PokerStars is the biggest poker site.
My review could have ended right there.
The biggest is always the best.
Well, I guess you came here to learn a bit more than that.
Good for you then.
In this review I will show you everything you need to know about PokerStars, in order to make a rational and sounds decision if they are the right poker site for you.
How I did this PokerStars Review
PokerStars seems to enjoy their own history quite a bit, and has a dedicated section describing the main events in their almost two decade long existence. Therefore, I won’t delve deeper into their past in this review.
Now, I always find it interesting to dig deep into the financials of the company behind any poker brand. In this case I had a look at the Q1 financial report from 2018.
What we can see here is that poker accounts for roughly 63% of the total revenue. This means that most of the players on PokerStars are playing… poker. While this might not seem like a big surprise, it does have implications for the skill level of the PokerStars players. Because, if you want to find less skilled player you would want to find a poker site who has less percentage of poker revenue and more casino and betting.
Because, all those casino and betting player occasionally head over to the poker section. And that means a lot of low skilled players, in other words, plenty of fish.
But, unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case with PokerStars. However, being the worlds most well known poker brand, they do attract a lot of new and amateur players.
Are they trustworthy?
As most online poker brands, they have a gaming license issued by the Isle of Man Gambling Supervision Commission. In addition their RNG (Random Number Generator), which ensures randomly shuffled deck of cards, is certified by GamingLabs. They even claim to use quantum physics in order to be as random as possible.
“We use a ground-breaking system based on quantum theory. A single photon is directed at a semi-reflective mirror; the angle at which it is reflected, or whether it passes through, is an entirely random process that can never be accurately predicted, reproduced or interfered with.”
Now, this seems a bit complicated, I wonder if this is really true or not.
Anyhow, being the biggest poker brand you shouldn’t have much worry about any shady business with the randomness during shuffles.
Register and deposit
The easiest way to register for an PokerStars account is on their website. There, you will be asked to fill in your personal details and continue to a depositing option. I always recommend Neteller or Skrill for fast depositing and without any fees. I also recommend to deposit at least USD 50 in order to give the site a proper try and to be eligible for the first deposit bonus (although for that the minimum is just USD 20).
First Time Deposit Bonus
PokerStars offer two different bonuses for first time depositors. You cannot combine the two and have to choose one of them while making your first deposit.If you don’t want to bother reading about them here, the two bonus codes you can choose from are THIRTY or STARS600.
Free $30 First Deposit Offer
One of bonuses will give you $30 of free money, handed out over the next 6 days after your deposit. The money is split by free tournament tickets and real money to play with.
This is in my opinion a decent and straightforward bonus, no strings attached. All you need to do is to sign-up, enter the bonus code THIRTY and make your first deposit of a minimum of $20 and you will receive the bonus.
I actually forgot the enter the bonus code, but I just emailed their support and they sorted it out. In doing so the told me the the best value of the two bonuses are the free $30 free deposit offer.
Here is a look of the first 5 Spin & Go tickets I received after making my initial deposit.
A few important things to notice from the fine-print is that all tournaments tickets received, as a part of this bonus will expire after 21 days after they are issued. You should also know that if you make a withdrawal during the bonus period, PokerStars will leave you ineligible to claim this bonus.
I enjoyed this bonus quite a bit. It allowed me to play a lot of Spin & Go’s, which I found to amusing and profitable (free money, eh?). The drawback on PokerStars first deposit bonuses are that you cannot combine the two bonuses. Other poker sites like 888 Poker offers both free money and tournament tickets TOGETHER with a 100% first deposit bonus.
100% First Deposit Bonus
The other bonus you can choose from is the 100% first deposit bonus, up to $600. This means that PokerStars will match your deposit with 100% up to $600. So, if you deposit $600 you can receive $600 for free from PokerStars.
Sounds good, right?
Well, like my marriage, it comes with conditions.
For every 180 redemption points you earn, you will receive $10. Now, what the heck is a redemption point and how do you get them? In short, you will get them while playing real money poker.
It works like this: you will earn 5 redemption points for every USD $1 you pay in rake or tournament fees.
