20 for 20, Part 2: A Complete Look at Key Moments & Events in PokerStars’ 20-Year History

 

PokerStars is launching the special Big 20 Rewind series on Sunday to celebrate the site’s 20th anniversary. The series features events honoring some of the biggest moments in the site’s history as well as some huge prizes.

With the Big 20 kicking off on Sunday, PokerScout takes a look at 20 of PokerStars’ biggest moments. Here’s the second part of our 20 for 20 series. (If you missed the first part of this series with No. 1-10, click here.)

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11 – World record online poker tournament

As the poker boom continued in the 2000s, PokerStars looked to make some news by setting a world record. In December 2009, the site held the biggest online tournament in history.

The $1 event brought in 149,196 entries and Stars broke that in December 2011 with 200,000 players. The latter event paid out $50,000 to the winner.

In the early stages of the tournament, the tournament’s traffic overwhelmed the site’s servers. All tournaments were paused for 20 minutes. PokerStars broke the record again in June 2013 with 225,000 entries.

 

12 – PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), PokerStars Live

The partypoker Caribbean Adventure is set for Nov. 15-25 and features 10 events with an overall guarantee of more than $10 million.Live events have become a major part of the PokerStars experience through the years. From 2004-19, Stars went the extra mile to make the PCA a premier live event on the tournament calendar.

A trip to the Bahamas offered the best of both worlds for many players – a great beach vacation and some great poker action.

Some of the biggest names in poker attended with players like Gus Hansen and Bertrand “ElkY” Grospellier claiming the Main Event title.

The event culminated with the PokerStars Players Championship  in 2019 and PokerStars decided to move on to other live options afterward. The PSPC was next set for Barcelona, but COVID delayed that. The PCA created a unique tropical environment on the poker calendar.

13 – Building a Twitch platform

Jason Somerville mans the microphone on his Run It Up Twitch channel.

PokerStars now has numerous Twitch streamers as part of the company’s lineup. The site uses the platform to showcase major online events.

The platform has grown in popularity in recent years and offers a way for the site to reach its community of players. Back in 2015, however, poker was new to the site and Jason Somerville led the charge. He saw the site as a way to showcase online poker and build an audience.

His Run It Up platform offered something new to the poker world and PokerStars took notice. Somerville became a team pro and helped launch PokerStars streaming efforts. Twitch has become a bigger part of online poker in recent years and continues to grow.

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14 – Relaunch into the USA

Black Friday left PokerStars locked out of the US market. However, that changed in March 2016. After changes in the American market, online poker has become a state-by-state proposition.

Stars was able to relaunch initially in the state of New Jersey. The platform is also now operating in Pennsylvania and Michigan.

The company continues to see growth in the US, especially post-pandemic. PokerStars USA will look at additional US markets as more states seek legalization.

Interstate compacts are expected to be unveiled at some point, which should also add to the company’s US growth significantly.

15 – PokerStars television and streaming efforts

The Chris Moneymaker success apparently taught the company a lesson: televised poker helps grow the game and the brand.

The company has not only been a major sponsor of televised poker events but also produced its own programming such as The Big Game.

PokerStars Live events are regularly filmed for broadcast and also streamed online. The PokerStars.tv YouTube channel offers poker fans with plenty of viewing options.

In recent years, the site has moved more into Twitch streaming as well. This has allowed the site to begin streaming major online final tables as well.

16 – Home Games bring friends together

The Home Games feature has been around for several years and allows players to compete against friends. While the feature may not get the notoriety of some of the site’s other bells and whistles, Home Games offers a unique feature for players.

PokerStars Home GamesThe setup offers players to select cash games, tournaments, and several poker variants. Each poker club can even keep their own leaderboard. The feature is available in play money and real money gaming, and is extremely user friendly.

In 2020, Home Games became even more popular as the COVID pandemic struck. The service adds some fun to a night of online poker with friends.

17 – Company acquisitions

As the most popular online poker site in the world, PokerStars began attracting attention from investors and larger companies. The Scheinbergs planned to take the company public by the mid-2000s, but Black Friday may have curtailed those plans.

Industry insiders believed the company may have been worth as much as $2 billion at the time. In the aftermath of Black Friday, the company was eventually sold.

Amaya Inc. (later known as The Stars Group) agreed to purchase the company in 2014 for $4.9 billion. The move meant Stars would be part of a publicly traded company and showed just how popular online poker had become.

That wouldn’t be the first time a suitor would come calling. In 2019, gambling giant Flutter Entertainment purchased Stars from Amaya in a $6 billion deal.

Flutter, based in Ireland, includes some of the largest gaming brands in the company. Those include FanDuel, Paddy Poker, and BetFair, and PokerStars remains part of the group.

18 – Zoom, zoom goes the poker

Fast-fold poker first went live on the site in 2012 and became an instant success. PokerStars excels at the software experience and creating new products and games.

The new Zoom game meant players no longer had to wait for a hand to complete. Fold your cards and simply get zoomed to another table with a hand already getting underway.

This style of cash game may not be for everyone, but showed Stars continues to think outside the box. The effort brought something new to cash games and remains a popular format on the site still.

Stars has also created completely new games in recent years. The site tinkers with varying games, bringing in new ones and shelving others. These are met with varying interest, but show its attempts to offer something new for players. 

A look at PokerStars’ virtual reality game platform.

19 – Playing poker in virtual reality 

PokerStars went full VR in September 2018. The new virtual reality product isn’t yet for real-money gaming but Stars hopes the product helps attract new players.

The game features all kinds of bells and whistles as players battle it out in a completely alternate world. The game has appealed to gamers beyond the poker world.

In 2020, PokerStars even upped the ante by signing site ambassador Mason Hughes, who is solely devoted to the VR game.

“Picking up your chips and throwing them into the center of the table is such a simple action, yet it’s so satisfying to do in VR,” he told PokerScout after being named VR ambassador. “Every action you take is intuitive to what you would do in a live poker game.”

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20 – Playing small ball

Through the years, recreational players have remained a key cog in the wheel at PokerStars. The Micro Millions series launched in 2012 and offers low rollers a series of their own.

The series offers players plenty of bang for the buck. Players have a chance at a nice prize pool for tournament entries of only a few bucks.

The efforts to appeal to rec players continues with most series offering some type of freeroll and satellite options.

♠♣♦♥

Being the biggest company in a market can come with plenty of criticism. PokerStars gets its fair share. But the company remains focused on pleasing customers and growing the game two decades after opening the virtual tables.

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