PokerStars is, arguably, the biggest and the best poker site on the planet, and is by a huge margin the world’s favourite. This is one of the longest established online poker rooms, having been going since late 2001.
Personally, I’ve been playing on the site since around 2003 and I can confidently say this is my favourite poker site, hands down. I have played probably 90-95% of the other sites online but nothing comes close to Stars. The main reasons I recommend it are listed below; in this review we’ll go more in-depth into each area so you have a good understanding of exactly what they’re offering
- The busiest player traffic in the world – hundreds of thousands of players are active on PokerStars. As I write this, it’s only a Tuesday afternoon but over 171,000 people are logged on! This means busy games, big prize-pools and SNGs that fill up and start quickly.
- Good mix of pros and fish – whilst plenty of people play professionally on PokerStars, there’s also a good share of fish to feed from. Many people who are playing online poker for the first time start of at Stars so don’t worry, there’s still plenty of ‘dead money’ going round on this site.
- Excellent welcome bonus – with a 100% first time deposit bonus of up to $600 (or currency equivalent), this is a great opportunity to quickly double up your Stars bankroll.
- The best customer service online – I’d actually say that not only is it the best support service in online poker, but also from any online-based company I’ve ever dealt with. These guys are quick to respond, professional and really know their subject matter inside out. And you always get the impression they really care about retaining their players and keeping them happy.
- Game selection – whatever type of poker you want to play, from Omaha to Draw with everything in-between, it’s here at PokerStars. Not only that but any stake you could possibly want to play poker at is represented and has excellent levels of player traffic. This makes for an online poker room which is suitable for everyone – from someone who’s brand new playing $0.01/$0.02 to the MTT professional taking a shot at cashing in the Sunday Million. You simply won’t find such a variety in any other poker site.
- Zoom Poker – this is their brand new addition to their range of poker games and it’s gone down a storm with the online poker community. This is their equivalent (only better) to Full Tilt’s ‘Rush Poker’ where you join a ‘pool’ of players and can opt to ‘fast fold’ your way to the next table without waiting to see a hand out. This means you can get vastly more hands played per hour, thus increasing your income – vital if you play professionally.
Whatever your game, whatever your stakes and whatever your bankroll, you will absolutely love what PokerStars has to offer.
Now is a great time to start playing at PokerStars – why? Well because there is a very, very generous first time deposit bonus up for grabs at the moment, which matches your funds by 100%, to a maximum of $600/£400/ €465!
This is designed to reward you for your first deposit, as a welcome to the site, but in fact you can make up to three deposits in your first 90 days and these will also qualify.
Additionally, Stars often offer their existing players what are call ‘Reload bonuses’ from time to time, these are designed to reward you for making further deposits.
To earn the bonus you will need to ‘clear’ them by earning VPPs (their player points). It depends on what currency you’re using as to how many, but for example if you’re dealing in Pounds, then it’s 250 VPPs per increment of $10. Best of all you have a huge six months to earn the VIPs that you need to earn all of the bonus (most sites give you 30-90 days at most to achieve it).
I just love the PokerStars client – it’s fast, it’s slick and it’s superbly designed. It looks great and it plays great. It keeps stable even if you’re playing a whole load of tables at once as I frequently do.
It’s a free poker download and there are download versions available for both Windows and Mac users. It’s a quick download and installs easily without any hassle. If you want to read more about the download check our PokerStars download page here. The PokerStars lobby is nicely designed – they have a few main navigation tabs (e.g. Hold’em), then within each one you can use the filter to select the options you want, or click the headings of each column to order the tables. This is great because Stars offers such a huge number and variety of games, this means you can narrow the choice down to only the tables that interest you.
Stars is a very popular site for full and part time poker professionals, and one of the reasons is that you can multi-table your games, with up to 24 tables open at any one time (this is the standard, but you can email support and request more if you feel you need to). Plus, you can choose to tile, cascade or stack the tables (this is found within Options then View). Personally I’m a big fan of tiling on Stars as even when the table is at its absolute smallest you can still read everything clearly and the graphics and animation are still really smooth.
