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PokerStars Review

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OVERALL RATING:
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When it comes to playing cards online, no name looms larger than PokerStars. They’ve been operating for well over a decade, and during that time they’ve established themselves as one of the premier places to get your virtual poker fix.

I’ve been a loyal customer for almost three years, and I’m continually surprised by everything the site has to offer. As a way of paying them back for all they’ve done, I’ve decided to sit down and write a PokerStars review to assist others who might be in the market for a new place to gamble.

Please keep in mind that I’m not receiving any money from the company for this article. I’m simply a loyal fan of PokerStars, and my thoughts below are honest and unbiased. Not to sound cynical, but most online reviewers can’t say the same.

A Brief History of PokerStars

PokerStars launched their online operations in September of 2001, and they started accepting real-money wagers three months later. Their business experienced a major boost in 2003, after online satellite winner Chris Moneymaker advanced to win the
World Series of Poker.

In 2006, the Isle of Man-based company became the largest online poker room following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the withdrawal of PartyPoker from the U.S. market. Three years later, they would set a record for the largest Internet poker tournament with 149,196 participants, although that number would be surpassed in 2013 (this time with 225,000 players).

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice seized the URLs of five gaming sites, including PokerStars.com, accusing them of violating money laundering and federal bank fraud laws. All civil complaints against PokerStars were dropped in 2012, after the company reached a $225 million settlement that included the purchase of Full Tilt Poker.

Following their truce with American authorities, PokerStars is now free to apply for a license in any U.S. state where online gambling is regulated. On March 21st, 2016, for example, the company launched real-money play for gamblers within the state of New Jersey.

Banking Options

The deposit and withdrawal options for PokerStars vary depending on your country of residence. No matter where you live, though, you can count on a wide range of selections being available. As an example, let’s look at what’s offered to Canadian players:

  • Instant eChecks (deposit and withdrawal)
  • Instadebit (deposit and withdrawal)
  • VISA (deposit and withdrawal)
  • Entropay (deposit and withdrawal)
  • MasterCard (deposit only)
  • Paysafecard (deposit only)
  • Wire Transfer (withdrawal only)
  • Direct Bank Transfer (withdrawal only)

Now let’s review what Chinese poker players can expect:

  • VISA (deposit and withdrawal)
  • Entropay (deposit and withdrawal)
  • MasterCard (deposit only)
  • WebMoney (deposit and withdrawal)
  • AstroPay (deposit only)
  • Check (withdrawal only)

As you can see, just about any nation should have multiple choices for both deposits and withdrawals. That makes things easier on the customer, allowing them to send or receive cash without having to jump through a bunch of pointless hoops.

Software Quality

Lobby

In keeping with their reputation as one of the best gaming sites around, PokerStars offers software that’s both intuitive and easy to understand. The graphical displays are crisp and vibrant, and both Mac and PC formats are supported. Since a number of players have displayed a preference for mobile gaming in recent years, the company has risen to the challenge by introducing downloadable mobile clients for iOS and Android. The latter options are just as solid as their more stationary counterparts, although the overall selection of games isn’t as robust.

Table

In fairness, though, there have been some growing pains since the Amaya Gaming Group purchased PokerStars for $4.9 billion in 2014. Significant lags have been reported by numerous players, including times when an entire table freezes up for several minutes. This has been most common on multi-table tournaments, although I’ve been fortunate enough to avoid such hassles to this point. (This review does a good job of explaining post-Amaya changes in more detail.)

Player Traffic

If you’re interested in large numbers of players and a generous pool of opponents to choose from, there’s no better option than PokerStars. According to one leading gaming site, the lowest amount of traffic experienced by PokerStars during a 24-hour period is still double the peak hours of their competitors.

When I wrote this review, for example, there were 90,266 players on the site, as well as 5,545 ongoing tournaments. This was around 7pm on a Monday, so you can imagine how many people they draw later at night and on the weekends.

Game Selection

No Limit Texas Hold’em is king at PokerStars, but the site also has a number of other poker variants to choose from, including Stud, Badugi, and Omaha. Large-scale tournaments on the weekend offer up to $1 million in guaranteed money, and there are also ring games and sit & go options to choose from.

At any given time, you’ll find thousands of tournaments waiting to be entered, which is a claim that most competitors can’t make. If you’re nervous about risking your own money, you can also choose the free play option and just compete for fun.

In recent years, PokerStars has also added sports betting and casino games to their menu. The casino offers all the classics you would expect, including slots, video poker, blackjack, and roulette. The betting option, meanwhile, is offered through the BetStars brand and initially included 23 different sports. A select number of jurisdictions were available when BetStars debuted, but that number is expected to increase throughout 2016 and beyond.

(If you’re interested in gambling games other than poker, we’ve cathered together lists of internet’s top online casinos and poker rooms.)

Deposit Bonuses

Both mobile and PC customers can enjoy deposit bonuses from PokerStars. These may change on occasion, but the following are being offered as I write this review:

First Deposit Bonus – All players making their first deposit qualify for this 100% matching bonus that pays up to $600. In order to release the bonus, you’ll need to earn 200 VIP Player Points by playing real-money games for every $10 in bonuses, although the clearance rate depends on your currency:

Bonus Currency Rates

$20 Free – By making a deposit of at least $20 into your PokerStars account, you’ll be eligible to receive $20 worth of free play and $1 million in play money chips. This bonus amount can’t be withdrawn, but it can be used to fund your poker exploits.

Daily Super Rewards – Deposit at least $10 and earn a week of free gifts worth $25. Prizes include tickets to sit and go, spin and go, and tournaments, as well as cash credit.

The bonuses offered by PokerStars are solid, although they’re nothing that’s going to change the face of the industry. For those who are serious about poker and planning to play a substantial amount anyway, the 100% matching bonus is a great way to immediately increase the size of your bankroll.

VIP Club

VIP Club

Every PokerStars player is a member of the VIP Club, and playing in real-money games allows you to climb up the ladder towards free cash and prizes. Players are required to complete steps each month in order to maintain or increase their VIP status, and failure to do so results in an immediate drop.

Once you’ve accumulated enough StarsCoin (by completing steps), you can spend it on a wide array of items. These include clothing, electronics, cash rebates, and even donations to charitable organizations.

Customer Service

PokerStars has representatives standing by 24/7 to assist you, and they can normally be reached via email or contact support form. I wish a phone number was also available, but that’s simply not the case. For those having trouble making a deposit, the site also offers a live chat function.

I’ve had mixed results when dealing with the customer service department, although I don’t hold the company responsible when one of their employees decides to get snippy after a long day. The positive representatives I’ve dealt with far outweigh the negative ones, and the bottom line is that they always manage to answer my question or help resolve an issue.

Conclusion

I recommend PokerStars for anyone who loves the game of poker. That may sound simplistic, but this is a case where a site dominates the market and truly offers something for everyone. Sharks can find plenty of prey to feast on, while fish have the opportunity to hone their abilities against players of all skill levels. Whales should also feel right at home, as they can put their big bankrolls to the test in an endless variety of tournaments.

While some software issues have cropped up in recent years, PokerStars remains one of the must-play sites in the online gambling industry. From their selection of games to impressive guaranteed payouts, they are continually positioned among the elite.

This review was made by: Rating: 3.9 out of 5