PokerStars is an online poker gambling platform that requires players to download and install their software in order to play. It is is the largest online poker platform in the world, and has more traffic than most other online poker websites combined. PokerStars was launched in 2001.
It is owned by The Stars Group, which is headquartered in Toronto, Canada. The Stars Group had an annual revenue of $1.3 billion in 2017 and is a publicly traded company listed on the Nasdaq and the Toronto Stock Exchange.
Who can play for real money or where is Pokerstars legal ?
You must be over the age of 18 to register for an account on PokerStars. Anyone can register for a play money account, but there are geographic restrictions on who can play real money games. PokerStars is not available to players in the United States, except in the state of New Jersey. Other “prohibited jurisdictions” include Australia, Colombia, Egypt, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Pakistan, Slovenia and Turkey. For a complete list of prohibited territories, consult the PokerStars website here. Pokerstars allowed countries you can see on the map in review.
In the past players have used VPNs to try and get around these geographic restrictions, but PokerStars is very strict in detecting and punishing players who do this. There is a risk of losing all the money a player deposited in an account, if they are found to be in a prohibited jurisdiction. Because many people use the same fake IP addresses when using VPNs, PokerStars has ways of flagging your account if you log-in on a IP address known to be collectively used.
One potential option is to use a dedicated, residential IP. These IPs are leased from Internet service providers in the jurisdiction you want your IP to be from. PokerStars won’t detect the IP as a VPN because it looks like any other residential user. These residential IP address can be purchased from some VPNs such as TorGuard. However, it is often so difficult to use a VPN to play PokerStars, that some people find it easier to just relocate to a new country.
If a player moves to a jurisdiction that is not prohibited, it is possible to submit proof (government-issued photo I.D. or a recent bank statement showing a new physical address) to have your account approved for real money games.
Proof of age, identity and address are required to validate an account, which allows a player to access perks such as faster processing of transfers, deposit limit increases and withdrawals. Documents provided as proof must be in colour (they do not accept black and white copies) and scanned or photographed at 600dpi image resolution or greater. These documents are needed to withdraw your winnings, particular large amount, so it is a good idea to make sure you can verify your identity before earning a lot of winnings.
The most prominent sign-up bonus for PokerStars is the “Spin & Go” Free Play promotion, which offers $30 worth bonuses when a player deposits $20 or more.
This offer can be claimed with the bonus code ‘THIRTY’. The $30 is distributed as $10 cash credit and $20 worth of game tickets. These bonuses are distributed over the course of the six days after a player signs-up, in the following schedule:
Day 1: Five $1 Spin & Go tickets. Day 2: Five $1 Spin & Go tickets Day 3: Five $1 Spin & Go tickets Day 4: $5 cash credit. Day 5: Five $1 Spin & Go tickets Day 6: $5 cash credit.
Spin & Go tickets are only valid for 21 days. Spin & Go games are fast-paced tournaments with just three players. Prize amounts are randomly determined at the start of the tournament. PokerStars advertises that prizes can be between two and 12,000 times the buy-in, with prizes of up to $1,000,000 to be won. However, they list the probabilities of each multiplier being drawn, and show that the most likely prize pool is two-times the buy-in, with 12,000 times the buy-in having a 1-in-1,000,000 frequency.
For those with more money to play with, there is a “100% First Deposit Bonus” special offer. Using the bonus code ‘STARS600’, players can get a 100% match on money deposited up to a limit of $600. However, the matched amount is not offered by PokerStars in the form of a cash credit, but must be redeemed by playing in real cash games.
Players earn 5 redemption points for every USD $1 they pay in rake or tournament fees. After accumulating 180 redemption points, a players account is credited with $10 cash. A Player has four months after a deposit is made to earn the redemption points necessary to fully claim their cash bonus. Basically, this offer is best for people who have the money to play consistently and frequently after they sign-up. A player receives small cash bonuses for consistently playing in real money games.
There are tournaments that players can join for a $0 buy-in, called Freerolls. While previously there were more frequent freeroll tournaments offered on a daily basis, currently most freeroll games are accessed through special tickets that players use to buy in.
Tickets can be won through Stars Rewards program, which allows players to earn ‘chests’ for playing real money games. If a player plays enough real money games, they will earn a chest, which can be opened to reveal a prize. The prizes are often tickets to freeroll games. There is a meter at the top of the gameplay area that shows a player’s progress toward earning their next reward chest.
The VIP Club
The Stars Rewards program was introduced in 2017 and replaced the previous PokerStars VIP Club, which offered rewards for monthly records and saw players’ progress reset each month. The Stars Rewards program was designed to allow players to earn prizes even if they played less than once a month, because reward points never reset.
Signing up for an account and participating in play money games is free on PokerStars.
