Pokerstars Review

No US Players accepted @ Pokerstars.

'Where Poker Players become World Champions'. That's the tagline carried by Poker Stars, and with three poker stars having won major tournaments after qualifying through this site, I decided to see what the fuss was all about. As such, I headed over to Poker Stars to see if I could catch a game with Chris Moneymaker, Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem, or indeed any other famous celebrity!

Like pretty much every poker room available, a player must first download the client software to be able to play at the online poker room Poker Stars - unlike many online casinos, no-download software isn't available for online poker play. However, this shouldn't really be a problem for the majority of players, as the required software is just 5.98mb in size. This is a manageable download size and should take only 20-30 minutes or so - even on a slow dial-up connection. Of course, if you are lucky like me and have a broadband connection, the software can be downloaded and installed within literally a minute or so.

At Poker Stars, both 'play' money and 'real' money games can be played, which is a draw for those that want to try out the games before depositing real money. However, to sit down at any table, a player must firstly register with the poker room. This is achieved in a straight forward manner by completing the new account registration form. A nice feature at Poker Stars, is that a player can upload any picture at sign-up that acts as their avatar (user picture) at the tables. I thought this was a pretty cool idea, and got me really thinking about the psychology of these images. Do you bet differently if the picture is of a pretty girl compared to if you saw a fat, balding man? I really think you could play some mind tricks with this one! Unfortunately I didn't have any pictures of me or of any pretty girls to use, so I signed up without a picture!

Once logged in, a player is presented with a pretty standard lobby interface that displays all the games available. With regards to poker varieties, Poker Stars offers a reasonable number - Texas Hold'em is playable as well as less-popular poker games such as Stud, Stud Hi/Lo, Omaha and Omaha Hi/Lo. While I have seen great game selection at other poker rooms, the set of games should satisfy most players. What will satisfy players more, however, is that even the less-popular games at Poker Stars still seemed to have a decent number of players. For example, at the time of playing, over 30 Omaha tables were on the go, something not often seen at competitor sites.

Of course, something else that players like to see is a good range of games - and again this was definitely the case at Poker Stars. From cash games to Sit 'n' Go games to huge multi-table tournaments, Poker Stars really was a hive of activity. Similarly, a great range of games seemed to be available. New players will appreciate the $0.01/$0.02 micro games, whereas more regular players may join a $1/$2 No-limit game. High rollers can also get a good game - a full 10-seat cash game at $100/$200 levels was being played when I was logged in. While many sites can offer game variety, I am pretty sure Poker Stars must come near the top when it comes to people actually sitting at these tables.

Having checked out the games available, the next thing I needed to do was to fund my account. As such, I headed to the Poker Stars cashier, where a variety of depositing methods are accepted. These include credit and debit cards (including country-specific cards such as Switch / Maestro in the UK) as well as e-wallet options such as NETeller and Firepay. However, one thing I did note is that minimum deposits are slightly on the high side. For NETeller, the minimum deposit is a respectable $25, but for many options the minimum is $50 - and it is $100 for cashier's checks and money orders. While high rollers won't mind these minimums, those used to depositing $20 a go may well find these on the steep side. For me though, I made my usual $100 deposit, this time using my Visa debit card; which was processed without issue.

While Poker Stars offers a huge number of different tables to play at, I decided to start of at a Texas Hold 'Em cash table - after all, this is the most popular type of poker game. Specifically, I sat down at a $0.50/$1.00 limit game. I do like the risky no-limit games, but sometimes it's nice to have a game knowing that not too much money can be lost on any one hand. Similarly, this kind of table can attract some 'fish', so I was hoping for a few quick steals!

Unfortunately, my plan didn't work out as the quality of player was actually very good. However, I was quite happy to continue playing poker simply because of the nice manner in which Poker Stars present their games. The graphics are pretty simple, but it's really easy to see held cards as well as those dealt to the board. Similarly, the easy to use interface makes playing very easy. The game speed is also very good, which is definitely a big plus in my book.

As stated earlier, as well as the Texas Hold 'Em games, there's also some good Stud and Omaha fun to be had. I specifically tried out a Pot Limit Omaha game, but again couldn't seem to crack the table. Every single hand I had seemed to contain terrible cards. Even the times I seemed to be holding something decent, another opponent would end up taking the pot!

Of course, like any good poker room, Poker Stars offers a range of tournaments which offer players the chance of winning huge prizes. Of course, the chance to win seats at real land-based tournaments is very attractive, and with a wide range of multi-table and single-table tournaments taking place night or day, those attracted to tournament action should definitely give Poker Stars a shot. I tried taking part in a couple of tournaments, but again my bad luck continued - resulting in my bankroll decreasing rapidly. In fact, after some more cash play I ended up at zero, without having made any real profit at any point of my play!

