PokerStars for Mobile

PokerStars’ mobile app has taken the lead by a country mile in the race to get a working poker application in players’ pockets. And even if your phablet, Samsung Galaxy tab or iPad3 is too big for your pocket, PokerStars’ apps for Android tablet and iPad operating systems have set the bar high for other operators to beat.

You may still opt to play at other mobile poker tables managed by a different operator because of the bonus they offer, the player pool or the banking options available. But it won’t be because you’ve a slicker poker app to play with more features. At least not yet, not now (late 2012).

1. Game Selection

PokerStars (PS) offers more than just mobile Texas Hold’em cash games, making apps like bwin’s seem somewhat pale in comparison. The vast majority of the standard options available to desktop players are also included in the smartphone app, including multi-tabling with up to four tables. Currently only WinPoker Mobile includes as many or more features.

Poker Varieties

Just as with the desktop app, the only limitation on which tables you can play via PS mobile is a function of demand from other players to join you at a one. So with PokerStars mobile all the following game varieties are available:

  • Omaha
  • Texas Holdem
  • 7 Card Stud
  • Draw

As usual, no-limit, pot-limit and fixed-limit versions of these games are all available from your smartphone’s PokerStars lobby.

Seats

Choose to play at heads up (2 player) tables and anything up to 10 seats. Again there is no restriction on table sizes, unlike some other poker apps. And you should never have to wait long for a table – with Mobile PokerStars you are swimming in the same pool of players as you would be with the desktop software.

Tournaments

PokerStars is one of only a couple of Android, iPhone and iPad apps that is offering the same tournaments to their smartphone and tablet players as they are to the rest. This is very significant: without access to tournaments you can’t enroll in the freerolls and you can’t get the most value possible from your account.

Zoom

Zoom Poker is a ring game format that means you can choose not to wait to see a hand play out and be moved immediately to a new table and a new hand as soon as you fold one you don’t like the look of. The games are fast and you can multi-table.

Top Tip: Zoom is perfect for mobile: the combination of speed with the limited helpfulness of poker strategy software with this type of game mean that it is slightly fairer than the average PokerStars table. Just about the next best thing to an anonymous game or one in which Heads Up Displays (HUDs) are banned.

2. Fairness

PokerStars’ fairness is probably more hotly debated than any other site’s, most likely due to the size of its active player pool. See the tip above if you are a recreational player looking to avoid the HUD menace. In general, look for certificates by recognised independent auditors, which PokerStars of course has:

  1. Cigital – audited PokerStars’ random number generator (RNG), which is what determines the cards you are dealt.
  2. GamCare – similarly, a key aspect of fairness is to protect players from gambling irresponsibly. PokerStars displays the GamCare certificate, which should mean it is doing as much as any operator to ensure we don’t get out of control.

Perhaps it will be a comfort to know that since PokerStars’s player pool is so large, there are many players out there keeping tabs on this operator by datamining the hand histories. On the other hand, screen names cannot be changed so easily, which means you’re stuck with the one you sign up with for a while and your play will be tracked by data-hungry sharks.

The round-robbin style games known as Zoom Poker offer some rest from poker tracking software. Some players like this one would like to see must-move games online – these would force players to play rather than sit around waiting for a newbie to rock up. No sign of them just yet though.

3. New Player Bonus

Either PS is super-confident about its app or it is content to let time take its course. Not sure what the answer is but whatever the reason there is no special PokerStars bonus for mobile customers.

The standard bonus is broadly similar to that offered by every major operator: a percentage of your first deposit, provided you risk some of your money in cash games (e.g. by at least seeing the cards flop in a holdem game) or by joining tournaments and sit’n’gos.

Bonus Clearing Requirements

The clearance requirement is the amount you need contribute to PokerStars’ rake to clear your bonus: rake = loyalty points = contribution to clearance. As an example, playing in about $700 worth of tournaments at tables with minimum stakes of over 5 cents will generate a rake contribution of a little over $31 and enough loyalty points to earn a $10 bonus.

For comparison purposes, think of this as a 3.1 x requirement.

4. Player Pool

We’ve already talked a bit about the PokerStars player pool in the section on fairness: it’s big, somewhat self-regulating and often controversial. The site itself says that it does everything within its power to prevent collusion and bots joining games. Its staff are prohibited from playing and this is “strictly controlled”.

All in all, PS is quantifiably less controversial in recent months than iPoker which split its player pool in two without really explaining why.

5. Mobile Banking

The banking options at PokerStars are endless and the security features second-to-none although PayPal funded PokerStars is notably absent. If you end up using the site a lot consider getting one of its security tokens to make it harder for people to hack your account.

Neteller, Ukash, PaySafeCard and Skrill (Moneybookers) are all there and the latter is well optimised for mobile banking.