Launched in September 2001, PokerStars is the largest poker network in the world. On most weeks, it generates more traffic than all the other West-facing poker sites combined. Nowadays, it is the only site that offers a complete internet poker experience. Tournaments, cash games, live events – if you want it, they probably have it and it’s guaranteed to be good.
PokerStars also excels in terms of welcome bonuses and recurring promotions. Unfortunately, their customer support doesn’t quite measure up. Nevertheless, it is the only site that manages to provide a real sense of community.
All in all, if you enjoy playing poker, you owe it to yourself to give PokerStars a try.
How to register an account with PokerStars
Signing up for a real-money account is a simple process that involves downloading the client and following on-screen instructions. You will need to verify your identity by providing the site’s personnel with a scan of a government-issued ID.
Please note that customers from Australia are blocked from engaging in any real money activities. What’s more, players from certain countries, including the United States, Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal are required to play on local PokerStars networks, which differ from the global version of the site.
If you’re looking for more information regarding prohibited jurisdictions, check out the relevant section of PokerStars’ website.
PokerStars sign-up bonuses
First-time depositors can choose from one of two promotions:
100% matched deposit bonus, up to $600
This is a fairly standard cash bonus. It is released at a rate of $10 per 180 Redemption Points earned. (More on Redemption Points further below.) You earn five points for every $1 paid in rake or tournament fees. This means that you will end up paying $36 in rake to release a $10 chunk of the bonus, essentially equating to a short-term 28 percent rakeback deal.
PokerStars provides a better bang for your buck than any other international poker room. For some perspective, consider that 888poker’s welcome bonus is worth up to $400 and is equivalent to a 20 percent rakeback deal, while partypoker offers $500 / 12.5 percent.
Note that players must clear PokerStars’ matched deposit bonus in four months.
$30 Free Play
This offer is available to players whose first deposit is $20 or more. Instead of a single cash bonus, players get the following benefits:
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 bonus
Day 5: Five $1 Spin & Go tickets
Day 6: $5 cash bonus
All things considered, only claim this bonus if you feel comfortable with Spin & Go tournaments and you’re making a deposit of $30 or less. If you decide to take advantage of this promotion despite depositing more than $30, you’ll be bleeding value and losing cashback.
Keep in mind that while claiming both bonuses is not possible, the value of the first deposit bonus can be maxed out over the course of three consecutive deposits. For example, if you deposit $100, followed by a $200 payment and then another $300 payment, your total pending cash bonus will amount to $600. Note that all three deposits must be made over the course of 60 days.
PokerStars traffic overview
PokerStars dwarfs competitors in terms of popularity, as it accounts for more than half of all online poker traffic in the West. The only international poker network to attract similar player volumes is the Asia-facing IDNPoker.
The average number of ring-game players on PokerStars exceeds 10,000 on most weeks. Traffic peaks tend to occur around 12 p.m. Pacific Standard Time, or 8 p.m. GMT. The number of active players oscillates between 15,000 and 20,000 around this time, which makes finding active games exceptionally easy.
Grinders looking for the easiest games should stick to peak hours during the weekend, as this is precisely when recreational players flock to the site.
Tournament traffic on PokerStars is consistently high, and there are recurring events running throughout the week. The number of active players spikes on the weekends, which is when the site hosts its most popular events, such as Saturday Micro, Sunday Storm, and Sunday Million.
When it comes to hard numbers, the last $215 Sunday Million NL Hold’em tournament of 2017 attracted 4,515 players and generated 1,031 re-entries. The numbers are even more impressive for major low-stakes events. For example, the Micro Millions ’13 Main Event featured 69,011 entries and 16,079 re-entries.
PokerStars has a massive player pool to work with and takes full advantage of this fact by offering a wide selection of poker games. It’s worth noting that while smaller poker networks might give you access to similar options on paper, PokerStars is the only site capable of delivering a consistent high-traffic experience for people who aren’t focusing exclusively on Texas Hold’em.
