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When will online poker launch in Michigan?

After years of attempts, Michigan online poker launched on Jan. 29, 2021, when PokerStars went live.

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Will I be able to play poker with players in New Jersey and Pennsylvania?

Michigan’s governor recently signed the interstate online poker bill into law, but the law doesn’t automatically set up a pact between other states. That is now up to the MGCB. It is unclear whether such a deal will be made in 2021.

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One option is for Michigan to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association. The MSIGA allows New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware to share player pools.

Still, multi-state poker could be on its way to Michigan. It’s likely a must-have for the online poker market in the Great Lakes State to survive long-term. Michigan is slightly larger than New Jersey, where online poker is barely surviving despite pooling players with Nevada and Delaware.

Adding states, including Pennsylvania and Michigan, to the MSIGA over the next few years would certainly be a boost to the US online poker market.

Online poker in Michigan

Because sports betting and online casinos will likely generate more revenue than online poker, the latter verticals took priority. Even so, online poker was only a week behind the rest.

Only existing casino operators, which include three commercial casinos in Detroit and 12 tribal casino operators throughout the state, are able to procure online gambling licenses.

Each will be allowed one online casino brand and one online poker brand per license, up to two total brands apiece.

This means additional poker sites could be in the cards. WSOP and 888 Poker are two of the bigger names that have not found a path into Michigan but are available in other states with legal online poker.

Michigan online poker partnerships

PokerStars + Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians

Global online poker giant The Stars Group secured a partnership with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority in early January 2020.

The deal gives The Stars Group first-skin market access for all gambling verticals in Michigan, including online poker.

The Stars Group owns and operates PokerStars, which operates in NJ and PA. The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians operates three Michigan tribal casinos, with the largest being the Odawa Casino, near Petoskey.

The Stars Group has secured a provisional license from the Michigan Gaming Control Board. However, it appears it’s a matter of time before PokerStars Michigan launches.

BetMGM Poker + MGM Grand Detroit

For a long time, it was understood that MGM Resorts International and partypoker’s parent company GVC Holdings would join the online poker market in Michigan. The two companies established a 50/50 joint venture sports betting and online gaming platform for the US in July 2018.

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However, BetMGM Poker will be the brand available in Michigan in 2021.

The launch of partypoker Michigan through MGM Grand is no longer a go, but there are other ways for partypoker to enter the Michigan online poker market.

How Michigan online poker will work

Michigan’s online poker will launch as a fenced-in market.

Players who are 21 years or older and within state lines will be eligible to play online poker cash games and tournaments.

Online poker operators will use geolocation technology to ensure all live players are inside the state.

Players will need to sign up for an online account with an operator of their choice and go through identity and age verification before they can play.

One day, state lawmakers may enter into a multi-state compact to allow operators to share player pools with sites in other poker states.

A clause initially included in the state’s online gambling bills that would have directly facilitated an interstate compact was removed before the legislation was passed.

Lawmakers have indicated its removal was intended to address multi-state progressive slot jackpots. Therefore, multi-state poker is still a possibility down the road.

Online poker bonuses and rewards

Michigan online poker sites will offer free play to attract new customers.

Tax breaks allowing Michigan online poker operators a percentage of gross receipts for free play over the first five years of operation all but guarantees this.

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Plus, giving free bonus cash as an incentive to sign up has proven to be a successful poker marketing strategy elsewhere.

PokerStars PA has shot out of the gate, posting four to six times the revenue it averages in NJ.

Players who open a PokerStars account in Pennsylvania using the PokerStars PA bonus code PLAY30 and deposit at least $20 will earn $30 in free play.

This offer includes $20 in free play and $10 in Spin and Go tickets.

New PA players also receive a ticket to the depositor freeroll event on the last Sunday of every month. It features cash prizes and a zero-entry fee.

PokerStars’ players in Pennsylvania can also use the promo code STARS600 when they sign up and make their first deposit (or three qualifying deposits within 60 days), and can also earn a 100% bonus of up to $600.

Players need to earn redemption points to unlock the bonus, but get 5 points for every $1 paid in tournament fees or rake in most games. Once earning 100 redemption points, PokerStars PA will release $10 in bonus cash into their account.

PA players can only receive the free-money bonus or the deposit bonus, not both. PokerStars Poker in Michigan should roll out with something similar.

Any tournaments that launch will attempt to stay competitive with a bonus structure to try to attract new players.

