PokerStars is the largest poker site in the world, offering massive volume in cash games and tournaments 24 hours a day. It sets the standard in the industry for tournaments as well with an unmatched selection and sit-and-gos at all stakes starting up virtually every second.
The software is also top-notch and offers fast play, high reliability, great multi-table options and a lots of customization — it pretty much sets the bar for the industry there as well.
If you’re looking for a downside, though, it’s probably the inconsistent competition. Because of the huge player base there are some very fierce opponents on the site if you wander into the wrong game.
If you like more obscure poker variations, PokerStars is for you with a wide spread of games offered — Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Seven-Card Stud in all versions, H.O.R.S.E., H.O.S.E., 2-7 Triple Draw, Five-Card Draw, Razz, 2-7 Single Draw Lowball, Badugi, 8-Game, Mixed Hold’em and Mixed Omaha Hi/Lo. By the time you read this, they’ve probably added more.
In addition PokerStars has several features in its software that you won’t find anywhere else including private HomeGames and Time Tourneys.
PokerStars also has a superior loyalty program and becoming a Supernova player is a status that is coveted throughout the online poker community.
Bottom line, PokerStars is one of the best poker sites in the world and if the competition wasn’t so tough at the higher stakes, it would be tough not to rank PokerStars higher.
In 2011 PokerStars was forced out of the U.S. market but its doors are still open to anyone outside of the U.S. and it remains one of the biggest online poker sites in the world.
Real-money player statistics as of July 2013 show 22500 ring-game players at peak hours and 155000 tournament players at peak hours.
Bonus Code and Promotions
PokerStars offers an up to $600 first-deposit bonus at 100% match for all new players.
Bonus Code: STARS600.
Bonus Clearing: The bonus is released in $10 increments at a rate of 20 VPP per $1 of bonus (25 VPPs per €, 30 VPPs per £). Players may make up to three deposits in total to claim the full bonus but they must be made within 60 days of the first deposit. Players then have 120 days to earn the full bonus amount.
PokerStars offers loyal players a great loyalty program with two types of points earned for real-money play:
1) VIP player points (VPPs)
2) Frequent Player Points (FPPs)
VPPs determine your VIP level and can’t be exchanged for cash or prizes. FPPs can be used to buy merch, electronics, etc. in the store, can be turned into cash or used to play in special points tournaments. The higher your VIP level, the faster your FPP accumulation, the better perks you get, etc.
Players achive Silverstar status at just 750 points and it’s possible to progress all the way to Supernova Elite, which is one of the most highly sought after achievements in online poker. The PokerStars VIP program is one of the best in the industry and progressing through the various status levels awards players cash back, exclusive freerolls and frequent player points multipliers.
1-3 FPPs are awarded per raked real-money hand depending on total rake; 5 FPPs are awarded for each $1 in tournament fees.
Tournaments and Freerolls
PokerStars is the biggest online poker site in the world and is, hands-down,the place to go for tournaments. The high traffic ensures anyone looking for a tournament will find one that suits both his wallet and his game preference.
Most events have low to medium buy-ins and run often and the smaller buy-in tournaments tend to be quite loose and juicy. For the high-stakes players there are plenty of $500 or more buy-in tournaments, with prize pools often passing the $1 million mark. The bigger buy-in events, however, tend to have some very tough competition and are not very easy to win or cash in.
Thankfully, the opposite is true for the smaller buy-in tournaments offered — these can see thousands of beginners battling it out, making some of the small guaranteed events very profitable for skilled players.
For example PokerStars runs 45-player and 180-player multi-table sit-and-gos that get running whenever they have enough players — generally, they start up every few minutes, so you never have to wait long. These are some of the softest tournaments on the Web.
PokerStars also hosts the biggest guaranteed tournaments in the world, including the renowned PokerStars Sunday Million.
For those looking for the ultimate in online poker tournament series the World Championship of Online Poker (WCOOP) and Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) are compelling arguments for PokerStars. Each one has offered a staggering $30 million guarantee in the past with the main events awarding over $1 million to first place.
Aside from the guaranteed tournaments, PokerStars runs the most satellite tournaments to major live and online poker events, like the World Series of Poker, the PokerStars.com European Poker Tour, Asia Pacific Poker Tour, Latin America Poker Tour and the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure, to name just a few.
PokerStars is always expanding its tournament offerings based on player feedback. Some of its latest additions are the “Time Tourneys”, in which the tournament goes for a set amount of time (min: 15 minutes, max: 180 minutes) and then players are paid based on their finishing stack size. In many ways the Time Tourneys have more in common with cash games.
Software and Graphics
The PokerStars software is privately developed and is one of the best in the business. Aside from its great feel, stability and aesthetic, it’s also fast, highly customizable, stable, and caters well to multi-tablers.
With a constantly growing number of players, the software is continuously updated and improved to accommodate them and currently handles over 100,000 real-money players at peak hours.
PokerStars also released the long-awaited Mac-compatible version of its software, allowing Mac players to access the software directly rather than through a third-party Windows emulator.
Stats functions in the PokerStars software are top notch. The lobby shows all the selected games, and for a highlighted table it shows the names of the players seated and their stack. It also displays the names of players waiting to join the table.
Hand data is available during play and can also be requested for analysis. In the game, the software provides a quick callback of the last 200 hands, notes on other players and the usual stats on percentages of action in different hands.
The PokerStars software supports advanced multi-tabling with resizable tables and up to 24 cash games possible at a time. An unlimited amount of tournaments and sit-and-gos is also possible, basically letting the user decide how many tables he can play before he reaches his limit.
Players can automatically tile or cascade all open tables and custom game profiles can be edited and saved, letting the player customize his entire playing experience.
The PokerStars graphics are some of the best in the business; clean, crisp, easy to understand and highly customizable. Because of the great customization options, the look and feel can also easily be changed and every player can find a combination that makes him/her happy.
To personalize the software, players can also upload an image to use as their avatar when playing. Thankfully, there’s also the option to block player images and rid your poker table of cats, dogs and the occasional Playboy bunny. The software has several backgrounds and table layouts, and with some tinkering players can pretty much make it look and sound exactly how they want.
Special features are great, with new features being added constantly. Some of the latest are an auto-rebuy option for ring games, a find a player function and a range of new keyboard shortcuts. PokerStars has also added a hand replayer directly in to the software, allowing players to revisit recent hands without leaving the table.
In 2012 PokerStars added action-packed Zoom Poker, which allows players to fold and insantly get another hand at a different table. It’s great for action junkies as there is rarely a lull in the game.
Overall, PokerStars goes to great lengths to keep its players happy and the features are second to none. For a direct and free PokerStars download, click the download link above.
Ring games at the higher limits tend to be pretty tough at PokerStars and the viewed-flopped percentages at these limits are fairly low — meaning tighter than the industry standard for the same limits. On the positive side, there are many games to choose from and plenty of good players know how to exploit the tighter games.
With a steady influx of new players — thousands daily really — there’s never a problem finding suitable competition for all skill levels, though the tournament player quality varies more than the ring games and tends to be much softer. Of course, there are mostly strong players in high-stakes sit-and-gos and the main fixed schedule events.
In short, the competition is of average toughness in the ring games and softer in most of the tournaments. PokerStars does however recommend players think twice before trying to take on the highest stakes, since they are inhabited by some very talented and aggressive players.
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