Ever since being taken over by The Stars Group (previously called Amaya Gaming), the PokerStars Network has been going steadily downhill. They have increased the rake multiple times, scrapped the popular (and highly profitable) Supernova program, and made many other unpopular changes. Although our network rating for this network is quite high, for PokerStars that number is actually very misleading. Our network ratings are based on rake across a variety of games and fees for tournaments and sit-and-go's. PokerStars rake and fees are actually pretty decent - the issue is their "effective rake". Since the Stars Rewards program offers as little as 2% rakeback, the network ends up having one of the highest effective rakes online!
Regardless of your preferred type of game (cash, tournaments, SNGs, etc.) and the stakes you play, there is almost always a better online poker site for you than PokerStars!
This isn't to say that playing on PokerStars doesn't have advantages. They are still the largest online poker site in the world (although that gap is quickly closing). With so many active players, there are plenty of cash games and tournaments offered 24 hours a day. Software quality on both sites is extremely high, with clean graphics and logical navigation. Advance action buttons and smooth animations make for a fast game, and multi-table play is well supported. Both sites offer poker software for mac, as well as Android and iOS, allowing you to play on a smartphone or tablet.
However, if high levels of player activity is your main reason for picking a poker site, you are far better off joining PartyPoker or playing online poker with Bwin. Both of these sites are on the bwin.party network, which also has plenty of traffic and high quality software, but additionally offers better rewards!
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Zoom Poker & Rush Poker
Full Tilt first introduced the concept of Rush Poker, in which players are automatically moved to a new table as soon as they complete an action on their current table. This dramatically increases the amount of hands a player can play per hour as they no longer need to sit around waiting for a hand to finish, but are instead dealt a new hand on a new table. The advantage of Rush Poker compared to playing on multiple tables simultaneously is that when you do play a hand, it has your undivided attention, allowing you to make better decisions. You are also guaranteed to always have a full table (i.e. nobody is ever "Sitting Out" because as soon as they sit out, they are no longer added to a new table). The disadvantage is that you are not sitting at the same table with the same players, so you will not get a sense for how they play (unless you are using 3rd party software like Hold'em Manager or Poker Tracker).
Shortly after Full Tilt introduced Rush Poker, other online poker sites quickly realized its advantages and copied it. PokerStars called their version Zoom Poker. After acquiring Full Tilt poker, and combining the two networks, PokerStars decided to keep their own name, Zoom Poker, and eliminate all references to Rush Poker, which is unfortunate since Rush Poker is the original.
In order for Zoom Poker to work properly, there needs to be a large group of players who all want to play Zoom Poker for the same game and at the same stakes. Obviously, if there are not enough players to fill 2 tables, then the advantages of this concept are greatly diminished, as each time you join a new table you will end up waiting for players to finish their hands on previous tables. As a result, Zoom Poker is most effective on large traffic sites and only for the most popular games.
PokerStars Cash Games
PokerStars Sit & Go's
Poker Stars Network Cash Games
Active Tables (Full Table):
1¢/2¢ - $3/$6
1¢/2¢ - 5¢/10¢ & 10¢/25¢
2¢/4¢ & 25¢/50¢ - $2/$4
1¢/2¢ - 25¢/50¢
4¢/8¢ - $3/$6
FL 7-Stud Hi/Lo
4¢/8¢ - $3/$6
10¢/20¢ - $5/$10
25¢/50¢ & $2/$4
Active Tables (6-Handed):
1¢/2¢ - $5/$10
1¢/2¢ - $2.50/$5
2¢/4¢ - $5/$10 & $50/$100
1¢/2¢ - $25/$50
1¢/2¢ - $2.50/$5
10¢/25¢ - 50¢/$1 & $5/$10
1¢/2¢ - 25¢/50¢
10¢/20¢ & $2/$4 - $3/$6
10¢/25¢ - $2/$4
10¢/25¢ - 25¢/50¢
PL Cou. Hi/Lo
10¢/25¢ - 50¢/$1
10¢/20¢ - 25¢/50¢
PL 2-7 Triple
FL 2-7 Triple
$2/$4 - $3/$6
20¢/40¢, $1/$2 & $4/$8
Active Tables (Heads-Up):
25¢/50¢ - $2.50/$5
25¢/50¢ - $3/$6
25¢/50¢ - $2.50/$5
PokerStars offers more variations of online poker for money than any other site, both for poker cash games and tournaments. Although many of the games offered are never active, there is still a wide variety of games with a lot of active tables for a wide range of stakes.
Although the rake on the PokerStars network remains competitive for all games and stakes (despite several PokerStars rake increases), the effective rake after accounting for rewards is atrocious!
