My PokerStars review is based on more than a decade of playing at the world´s largest online poker site. Much has changed in that time, and this review of PokerStars has been compiled to incorporate those changes and give an overall impression of what it is like to play at the site today. To get your own impression of what it is like to play at the world´s largest poker site, click “PLAY NOW”.
Lucky, Lucky PokerStars
There is no doubt that PokerStars´ dominance of the online poker market is attributable to a great deal of luck. The site´s first slice of good fortune came when Chris MoneyMaker won the 2003 WSOP Main Event via a PokerStars satellite he had played just eighteen months after the site started providing online poker for real money in December 2001.
Then PokerStars was in the right place at the right time when Party Poker – the dominant force in online poker at the time – withdrew from the US market following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA). PokerStars stepped up to fill the void and has been the number one online poker site ever since.
Although PokerStars was forced out of the US market in April 2011 on “Black Friday”, the site remains the world´s largest online poker site. New owners have come in and introduced gambling verticals such as sports betting, casino games and daily fantasy sports to make PokerStars more appealing to recreational players. Despite these changes, the opportunity still exists at PokerStars for players to live the dream and rise through the ranks to become a world famous poker star.
Value: The PokerStars Bonus for New Players
One of the features that has remained unchanged for almost a decade is the PokerStars bonus for new players. New players are offered a 100% match on their first three deposits within sixty days of first registering an account. Depending on your location and the currency you choose to fund your account with, the PokerStars bonus for new players is either £400, €500 or $600.
The bonus is cleared by earning the VIP Player Points (VPPs) that are awarded for contributing to the rake deducted from cash game pots or for paying an entry fee to play in a PokerStars tournament, Sit & Go or Spin & Go game. The bonus is released in increments of £10/€10/$10 whenever a predetermine number of VPPs has been collected (this varies according to currency).
PokerStars Marketing Code & Bonus Codes
You get an exceedingly generous 120 days from the date of your first deposit in which to clear the PokerStars bonus for new players (or as much of it as possible). In order to take advantage of this excellent offer, you will need to enter the PokerStars marketing code “ps50562” when first creating your account – and then the appropriate PokerStars bonus code when making your first deposit:
- For accounts funded in US dollars “STARS600”
- For accounts funded in Euros “STARS500”
- For accounts funded in £ Sterling “STARS400”
Value: VIP and StarsCoin
The PokerStars rewards program is the basis for many rewards programs used on other sites. It works by converting the VPPs earned at the poker tables into StarsCoin that can then be used to enter special StarsCoin tournaments, or exchanged for cash, tournament entry tickets and an extensive range of poker-themed goods at the site´s online store.
The rate at which VPPs are converted into StarsCoin varies according to how many VPPS you have earned in a calendar month. There are five different monthly levels and one annual level. The higher the level achieved, the more StarsCoin you get for your VPPS and the more cash or other rewards you can exchange them for.
As your VIP Status increases, you will gain access to additional benefits including a Status-exclusive tournament with a low StarCoin buy-in and weekly VIP freeroll tournaments of increasing value. The cashier´s page in the PokerStars client updates your current reward status and the number of VPPs/StarsCoins you have in real time so you can always keep track of your progress.
Value: PokerStars Promotions
PokerStars has a massive variety of fixed and changing promotions – many of which are easily achievable and some of which can be exceptionally lucrative. The site hosts hundreds of freeroll poker tournaments every month and has weekly, seasonal and annual MTT leaderboard promotions. Depending on the season, you could be playing in “Golden Sit & Go” games, waiting patiently for a “Milestone Cash Game Hand” or playing in a tournament that randomly hands out entries into a much more valuable event.
Talking of tournaments, PokerStars has a Sunday Majors series of tournaments that pays out more than $3 million every week, plus other valuable online poker tournaments with guaranteed prize pools running around the clock. PokerStars also hosts the Spring Championships of Online Poker (SCOOP) and the World Championships of Online Poker (WCOOP) – two of the most valuable online poker series in the world. In 2011, the prize pool for the WCOOP Main Event exceeded $12.4 million.
If the opportunity to qualify for live poker events excites you, PokerStars is the place to play. PokerStars sent more players to the 2015 World Series of Poker than every other online poker site combined; and, through the site´s comprehensive satellite program, you can qualify for many national and international live events and win packages that include flights, accommodation and spending money.