In other words, if you trust your poker skills and will crank out a lot of games, and at least not loose your initial deposit amount, this deal is as sweet as sugar.
As for the fine-print on this bonus, you must gather all those redemption points within 4 months after your deposit.
And just for the lolz, I calculated how much rake your must generate to earn the full $600 bonus. You will need to earn $2160 in rake in 4 month in order to maximize this bonus offer.
Now, is that realistic?
4 months are equal to roughly 120 days. This means you need to generate $18 worth of rake each day.
PokerStars offers one of, if not the most innovative gameplay options of all poker sites.
Let me show you.
Cash games are not part of the innovate gameplays, but hey, it is of course a must for any poker site to offer this type. They do have the ZOOM option available, which means that you get seated to a new table with a fresh hand instantaneously after you fold a hand. But, let’s not dig much deeper into this game format as I am sure most of you know about this type from before.
Next up is something called Showtime. It is very similar to normal cash games, with the additional twist that all folded cards are shown face-up until the end of the hand. This surely brings something new on the table (get it?) and opens up many more ways to outsmart your opponents.
I found this game type to be quite amusing and adds a lot more bluffing opportunities to the game. And, if you are somewhat like the guy in the movie Rainman (Mike Keeper), you can use this new information to calculate your odds even better than in normal cash games.
As with cash games, tournaments are also an essential part of a poker site. PokerStars offer three different types of tournament plays, Sit & Go, Sit & KO and scheduled.
Two of these are normal tournament types, Sit & Go’s are perfect in order to quickly jump into a tournament with up to 45 participants, and the scheduled ones are for those with up to thousands of players.
Sit & Go KO are the innovative one of the three. As the name indicates, it is about knocking out your opponents, by doing this you earn prizes, but you will also earn by becoming one of the top finishers. This game type will encourage going all-in against your opponents in order to knock them off and earn more. Thus, it is basically a more action packed version of normal Sit & Go tournaments.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, the team behind PokerStars are quite innovative and creative. And here is partly why I think so. They have created a poker game called Power Up. In this game you will not only be handed normal cards, you will also get a few extra ‘“magical” cards. These “magical” cards each have a special power which will gain you different advantages. It can be something like replacing a card on the table your from your hand, another example are cards that will let you see what the next card dealt will be.
This game type adds a lot of new and exciting opportunities to our old friend, Texas Hold’em. I don’t think it would be a bold statement to claim they have, at least, been inspired by the Blizzard megahit Heartstone.
Spin & Go
The final gameplay option they offer is something called Spin & Go. As the name suggests it is closely related to Sit & Go.
But, what it adds to that game type is casino type of game elements.
Let me explain.
Spin & Go’s are only played with 3 players, and the prize pool is determined at the start of the tournament by a random draw. This mean you will never know what the prize pool is until after the random draw. PokerStars states the prize pool can be up to $2,500.
I find this game option to be quite fun for quick games with some extra excitement regarding the prize pool.
PokerStars offers a range of different platform support. Either if you are a PC geek or Mac hipster you will find their desktop programs to works great on both platforms. If you prefer to go mobile you can do so on both Android and iPhone.
Player Skill Level
For most of you, this might be the most interesting part of this review. We will now look deeper into the skill level of the poker players playing at PokerStars.
I played 20,792 cash games at No Limit Hold’em $0.02/0.05, 6 player max. I did this by multi-tabling four tables and this made me average around 300 hands per hour. The strategy I used is the one tough by Alton Hardin in his course “Crush Micro Stakes Online Poker“. I am by no means a professional poker player. I am an amateur player, playing mostly for fun and thus that is my benchmark.
I tracked all my games using PokerTracker and turned my initial deposit of $50 into $417,02
As you can see from the graph I manage to make some profit from PokerStars. This illustrates that it is possible for amateur players to make some cash out of the micro stakes. At least when playing a good and well proven strategy. Now, this is a sample from around 20,000 hands, and in poker, variance plays a huge role. But, I would say this gives quite a good indication about the skill level of the PokerStars players.