For real money non-tournament games, PokerStars retains a rake percentage of each winning pot (they take no fees if the hand ends on the first round of betting), ranging from 4.5 to 5 percent, with caps of $0.30 or $0.50 for small stakes games of $0.01/$0.02 to $0.50/$1, and increasing as high as $3.00 as the number of players increase. For stakes of between $1/$2 and $25/$50 the rake percentage caps range from $0.75 to $3.50. Entry fees for tournaments range 4 to 11 percent.
According to PokerScout.com, PokerStars is by far the most visited poker website in the world, with an average of around 10,000 real money players playing at any one time. PokerStars accounts for more than half of all online poker traffic in the West. Traffic on the site peaks around 12 p.m. PST or 8 p.m. GMT, with between 15,000 and 20,000 real money players active at this time every day. Pokerstars’ global rank on Alexa is 24,165, which is down from 19,133 in September 2018. It ranks 17,530 in the United States.
Including players in play-money games, PokerStars now has around 60,000 to 150,000 users participating at any given time. PokerStars set a record certified by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009, by hitting a peak of 307,000 players at one time. PokerStars is recognized for having a large amount of ring game traffic.
The number of average real money games began to decline in mid-2017, after PokerStars increased the rake percentage for multi-table tournaments games.
Types of Games
Texas Hold’em is available in fixed-limit, no-limit, and pot limit versions. Omaha is offered in limit and pot limit versions. Omaha Hi/Lo is offered in limit, pot limit and no limit. Seven Card Stud is offered with a Limit betting structure, along with the Razz (Seven card stud low) and Eight-or-better (Seven card stud high-low) versions. Mixed games are available, combining the previous mentioned styles, which are cycled hand-by-hand. On PokerStars mixed games are always Fixed Limit.
No-Limit Hold’em stakes range from $0.01/$0.02 to $200/$400. For Limit Hold’em, stakes range from $0.02/$0.04 to $1,000/$2,000.
PokerStars offers an extremely wide selection of weekly and daily multi-table tournaments, and other special limited time tournament series throughout the year. Sunday is a popular day for tournaments. There is the high-stakes No Limit Hold’em tournament, Sunday Million, which offers a prize pool of $1,000,000 for a buy-in $215. You can also win entry to this tournament in various smaller tournaments held throughout the week. At the other end of the spectrum is the low-stakes Sunday Storm, with a buy-in of $10. There is also the Sunday Warm-up, with a buy in of $215 and a prize pool of around $175,000.
There is also a range of tournaments offered on Saturday. There is a knock-out format tournament called the Saturday KO, with a buy-in of $215 and a prize pool of $75,000. The Saturday Micro has a low buy-in of $3.30 and a prize pool of $10,000. Saturday Duel is a heads-up event, pitting players against each other one at a time. It has a buy-in of $215 and prize pool of $12,000. Saturday Eliminator is a progressive KO tournament that awards a cash bounty every time a player knocks out another player. It has a buy-in of $27 with a prize pool of $75,000.
There are various Omaha style tournaments throughout the week, branded under the “Omania” title, the buy-ins range from $4.40-$530. Prize pools for the Omaha tournaments range from $500 to $15,000. Play-money players can participate with the Sunday Billions tournament.
PokerStars has a wide array of deposit and withdrawal options, depending on what country a player resides in. Typically, many of the methods involve making a wire transfer from a bank account and requires the complete banking information for the account that a deposit is being taken from, or a withdrawal being sent to. There are also options for making deposits to your PokerStars account using Visa and Mastercard credit cards. You can also make a deposit to your PokerStars account using e-wallets such as such as Neteller or Skrill, and with pre-paid vouchers from companies like Neosurf and paysafecard.
Which Nationalities Play on PokerStars?
Russian players have made a notorious reputation for themselves on PokerStars. They constitute a large percentage of the players on PokerStars. They are known for being aggressive players, calling any hand no matter the quality, and contributing to the pot on an abnormally high percentage of hands. So, the Russians are also known for bluffing a lot! Ukrainians also constitute a large part of the players on PokerStars.
There are other national characteristics that appear in the play styles on PokerStars. The English, for example, often live up to their national stereotype by being reserved and cautious. English players don’t take a lot of risks with their bankroll. Brazillians are known for being aggressive players, similar to the Russians. Some players claim that the Irish are very easy to bluff. Brazilians, the British, and Canada are recognized as the best players on PokerStars. However, of course, there are good and bad players in all nationalities!
Best Strategy for Beginners
Beginners should start with a modest bankroll and play micro-stakes games while getting a hand of the basics of playing poker. Focusing on the Texas Hold’em style will be easiest for a beginner to learn, and offer the most games and rooms for practicing. The best strategy for beginners to adopt is a tight-and-aggressive style of play. Tight means that a player should only bet if they have a very strong hand, and fold before the flop if they have a less than excellent starting hand. This means they should only play around 15 to 20 percent of the hands they are dealt. When they do play a hand, they should be aggressive by only betting or raising, never calling.