Probably my other favourite feature of the PokerStars software is how easy it is to customise. For starters there is a choice of six card decks, and 23 table themes installed. This should be more than enough to satisfy most players but you can also buy other themes and graphical ‘mods’ from third party sites if you want to ‘pimp up’ your software!
Finally, I also like the ability to ‘call a moderator’ – not something you need to do often but if another player is abusing the chat box facility you can get a member of the Stars team to enter, check things out and take action if needed.
A recent addition to the Stars offering was their release of the mobile version of their poker client. This is a stunningly beautiful, simple and well designed app which will work on iPhone, iPad, iPod Touche, or Android devices. This means you can now play anywhere you want, all you need is your phone or internet connection.
You log in with your usual PokerStars user-name and password.
You can play two games with PokerStars mobile – Texas Hold’em and Omaha. Choose from real money and play money, and cash games, SNGs and MTTs. You can even multi-table using this app!
At the moment the only snag is, it’s only for players in the UK (not including Northern Ireland).
My favourite feature of the app is the ‘quick seating’ – just hit ‘Play Now’ and you can join your favourite game instantly, with just one click. Also another thing worth mentioning about the Mobile poker, is that the players you’re up against are still the same normal player ‘pool’ as if you were playing normally from your PC. So, the games are still really busy and quick to start.
Stars have also released a whole load of tutorial and support information specifically for the Mobile client which is superb.
All in all then a great addition to their range of software, and from experience I can assure you a very addictive one, it’s absolutely cracking!
PokerStars Game Selection
It’s no surprise that the world’s favourite and busiest online poker site has, hands down, the best selection and variety of poker formats, stakes and games that you can find anywhere. If it’s poker you want, then you’ll find it all at PokerStars, from the common formats of Hold’em to the more obscure ones like Badugi.
PokerStars Cash Games
Here are the formats of poker that PokerStars offers to play for real money:
- Texas Hold’em: No Limit, Pot Limit and Fixed Limit. $0.01/$0.02 to $200/$400
- Omaha: Pot Limit. $0.25/$0.50 to $200/$400
- Omaha HI/Lo: No Limit, Pot Limit and Fixed Limit. $0.01/$0.02 to $1000/$2000
- 7 Card Stud: Fixed Limit. $0.04/$0.08 to $100/$200
- 7 Card Stud Hi/Lo: Fixed Limit. $0.04/$0.058 to $100/$200
- Razz: Fixed Limit $0.04/$0.058 to $100/$200
- Triple Stud: Fast. $0.50/$1 to $30/$60
- 5 Card Draw: No Limit, Pot Limit and Fixed Limit. $0.10/$0.20 to $30/$60
- 2-7 Triple Draw: Fixed Limit. $0.10/$0.20 to $1000/$2000
- 2-7 Single Draw: No Limit. $0.25/$0.50 to $10/$20
- 8-Game: $0.20/$0.40 to $400/$800
- HORSE: $0.10/$0.20 to $1000/$2000
- Hold’em/Omaha: $0.10/$0.25 to $100/$200
- Triple Stud: $0.50/$1.00 to $30/$60
- Badugi: Fixed Limit, $0.25/$0.50 to $400/$800.
So as you can see, in terms of the formats and stakes of cash game that PokerStars offers, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.
PokerStars sit n gos (SNGs)
Stars are well known for being the premier online poker site when it comes to offering a real wealth of options for the SNG player, from the recreational novice right through to the professional and full time SNG ‘grinder’ who makes a living from such games. There is such amazingly good volume of player traffic here that the games of any stake fill up so quickly sometimes it’s hard to register in time! What this means is you’ll never be kept waiting long, sometimes just a few seconds, for the SNG to start.
As there is such a variety of SNGs offered, we recommend using the ‘Sit & Go Filter’ on the lobby which allows you to drill down to find exactly the format and stake you’re looking for.