PokerStars cash games
As mentioned above, you should expect over 10,000 active ring-game players on PokerStars during evening hours. Most of them play No-Limit Hold’em, but due to the sheer amount of traffic finding active Pot-Limit Omaha, HORSE, or even No-Limit 5-Card Draw tables shouldn’t be much of an issue. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular formats:
No-Limit Hold’em stakes range from $0.01/$0.02 all the way up to $200/$400. Most players congregate around the micro- and low stakes tables, which are available in 6-max and 9-max formats. High-roller games tend to be heads-up – realistically speaking, $5/$10 is the ceiling for full-ring games.
Limit Hold’em players will feel right at home, too. Available stakes start at $0.02/$0.04 and go up to $1,000/$2,000. Much like in the case of No-Limit games, $5/$10 tables tend to form the cut-off between full-ring action from heads-up duels.
PokerStars is a very Omaha-friendly site. You won’t struggle with finding an interesting table as long as you’re fine with standard pot-limit games. Stakes start at $0.01/$0.02 and go all the way up to $200/$400.
Active full-ring Omaha tables are easier to find than No-Limit Hold’em ones, but most people stick exclusively to low stakes and micros. PokerStars supports both 6-max and 9-max Omaha tables.
Fixed-Limit Omaha and Hi/Lo games are also available, but the number of active players is very low.
Mixed games generally require a lot of skill and knowledge, which makes them a somewhat unpopular format. Most full ring action happens on low and medium stakes in an 8-game format. HORSE games are also available, with stakes going as high as $1,000/$2,000.
NLHE/PLO mixed tables are available as well, but this format is pretty much dead these days. Even during peak traffic hours it’s usually just a few high-rollers waiting for a heads-up opponent at the $50/100 and $100/$200 tables.
Finally, it’s worth noting that PokerStars is very multi-tabling friendly due to its well-scaling table interface.
PokerStars multi-table tournaments
The number of multi-table tournaments available on PokerStars is staggering. MTT’s range from high-stakes events, such as the Sunday Million, to low buy-in contests, such as Sunday Storm. These tournaments typically attract thousands of players. Even play-money players get an opportunity to compete thanks to the recurring Sunday Billions event.
If you’re looking for a chance to test your skills in a tournament setting, PokerStars is exactly where you need to be playing.
Starts: 14:00 ET
Format: No-Limit Hold’em
Prize pool: $1,000,000 guaranteed
With over 5,000 entries and more than 1,000 re-entries each week, this is the largest recurring high-stakes tournament in the world. About 1,000 entrants finish in the money. First place typically pays between $150,000 and $170,000.
Satellite tournaments for this event run throughout the week and can be as cheap as $0.55 to get into.
Starts: 6:00 ET, 13:00 ET, or 19:00 ET
Format: Progressive Knockout NLHE
Buy-in: up to $215-$2,100
Prize pool: $50,000 – $750,000 guaranteed
The largest Thursday Thrill events attract some of the most-recognized names in online poker. Whenever this happens, a significant portion of the prize pool tends to be paid out as bounties. If you’re looking for a chance to take a swing at the pros, this is a great way to do it.
Satellite tickets typically cost $1.10.
Starts: Depends on the event
Format: PLO, Limit Omaha or NL Omaha Hi/Lo
Prize pool: up to $75,000 guaranteed
Omania is a series of Omaha tournaments that run throughout the week and feature a wide range of formats. Some of these events run with high-rollers in mind, while others cater to the needs of low-stakes players. Payouts aren’t as good as in the case of recurring Hold’em events, which is understandable considering Omaha attracts significantly less traffic.
Other poker offerings on PokerStars
Aside from standard cash games are world-famous MTTs, PokerStars additionally hosts a wide range of Sit & Go options.
Sit & Go Tournaments
Standard Sit & Go tournaments are available for a wide range of poker games, but if you don’t have a whole day to wait for your opponents, you should generally stick to:
- No-Limit Hold’em
- Pot-Limit Omaha
- Limit Hold’em
- No-Limit Omaha Hi/Lo
The pace ranges from Slow to Turbo, and the buy-ins range from $0.10 to $5,000 for NLHE and from $1.50 to $5,000 for PLO. However, most of the high-buy-in games play exclusively in heads-up format.
Hyper-Turbo tournaments deserve a special mention, as they’re significantly faster than standard SnGs. Buy-ins tend to range from $0.02 to $1,000 for No-Limit Hold’em and from about $0.08 to $500 for Pot-Limit Omaha.
