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Following the opening of the $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor, the Maryland gaming market is entering a new era.

The massive MGM casino dwarfs all five of the state’s existing casinos, even the relatively new Maryland Live! Casino that had been the cream of the crop since it opened its doors some four years ago.

The two casinos will be natural competitors, considering they sit about an hour apart from one another. MGM National Harbor is on the outskirts of the District of Columbia, and Maryland Live! sits about 30 minutes outside of Baltimore and directly on the route to MGM National Harbor.

The ability of Maryland Live! to create a chokepoint, cutting off traffic from Baltimore and further north, shouldn’t be understated:

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I'm at Maryland Live cuz I couldn't be bothered to drive down to national harbor. I'm turning into a 2/5 grinder!

— Andrew Brokos (@thinkingpoker) December 14, 2016

Considering their relative proximity to the largest population centers in the state, as well as to one another, it shouldn’t be a surprise to find MGM and Maryland Live! already fighting for poker supremacy in the Old Line State.

Tale of the tape

Here’s a quick comparison of what you can expect to find at both poker rooms:

Maryland Live!MGM National Harbor
OpenedAug. 28, 2013Dec. 8, 2016
Total number of tables52 tables39 tables
Tables running (Dec 14)32 tables35 tables
Most popular game (Dec 14)$1/$2 NLHE (18 tables)$1/$3 NLHE (15 tables)
2nd most popular game (Dec 14)$2/$5 NLHE (7 tables)$2/$5 NLHE (8 tables)
3rd most popular game (Dec 14)$4/$8 Limit Hold’em (5 tables)$5/$10 & $10/$25 NL (2 tables)

Both casinos have all of the bells and whistles of the newer US poker rooms, such as phone chargers built into the table, comfortable chairs, and in-house massage therapists. However, MGM might have the upper hand on the amenities front thanks to its table-side dining options:

Skipped Prague to check out the new MGM at National Harbor. RIP Maryland Live.

— Cate Hall (@catehall) December 13, 2016

@[email protected] better action, closer, nicer … small things like having the restaurants deliver also make a difference

— Cate Hall (@catehall) December 13, 2016

Of course, MGM National Harbor is also going to be plagued by the early problems that are universal whenever a new, highly anticipated business opens its doors and is mobbed by the public:

MGM national harbor poker room. Enjoy my time even though drinks were very slow and the cashier even slower.

— Rich Tuttle (@RMTRLTMBT) December 9, 2016

What the early returns are saying

Based on the early numbers from the Bravo Live Poker app, most of the high-stakes and non-hold’em action has shifted to MGM National Harbor during its opening week.

In addition to multiple tables of $10/$25 No Limit Hold’em and PLO, the Bravo Poker App shows interest lists at MGM National Harbor for a $25/$50 No Limit Hold’em, $25/$50 PLO, $60/$120 Limit Hold’em, and some $10/$25 PLO/NLHE/Big O mix games.

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An hour north, on the same day, Andrew Brokos noted that he was having difficulty getting a $5/$10 PLO or No Limit Hold’em game going at Maryland Live!:

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14 names on the 5/10 list but only 2 ready to play. Briefly played 3-handed PLO with a Quebecois couple but they left for MGM. Back at 2/5.

— Andrew Brokos (@thinkingpoker) December 15, 2016


It’s unclear if this trend will persist, or if it’s just a function of MGM’s nascency, which has led to early customer curiosity.

Bottom line

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Smaller in scale than Maryland Live!, MGM will benefit from its newness and the company’s decision to make sure the room has all of the amenities of a great card room. Maryland Live! will benefit from its existing player base and a very strong reputation in the region.

The biggest winner will likely be the players, who will reap the rewards of two great poker rooms battling for their business.

Image credit: Nicescene /

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The MGM Resorts East Coast Poker Tour features events at MGM National Harbor, MGM Springfield, and Borgata.
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