MGM Grand Detroit Live Poker Review: Win Mo’ Money in Motown?

Michigan Map

Michigan Map

Here at ProfessionalRakeback, we concern ourselves with everything pertaining to online poker sites, including topics that are only peripherally related. Thus, we also dabble a bit in internet casino games, sports betting both retail and online, and, of course, live poker. Though we generally prefer the game in the online format because of how convenient it is, there’s a certain thrill to physically handling the chips and getting a bead on your opponents while sitting across from them at a physical table.

We recently found ourselves in Detroit, pondering what to do apart from gazing wistfully across the border into Canada. Fortunately, we soon realized that there were three casinos with cardrooms in town, and the MGM Grand Detroit was the one that eventually tempted us into walking through its doors.

Read on to learn more about the games offered, valuable promotions for regulars, cardroom amenities, and all other topics that you would expect to find in any thoroughgoing MGM Grand Detroit poker room review.

The MGM Detroit casino has poker cash games 24/7

MGM Grand Detroit Poker Room Location

The MGM Grand Detroit Casino is in the heart of Motor City, i.e., Detroit. It’s located just off Interstate 75 on 3rd Avenue.

MGM Grand is less than a mile away from Comerica Park, where MLB’s Tigers play, Ford Field, home of the NFL’s Lions franchise, the historic Fox Theatre, and the Detroit Opera House. With 400 rooms in the attached hotel, including both standard accommodations and luxury suites, this venue is a fine base for a jaunt to see the sights and sounds of The Town That Put the World on Wheels.

There are two other casinos in town, and they have their own poker rooms too. Motor City Casino and Hollywood Casino at Greektown are both a reasonable distance away, so you aren’t necessarily locked into playing poker at any one particular place. Caesars Windsor and its 14 tables are about a 15-minute drive across the border too.

Despite the central location of many attractions in the downtown part of Detroit, it’s pretty hard to get around unless you have a car. There are multiple overlapping bus services along with a limited rail system known as “The People Mover,” but the buses are often late, the bus shelters often non-existent, and the array of different transportation services very confusing. You could very well spend more time walking around trying to find the right bus stop than actually riding public transport vehicles. We’re sure that native Detroiters know the ins and outs of working the transport system to maximum advantage, but it was very bewildering to us as novices.

MGM Grand Detroit has a 14-table poker roomThe MGM Grand in Downtown Detroit, MI

MGM Grand Detroit hosts the commonly found trifecta of casino games, sportsbook, and poker room. All this gaming is on the first floor while the second is dedicated to the spa, fitness center, and pool, and the third floor is occupied by a Topgolf Swing Suite.

The poker area can be found by entering the casino main entrance, turning right, and heading past the BetMGM sportsbook and the sports viewing area. The smoking parlor is just past the poker room.

MGM Grand Casino Poker Games

As is typical for cardrooms around the country, NL Hold’em is the mainstay of the MGM Grand. There are always several $1/$2 NLHE tables running, and $2/$5 is usually present as well. $1/$3 PLO is the next most common format, and during busier periods, a $5/$10 NL Texas Hold’em game pops up.

Limit Hold’em appears to not really be a common feature at this cardroom. Every once in a while, a mixed game will appear, and this seems to be the only real limit poker spread.

Traffic levels are uniformly high. When we visited the cardroom on a ho-hum Monday afternoon, all 14 tables were in use. Actually, we saw several empty tables, and a quick count revealed that there were actually more than the stated 14 tables present.

The poker room at MGM Detroit sits in its own alcove of the casinoThe Poker Room at the MGM Grand Detroit Casino

Discussions with other players revealed that the establishment was having trouble attracting qualified dealers, which is perhaps why a few tables were vacant despite there being a lengthy waiting list. We were informed that management was trying to alleviate this shortage by bringing in dealers from casino pit games, like blackjack. We heard several tales of dealer incompetence at the poker tables although we did not witness anything unprofessional ourselves.

The rake is 10% up to $6 with an additional $2 promotional drop levied. This rake structure is worse than the 10% up to $4 or $5 that’s standard in most casino poker rooms.

While MGM Grand Detroit used to hold tournaments in the past, there are now no regularly scheduled MTTs. Perhaps the dealer shortage is responsible for this.

Poker Promotions

The promotional rake collected at the tables is redistributed back to the player pool via a number of promotions. The roster of these promos at MGM Grand Detroit is as follows:

High Hands

There’s a High Hand promo active every day although the specific format changes throughout the week. This promotion is valid both for NL Hold’em games as well as Omaha tables. However, the minimum hand strength, which is Aces full for Texas Hold’em, increases to quads for Omaha. Additionally, in four-card poker, the High Hand must consist of two hole cards and the flop – the turn and river are excluded from consideration.