Spin & Go Tournaments
Spin & Go is a new game format introduced by PokerStars. Each tournament plays 3-handed. Before the action kicks-off, a random draw determines the size of the prize pool. If you’re extremely lucky, you can get up to $2,500 in a $0.25 buy-in game, but you’re way more likely to get the smallest prize pool, which is two times your buy-in size. Tickets range from $0.25 to $500.
All Sping & Go tournaments play in a Hyper-Turbo format.
PokerStars rewards program
The Stars Rewards program is quite unique. Much like in a typical poker room, you have to earn loyalty points, which in this case are called Reward Points. This, however, is where the similarities end. PokerStars’ system has nothing in common with a standard tiered volume-based rakeback scheme.
Instead of grinding away for a better rakeback percentage, players unlock Chests, which contain personalized rewards and StarsCoins. Players can use the latter to purchase items from the Rewards Store, online tournament tickets, and live event packages.
Players earn 100 Reward Points for every $1 paid in rake or tournament fees. These points fill your on-screen progress bar. Once the progress bar is full, you earn a new Chest. Opening a chest will also award a random number of Reward Points.
The entire experience has more in common with an MMO video game progression system than a standard online poker loyalty program.
Filling out four progress bars in a single day allows you to upgrade to a better Chest. The most basic Chest is worth up to $50. The best Chest is worth up to $1,000. The contents of each chest are random – you have a 1 in 10,000 chance to get the maximum value and a 2,199 in 10,000 chance to get the lowest reward. In addition, you always have a chance to win a personalized Featured Reward, which is generated separately and isn’t included in the value of your chest.
Unfortunately, the size of each progress bar is also personalized, which makes it impossible determine the VIP program’s rakeback equivalency.
PokerStars deposit/withdrawal options
PokerStars supports a wide range of banking methods, but some of them are unavailable in certain countries. For example, if you live in Canada, you won’t be able to use Skrill or Neteller, but if you live in Switzerland, these options will be available for both deposits and withdrawals. If you’re looking for more information regarding country-specific restrictions, make sure to access your Cashier menu or the Real Money section of PokerStars’ website.
PokerStars gives you access to a really wide range of deposit methods, but the specifics depend on your country. The differences are too significant to cover everything in this review. In most cases, you’ll have to choose between:
– an e-wallet, such as Neteller, Skrill, or PayPal
– a Visa/Mastercard payment
– a standard bank wire transfer
- VISA, Entropay: funds should appear in your account within 10 business days.
- Neteller, Skrill, and other e-wallet solutions: money will be transferred to your account as soon as your request is processed
- Wire Transfer: money should be credited to your bank account within 3-5 business days.
All withdrawal requests are processed within 72 hours. Please note that in most cases, Visa, Skrill, Entropay, and WebMoney cash-outs will be available exclusively to players who have already made a deposit using the method in question.
PokerStars gives you access to a massive poker knowledge database, which is an excellent place to start learning how to play new poker games and formats. The site also features an extensive FAQ section, and players are generally advised to consult it before contacting PokerStars’ staff.
Unfortunately, live support can be reached exclusively via e-mail. On a brighter note, this service is available 24/7, and in most cases, you will get a sufficient response in less than 60 minutes. Nevertheless, a lack of phone support is somewhat inexcusable for a poker network of this size.
As to the quality of support, it tends to be hit and miss and largely depends on the operator handling your specific request. You’ll get your issues resolved, but expect a short back-and-forth before that happens.
PokerStars customers can take advantage of a wide range of limited-time promotions and special offers. Some of them, such as the 2018 PokerStars Festival London Main Event deal, provide a chance to win tickets to a live major event for a ridiculously small price. Others, such as the 2x Sping & Go Challenge or the Jacks or Better Challenge, allow you to squeeze more value out of certain poker games.
Whether you’re looking for amazing welcome bonuses, an active cash game community, or inspiring tournaments, PokerStars is pretty much guaranteed to exceed your expectations. There is absolutely no reason an online poker enthusiast should not have an account on this site, and this goes for both recreational as well as professional players.