Quitting PokerStars – Is It The Right Decision For You?!

Telling people that quitting PokerStars was the best poker decision I ever made may surprise some people. After all, they are the world leaders in online people. Lets take a look at some of the pro’s and con’s of the various websites available.

PokerStars Is The Hardest Website To Win On

This has been the case for at least a decade. The caliber of play on PokerStars is higher than on any other website that I have every played on. I say this having played well over 1 million hands of online poker in my life on a wide variety of different websites. Given the importance of table selecting in poker, quitting PokerStars makes sense.  

Five Reasons PokerStars is The Worst Poker Website

  1. PokerStars is not connected with a major sportsbook. People go to PokerStars purely for poker and are less inclined to treat the game like a casino game.
  2. Marketing Focused on building “champions”. For years PokerStars has focused its marketing on the possibility that if you play enough and try hard you can be the next Chris Moneymaker or Greg Raymer. The question to ask yourself when you’re trying to make some money online is do you want to play against aspiring “champions” or somebody having a fun time on a Friday or Sat night gambling it up?
  3. Supernova Program. Supernova Elite players are good, in fact, they are damn good. They all make various amounts of money but all of them share two things in common. First, they are all solid players, and second they all play an incredible amount of tables. Unfortunately, this means tables at PokerStars are saturated with super solid SNE’s.
  4. Rakeback Incentives. Even for players not earning SNE status, PokerStars gives back a large % of what they take from their high volume players. Theoretically, this makes the website attractive to play at and has helped them maintain a strong core group of supporters. However, this has also led a lot of players to essentially become “rakeback” winners dependent on PokerStars maintaining the level of their incentives for their income. This is a dangerous thing IMO and we recently saw with SNE cutbacks that players shouldn’t trust PokerStars to always be so generous. The bottom line is heavy rakeback incentives have contributed to the best players adopting a mass multi tabling strategy which further dilutes what little action there is on the website
  5. Poker Software – Because PokerStars has the most volume online it has been at the cutting edge of technological shifts in the industry. Unfortunately, most of these shifts have been negatives for players. Increasingly, players rely on software programs to table select, analyze hands, and even to tell them how to play poker. These programs are able to analyze quantities of data that no human can process and are rapidly changing the nature of the game.

With the ^ in mind quitting PokerStars makes a great deal of sense.

Five Ways PokerStars Conquered The Poker World

1) PokerStars Technology Advantage 

Frankly, they do a great job with their software. There are major advantages to having deep pockets and a strong technology team. PokerStars has both and they have done a great job with this. PokerStars understand the key needs of its users and they do a great job of ensuring that the software is simple, smooth, and fun to interact with. Many website have tried to “gamify” poker, but PokerStars sticks to the key points that have helped to make it successful which are smooth, reliable, and fun tech for users. Unfortunately, cool tech doesn’t equal profits for a poker player…

2) PokerStars User Interface (UI) 

Everything is intuitive and makes sense with PokerStars. They put the buttons in the right places, they know how to execute a good user onboarding flow, they choose appropriate colors, and they build in amazing features by listening to users. What other website on the internet can you, “run it twice” on? That’s pretty darn cool if you are sick of experiencing horrible bad beats and want a little bit more balance in your results.

3) PokerStars User Experience (UX)

Again, I would day the overall user experience at PokerStars is second to none. This is part of how PokerStars has seduced the poker community into backing it and loving it. There are many evangelical PokerStars supporters out there and I would say a lot of that stems from the high quality overall user experience. However, if you include ability to win in the “user experience” and weight it appropriately (since winning is the primary goal) then their ranking plummets to the bottom.

4) Payments 

Second to none. PokerStars has been reliable for over a decade even through the dark years following the UIGEA. Its hard to find more trusted poker operators. Having said that, I haven’t heard of any issues with payouts from major poker operators (top 5) in years now so this isn’t a major benefit.

5) Liquidity

Generally speaking poker player players want action, and they want action 24/7 at numerous games and numerous stake levels. PokerStars provides that and may other websites do not. This makes it difficult for other networks to compete. PokerStars still has a liquidity advantage in some games which is a big part of the reason for their ongoing success. In standard poker games like mid-stakes NLHE playing on stars doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you want to play more than 20 tables concurrently.

How To Choose Your Poker Website? 

Here are five key factors to consider when choosing your poker website.

1) Be honest with yourself. Are you playing to win or are you playing to play? If you are playing to play then PokerStars it the right place for you. If you are “playing to win” I think you can do better than PokerStars.

2) “Action” needs to be the number one factor determining how you choose a website if you are serious about playing and winning online. Some players will have no choice but to turn to a high volume website like PS, but players who play lower stakes or less specialized games shouldn’t just play on Stars because everyone thats good plays on Stars.

3) Exchange rate considerations. Many European websites offer an exchange advantage if you are used to dealing with USD.


4) Check google trends, as you can see PokerStars has been in the dumps for a while.

5) Choose a network that isn’t on the downswing. It takes time getting used to a network so you might as well choose one that isn’t dying :). In my years of playing poker I witnessed the death of several poker networks and it always took a few weeks to settle in to a new network

Conclusion from the ^, quitting PokerStars makes sense.

Should Everyone Quit PokerStars?

Quitting PokerStars won’t be the right decision for everyone, but it should be for most micro stakes players right through mid-high stakes. If you are playing ultra high stakes or non Hold’em games you are probably stuck with PokerStars. However, lower to mid and mid-high stakes Holdem players should have no issue finding better action on other websites.

We know the overall poker industry is in decline these days, but there are still some websites that are doing an exceptional job of making their platform attractive to poker players.

One example of this is Bovada, which has seemingly effectively marketed anonymous poker tables to its user base. For those of you who have followed my blog for some time you will know that I am not the biggest fan of anonymous poker tables, but its hard to deny their effectiveness with respect to volumes on the Bovada networks.

Choose a network that isn’t on the downswing. It takes a bit of time to adjust and get used to a network so choose one that isn’t dying :). In my years of playing poker I witnessed the death of several poker networks and it always took a few weeks to settle in to a new network.

Quitting PokerStars Is A Personal Choice

Nobody has more information to make the decision about what the right network is than yourself. You should always takes articles like the ^ one with a bit of a grain of salt :). If switching networks puts you on terrible tilt the negatives may outweigh the upsides. If you are crushing it on Stars and don’t want to quit, then by all means continue. However, IMO the majority of poker players who are on PokerStars would see much better results if they played elsewhere. The action is very poor relative to the overall poker landscape and even the benefits are starting to decline. I wrote about this recently as well in my article on PokerStars VIP Changes.

As always, I hope the tables are treating you well out there :)! Quitting pokerstars may turn out to be the best decision you make as a poker player. Meanwhile, be sure to take a look at my book Exploitive No Limit Holdem where I discuss money winning strategies for todays online poker games.




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