PokerStars origins can be traced back to the early 2000’s
and since then the company has grown into one of the most highly
rated online poker sites in the world. Today, PokerStars has
over 50 million registered customers and an average of over
25,000 new players added to the site daily.
PokerStars.com didn’t become a sensation overnight but
instead when you take a deeper look into their history, you’ll
notice that a lot of hard work and innovative developments went
into making PokerStars the true success it is today.
Before we walk you through the Poker Star’s history, we must
learn a little about the man who made this all possible, Isai
Scheinberg. Education was very important to him, as he received
both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in mathematics from
Moscow State University.
Fresh out of college, Scheinberg started working for IBM and
it was there that he realized there was an excellent opportunity
in the booming internet market, especially when it came to
online gambling. Back in 1996, Scheinberg finished 25th in the
World Series of Poker Texas Hold’em Event, and since then he has
always been very passionate about playing poker in particular.
So, he gathered a group of his co-workers and collaborated
with them to start working on what would later become known as
PokerStars.com. Scheinberg also sought out the help of his son,
Mark, who is now PokerStars’ CEO. By 2000, Scheinberg had
launched the software development company known as, PYR
Software, which became the software provider that PokerStars.com
would run off of.
The Very Beginning
On September 11th, 2001, the site was launched in beta
version for play money only and it was operated out of Costa
Rica. The first account holder was Oskar Hornell, who played
under the username, “pokermaniac.” PokerStars was the first site
to allow players to provide their own image to be used as their
avatar at the table, which was a unique way to personalize the
By the end of the year, the real money version of
PokerStars.com was ready for business. Since the start of the
company, every single real money hand of PokerStars has been
recorded and has been made available to any player upon request,
which is certainly something that made PokerStars stand out
right from the beginning.
In April 2002, PokerStars hosted two separate tournaments
with the winners of those tournaments receiving an all-expenses
paid trip for two to Las Vegas plus a paid entry to the WSOP
Main Event. This was the first time in history that any online
poker site had ever offered such a huge incentive. Online
gamblers who visited the site were also impressed by the
advanced software and graphics implemented into the site that
made players feel like they were truly playing in a live casino.
By 2005, PokerStars was ready to move their location to the
Isle of Man because they didn’t charge any corporate taxes and
that would save the company a significant amount of money. The
site was granted an eGaming License by the Isle of Man
Department of Home Affairs a few months prior to the move.
2005 was also the year that PokerStars Blog went online; it
was the first time an online poker site had added a blog to
their site. That year, PokerStars sent over 1,000 players to the
Main Event of the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, which
accounted for over 18% of all the entrants. Joe Hachem won the
main event that year, later becoming a spokesperson for
One Man’s Impact
Chris Moneymaker’s victory in the 2003 World Series of Poker
main event sparked the average person’s interest in the online
gambling world. Prior to the big win, Moneymaker was an
accountant who played online poker from time to time. He entered
a $39 satellite tournament at PokerStars and won himself a seat
into a larger satellite and after winning that one too, he
earned himself an entry into that years World Series of Poker.
Moneymaker was hesitant about going to the WSOP at first, but
he decided to go last minute and ended up winning his first WSOP
gold bracelet and $2.5 million. People from all over the world
started joining online casinos, hoping to follow in his
Since then, ESPN started airing the WSOP Main Event on their
network, introducing even more people to the world of poker and
its incredible opportunities. This was wonderful publicity for
online poker sites in general, but especially PokerStars, as
they were the site that Moneymaker played on that qualified him
for the WSOP in the first place. By the end of the year,
PokerStars had over 250,000 registered players and was growing
more rapidly than ever before. This phenomenon later became
known as the “Moneymaker Effect.”
UIGEA and Black Friday
In 2006, things started to change drastically for PokerStars
because the United States passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling
Enforcement Act, making it illegal for financial institutions to
process online gambling transactions from anyone in the United
Many of the top online casinos decided to drop all of their
customers from the US in order to avoid future conflicts.
PokerStars, on the other hand, decided to continue serving US
customers, quickly becoming one of the largest and most popular
gambling sites around.
Everything seemed fine for about five years until April 15th,
2011, when the U.S. Attorney’s Office seized the domain name of
Pokerstars and all existing online gambling sites that were
still serving US customers. Pokerstars had no choice but to
agree to prohibit customers in the United States from using
their site and give back all of the funds that those customers
had in their PokerStars accounts, even though it would result in
a serious financial loss.
Unfortunately, not all sites were able to pay back the
necessary funds they owed their customers because of issues with
money laundering and bank fraud. Full Tilt Poker was one of
these sites and if it were not for PokerStars coming to their
rescue, many of their customers would have been out thousands,
if not millions of dollars.
