PokerStars is a privately owned company which was first launched as a play money site in 2001 by the Rational Enterprises Company – a family run business based in Costa Rica. Once the real money games commenced later that year, the company moved its operations to the Isle of Man where it benefits from generous tax laws. Quickly gaining popularity because of its excellent in-house software and choice of games, PokerStars benefitted from a series of subsequently profitable events during the first five years of its existence.
The first was the victory in the World Series of Poker Main Event in 2003 by Chris Moneymaker – a poker player who had qualified for the tournament through a $39 satellite hosted by PokerStars. His success, and first prize of $2.5million, coincided with the increased television coverage of the event by ESPN. Viewing figures rocketed as the drama of the last days unfolded, with millions of viewers tuning in to will Moneymaker to victory. It was fantastic marketing for PokerStars, and when Greg Raymer won the event the following year, having been sponsored by PokerStars, membership of the site exploded.
By 2006, PokerStars was the second largest Internet poker site behind the well established Party Gaming poker room. However, when the US Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, Party Poker suspended the accounts of all its USA based players, and PokerStars was the biggest beneficiary. Four out of five players who play online poker now have an account with PokerStars.
PokerStars witnesses an incredible amount of traffic on its site. Combining cash players and a massive play chip community, eighty thousand players will be online at any one time – with at least thirty thousand being involved in cash games. This volume increases during Sunday evenings to over 300.000 players on site and, as well as PokerStars holding the record for the tournament with the largest number of cash entrants (149.196), they also host the most popular weekly event, the Sunday $250k, with 25.000 – 30.000 regularly paying their $10 + $1 entry fee to get involved with the action.
In addition to sponsoring WSOP winners Moneymaker and Raymer, PokerStars have amongst their team of pros further winners of the WSOP Main Event Peter Eastgate (2008) and Joe Cada (2009) along with some instantly recognisable personalities from the world of poker such as Daniel Negreanu, Joe Hachem, and Joe Mercier. There is also a “Friends of PokerStars” team which include author Anthony Holden (“The Big Deal” / “The Bigger Deal”), Swedish hockey legend Mats Sundin and ex-Tennis champion Boris Becker.
The software which runs PokerStars was developed in-house by Rational Enterprises, and has won acclaim for its versatility, variety and security. Players are able to download a wide number of skins, upload their personal avatars, have a wide selection of backgrounds and playing styles from which to choose and instant hand history, stats and chat facility. PokerStars software is available for both Windows and Mac, with a mobile app under development, and allows players to multi-table up to 27 games at a time.This is a useful benefit for PokerStars tournament players, who have the biggest variety of games to choose from and, with several starting every few minutes, could easily be involved with the maximum number of games in a very short space of time. The PokerStars weekly flagship event is the Sunday Million, which has a guaranteed prize pot of $1.5 million, however their Sunday Majors series also features the above mentioned Sunday $250k, the “Sunday Warm-Up” with $750.000 guaranteed prize money and the “Sunday 500” – a high roller event with an entry fee of $500 which regularly sees substantial prize money.
Furthermore, PokerStars are the major sponsors of the European Poker Tour, Asian Poker Tour, North American Poker Tour, Latin America Poker Tour and Australia/New Zealand Poker Tour, and host the “Spring Cup of Online Poker”, the “World Championship of Online Poker” and the “World Cup of Poker” on their site, with a massive amount of prize money guaranteed to winners and an extensive qualifying route for players not wishing to directly buy-in.
Many of these tournaments include games not seen on other poker web sites, for as well as the full range of Texas Hold’em, Omaha and 7 Card Stud games, PokerStars has ring games and tournaments available for their players in the following disciplines: 5 Card Draw, Badugi, Lowball 2-7 Single Draw and Triple Draw and Razz. It offers these games individually, with alternating Flop structures or as mixed game packages.
Finally, PokerStars hosts the most popular poker freeroll events on the Internet, with an “Astronomers” qualifying game starting every 40 minutes and regularly attracting a maximum field of 9.000 players, plus the daily $90K qualifier, which witnesses 40.000 players signing up to win one of just seven seats to the target tournament. With this number of players, the level of competition is going to represent both the lowest and highest standards within the game, and because of its variety and opportunities, PokerStars will continue to grow and remain the Nº1 poker site in the world.