For example, you might pay $10 in rake on another site, where on PokerStars you might only pay $8. However, if that other site offers 30% rakeback, then your effective rake is just $7. PokerStars offer as little as 2% rakeback, so the effective rake in this case would be $7.84. Now, that doesn't seem so bad - in this fictitious example, you are only paying 12% more rake, which may seem like a good trade-off for the extra traffic and software quality.
However, sites like Americas Cardroom (our top pick for cash games) also charge less rake in addition to giving far higher rakeback rewards! They also have plenty of traffic and high quality software. If cash games are your preferred form of poker, you will pay far less effective rake on Americas Cardroom than on PokerStars!If you are a more casual player (i.e. you rake <$400/month), an even better option for full table and 6-max cash games is Redbet Poker. They also charge very low rake and offer even higher rakeback rewards for lower volume players.
PokerStars is the world’s largest poker site and this is never more evident than when playing online poker tournaments. The incredible number of players can lead to amazing prizes (like $215,000 guaranteed for winning the Sunday Million), but when combined with a top-heavy payout structure it also creates ridiculous levels of volatility in your results. This high level of volatility is the reason why even top online tournament professionals go months without showing profit on PokerStars.
Even worse than the insane volatility in results is that the fact that PokerStars tournament players earn even lower rakeback rewards from the Stars Rewards program than cash game players...and cash game players earn as little as 2% rakeback! For some unknown reason, PokerStars reduced the number of reward points earned by tournament players to 45 per $1 paid in fees (as opposed to the 100 points cash game players get for the same amount).
There are plenty of better options for online poker tournaments than PokerStars! If you don't enjoy grinding freerolls, then our top suggestion is Americas Cardroom. They also offer incredibly high stakes tournaments (with prize pools of $1M or more), run two major tournament series each year, and offer satellites to live events. Americas Cardroom also offer many tournaments with hundreds instead of thousands of entries, allowing you to more effectively manage your variance. Plus, their rewards program is far superior, offering a minimum of 27% rakeback! Start playing tournaments on Americas Cardroom today by clicking the banner below:
Although Americas Cardroom does offer freerolls, if you are the sort of player who enjoys high value freerolls, then Bwin Poker is an even better option. Although their rewards program isn't as strong, it's still far better than the garbage Stars Rewards program. Plus, when you add in the value of their freerolls, they become our top rated online poker site. Start playing freeroll tournaments on Bwin today by clicking on the banner below:
No other site offers as many online Sit and Go poker tournaments as the PokerStars network, especially for full table or heads-up games. There are also plenty of multi-table Sit and Go tournaments, with up to 180 players for regular SNGs, up to 360 for 10¢ Turbo SNGs and up to 990 for 2¢ Hyper Turbos. For most games offered, PokerStars offers a wide range of active buy-ins.
Volume of play for SNGs is pretty much the only reason to even consider playing poker with PokerStars - their rewards are just that bad! However, volume of play should only be a factor if you are a Sit-and-Go professional who needs to be grinding 10+ tables at a time.
However, most players do not play that many tables simultaneously and thus most SnG players are far better off playing at Americas Cardroom. Not only does Americas Cardroom offer regular activity for SnGs up to $20 ($200 for heads-up SnGs), you will also earn far better rewards while playing them! They even have a Sit-and-Go rake race called Sit & Crush, where you can earn $1,250 each week with a top tier finish! To start playing SNGs with Americas Cardroom today, simply click the banner below:
In the past, PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker were considered the "Big 3" online poker sites, dominating the market. After Absolute Poker were caught red-handed cheating their players (for the second time), the battle for top online poker site came down to PokerStars vs Full Tilt (although Absolute Poker still clung on to 3rd place), with both sites offering excellent promotions to try to entice players to play with them instead of their competitors.
However, that all changed on the infamous "Black Friday", when the US Department of Justice seized the domains for all 3 sites. Already struggling from getting their hand caught in the cookie jar once again, Absolute Poker were unable to recover (and some players have been trying to get their money back for over 6 years now). The timing was bad for Full Tilt as well, who were accused of running a Ponzi scheme since they failed to keep players' funds and operational funds separate, using player funds to pay out huge bonuses to themselves. After the DOJ shut the site down, US-based players all suddenly wanted their money back, and Full Tilt didn't have it!
As part of their settlement with the US Department of Justice, PokerStars acquired Full Tilt and agreed to honor the financial commitment to their players. As a result, there is no more Full Tilt vs PokerStars. Although you can still download the Full Tilt software, and they still have their own website, Full Tilt is now just a PokerStars skin that is owned and operated by The Stars Group (the owners of PokerStars).
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