Here are the details of the High Hand depending on the day of the week:

Monday, noon to 11 p.m.: $500 every 30 minutes with rollovers
Tuesday, noon to 11 p.m.: $300 every hour to each of the top 3 hands + $100 splash pot for the winning tables (no rollovers)
Wednesday, noon to 11 p.m.: $500 every 20 minutes (no rollovers)
Thursday, noon to midnight: $500 every hour with rollovers + $100 splash pot for the winning table
Friday + Saturday, 10 am to 4 p.m.: $500 every hour with rollovers
Sunday, 3 p.m. to midnight: $500 every hour with rollovers

There must be at least $20 in pot + rake for a High Hand to be valid. A minimum of four players must have received cards in the hand. Both hole cards must be used. In the event that the final High Hand scheduled to be awarded on a given day has not paid out when time has expired, the promotion will remain active and the first qualifying hand will win.

Texas Hold’em Bad Beat Jackpot

There’s a Bad Beat Jackpot available in Texas Hold’em games. To hit it requires quad fives or better quads to go to showdown and lose. Unusually, the winning hand must be specifically a higher quads; straight flushes don’t qualify.

A minimum of $20 must be in the pot to activate the BBJ. Both the winning and losing hands must use both hole cards to compose their final five-card poker hands, and both must be pocket pairs. Furthermore, at least four individuals must have been dealt into the hand.

When the Jackpot is hit, the funds will be divided as follows:

40% to the losing hand
20% to the winning hand
40% divided amongst the rest of the table

On Sept. 11, 2022, the Texas Hold’em Bad Beat Jackpot stood at $268,382.

Omaha Bad Beat Jackpot

There’s also a dedicated Bad Beat Jackpot for Omaha games. It requires quad Jacks or better to be beaten, but the weird Hold’em rule that only quads qualify is waived for the Omaha Jackpot.

At least $20 must be present in the pot to trigger the Omaha Bad Beat Jackpot. A minimum of four players must be dealt into the hand. Once these conditions are met, the funds in the Bad Beat Jackpot for Omaha will be dispensed thus:

40% to the losing hand
20% to the winning hand
40% divided amongst the rest of the table

On Sept. 11, 2022, the Omaha Bad Beat Jackpot stood at $54,931.

Gas Card Giveaway

Anyone who puts in 40 hours at the poker tables in a month gets a $40 gas card. Then for every 10 hours beyond this total, another $10 gas card is awarded. These cards can be collected during the first week of the following month.

MGM Rewards

MGM Grand Detroit is part of the MGM family of properties, and it therefore adheres to the MGM Rewards program (formerly known as mLife). All of the reward points you earn at any MGM casino will combine into a single “bucket” of comps. You can use these reward points to pay for dining, hotel bills, merchandise, and other goodies at participating locations.

The rate of comp accrual is difficult to pin down exactly, but it’s somewhere in the ballpark of $1/hr. We did notice several games on the board listed as “x2,” which means you’ll earn reward points at double the usual rate.

Not only will your play garner reward points, which basically let you comp yourself, but you will also attract marketing offers. These might come from MGM Grand Detroit itself, and you may also receive offers from sister properties around the country. Thus, your action in Detroit might enable you to obtain free or discounted rooms, food and beverage credit, and/or free slot play at the Bellagio in Vegas, the Borgata in Atlantic City, and many other destination resorts across the land.

MGM Detroit Poker Room Atmosphere

The poker arena at MGM Grand is fully enclosed on three sides with just a narrow corridor permitting access to the rest of the property. This gives it the feel of a poker-only space, apart from the spinning reels and other typical casino noises.

The ceilings are high, giving the room a spacious ambiance that’s appears much more expansive than its modest floor-plan footprint might indicate. Nearly 20 televisions are mounted such that three or four are visible from any seat in the house. Prominently displayed on many of them is the information related to the high hand promo, making it easy to keep track on how much time is left till the next payout and the current highest hand.

The tables themselves are functional with an unusual purple-and-gold scheme that is nevertheless pleasing to the eyes. There are no cell phone chargers, but there are cup holders embedded in the tables at each seat.

The games are a bit softer than at competing establishments in the same geographical area. One reason is that MGM has captured the traffic crown, beating out Motor City Casino, which was the pre-COVID market leader. Another factor is the brand-name awareness of MGM and its large nationwide player base. We encountered many players from other parts of the country who were in Detroit for business or pleasure. From what we’ve heard of the other casinos in town, they are more reg-heavy and cater mostly to locals rather than vacationing fish.

