If you know a Michigander, the odds are she likes playing games. Whether it’s the long, cold winter nights, or the earthy competitiveness of the upper Midwest, a pack of cards or a Boggle cube magically appear after many dinners. 

Fortunately, there are a number of casinos in Michigan that allow residents of the Wolverine State to satisfy their gaming needs. In the Detroit-Toledo area alone, twenty casinos offer poker, with another eighteen spread over the rest of the state. In addition to cash games, many of these casinos offer daily tournaments, with budget-friendly buy-ins as low as $25. 

 However, with three feet of snow on the ground, getting to a bricks-and-mortar card room in winter can be an issue. Fortunately, Michigan is one of the more recent U.S. states to make regulated online poker available to its residents, as well as visitors within the state borders. 


The big player in the Michigan online poker market is PokerStars. Currently denied access to the gambling hub of Nevada due to 2013 “bad actor” legislation, the company has set up shop in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

An ongoing lack of clarity on the legality of interstate poker has led PokerStars to “fence” all three markets, such that players in any of the three states can only compete against others in the same state. While this situation is less than ideal, primarily for market liquidity reasons, it is better than nothing.

The only online poker competitor to PokerStars in Michigan is partypoker, branded as BETMGM in recognition of its land-based partner.

Both sites offer an attractive mix of cash games and tournaments, with PokerStars currently winning the battle for market traffic.


 PokerStars has been the dominant international online poker tournament provider for many years. The site just celebrated the twentieth year of its most famous series: the annual World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). The recently-concluded 2021 edition of the series saw total prizes over the two decades exceed the eye-popping billion-dollar mark. 

While the regulated intrastate markets in the U.S. will never compete with those kinds of numbers, they can support significant poker tournament series of their own. 

The recently-concluded Pennsylvania Championship of Online Poker (PACOOP), New Jersey Championship of Online Poker (NJCOOP), and Michigan Championship of Online Poker (MICOOP) all ran from September 10th through 27th, attracting significant fields. 


All three of the COOP series were capped off by a $300 buy-in main event. In Michigan, this tournament had a guaranteed prize pool of $150k. Sharp players looking for an overlay were disappointed when an impressive 632 entrants contested the event, creating a total prize pool of a creditable $179,960. 

The winner of the main event was “WadeDavenport” who, along with the title, took home $31,015. It was an impressive series for the player, who also won the $75 “Big Stack” event for $2,977. 

Overall, the series awarded $1.79 million in prizes across 68 events, suggesting the online Michigan market can be a profitable one for poker tournament specialists. 


While the incremental addition of regulated online poker in states within the U.S. is a positive sign, players and operators would dearly love much more. 

The ongoing problem is the lack of clarity on the legality of online poker at the federal level. The 1961 Wire Act is frequently invoked by online poker opponents as justification for preventing interstate poker. 

Recent rulings by both state and federal courts, as well opinions offered by the U.S. Department of Justice, are generally encouraging. Specifically, the consensus interpretation is that the 1961 Wire Act does not pertain to online poker so that in principle there is nothing to prevent interstate online poker. This would allow, for example, PokerStars to combine its player pools from PA, NJ, and MI. 

Unfortunately, what is possible in principle does not always come to fruition in practice. Burned by previous legislative flip-flops, it is clear that online poker providers are making sure to remain clearly on the right side of the law, for fear of incurring further 

penalties and restrictions. 

We can only hope that more states regulate online poker and that as an increasing fraction of the country gains access to online poker, pressure will grow at the federal level to issue clarifying legislation. 

Meanwhile, at least some states do offer online poker, which comes as a relief to the game-loving residents of the great state of Michigan. 

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