You can play SNGs in various formats, specifically Hold’em, Stud, Triple Stud, HORSE, 8-Game, Omaha, Badugi, Omaha Hi/Lo, 2-7 Single Draw, Stud Hi/Lo, Razz, 5 Card Draw, and so on. Player numbers start from 2 (i.e. heads-up) to 6, 9, 18, 27, 45, 90, 180, and up to 360 (although really that would be considered an MTT rather than a SNG).
Buy-ins for PokerStars SNGs for actual money start at $0.02 and go all the way up to the highest stakes of $5000. So again there is a game here for everyone no matter what your skill or bankroll level is like.
PokerStars Multi Table Tournaments (MTTs)
Stars are also well known for offering the biggest, most lucrative online tournaments in the world, including the world-famous ‘Sunday Million’ with its huge prize-pool and vast numbers of entrants. They have everything covered from micro stakes to professional level, with everything in between.
It’s a great site to forge a poker career on, as you can start out at relatively low stakes but then have the room and player traffic needed to move up as your skill and bankroll improve.
You can play pretty much any format of poker you want in these MTTs, and there is a ton of options including playing in free-rolls, with your player points, or obviously for ‘real’ money, where the stakes range from a few cents to hundreds of dollars. The weekends are what it’s all about though, what with the Sunday Million (yes that’s right, its minimum prize-pool is guaranteed to be a million dollars!), to the ‘Sunday Majors’ offering other large guarantees such as the ‘Sunday Cubed’ with a $55k guarantee.
Plenty of players have earned a fortune on these tournaments – it can be the start of a poker career or just nice to have a big injection to your bankroll. The larger games take a lot of discipline, skill, and a dash of luck, along with patience and stamina to last the several hours they often last.
Simply put, if you love MTTs then you’ll love PokerStars – for the player numbers, for the prize-pools and for the variety of formats and stakes.
PokerStars Zoom Poker
A recent addition to Stars’ arsenal of poker games is the amazing and hotly-awaited ‘Zoom Poker’. For those of you that may have played on Full Tilt, do you remember ‘Rush Poker’? Well the concept is pretty much the same and it’s a great addition to the game selection at Stars.
What is Zoom Poker? Zoom Poker means that rather than sitting at a single poker table, you join a ‘pool’ of hundreds of other players. If you pick up a hand that you don’t like and wish to fold, you can ‘fast fold’, which means rather than having to sit at that table and wait for the next hand, you’re immediately taken to another table where you’re instantly dealt another hand. Don’t like that hand? Fast fold again, and so on. This way you can get a vast volume of hands in (especially if you’re playing multiple tables). It’s fast, frenetic and a great way to speed up your earnings from online poker. It takes a lot of the frustration and boredom out of periods when you’re not being dealt good cards, too, which means you’re at less risk of ‘tilting’.
PokerStars Rewards and Loyalty
Something that both attracts new players and makes existing ones stick around is the PokerStars VIP Club. I’ll explain why in a moment, but for now you just need to know that it is THE best player reward scheme in online poker, by a huge margin.
PokerStars don’t offer rake-back, but they do offer the most potentially lucrative and flexible reward scheme you could wish for.
How it all works, is when you play real money poker on Stars, you’re going to be earning VIP Player Points (or what you’ll see referred to as VPPs), and Frequent Player Points (or FPPs).
VPPs are what determine your status within the program and there are both monthly and yearly ones. They act as an indicator to Stars about your play and aren’t redeemable.
FPPs are what you can use to get yourself rewards for your play, so they have an actual (variable) value.
VPPs and FPPs are earned in tandem, they just do different things.
For simplicity, I will explain how they’re earned on the assumption you’re using Dollars. If you’re not then it just means you will earn more (with Euros being higher than Dollars, and Pounds being higher than Euros).
So with VPPs then, you earn 5.50 per $1 in tournament fee paid – so let’s say you played a $20+$2 sit n go, you would earn 11 VPPs. For cash game play, it depends on your contribution to, and the size of, the pot; the higher it is, the more you earn.
Earning FPPs: These are earned whenever you earn VPPs. The higher your status, the more you earn per VPP, from a ratio of 1:1 if you’re a ‘BronzeStar’, to 5:1 if you’re the famous ‘Supernova Elite’.