Food and Drink

It’s not possible to order food from the tables, but you can request non-alcoholic beverages, which will be delivered by a cocktail waitress. There’s also a public drink station where you can grab your own soft drinks, coffee, iced tea, and similar libations. Michigan casinos are prohibited by law from offering complimentary alcoholic beverages, so you’ll have to pay if you want them.

MGM Grand has two separate food courts, called the Detroit Central Market and Breeze Food Court. At these establishments, you can buy pizza, hot dogs, wings, tacos, noodles, and similar casual fare. The Roasted Bean provides coffee, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches while the TAP sports bar serves up nachos, hamburgers, wraps, and other foodstuffs along with a comprehensive menu of drinks.

For a resort that bills itself as a luxury destination, there’s a distinct lack of true high-end restaurants. The one exception is the D-Prime Steakhouse, which serves up a fine selection of filets mignons, veal, ribeyes, New York strips, and all your other favorite carnivorous delights. You will also encounter appetizers, salads, soups, desserts, and wine to round out your order, but be prepared to pay well north of $100 per person for a complete dinner with all the trimmings.

Additional Info

The poker room has its own cage where you purchase chips and later on exchange them for cash. Because this casino is so close to the Canadian border, you can actually buy chips with Canadian dollars. The exchange rate when we visited in early September 2022 was $0.77 USD = $1.00 CAD, pretty close to the official exchange rate.

There’s no smoking within the poker room or indeed the entire casino floor of the MGM Grand Detroit. However, there is a smoker’s pavilion adjacent to the poker room. This area is outdoors, but it’s enclosed by temporary walls and a roof overhang, which provides protection from the elements. It’s furnished with ample seating and ashtrays.

An outdoor smoking pavilion features plenty of seats, tables, and ashtraysA Spacious Outdoor Area Caters to Smokers

Straddling is allowed for 2x the big blind both UTG and on the button. In the event of a BTN straddle, the action begins with the small blind and proceeds to the big blind and then clockwise around the table.

History of MGM Grand Detroit

Although the first Michigan tribal casinos started doing business in the early ’90s, it wasn’t until 1996 that voters approved of commercial casinos in the City of Detroit. MGM Grand duly opened in 1999 in a temporary building and then relocated to its current location in October 2007.

In recent years, competitor Motor City Casino was considered the hot poker destination in Detroit, but it along with the other Detroit casinos had to close in March 2020 to comply with pandemic restrictions. When these restrictions were lifted in January 2021, MGM was the first to restart their poker room. It established a traffic lead in poker, which it has been able to maintain in part thanks to missteps Motor City made as it implemented its reopening plan.

MGM Detroit Poker Conclusion

The poker room at MGM Grand Detroit has a good amount of traffic, frequent promotions, and many amenities contained within the casino-resort complex. Therefore, MGM Grand is probably the best place for poker in Detroit.

However, there are several drawbacks to the room, including the lack of tournaments and limit games. The fact that alcoholic beverages are not free, while not the fault of management, is annoying too. The high rake meanwhile makes it tough to beat the most common game: $1/$2 NLHE.

If you happen to live in Detroit or are visiting, then MGM Grand is a fine poker destination, but if you aren’t already in Detroit, then there’s little reason for coming specifically to the MGM Grand Detroit cardroom.

Other Players’ Opinions

Before concluding our live cardroom reviews, we attempt to survey the internet to see what others have to say. This allows us to check that our experiences are in line with what most players report and informs us of anything we may have missed. Below is a selection of posts about this poker room from real-life players:

Twoplustwoer DTEJD1997 appreciates how busy MGM Grand Detroit is
CrotchWolf on Reddit doesn't like the location of MGM Grand Detroit
Google user Jms Fabrication likes the MGM Grand Detroit poker room but thinks the dealers could use some improvement

Head Online for Better Games

MGM Grand Detroit has several advantages going for it along with a few faults. However, there’s a way for you to benefit from even greater player volume while avoiding the flaws of this cardroom.

Online poker has many more tables running at once than even the largest live poker rooms. At the same time, the rake tends to be more reasonable, and you have a wider variety of game formats to choose from.

To learn more about how online poker works and the best sites for you, take a look at this guide to USA online poker. If the legality of this pastime has you concerned, then there’s no reason to fear as explained in this overview of offshore poker legality in the United States.

Other Live Poker Room Reviews:

Photo of Jake Rake

Jake Rake is the head poker writer at ProfessionalRakeback.com.

He eats, sleeps and breathes poker and online gaming. This is a man who reads every online poker forum morning, noon, and night, for the last 17 years, trying to find fun and interesting information to share with our readers.

Jake has become an ardent student of crypto-currency since it was first introduced in the online poker world in 2013 and he thus has eight years experience covering this field!

Author: Edward Smith