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Pokerstars Review - Long Live the King!

So you want to play poker. And you don't feel like schlepping to some crowded, noisy, smoke-filled casino. You'd rather hang out at home in your underwear and test your luck with some online poker. The next decision to make is which of the dozens of poker sites that are on the web are going to get your hard-earned dollar.

PokerStars is one of the dozens of poker sites, but they are distinguished by the fact that they are the largest. But does "largest" necessarily mean "best?" Here then is my studied, educated view of

PokerStars certainly boasts of an impressive cadre of pros and dare I say "poker celebrities" (yes, the world has spun off its axis because there is such a term as "poker celebrities"). But are they merely rented shills who speak for a site because they're paid to? Or is there some actual value to the site such that a Daniel Negreanu or Joe Hachem or Greg Raymer or Chris Moneymaker would actually be interested and willing to play here? And if so, what are the reasons they would, other than wanting to play in their underwear?

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Certainly the heart of the poker craze is Texas Hold 'em. Add to it the drama of a player all-in for all of his or her chips at one moment and you have the high drama of No Limit Hold 'em. While that is probably PokerStars' most popular game, it is by no means their only one.

PokerStars also embraces the old school poker stylings of 7 card stud, with some newfangled twists such as Hi/Lo and Razz (aka "Lowball").

Omaha is another popular standard these days, and PokerStars has no shortage of Omaha tables. They also offer various forms of Draw Poker games as well as Mixed Games such as HORSE.

And for each of these games, there are tournaments. And more tournaments. Boy, there are a lot of tournaments! As well as Sit n Go (single and multi tables) tournaments.

Needless to say, there are a LOT of games, which is why the Lobby gets crowded and convoluted. How can one system possibly keep track of all these games? That's a feat by itself.

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Sit & Go Tournaments

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Freeroll Tournaments

At the other end of the "control" spectrum from Sit & Go Tournaments are the Freeroll Tournaments, or as I like to call them, "Free-for-all Tournaments." Even though a buy-in is non-existent for Freeroll tourneys, that's not really what I'm talking about. I'm referring to the nature of the play.

For one thing, Freeroll tourneys are free to enter, so that eliminates a major restriction. For another, there's very rarely a cap on the number of players, although a random check of the PokerStars lobby seems to imply there is a cap for Freeroll tournaments at 12,000. That's a cap?? I haven't even met 12,000 people in my life!

The other "Free-for-all" element of Freeroll tourneys is the style of play. Since no one committed any money, no one's got anything to lose. And they play like it. Freeroll tournaments are not a very good barometer of style or quality of play. They're not a good place to hone your skills. Everyone is trying to win money without investing any, which of course is the main draw of Freeroll tournaments, but that leads to rash play.

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Satellite Tournaments

Satellite tournaments have never made a lot of sense to me. You pay money to play in a tournament, you fight and battle your way to the final table, and for all your trouble, the only thing you win is a chance to fight and battle your way through another tournament (set for a pre-determined time) against even better players. It's only at that point that you can win some serious coin. That seems to me like you're doubling your odds of losing - at much much lower cost, mind you, which is, I must admit, the big advantage of the Satellite tournaments.

As such, like others, and probably in a much better manner than others, PokerStars offers a slew of Satellite tournaments, some that even get you into tournaments where you could win a coveted WSOP bracelet. It's no wonder that online champ Chris Moneymaker is a PokerStars "Team Pro."

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Needless to say, PokerStars works hard to overcome any obstacles for depositing money. For example, if you don't have a credit card that allows for gaming deposits (as many in the U.S. don't), PokerStars allows deposits through an internet checking system.

But the Cashier is more than just about depositing or withdrawing money. PokerStars has safeguards in place in an attempt to curb abusive gambling. You can ask it to refuse attempts to deposit if you've been making too many. The Cashier will also give you a detailed history of your deposits and withdrawals so you can keep track of any exorbitance.

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Promotions / Bonuses

The online poker landscape seems to dictate that all sites need to offer bonuses to players (especially at initial sign-up). Even though PokerStars doesn't really need to do that to attract new players, they seem to feel obligated. I guess it's just another way for PokerStars to put the screws to the little guy who has to work extra hard to compete. Like a good poker player, PokerStars doesn't want to let the little guy up for air.

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In addition, PokerStars rewards people who not only maintain an account but use it often. It's their Frequent Players Program, and it's designed to keep you attached to PokerStars for better or worse. When you amass a certain number of points, you become eligible for the "VIP club" where you can win cash and prizes. Membership has other privileges as well.

Read about the Pokerstars Marketing Code and Bonus.

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Support / Customer Service

Perhaps the most important element of any poker site (well, AFTER how quickly it pays you out) is the support you get when troubleshooting issues arise. PokerStars starts with a great system that is constantly monitored so troubleshooting issues rarely arise in the first place.

When they do, Customer Service is always available, and in various forms. There is, of course, web support in the guise of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions). Chances are, anything you're experiencing has been experienced before, and the answer to it can be found in the FAQs. If not, you can always send a question to a Customer Service rep, and you can expect an answer in about a day.

Support is naturally more readily available when trying to deposit money. PokerStars has what it calls a Deposit Assistance Department that helps you with any issue relating to establishing an account or depositing money. This help is available on the phone or sometimes in a live chat.

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PokerStars is truly a unique, state-of-the-art poker site. It's clear what online poker has become, thanks to all the money that has been poured into it. It has become Long live the king!

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