PokerStars is an excellent room to start your poker career because of the wide variety of games offered starting at very low stakes. This counts for both cash game and tournament players.
If you value good and smooth software and compatibility with tracking software and AHK-scripts, PokerStars will be one of only a few poker rooms that suit you. At this poker room it won't be the software, nor the amount of games running to restrain you from multi-tabling.
PokerStars offers a generous first deposit bonus of $600 matching the first deposit for the full 100% when using bonus code 'STARS600'. In addition, every player will benefit from PokerStars' VIP-system: receive free cash and buy items or cash bonuses with the player points you accumulate while playing real money games.
For micro stakes players not playing very high volume (at least several tens of thousands of hands per month) the VIP system will result in a less than average percentage of your paid rake back (less than 20%). At the micro stakes up to 10nl, this is more than compensated for by an excellent rake structure with which PokerStars doesn't charge much rake in the first place.
PokerStars might not be the best room for those who are playing 25 and 50 nl games (10c/25c and 25c/50c blinds) in low or average volume and who are only looking to get back as much as possible from the rake they paid. Whether that's the best approach to picking an online poker room is another question. Fact is that PokerStars has a lot to offer to compensate for this, which still makes it an excellent online poker room.
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PokerStars is by far the largest poker room on the internet which is accessible to Americans as well. A quick look at the lobby while writing this review shows me that a little over 180.000 players are logged in, together playing at more than 28.000 tables. Such a massive poker room offers several advantages:
First of all there will always be loads of bad players at the tables. Even if it would be true that European players are worse than Americans (meaning a lower relative amount of fish), with such a big player base you will never have to look very far to find a bad player.
Another advantage is that there will be enough games running at any time of the day to play whatever you like and as much as you want or possibly can. Only at the very high stakes this might not hold true.
PokerStars offers quite a list of games, real money and play money, so here we go: hold'em, omaha, omaha hi/lo, 7 card stud, 7 card stud hi/lo, razz, 5 card draw, 2-7 triple draw, 2-7 single draw, HORSE, HOSE, mixed hold'em, mixed omaha H/L, 8-game, PLH/PLO and badugi. What is even more impressive is that there are games running at all these variants but one (mixed omaha H/L) at the moment of writing.
Stakes range from $.01/$.02 no limit and $.02/$.04 limit (nano stakes) all the way up to the so called 'nosebleed' stakes. What is especially interesting for starting online poker players is the availability of 2 no limit (1-2 cent blinds, minimal buy-in $0.80) and 5 no limit (2-5 cent blinds, minimum buy-in $2) games were you can buy in for more than 100 big blinds. These stakes are a perfect home to get a grasp of the basics of poker and develop a solid ABC-game. This way if you start with a tiny bankroll you can still follow the widely spread bankroll management recommendations and don't have to buy in with a short stack at say 10 no limit games.
PokerStars hosts the most tournaments, single table as well as multi-table, at stakes from $0.10 to over $1000. Very popular are their multi-table sit & go's (for example the 180 man $4.40 sit & go's). Because of the large player base these tournaments fill up very quickly and can run once every 10-15 minutes. They are ideal to build a bankroll with. The structure of regular tournaments is very good. Blind levels generally last 15 minutes and the blinds do not increase in very big jumps. PokerStars recently implemented synchronized breaks which facilitates multi-tabling.
The only downside I can think of is that, because of the large player base at PokerStars, multi-table tournaments have huge fields. This adds to the variance: it will be harder and take longer to win one as fields of 3000 to 6000 people in the micro and small stakes tournaments are very common. But then again, if you happen to win such a tournament...
|Tournament type||Starting stack||Level dur. (min.)||Level # 1K/2K blinds||Antes|
* Normally 15 minutes, 10 minutes for the $10 Sunday 1/4 million.
PokerStars does not offer freerolls with a direct prize pool but offers daily qualifiers (the daily astronomer freerolls) to a weekly $2000 freeroll. The fields of these freerolls are huge (at least 5000 players) while only 72 players receive a ticket in the qualifiers and around 1000 players are in the money in the weekly round 2 tournament.
The software of this poker room is very good, if not the best out there. The software runs very smoothly. Take a look at the screenshots of which a thumbnail is placed in the right hand side column for a good impression.
The lobby offers you a lot of filtering options so that finding the game that suits you is very easy.
The tables are resizable with a minimum resolution of 480 x 350 pixels, a default resolution of 780 x 570 pixels and no maximum resolution. The poker tables have a 'clean' or well arranged look.
There are a lot of options to facilitate multi-tabling, such as automatic reloading and single click table activation. The maximum number of cash game tables you can play at PokerStars is 24, and yes, with this software it is possible to play that many tables at a single time after some practice. There is a multitude of so called autohotkey- or AHK-scripts written for PokerStars with which you can assign an action like calling or folding to one of your mouse buttons. This makes multi-tabling even more of a breeze.
PokerStars is fully compatible with tracking software like HoldemManager, which can help you improve your game and keep track of your opponents.
PokerStars currently rewards new players with a 100% first deposit bonus up to $600. You can make up to three qualifying deposits within 90 days to take full advantage of the 100% bonus using bonus code 'STARS600'. The bonus is released in $10 increments after every 170 VPP (VIP Player Points) earned in real money games (17 VPP/$1). Six months after each qualifying deposit the bonus will expire. More information about PokerStars first deposit bonus and how to take advantage of it can be found in the PokerStars deposit guide.
PokerStars does not offer rakeback as such, but instead rewards all its players with a tiered VIP system. For every real money game played where rake is taken, players earn points, VPP's, which determine your VIP level. At the same time a player earns Frequent Player Points or FPP's which can be spent in the VIP store. Besides items also cash rewards can be bought. In addition PokerStars will give its players so called stellar rewards: these are instant cash deposits into player accounts for collecting a certain amount of VPP's... how cool is that?
For more information I would like to advice advice you to take a look at the page about PokerStars rakeback. Here the PokerStars VIP rewards are recalculated into a rakeback percentage. The VIP system gives a very good return on rake paid for high volume small stakes and up players, but the return for micro stakes players will be somewhat below average (especially at 25nl and 50nl). However, for nano and micro stakes players playing 2nl, 5nl and 10nl games, PokerStars' rake structure will make up for that. In the review of low stakes rake and rakeback it is shown that by paying less rake at PokerStars, players at these levels are playing cheaper here than they would at for example Full Tilt Poker with a 27% rakeback account.
PokerStars supports a multitude of deposit options among which Neteller and moneybookers. For residents from the US eChecks (which are also accepted by PokerStars) are the recommended deposit method. I've never had any problems depositing, but if you would have then PokerStars will be there for you with a special Deposit Assistance Department. Cashing out has never been a problem for me either using Neteller. For more information about making a deposit you could also read the PokerStars deposit guide.
I have had very good experiences with PokerStars' support team. Whenever I wrote an e-mail to them, whether it was to resolve an issue or give a suggestion, I always felt taken seriously. They always responded within several hours. From other people I very rarely read or heard anything negative about PokerStars support. So I guess that's another green tick in the box.