PokerStars Michigan Kicks Off Flagship Series Saturday, Aims To Replicate Pennsylvania Success

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PokerStars will put up just over $1 million in guarantees for its first major tournament series in the state of Michigan.

The poker platform announced Tuesday that it will run what it will call the Michigan Championship of Online Poker (MICOOP). It’s a lofty title for a tournament series that will kick off Feb. 20, less than a month after the fledgling poker site went live.

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The poker site is really stretching the meaning of the word “championship,” as the site is still very new to the state, but the marketing gimmick is effective. PokerStars offered the same guarantee for its first Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP) in late 2019.

The poker site ended up seeing a total $1.55 million in prize pools in that Pennsylvania series, so it easily surpassed the overall guarantee figure. It will likely easily surpass it as well in Michigan, meaning poker players won’t be able to find many overlays (when the number of entrants isn’t enough to meet the guarantee and the poker site has to cover the difference).

The MICOOP runs from Feb. 20 to March 8 and includes 60 unique tournaments.

“As the sole online and mobile poker product in Michigan, our commitment and investment in PokerStars is vital as we aim to bring all aspects of a great customer experience to the poker community,” FOX Bet CEO Kip Levin said in a press release. “We are excited for Michiganders to join our most popular series and crown our first big winner who will join in the prestigious footsteps of other Championship of Online Poker (COOP) champions.”

PokerStars and FOX Bet are owned by FanDuel parent Flutter Entertainment.

The lowest price point for a tournament is $10, with the highest being a $500 “high roller.” The series will feature a bunch of different poker variants, including hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, five-card draw, and seven-card stud, among others.

The main event is a $300 buy-in two-day tournament kicking off on March 7. That tournament has a $125,000 guarantee. The “mini” main event starts the same day with a $50 buy-in and has a $35,000 guarantee. Many satellites for as low as $2 will be running.

Comparison with Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has about 2.8 million more people than Michigan, so PokerStars is working with a smaller player pool in the Wolverine State. Still, it decided to keep the total guarantee amount the same for the first MICOOP as the first PACOOP. That’s notable.

PokerStars did, however, decide to spread the guarantee out over more events. In Pennsylvania, the series was 50 events, 10 fewer than the inaugural MICOOP. The latest NJCOOP had 54 events. Those are the only three states where PokerStars is regulated and live.

PokerStars has been the sole regulated poker site in Pennsylvania for over a year now, and it’s currently the only platform in Michigan, though BetMGM Poker is expected to launch in the Wolverine State later this month. PokerStars is one of three operators in New Jersey.

The upcoming competition could have made PokerStars up the overall guarantees in Michigan, but it obviously decided it wasn’t worth it. A million bucks is a nice number, with, say, $1.5 million in overall guarantees possibly not adding that much in terms of marketing appeal.

Keeping the guarantees at an easily reachable $1 million also gives PokerStars a better chance of claiming it surpassed expectations. A guarantee is sort of like an expectation for a tournament’s turnout.

Quickly running a MICOOP is great for generating awareness for the fledgling poker site, though it doesn’t necessarily signal a big commitment to a ring-fenced Michigan market.

PokerStars, along with other operators, is ideally looking to eventually pool participants from Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, allowing players in all states to compete for a larger overall championship series that won’t be branded as belonging to a single state. Still, PokerStars might find a benefit in crowning individual state champions even with liquidity sharing.

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Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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