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PokerStars

The undisputed king in the online poker court.

Players from United States not accepted

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  • Largest online poker room with more players than anyone else.
  • Great software to play on desktop, download, or iOS/Android tablet.
  • Good range of stakes, from 1c/2c cash games to $5000-buyin tournaments.
  • Biggest tournaments anywhere online, including the weekly Sunday Million.

PokerStars Review

The biggest and most recognised online poker site in the world, PokerStars has held a virtual monopoly over the internet game since the early 2000s. And with its closest rival Full Tilt gone the rest are playing catch-up. From low-stakes No Limit Hold'em cash games to the biggest online tournament festivals anywhere around, PokerStars is pretty hard to beat.

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About PokerStars

PokerStars launched in 2001 as a Costa Rican-based firm offering real money and play-money games online. A move to the Isle of Man followed and the site began offering games to players in the legally 'grey' area of the US. Despite attempts by the American authorities to stamp out "illegal" poker online from offshore sites, PokerStars remained in defiance of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act.

The decision to stay meant PokerStars, and close rivals like Full Tilt, was able to gain a huge market share. Things came to a head in 2011 when the 'Black Friday' raids shut down PokerStars' operations in America. The firm bought up its closest enemy Full Tilt and repaid US players who had been denied their winnings after the Department of Justice raids.

'Stars was bought by Canadian firm Amaya in 2014 and the firm made a move back into the newly-legal state of New Jersey. It still enjoys a sizeable market share, and runs some of the biggest weekly and monthly tournaments anywhere online.

Software

PokerStars allows access via a download client or instant-play via the site. Because PokerStars has been moving out of legal grey areas you will have to access a client specific for your region or country. Look for the web extension when you download (.nj for New Jersey, .uk for UK, etc).

For a better experience, it's worth downloading the software - the client is secure and there's even a slick Mac version for play-money or real cash. PokerStars also allows download games to be played on Android and iOS phones and tablets.

In terms of software when playing, PokerStars is hard to beat. You can multi-table with ease and use the handy tiling feature to display all your games on the same screen. Players can also make changes with the Bet Slider, use the Player Notes function, or set up Hotkeys for fast decision-making.

Security is top-notch too, and PokerStars offers an RSA Security Token to players for added safety. It can be found in the VIP Store.

'Stars is constantly changing (be prepared for regular software updates when you load up the client) but it just means a better user experience overall. The tournament lobby used to be a mess of games and dates. A new, more robust filter facility has come in which makes getting to your favourite games a lot easier.

Players

Being the world's biggest online site, PokerStars attracts a wide range of player standards. The site offers cash games starting at just 1c/2c, and these micro-stakes games are popular. Even higher-level games around the 0.25/0.50 mark are well populated most times of the week.

At the higher end, pros and online grinders flock to the site for the big-money tournaments held every week, plus the seasonal festivals like the World Championship of Online Poker. However, a push by the site into casino games and 'jackpot'-style poker games like Spin & Go has led to criticism that PokerStars is only worried about its casual players. Indeed, the site controversially changed its VIP rewards program in 2017, which affected many serious players who had already amassed a lot of points.

In 2017, a new 'Seat Me' function was introduced to allow fairer seating for casual players. There had been a worry about experienced players using software to "bumhunt" and find the poorer players. The new function makes the process a lot more random. Cash players can no longer carefully select their seats and tables - as soon as a stake has been selected a seat is picked at random.

Stakes & Cash Games

PokerStars offers the biggest range of cash games anywhere online. The handy drop-down menu gets you to the games you want fast. Cash games are available in everything from No Limit Hold'em ($0.01/$0.02 to $200/$400) to Limit and Pot Limit Hold'em, 5-card Draw, and Stud. You'll also find HORSE up to $1000/$2000 limits, HOSE (HORSE without the Razz), 2-7 Triple Draw and Omaha/Courchevel at all stakes.

Cash numbers are regularly high, especially at the weekend, with around 21,000 players at the cash tables online on a good night. Standards are good, even at the low levels.

Zoom Poker: PokerStars has one of the earliest forms of 'fast-fold' poker - Zoom Poker - which is a special cash game where you are re-seated as soon as you fold. Zoom is available from $0.01/$0.02 to $50/$100.

Tournaments

PokerStars offers Sit & Gos from micro-stakes up to $5000 Heads-Up, as well as plenty of regular daily and weekly guarantees. There are also daily freerolls for beginners wanting to give their bankroll a kick-start.

Again, the handy filter lets you find the ticket you want super-quick. Progressive bounty-builders are a popular hit, where the bounty prize for knocking out a player increases after every player is eliminated. The $82 Bounty Builders ($37.50+$37.50+$7) regularly attract several hundred runners.

Bigger spenders can find plenty of regular tournaments (all with big guarantees) at around the $215-$320 buy-in mark. However, if you want to take on friends, you can set up an online 'Home Game' using the special function.

Spin & Go: A unique introduction to the online market is Spin & Go, a format which has been copied by most other operators. They play as 3-handed Sit n' Gos (from $0.25 to $100) where a random prizepool is decided before the game starts. This ranges from 2 to 12,000x the player's buy-in.

Sunday Million: PokerStars' shining jewel is the weekly Sunday Million, running since 2006. Costing $215 to enter, the all-nighter regularly attracts several thousand runners. A special 10th-anniversary Sunday Million played in 2016 carried a guarantee of $10 million. Over 62,000 runners turned out to play.

WCOOP, TCOOP, SCOOP: As well as weekly specials, seasonal festivals take place on Stars, the highlight being the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP). It carries dozens of events (with three buy-in levels for each tournament to cater for all budgets) across a range of disciplines. You can also satellite in to some of PokerStars' new live tournaments like the PokerStars Championship.

Poker Bonuses & VIP

New players at PokerStars can get a straight £10 welcome bonus (matched 100%) when they sign up. The £20 can be used to play with for free (no withdrawal permitted) but it's great for giving some of the daily guarantees a try.

PokerStars Bonuses and Promotions

Type
Amount
Match
Playthrough
Claim
Welcome Bonus
£10
100%
20x

Since PokerStars started branching out into casino games, critics have slammed the site's direction. However, on the plus side it has led to some cool casino-style bonuses for real money players. The 'Spinball' promotion rewards $10,000 to Spin & Go players who collect 5 special pieces of the puzzle.

VIPs have had a tough time at PokerStars recently, with the upper VIP perks being scrapped in 2017. The Star rankings system still exists but the VIP Club is now combined with the on-site casino and new sportsbook. Rewards will now be given on activity across the entire site - not music to the ears of the poker purists.

Customer Support & Banking

PokerStars customers can enjoy 24/7 customer support via Live Chat, phone or email. Deposits can be made via most major credit and debit cards like VISA, MasterCard, and Maestro, while the site also accepts e-Wallets like Skrill and NETELLER. Deposit limits can be set, and there's a handy Fast Deposit' function for previously-used methods.

Summary

You can't beat PokerStars for choice of games and range of stakes. It has more players than any other poker site, and the weekly guarantees are great - even if your budget is small. While the move to a more 'casino' experience might annoy some, there is still enough action to please the hardcore.

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