Fund your online poker account

There’s little doubt Michigan online poker operators will want to make getting your money on and off the sites as easy as possible.

That means offering a variety of deposit and withdrawal options, including third-party payment processors like PayPal, debit or credit cards, and cash.

Here’s an example of the variety of deposit methods at PokerStars PA:

  • Instant E-checks: ACH payment.
  • Skrill: A secure online third-party payment option.
  • Mastercard or Visa: Credit or debit card transactions through approving issuing banks.
  • Neteller: A secure online third-party payment option.
  • Stars Transfer: Instant deposits with online banking.
  • PayNearMe: Make a cash payment at retail locations, including 7-Eleven and CVS.
  • PokerStars Play+ Card: This prepaid card pairs to a Stars’ account.
  • Cash Deposit: Cash at the Mount Airy Casino cage.

Poker and cardrooms in Michigan

There’s a massive live poker scene in Michigan with as many as 10 live poker rooms operating across the state.

Walk into any one of the Michigan poker rooms on this list, and you’ll find securing a seat at affordable stakes is as easy as asking for one.

Bay Mills Resort & Casino

Bay Mills Resort & Casino, in Brimley, features a four-table poker room that is open 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

There are regular cash games and low-buy-in tournaments. Players must be at least 18 years or older.

FireKeepers Casino Hotel

The newly renovated 26-table poker room at FireKeepers Casino Hotel, in Battle Creek, is the premier poker room in the state.

The room spreads Texas Hold’em, Omaha and stud cash games at a variety of low to mid-stakes. Plus, there are low to mid-stakes buy-in tournaments every day, including a regular stop on the popular Mid-States Poker Tour.

Promotions include a progressive bad beat jackpot.

Greektown Casino Hotel

Greektown Casino Hotel, in Detroit, features a 12-table poker room offering Texas Hold ’em and Omaha games. There are regular tournaments and high-hands promotions.

Gun Lake Casino

Gun Lake Casino in Wayland, features a 14-table poker room spreading Texas Hold’em and Omaha games.

Best app to gamble real money. There are low-stakes tournaments happening five days a week, and promotions include a bad beat jackpot.

Kewadin Casino

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Kewadin Casino, Hotel and Convention Center, in Sault Ste. Marie, features a four-table poker room open Wednesdays through Sundays.

There are low-stakes tournaments on Wednesdays and cash games every day.

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MGM Grand Detroit

The poker room at MGM Grand Detroit features 17 tables with Texas Hold’em and Omaha action.

There are bounty tournaments three days a week and promotions include splash pots, bad beat jackpots and hot-seat drawings.

MotorCity Casino Hotel

The MotorCity Casino Hotel, in Detroit, features a 17-table poker club spreading Texas Hold’em and Omaha games.

There’s a regular tournament calendar, and promotions include a bad beat jackpot, high-hands and a gas card giveaway.

Ojibwa Casino Baraga

The Ojibwa Casinos, in Baraga, spreads poker on a single table running on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m.

Ojibwa Casino Marquette

The Ojibwa Casino, in Marquette, has poker on three tables on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort

Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, in Mount Pleasant, features a 14-table poker room open 24/7.

There’s a six-day per week tournament schedule and promotions include a bad beat jackpot, early bird rake, lucky ticket draws and high-hands.

The room spreads Texas Hold’em, Pineapple, Crazy Pineapple, Omaha, seven-card stud and Razz. Multi-game formats include round by rounds, dealer’s choice, HORSE, SHOE and HOP. Players may request any game type with any limit.

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Table Of Contents

PokerStars announced today some changes to policies on use of third party tools, which will go into effect March 4, 2019. The major policy changes involve the banning of seating scripts along with restricted use of automated or semi-automated reference materials during play.

The changes are set to go into effect in all poker games across all PokerStars markets.

Impetus for Change

According to Severin Rasset, PokerStars director of innovation and poker operations, 'There are tools that provide their users with sometimes small and other times clear advantages over others, undermining the spirit of the game.”

The policy changes have been put in place in an attempt to establish a “safe and fair environment” for all their users and to provide “a clear and unambiguous picture of the additional resources available to them,” as Rasset explains it in his Feb. 27 PokerStars Blog post.

“Our goal is to ensure that the same rules and standards apply to everyone,” he added.

“Our goal is to ensure that the same rules and standards apply to everyone.”

While tools like bots, Rasset pointed out, have always been banned on PokerStars and the site has largely ensured the absence of them, the site is now focused on eliminating other threats to an even playing field.