Although I was about to leave the game at this point, my attention was next caught by the lobby menus. I looked in to these, as I was really impressed to see a range of options to have email reports automatically generated. For example, play details for up to 100 hands can be requested at any time. Or, if a player knows a specific hand or tournament number, all they have to do is enter that number and the corresponding detail is emailed immediately. Moreover, statistics can be emailed for play over up to 100 hands, allowing a player to see exactly they type of game they are playing (e.g. percentage of flops seen, etc.). I found this to be a great feature - and it means a player really can improve their play through monitoring their hand and play statistics.

At this point, with my review pretty much complete and my account balance at zero, I was about to uninstall the software. However, since I'd not really lost to bad skill but rather to bad luck, I decided to see if I could use my skill to overcome the odds and turn a loss in to a profit. As such, I decided to make a final $60 deposit. First, I put this down on a heads-up $50 tournament and, after a well-earned win, tried again to make a further $50 profit by re-challenging the same opponent. This too was a good move, and now with $150 sitting in my account I moved back to the cash games. I proceeded to play for over 3 hours... and what a great bit of poker I played! With lady luck now also seemingly on my side, I proceeded to increase my bankroll to $1,030! This really was a tremendous turn around, but it just goes to show that fortunes really can be made at poker with even the smallest of deposits. I was just grateful that I decided to risk another $60!

And so, with my unexpected yet tremendous win, I headed to the Poker Stars cashier to make a withdrawal. Withdrawals are processed via a number of methods, and for European players like me, even a transfer to credit card is possible. Unfortunately, as soon as I requested my credit card withdrawal, an error box appeared saying 'sorry, only 48 hours after deposit can a withdrawal be made'. Looking further in to this, Poker Stars state this time is needed 'to allow deposits to settle'. Now, I know many sites have a pending period once a cash in has been made, but I see this banning of any withdrawal for 'settling' as an excuse - an excuse to keep people playing. NETeller deposits are settled instantly - where's the need for 48 hours settling here? I wish Poker Stars was more up front and simply imposed a standard pending period for cash outs like many other casinos and poker rooms!

This did annoy me, yet when the pending period had elapsed I was tremendously impressed with the cash out speed. I attempted the withdrawal again, which this time was instantly accepted. No pending period was imposed on this cash out - and within 10 hours I received confirmation that the full amount had gone back to my credit card. I guess as long as players know about this 'settlement time' there are no problems, but I for one was severely tempted to play more. I suppose one way around this is to deposit and then wait 48 hours before playing. As such, any win could be withdrawn instantly without running the risk of losing back any profit.

The final thing to test out was the support offered by Poker Stars. Unfortunately, after checking out the website I discovered only email can be used to contact support personnel. Given the competition in the online world, I was surprised that such a major poker room was only offering email support. However, a test email I sent about withdrawal limits did receive a response within 50 minutes. Whilst this is very positive for email support, I do think that some players will miss the immediate response that live chat or telephone support offers. Again, this unfortunately has to reduce my opinion of Poker Stars as a whole.

Generally though, my opinion of Poker Stars was good. The software is of an acceptable quality, although perhaps not quite matching that of some competitors. The number of games however is excellent, and many people seem to play here. The cash-in processing works very well, although the no-withdrawal window is an annoyance. Similarly, while support works, the lack of contact options is a let-down. Nevertheless, the Poker Stars Poker Room does seem very popular. It could be worth trying this poker room to see if you too can get a win like I did!

Click Pictures to Enlarge

I am hoping to see three spades on the board with this starting hand

Flush Odds

I don't get what I wanted, but I am still able to win with two pairs!

Two Pairs

The Poker Stars lobby is the gateway to the various cash and tournament games available

Poker Stars Lobby

Although not a great starting hand, I bet big to try and steal the blinds

Steal the Blinds

Although I have a pretty poor pair of 6's, I still end up with a $74 win!

A Nice Win

I end up giving back most of this profit with an unlucky bad beat on the river!

Bad Beat on the River

I personally found these 'reminders' a little frustrating

Poker Tournement Reminders

I enter a $6+$0.50 No Limit Texas Hold'Em tournament

No Limit Texas Hold'em Tournament

I am incredibly lucky to win a huge pot when I complete a straight using the last three cards dealt

A nice pot win with a straight

Again, my luck continues when a solitary 6 in my hand completes a full house

Full House Poker Hand

The tournament's over - and I finished in second place!

Poker Tournament Second Place

I have two pair, and decide to go all in - a risky boom or bust strategy!

Risky Poker Strategy - I Go All In

My $1,000+ balance - all won from a $60 deposit!

My Nice Poker Profit Cash Oup @ Pokerstars

Pokerstars Strong Points:
  • Huge number of tables with people playing at micro tables, high-limit tables and every table in between
  • Good number of tournament games with seats at real-world poker events available
  • Quick withdrawal processing times (not counting the 'no-withdrawal' window)
  • Nice features such as 'email reports'
Things Pokerstars Could Improve:
  • No withdrawals will be accepted within 48 hours of making a deposit
  • Only email support is available (although this is pretty responsive)
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