For two days, there was no PokerStars in Michigan or New Jersey. No hands dealt online. No pots won. No shouts of victory or defeat.
Today, that two-day shutdown ends as PokerStars goes back online. But there’s going to be one huge difference: The platform will begin merging the Michigan and New Jersey player pools.
Interstate play has been a long-awaited development for Michigan online poker.
PokerStars announced the downtime on Friday
This past Friday, PokerStars sent out an email to its customers telling them it would shut down Dec. 12-13 “for a major upgrade.”
The company said the upgrade was a “necessary milestone” that would bring players “more games, bigger prize pools, and guarantees in poker tournaments so New Jersey and Michigan poker players can compete against one another in the near future.”
The platform also notified players there would be a network-wide shutdown on Dec. 12. However, it’s not clear if that pause was related to the Michigan-New Jersey merger.
Interstate play has been in the works for more than a year
Expanding player pools is typically a good thing for a Michigan online poker site. Cash games are big draws for players. So, when a site adds a new pool of players, it can add more cash games.
But getting into an interstate player pool is much harder than it sounds. It’s more than just making sure geolocation services verify players in two states.
New Jersey is part of an interstate poker pact called the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). Only two other states were part of MSIGA until recently: Nevada and Delaware.
For PokerStars Michigan to join forces with PokerStars New Jersey, it had to get into the MSIGA. And to do that, it had to negotiate with the pact’s three members.
That negotiation process took more than a year, which is an eternity in the fast-paced universe of online poker. However, this past April, the MSGIA announced Michigan was joining its ranks.
More than 10 million players participate in the MSGIA, though it is unclear how many of those will participate in Michigan’s interstate play.
How Michigan online poker platform will benefit from New Jersey players
Currently, PokerStars is the clear leader in Michigan online poker. Its traffic is roughly the same size as competitors BetMGM and WSOP combined.
Bringing NJ players into the fold will strengthen PokerStars’ standing in Michigan. Michigan Sharp predicts the merger will boost the cash-game player total to 240. That’s a significant boost for Michigan, and it stands to triple the number of cash game players in New Jersey.
This is a big deal for Michigan PokerStars. The one knock against the platform is that it didn’t have as big a player pool as WSOP, but that will certainly change once the interstate merger is complete.
PokerStars has not announced when interstate play will be fully operational. The company noted in a tweet Wednesday night that joining the player pools would happen “in the near future.”