“For PokerStars, my vision is to limit as much as possible the use of tools that artificially enhance the process of sitting down to play, and play itself,” wrote Rasset. “Tools that can give players an edge over others and which detract from the journey of developing the skills necessary to become a better poker player.”

Banning of Seating Scripts

The use of seating scripts, or automated programs designed to auto-seat players at tables when particular (weaker) players sit in, have been protested for years by vocal members of the online poker community. The rampant use of these “bum-hunting” tools that allow the most profitable players to target weaker players has been deemed a destructive practice for the poker ecosystem.

PokerStars agrees and is taking action to stop it.

“Any tool or service that sorts available games or (semi-) automates the process of joining games based on the game-play statistics or notes of other players will be prohibited,' said Rasset. 'A tool that solely (or semi-) automates adding players to a set number of tables, without any reliance on information about other players, is permitted.”

This isn’t PokerStars’ first foray into blocking seating scripts, as they already tested it out and implemented a feature called “Seat Me” in their Southern European markets. The automated seating program, which keeps players from choosing their own tables and seats in cash games, was tested out for a year in PokerStars’ Spanish market before they expanded it early last year to the shared liquidity market that joined player pools in Spain and France, and later Portugal.

Soon, players on all PokerStars clients will be using an automated seating system that prevents seating scripts.

Limiting Use of Reference Materials

PokerStars' updated policy will also prohibit the use of automated or semi-automated poker reference materials while the client is open, with limitations placed on use of starting hand charts.

“We do not wish for players to be supplied with in-depth reference material (commonly 'starting hand charts'), follow it blindly while playing, and artificially boost their performance,” Rasset writes. “Broadly speaking, reference material can only be used for basic hand decisions, like unopened pot and preflop decisions, rather than as a live virtual decision maker.”

“These changes are a big step forward for us and, we hope, the poker community.”

In the full PDF presentation for developers, the company elaborates on exactly the types of third party materials that are allowed, and those that are not. Examples of permitted starting hand charts include those that code for raise, raise or fold, and fold in unopened pots, assuming no player has already entered the pot and frequencies of which action to take aren’t provided. Charts that specify frequencies of actions to be taken, like distinguishing between calling, folding or three-betting, and charts that specify actions to take when facing a raise, are all on the list of prohibited during gameplay.

Rasset also specifies, “All material must be able to be converted to a maximum of nine, 13x13 charts.”

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While it’s somewhat unclear exactly how the poker site developers can police use of certain reference materials, Rasset assured that enforcement will be possible.

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“…We also need to be able to ensure that we create enforceable and sustainable policies, making sure that players who do follow the rules are not at a disadvantage. The changes we are announcing today follow an extensive period of development to ensure that we can achieve these goals.”

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Taken directly from the PokerStars Blog, materials prohibited while the poker client is open include the following:

1. Reference material that provides advice beyond a basic level, such as a large collection of tables offering recommendations beyond whether to play certain hands or not in unopened pots.
2. Tools or services designed specifically to ease referral to reference material.
3. Tools or services that compute advanced equity calculations, such as range vs range simulators, Independent Chip Model or Nash Equilibrium-based programs.

Allowed, with Restrictions

A summary of tools deemed acceptable was also provided. These include tools for determining pot odds or absolute hand strength, basic static reference materials, in-game Heads-Up Displays (HUDs) that only gather information from hands personally played, as well as “Macros and Hotkey programs for gameplay efficiency that do not reduce the requirement of a player having to make a decision.”

“For PokerStars, my vision is to limit as much as possible the use of tools that artificially enhance the process of sitting down to play, and play itself.”

Within the use of HUDs, restrictions are placed in terms of “qualitative and feature limitations on statistics displayed in-game.” For example, players are restricted from having statistics split based on card values to indicate player tendencies with specific hole cards or on different board textures. Players are also not allowed to display statistics based on stack sizes or table position, or make specific notes according to player tendencies. In the full presentation, it explicitly says that HUDs may not “Rate, label, categorise or stereotype players based on their tendencies.”

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“These changes are a big step forward for us and, we hope, the poker community,” Rasset writes. “Personally, I'm looking forward to seeing their contribution to the safe and welcoming environment we aim to offer every one of our players, regardless of experience and ability.”

For a full explanation of the new policies, including examples of what is and is no longer permitted while playing on PokerStars, you can have a look at this PDF presentation by The Stars Group.

The Stars Group owns a majority shareholding in iBus Media.

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