They should then focusing on learning the following skills in order: counting outs, the importance of position at the table, and sizing their bets appropriately.
Buy-ins in real-money ring games vary. For Fixed Limit games, the minimum buy-in is 10 times the big bet and there is no maximum buy-in. For No Limit and Pot Limit games, the minimum buy-in is 40 times the big blind. The maximum buy-in is 100 times the big blind.
The PokerStars software is available on all major operating systems including Windows and OSX desktop versions, and mobile versions for iOS and Android.
While PokerStars does have a rather large FAQ section on their website, which can provide a lot of information regarding the “nitty gritty” of how the platform works. However, direct customer support is widely regarded as being very poor, as it is only supported through e-mail. No phone or live chat. However, the service is available 24/7 and often an agent will respond to your ticket in as little as 60 minutes. Issues with the quality of the service from these agents have been widely reported on Reddit.
There have also been reported issues with withdrawing money from a player’s PokerStars account. Sometimes, there is reported confusion over bonus money and money deposited by a player. Bonus money offered by PokerStars is for play only, and cannot be withdrawn. Sometimes cash withdrawals are rejected because of confusion over funds being bonus or from a deposit. Other times, players have reported issues with verification their identifying documents when they try to withdraw cash, with little help from PokerStars customer service.
There are also many threads on Reddit, reporting of accounts being hacked and bankrolls being stolen. However, these could be security issues related to people using the same password for many different websites, and other websites having user information hacked from them.
Bots and Scamming
As technology advances, it becomes easier for programmers to use software to help them win the game of online poker, or to play the game for them entirely! Lots of rumours surround these questions. Some speculate that PokerStars themselves put bot players into games, these bots always seem to have a the best hand at the table. Some suspect that the bots know what the other players’ hands are. The idea is that if a real player at a table has a very good hand, that will lead them to keep increasing their bet and raising the pot. So, then if a bot if able to show a near miraculously good hand to beat that hand, the real player will have inflated the pot and PokerStars’ rake percentage would increase.
However, other argue that PokerStars, being as large as it is, and making as much money as it does, would not risk their reputation by employing bots. No one know what for sure, but the use of bots and poker software is a plausible reality.
After a scandal in 2015, involving the use of bots by players from Russia, PokerStars claimed that they “work hard” to prevent bots being used. Cheating with the use of bots seems to be a problem throughout the online poker world. In 2018, famous poker podcaster Joe Ingram called out America’s Cardroom for having cheating all the way up through games at all stakes levels.
If you have a successful website that gains lots of traffic, then you can earn revenue by directing people to sign-up with PokerStars. The affiliate payments work on a sliding scale, meaning the more players you recruit through your website the money you earn. If you recruit between 1-2 real money players per month, then your commission is 15%. If you recruit 201 or more real money players per month, then the commission rate increased to 35%. Between these two, 3-5 per month earns 20%, 41 - 80 per month reaches the 30% mark.
PokerStars made a controversial change to the affiliate program in 2015, changing it so that an affiliate only gets referral payments for the first two years of a new players activity, rather than for the lifetime.
Whether or not a player needs to pay taxes on winnings they withdraw from PokerStars depends on which tax jurisdiction they live in. Some countries, like Canada, do not tax gambling winnings. Tax authorities may not tax gambling winnings, but will tax income from gambling if they deem a player to be in a “gambling business.” However, the level for being considered a gambling business is quite high, and most average individual poker players will be consider hobby gamblers.
Conclusion - 4/5
Whether a beginner or an experienced online poker player, PokerStars seems like the obvious choice if you reside in one of their accept geographic jurisdictions. Being a Canadian resident, it was very easy for me to get started as a novice, taking advantage of the $30 free play bonus.
The reasons to choose PokerStars include the sheer size of the real-money playing community, it is by far the largest online poker site on the web. There are constantly dozens of games being played from micro stakes of $0.01/$0.02 to high stakes of $100/$200. There are frequent tournaments that attract a lot players. PokerStars also goes out of its way to schedule a variety of different tournaments on a daily and weekly basis with very attractive prize pools of up to $1 million. It is, quite simply, a very active and lively online poker community. However, PokerStars is still a large corporation and conducts itself as such; there have been many recent controversies over things such as raising rake percentage and having very poor customer service. The poor customer service can lead to some rather unpleasant situations involving loss of money and inability to withdraw money, with is a serious issue, preventing PokerStars from getting anything higher than an 80% rating at 4 out of 5 stars.