PokerStars US online poker site
Online Poker Report

PokerStars Review And Bonus Code

PokerStars is the largest online poker brand in the world, and it now serves US customers in two states:

  • New Jersey: PokerStars NJ (launched 2013)
  • Pennsylvania: PokerStars PA (launched 2019)

Below you’ll find recent news, a comprehensive review of the PokerStars platform, and answers to some frequently asked questions about the company’s return to the US market.

PokerStars US is licensed and regulated by the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement. and the PA Gaming Control Board.

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PokerStars bonus code 2019

PokerStars Bonus Code PA & NJNone needed - Use our links
Welcome OfferDeposit $20, get $30 in free play
OR Get 100% Match up to $600
Legal StatesNJ, PA
Last verified:November 4, 2019

Players do not need a PokerStars marketing code. As a PokerStars’ player, you can use our exclusive link to sign up, and the following bonuses will be automatically available.

PLEASE NOTE: New players must choose ONE of these two bonuses. It is not possible to redeem both of them on the same account.

100% deposit match up to $600

The standard welcome package is a 100% deposit bonus up to $600. This isn’t all that remarkable by itself until one considers that it pays out at an unparalleled 50%+ rakeback rate.

$30 free play bonus

The other award gives $30 in free play to players who deposit $20 or more. This works out to a 150% increase in value, which is also unheard of among US online poker sites.

PokerStars now serving US online poker

PokerStars is legal and regulated in two US states, with a land-based casino partner in each:

PokerStars NJ

New Jersey was the first state outside of Nevada to legalize online poker, rolling out its regulated industry in late 2013. PokerStars, however, faced its fair share of hurdles as it worked to enter the market.

A more-detailed timeline is below, but suffice it to say the company overcame significant regulatory challenges — including a change of ownership, a failed casino purchase, and a partnership with Resorts Atlantic City — before finally opening its virtual tables in March 2016.

The long-awaited launch of PokerStars NJ signaled the company’s reentry into the US market as a whole.

PokerStars PA

Pennsylvania legalized online poker as part of a broader gambling expansion in 2017, and The Stars Group set about securing a partner in the Keystone State. The wheels turned slowly for the next 18 months, but the Supreme Court decision that overturned the federal sports betting ban in May 2018 reignited the fire.

Shortly thereafter, TSG announced a deal with Mount Airy that grants it market access across all gambling verticals. Its new Fox Bet platform was among the first wave of PA online sportsbooks to launch in 2019, and the company is now on the cusp of adding casino and poker products to its digital portfolio in the state.

PokerStars PA entered the soft-launch period for testing on Monday, November 4 and fully launched two days later.

PokerStars US: An overview

These days, PokerStars is the sole dominant force in the global market. It offers, by far, the best platform and game variety, and the biggest tournament prize pools. It might not be the ATM for pro players that it once was, but lucrative opportunities still abound.

Cash games

PokerStars is arguably the leader for online cash games, offering more variety than the competition in the US. In addition to No-Limit Hold’em, players will often find tables for other poker variants such as Omaha and Stud.

You can find traffic data for PokerStars cash games on PokerScout.

Sit & Go

Spin & Gos have killed the Sit & Go market abroad, and it’s doing the same in the US.

The only SnG format that runs on occasion is heads-up. Otherwise, it’s pretty rare to see six-max go off with any regularity, outside of primetime hours.

Spin & Go

It’s impossible to tell with certainty how many Spin & Gos run per hour, but it’s way more than a few.

The shorthanded hyper-turbo format is ideally suited for closed liquidity markets, especially ones where many players are either new to online poker or took a forced multi-year hiatus. And that’s forgetting about the slot machine aspect of the format, which is a huge draw in about every market.

The popularity of Spin & Gos compelled PokerStars to focus much of its marketing muscle on the format, prompting expansion beyond the $10 buy-in launch cap.

Multi-table tournaments

Although PokerStars launched with a significantly toned-down version of its daily and weekend multi-table tournaments (MTT) schedule, it’s still more robust than what’s found among the competition.

In addition to a full slate of daily and weekly events, PokerStars also runs seasonal poker festivals every year — both in the US and in the rest of the world.

PokerStars Software

There are few words that adequately sing the praises of the PokerStars client. Stellar, all-inclusive, and unmatched come to mind.

From the masterfully designed tabular interface, players can readily access their preferred game format and vital information. Take, for instance, the cash-game lobby, where clicking on a table grants players access to useful stats such as player names and statuses, stack sizes, average pot size and hands per hour.

