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.
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.
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. (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.
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.