of appeals upheld the district court’s ruling that the Wire Act does not apply to forms of gambling other than sports betting, removing the main legal barrier to arrange such a compact.
The MGCB is currently in negotiations with New Jersey to enter a liquidity-sharing agreement similar to the one it already has in place with Nevada. It will likely be a year or more before Michiganders can actually start playing against their peers in other states, however.
WSOP has said that it expected to launch in both Michigan and Pennsylvania in the second half of 2021. It did so in PA on July 12, so a Michigan launch may also be not too far away.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board regulates all online gambling in the state, including online poker.
Legal online poker in Michigan traces its roots back to an ultimately unsuccessful 2016 effort spearheaded by Sen. Mike Kowall. He introduced the first version of the Lawful Internet Gaming Act that year, a title which persisted until its eventual passage three years later.
The proposal required several more revisions and the addition of sports betting provisions to clear both chambers of the legislature in 2018, but it would not immediately become law. Former governor Rick Snyder vetoed the package sponsored by Rep. Brandt Iden as one of his final acts in office, setting legalization back a full year.
Iden tried again in 2019, and this time it managed to stick. With Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. smoothing some friction between Iden and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, she signed the bill into law just before the holiday break. The first casino apps and online sportsbooks in Michigan went live in January 2021. The first poker site followed shortly afterwards.