Detailed History of PokerStars
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 gaming experience.
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 PokerStars.com.
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 footsteps.
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 States.
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 event.
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 competition.
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.
Author: Nicole Miller
Updated: August 2015
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