Software: Poker Games and Tournaments
PokerStars offers the most extensive ranges of cash games at the widest variety of stakes. As well as the “staples” of Texas Hold´em, Omaha and Stud, players can test their skills in formats such as 5 Card Omaha, Courchevel, Badugi, 5 Card Draw and 2-7 Triple Draw, with stakes ranging from $1.01/$0.02 up to the nosebleed stakes of $1,000/$2,000. For those who like their poker action accelerated, the site also hosts fast-fold “Zoom” cash games with stakes up to $50/$100.
The tournament schedule is equally as comprehensive. Events are starting every minute of the day catering for every bankroll and preference. Sit & Go games fill up quickly at any time of the day or night, and you can win up to 12,000 times your buy-in by playing PokerStars´ three-handed hyper-turbo “Spin & Go” games – the most valuable of which ($100 buy-in) means that you could share in a million dollar prize in less than five minutes!
Software: PokerStars Download
Despite being the dominant force in the world of online poker, PokerStars has not rested on its laurels when it comes to providing ground breaking software for playing online poker. There are dozens of customisable settings, different table themes and settings available to improve the poker playing experience, superb graphics and smooth gameplay.
Despite the feature-laden package, the Windows and Mac compatible PokerStars software is quick to download and simple to install. The package includes a dedicated help section and an online poker school, through which you can improve your game for free and pass quizzes to test your knowledge and be awarded free Sit & Go tickets.
Software: PokerStars on a Mobile
The PokerStars mobile app for Android was the first mobile app I ever used to play online poker – and the one against which I judge all others. “PokerStars Mobile Poker” works on all Android 4 and above devices, and on iPhone 4 or iPad 2 running iOS 7 or higher. Directions on how to access and install the software can be found on the PokerStars website.
Once you have PokerStars on a mobile up and running, you will find most of the games and features available to you that you would find on the desktop client. All the banking functions and search options are available, but for security reasons you cannot change your login settings or personal information like your date of birth. Also for security reasons, PokerStars will not allow you mobile device to remember your password, and you have to tap it in manually every time you log into your account.
Being the largest online poker site in the world, payment processors are more than happy to transact deposits and withdrawals for PokerStars. Consequently the range of deposit options is comprehensive. You can make a deposit into your PokerStars account using most recognised debit and credit cards, eWallets such as Neteller, PayPal and Skrill, virtual wallets such as Entropay or by direct bank transfer.
Withdrawals are paid back to the source used to fund your account. Depending on the source used, this can take anything from one minute to one week. Personally I use Neteller for cashing out from my PokerStars account – which is instant – and have never experienced any problems. If you do ever encounter a problem making a withdrawal from your PokerStars account, you can email email@example.com and a live chat facility will appear in the desktop client to help you.
Security: Currency Conversions
At the end of 2014, PokerStars introduced a 2.5 percent fee on certain currency conversions. The fee applies when you deposit into a PokerStars account in a currency other than that in which your account is held, or request a withdrawal in a different currency from that in which your account is held. It does not affect “in-client” conversions – for example if you have an account in Euros and buy-into a US dollar cash game or multi table tournament.
It was not a popular move, but at least PokerStars was open about it – which is more than can be said for some online poker sites. PokerStars also provided advice on how to avoid the fees for currency conversions – either transfer from one currency to another in the poker client before requesting a withdrawal, or maintain your funding source and your poker account in the same currency.
Security: Customer Support
PokerStars has a thorough Help section on its website with FAQ sections on practically every conceivable issue players may encounter. Alternatively, players can email support either through the website or the poker client. Live chat is only available through the poker client for players experiencing problems with deposits and withdrawals.
You might think – as I did once – that a company the size of PokerStars should be able of providing telephone support. However, with tens of thousands of players online at any one time, that would probably be a logistical nightmare and would have to be paid for with lower player rewards or higher rake. Having used the email customer support service, I can report that you get a quick and informed reply within an appropriate time frame. I will take the higher player rewards any day.
My Experience Playing at PokerStars
As I mentioned at the top of this PokerStars review, I have been playing at PokerStars for more than a decade. I have not made it into the big time yet, but the dream still survives. As a recreational player, I appreciate that tables are always open when I want to play, that there will always be a tournament to suit my bankroll and that, if I fancy a flutter in the sports book or a spin of a roulette wheel in the casino, that option is available to me.
One thing I have noticed in recent years is that the games are getting tougher to beat. Once upon a time I could be pretty sure that, if I played my A-game, I would end a session in profit. Now that is not always the case because of the higher standard of play that exists throughout the site. I recommend caution with your bankroll if you are just starting your online poker journey at PokerStars and be prepared for a steep learning curve.