PokerStars agreed to pay back $500,000 to Full Tilt poker’s
US customers in exchange to acquire certain assets of Full Tilt
Poker. Thanks to PokerStars generosity, Full Tilt Poker was
successfully re-launched in November, 2012 with restrictions on
US customers. PokerStars is also still trying to legally return
to the United States as a regulated online poker site but in the
meantime, they are still flourishing.
Continuing to Expand & Breaking Records Along the Way
PokerStars established the World Championship of Online Poker
(WCOOP) in 2002 and since then it has grown to be the number one
largest online televised tournament around today. The first
WCOOP offered nine events and $730,000 in prize money. An extra
event was added in 2004 and the prize money had surpassed $6
million but today they award over $50 million dollars to the
first place winner, a vast difference from the first WCOOP.
In 2007, PokerStars introduced a new VIP level called,
Supernova Elite, which is a level that players can only reach
once they earned one million VIP Player Points. The first person
to reach Supernova Elite was Team PokerStars Pro, Bertrand
Grospellier, who accomplished this after playing a total of
sixty-two tables on PokerStars.com during the EPT Monte Carlo
On September 6th, 2009 PokerStars set a new world record for
most players at an online poker room: 307,016 players were
playing simultaneously at PokerStars.com. In addition to that,
PokerStars’ Million Dollar Challenge became the poker television
show with the most viewers in history that year.
Another way the company expanded is by introducing
PokerStars.tv, the online source for live coverage on PokerStars
tournaments like the Million Dollar Challenge, PokerStars Big
Game, and the European Poker Tour, completely free of charge.
You can download content to view offline and even record shows
to watch at your convenience.
PokerStars now can be accessible for you when you’re on the
go, no matter if you have an iphone, android phone, or another
other kind of smart phone. You have the option to either
download the program right to your phones or you can go directly
to the website from your phone’s browser. This latest feature
makes playing your favorite poker variant even more convenient,
which is always a plus.
What the PokerStars Website Now Has to Offer
PokerStars now offers the largest number of poker variations
available online: Texas hold ’em, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz,
Five-card draw, Mixed Hold’em, Mixed Omaha Hi/Lo, and a plethora
of games that would spark any player’s interest.
PokerStars launched Zoom Poker in 2012 and it was
appropriately named because after every hand you’ll play against
new opponents, making this a lightning fast game. Zoom poker’s
goal is to offer players more opportunities to play than ever
before. This poker variation was so popular that PokerStars
started putting on live Zoom Poker tournaments to please the
demands of their loyal players less than a year later.
Their website also gives you access to their 24/7 hour
helpline where there’s always someone to help you with any
problems you encounter whether it be technical difficulties,
issues with the payment process, or even if you have trouble
playing one of the games.
They also have a variety of special offers that they have
listed on their website and you should definitely take a look as
they update their offers often. Some of the offers are time
sensitive but many of them are ongoing such as their %100 first
deposit bonus where they promise to match your first deposit up
to $600. You can also join their VIP rewards club for an
opportunity to receive even more free gifts, special tournament
invites, and access to the exclusive VIP store.
PokerStars now offers what they call their online poker
school will they offer classes for players to enroll in if they
are interested in learning more about how to play poker. There
are classes that cover the basics of poker, how to bet properly,
bankroll management, playing styles, and much more.
In 2007, PokerStars donated $1 million to the Darfur charity
called, Not on Our Watch, which was sponsored by the stars of
the Oceans 13 movie. This foundation brings global awareness to
the human rights that are being violated in Darfur and works to
find a solution to these issues.
Winning at PokerStars.com can be financially awarding, even
to the everyday player. In 2013, Isidora Panagiotopoulou won
PokerStars’ 100 Billionth Hand bringing home $100,000, even
though she had only played a handful of times prior to that
Panagiotopoulou was very grateful for the money stating this
during the press conference,
“The way things are with
the financial crisis the money is extremely important. This
money came out of nowhere and it will help us accomplish lots of
our goals. We have lots of financial obligations to settle and
this money will help a lot.”
On top of the billions of checks they have given out,
PokerStars also sponsors several live poker tours such as the
European Poker Tour, Asia Pacific Poker Tour, Latin American
Poker Tour, Italian Poker Tour, New Zealand Poker Tour, France
Poker Series, and Belgian Poker Series, bringing poker to people
all over the world.
PokerStars also sponsors a team of professional players known
as, Team PokerStars Pro. The team includes
Chris Moneymaker, Daniel Negreanu, Jake Cody, Jonathan Duhamel,
and Vanessa Selbst to name a few. Team PokerStars currently has
fifty-two players that wear their logo and faithfully play for
the company both online and in live tournaments. Their players
come from a wide range of countries: Argentina, Belgium, Canada,
France, Spain, United States, and a myriad of other countries
big and small.
PokerStars also supports a sports team, which they named,
“SportStars.” Some of the key players are tennis pro, Rafael
Nadal, FIFA World Cup-winning Italian goalkeeper, Gianluigi
Buffon, French rugby international star, Sébastien Chabal, and
many other famous athletes from across the world.
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