Statuses: There are six levels to the scheme, – BronzeStar, SilverStar, GoldStar, PlatinumStar, Supernova and Supernova Elite. Each of these gives you more and more benefits and of course the FPP multiplier. So, the more poker you play on Stars, and the higher the stakes you play, the more you can progress and gain within the VIP Program.
Spending your points: From the poker lobby, open up the cashier and then hit ‘VIP Store’ – this will bring up the store in a new window. What you’ll be able to see here is that there is an absolutely vast range of items, bonuses and rewards you can claim for your hard earned points. This includes books, electronics, gadgets, tournament tickets, bonuses, even things as expensive as cars! It’s all there and if you can be patient and ‘save up’ your points then the potential rewards are huge.
PokerStars really do offer one of the largest varieties of accepted deposit options, with a mixture of credit cards, debit cards and e-wallets available. They now even have their own branded voucher called ‘PokerStars top up’ – there are 20,000 stores in the UK where you can buy them, just look out for the pink ‘payzone’ sign. You can buy these vouchers in £10, £25, £50, £100 and £250 denominations. It’s a great innovation from a poker site and gives you yet more flexibility in making a deposit. Also it gives you a quick way of converting physical cash into a poker bankroll.
To make a deposit, click the red ‘Cashier’ button in the lobby and then ‘Buy Chips’, this opens up the deposit screen.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that you can have more than one currency in your account (for example I have one part in GBP Pounds and one part in US Dollars).
Here are the methods you can use to deposit on PokerStars and also the minimum and maximum you can do:
- Neteller: $10-$640
- Visa: $10-$640
- Mastercard: $10-$640
- Maestro: $10-$640
- Paysafecard: $10-$1000
- Local Bank Transfer: $10-$1000
- Ukash: $10-$1000
- Skrill (Moneybookers): $10-$640
- Instadebit: $10-$640
- ClickAndBuy: $10-$640
- WebMoney: $10-$1000
- Entropay: $10-$640
- Online Bank Transfer: $10-$640
- PokerStars top up (a type of pre-paid voucher): $10-$1000
You can also save things like card details away and then use the stored details at a later date by clicking the ‘Fast Deposit’ button in the deposit window.
Any transaction you make on Stars, be it a deposit or cash-out, is always handled over a secure connection. Also remember this is the world’s biggest poker site so you can be confident everything is handled appropriately and feel sure of giving your payment information.
Something else you can do from the cashier screen is to transfer money to other players, for example if you’ve lost a stay longest bet in a big tournament, or you’re just helping out a friend who’s suffering from a downswing. If the transfer is approved the funds go over to the other player straight away.
PokerStars Support and Service
Without any doubt, I’m sure that any online poker player who’s played at Stars and deal with them would say their customer service is the best in the business. It’s something they’ve always been good at but as they’ve grown and grown it’s got better and better.
They offer 24/7 customer service and you can choose to send them an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or to use a secure contact form via the Stars poker software (go to Help then ‘Contact Support’).
I’ve had several occasions where I’ve needed to get in contact with them, often with just small queries – and every time I’ve done so, they’ve replied quickly, efficiently and politely. They’re one of these rare companies that can ‘do’ professional but friendly at the same time – not easy!
That said, many times you won’t even need to contact them, as the support and help section of their website is absolutely top-notch and has extensive content on such things as depositing money, security and so on.
Quite simply, PokerStars has the largest amount of the world’s elite poker players that you’ll find anywhere on one site. We’re talking here the big names such as Chris Moneymaker, Daniel Negreanu, Bertrand Grospellier, Barry Greenstein, Viktor Blom and WSOP Champion Jonathan Duhamel, to name just a few.
They come to PokerStars because this is where the biggest and highest stakes online poker games are anywhere in the world. The great thing about this is you can find them playing (by going to Requests and then Find a Player) and either sit back and watch the action (high stakes poker is a great spectator sport even online!) or even join in and try to win against them (not for the faint-hearted!)
So if you want to watch and play with the best poker players in the world, PokerStars is by far THE best online poker room for you.