With one additional click, players can join the waitlist (full tables only) or select their seat.

Individual tournament lobbies are equally user-friendly and information-rich. They pack in everything from blind and payout structures to “fun” features such as chip graphs and table stats.

But all this pales in comparison to the actual gameplay experience. The design and programming teams at PokerStars successfully managed to strike a delicate balance between aesthetic beauty and high-level customization, all without ever sacrificing performance.

From hand histories to table info, player notes, layouts and advanced rebuy settings, individual tables sport every feature a player could ever dream of. All these features are neatly tucked away in creatively designed menus so that they never interfere with the poker playing experience. If this weren’t enough, there are even more in-depth customization tools can be found from the “Settings” sidebar.

Cash outs at PokerStars

At present, players can deposit and withdraw via:

  • Instant e-checks
  • Mastercard or Visa
  • 7-Eleven PayNearMe
  • PokerStars Instant Online Banking Transfer
  • Neteller
  • Skrill
  • Cash at the Resorts Cage
  • PokerStars Play+ Card
  • PayPal

All withdrawals up to the amount deposited are first credited back to the deposit method used, so long as that deposit method is eligible for withdrawals.

PokerStars FAQ

Below are answers to commonly asked questions about PokerStars return to the US online poker market.

Is PokerStars legal in the US?

PokerStars is licensed to offer online poker in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Can US players compete against global PokerStars players?

No.

PokerStars in the US is completely separate from the global PokerStars.com player pool. PokerStars NJ players will only be playing against players located within New Jersey, and PokerStars PA players against those in Pennsylvania.

There is, however, a mechanism by which the two states could share liquidity if Pennsylvania joins the Multi-State Internet Gaming Alliance.

Is PokerStars coming back to the rest of the US?

That’s certainly the company’s intention, but the reality is that it will be quite some time before any significant part of the United States offers regulated online poker. And, once that does happen, individual states will have to agree to link up players, which is far from a guarantee.

So it’s entirely possible that PokerStars’ US room could actually be a collection of independent poker rooms — some serving only a single state, some serving multiple states under the MSIGA.

Some states with a better-than-average chance of regulating online poker in the next few years include:

Is PokerStars coming to Nevada?

Not anytime soon.

Nevada gaming regulations deem covered assets that operated interactive gaming in the United States after December 31, 2006, unsuitable for a license within five years of February 21, 2013.

Will PokerStars allow international player pooling?

Opinions vary, but the general consensus is that an international compact linking PokerStars US to the operator’s ROW pool is at best, a long ways off.

Do I have to be a resident to play at PokerStars?

No. The way that regulated online gambling works in New Jersey and Pennsylvania is that anyone who is within the state borders can play.

Online casinos and poker sites utilize geolocation technology that constantly verifies the location of a customer. Once you approach the borders of the state, you’ll lose the ability to play.

So, you don’t need to be a resident. You just need to be in the state of NJ or PA (and 21 or older) in order to play at PokerStars or any other regulated online poker site.

Can I use my PokerStars NJ account in PA?

No. Given that the two sites are not linked to each other, customers need to create a unique account for the platform that serves the state they’re in.

You can create a PokerStars account and access the cashier from anywhere in the US, but gameplay is restricted to those in legalized states.

Didn’t NJ regulators reject PokerStars?

New Jersey regulators paused PokerStars’ application in December of 2013, citing concerns about management’s outstanding issues with the DoJ.

Those regulatory concerns were addressed when PokerStars was sold to Amaya, a publicly-traded Canadian gaming company already licensed to do business in the NJ regulated online gambling market (and in a number of other jurisdictions, both domestically and internationally) and the executives in question exited the company.

In October 2015, the New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement released its report on the investigation into the suitability of Amaya for offering online gambling in the state.

The report is available here. The transactional waiver order is available here.

A closer look at the DGE investigation of PokerStars

The report itself is 89 pages. You can read the full investigation here.

The result of the investigation was already known, as Amaya announced that it had received approval to operate online poker and online gambling via PokerStars and Full Tilt last week.

The suitability appears to hinge largely on the fact that Amaya had purchased and is now operating PokerStars, and that it had distanced itself from the old ownership. The report notes that PokerStars and Full Tilt “conducted significant Internet gaming in the United States after the federal government made such gaming illegal.” More from the investigation:

As a result of the civil sanctions against the PokerStars Entities and criminal sanctions against their former executives associated with the companies that formerly owned these assets, the licensure of any entity associated with these assets required careful regulatory scrutiny by the Division. Simply put, these assets were associated with unlawful and criminal activity; absent a compelling demonstration that the owners, management, and practices associated with that activity have been purged, licensure of companies presently associated with those assets would be inconsistent with the New Jersey licensure standards.

Findings from the investigation:

That investigation leads the Division to conclude that Amaya has demonstrated its suitability for a Transactional Waiver Order. While the PokerStars entities operated in violation of the law between 2006 and 2011, a number of considerations – including the severe criminal and civil sanctions imposed by the federal government, the complete and irrevocable separation of the previous owners and almost all of the former executives, the acquisition of the assets by Amaya and their incorporation into a robust compliance and control environment, as well as significant changes in the Internet gaming market since 2011– lead to a finding of suitability.

Much of the beginning of the investigation details Amaya’s purchase of PokerStars’ parent company, as well as PokerStars’ history — including operations leading up to and including Black Friday and its attempts to enter the New Jersey market.

The report mentions the investigation of the “Autorité des marchés financiers” in Quebec that looked into activity around trading of Amaya’s stock after the company acquired PokerStars. The report offers nothing in the way of new information:

As of July 1, 2015, the AMF Investigation has not resulted in any proceedings and no charges have been filed. Amaya management has issued several public statements stating that the company is confident that at the end of the investigation the AMF will come to the same conclusion as Amaya: that if there were violations of Canadian securities laws, they were not committed by Amaya, its officers or directors.

The Division will continue to monitor the AMF investigation.

Conditions of approval

As one of the conditions of granting Amaya approval, four employees apparently must be terminated:

After careful review of all the evidence and the application of those facts to the postUIGEA suitability standard discussed above, the Division determined that four senior executives who remain with an Amaya subsidiary after the acquisition are not able to establish their good character, honesty and integrity as required by the Act because they were involved in the management or control of companies that violated UIGEA, or had responsibilities related to payment processing, providing legal advice, marketing, compliance, audit or operations at those companies. Consequently, each of those individuals must be separated from any employment relationship with Amaya and its subsidiaries if transactional waivers are to be issued.

From the report

Based upon the lack of material derogatory information revealed during the Division’s investigation and the strength of the integrated compliance plan, the Division concludes that Amaya and Amaya Holdings (IOM) have established the requisite good character, honesty, and integrity required for qualification as a qualifier of a CSIE.

  • The NJDGE “reviewed over 45,000 pages of documents relating to PokerStars’ business activities and operations.”
  • Deloitte LLC, Amaya’s public auditor, went over the company’s 2014 records with the NJDGE.
  • The investigation of Amaya parent Amaya Holdings covered 2008 through 2014.
  • There were “71 sworn interviews of 63 former PokerStars, FullTilt, and Pyr employees who remain employed by Amaya.”
  • PokerStars generated $44.3mm revenue in New Jersey from Oct. 2006 until Black Friday in 2011.
  • PokerStars returned $5mm to NJ players post-Black Friday. About $427k remains unclaimed.
  • As of Black Friday, there were approximately 75,000 accounts belonging to residents of New Jersey on Full Tilt. The number of PokerStars accounts appears to be redacted.
  • The report cites Amaya’s decision to withdraw “from 34 “grey markets” where the PokerStars Entities previously operated Internet gaming where it was not expressly authorized” as a reason in support of granting a license.

The order giving Amaya the green light

You can read the Transactional Waiver Order granting Amaya the ability to offer online gambling here.

From the order:

I further ORDER, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 5:12-92a(1) and N.J.A.C. 13:69J-1.2B, and for good cause shown, the Amaya applicants are GRANTED a Transactional Waiver Order authorizing them to conduct Internet gaming related business in New Jersey with Resorts pursuant to N.J.S.A. 5:12-92a(1), subject to the following conditions:

Among those conditions:

Amaya and any of its subsidiaries and affiliated entities shall not permit Isai Scheinberg, Mark Scheinberg, Pinhas Schapira, Yehuda Nir, Paul Telford, Paul Tate, Nelson Burtnick, Ray Bitar, Rafael Furst, or Chris Ferguson to serve or act as an owner, director, officer, shareholder, security holder, financial source, lender, employee, consultant, lobbyist, intermediary, independent contractor, advisor, agent, or representative of Amaya or its subsidiaries and affiliated entities, in any capacity, whether directly or indirectly, whether by formal contract or by informal arrangement, without prior written approval of the Division.

Of interest to some is that former Full Tilt executive Howard Lederer is not included on this list.

Timeline: PokerStars’ return to US online poker

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