Is PokerStars a Total Joke? (What You Need to Know)

Is PokerStars a Total Joke?
Many people ask me these days, is PokerStars a total joke?

And believe me, I get it!

I have taken an unbelievable amount of bad beats on this site. 

So much so, that at times I am left wondering how it is not totally rigged for action?

But is there some real treachery going on behind the scenes these days at PokerStars? Is PokerStars truly just a complete and total rigged joke?

That's what today's article is going to explore.

Let's jump into it!


Is PokerStars a Total Joke?


So let's just get right to the point, is PokerStars a total joke or not?

Well, not really, and here's why.

While I have taken an ungodly amount of bad beats and coolers on this site (often right before the final table!), I have also won a ridiculous amount of money playing on PokerStars, tens of thousands, in very low limit games.

In fact, in a recent post I talked about how I made $44,341 (before bonuses) on this site. Most of this was taken off of the numerous bad poker players who play on Pokerstars by the way.

And yes, while it is true that they seem to hit their miracle river cards on me over and over again, I found that by simply playing a solid tight and aggressive strategy against them, I am able to win big in the end.

Making sure that I don't tilt (get frustrated and play bad) when they hit their suckouts against me is another big key to my success.

So while it was it was very difficult to handle all of the insane bad beats I got from the fish, I found that by staying strong mentally, and sticking to my game plan, I was able to overcome this on PokerStars.

Therefore, I would have to conclude that PokerStars is not a total joke.

While the amount of bad beats I received at times seemed totally ludicrous to me, my results over the long run, by using my proven winning poker strategy gave me great results.


PokerStars Big Stack Advantage in Tournaments


Now while I am admittedly much more of a cash game player than a tournament player, I will admit that I have seen the big stack seemingly dominating a lot in tournaments on PokerStars.

So is there a big stack advantage at play in PokerStars tournaments?

Well, we would need to analyze the data over millions of hands in order to properly address this. But from my limited research in PokerTracker, I would have to say no.

While it definitely appears sometimes that the big stack gets the "breaks," it is also a proven fact that it is better to have a big stack than a short stack in a tournament.

Because it gives you a bigger buffer between staying alive and being eliminated.

So it is not surprising therefore when you see the big stack seemingly getting "lucky" again and again because they have put themselves in a position to get lucky in the first place!

This is why I constantly harp on playing elite level poker in all my books like Crushing the Microstakes.

Because when you are the best poker player at the table then you will naturally build up a big stack which is going to give you more chances to win, and get "lucky" later on.

So while it does "appear" at times like the big stacks on PokerStars get a bit of an advantage, I haven't seen any evidence which conclusively proves this either way.

In any case, my advice is just to build a big stack yourself!

Don't rely on getting lucky to win a tournament by sitting around waiting for a big hand like everybody else does.

Go make your own luck by playing the aggressive style that I teach in my free poker cheat sheet.


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PokerStars River Action Cards


Now another common complaint I get when people tell me that PokerStars is a total joke is that they employ river action cards to force big pots.

This is why some people even call it "JokerStars" or "RiverStars" now.

For example, one player will make a full house on the river card whereas the other player makes a flush. Therefore, it is going to be very hard for the player with the flush not to lose all his/her money.

Now once again, I haven't seen enough clear evidence to indicate that this is the case either way on PokerStars.

I can say that I have encountered many river action cards in my playing career though and the way that I have been able to overcome them is by simple learning how to hand read better.

For example in Modern Small Stakes I talk about how to read every single player type and understand their betting tendencies and range on every single river action card.

Do they like to bluff a lot or will they only bet big when they have a big hand? What range of hands does their bet sizing indicate?

Because, once you know this information it can definitely be very possible to fold a big hand on a river action card when you know for example that your opponent isn't capable of bluffing.

These are the subtle tips and tricks that allowed me to win a small fortune in low stakes poker games on PokerStars. 

And superior hand reading is what most poker pros also employ in order to overcome a lot of river action cards.

So while there might be river action cards (I haven't seen enough evidence either way), once you learn how to hand read better, it is fully possible to play these river cards much better.


Too Many Coolers on PokerStars? Joke or Legit?


Another common complaint about PokerStars that I hear is that there are too many coolers, you know trips vs full house, AA vs KK and so on.

Here is a recent hand I reviewed for example on my YouTube poker channel:


Now, please tell me. 

Could you fold this hand? Be honest.

The issue with cooler hands like this is that (as the title suggests) pretty much nobody ever is going to get away here unless you can read people's souls like Phil Ivey.

So the bottom line is that in the end with cooler hands like this, it will basically be a neutral EV (expected value) wash in the end, where both players essentially trade money back and forth between each other.

This is why I have said many times before on this blog and elsewhere that you shouldn't focus too much on big cooler hands like this, because they tend to play themselves.

As I mention for example in The Micro Stakes Playbook, it is better to focus on hands like Ace King in a 3-bet pot on a dry board.

Learning how to outplay your opponent in these spots, and take the pot away from them when you both have nothing, is the key to winning poker.


PokerStars Pocket Aces Losing Too Much


Many people also tell me about their pocket aces losing too often to hands like pocket kings on PokerStars and often many other even worse hands. This is yet another reason why some call it JokerStars now.

Now in this situation it is important to know the math.

In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I wrote a big article explaining the exact odds of your pocket aces getting cracked.

So I don't want to rehash all that here. 

But the bottom line is that your pocket aces will get cracked often in poker, as almost all hands have a decent amount of equity against them (odds to win).

For me personally, I have been extremely frustrated at times with having my pocket aces cracked over and over again on PokerStars.

But I have also run the data in PokerTracker over enormous samples sizes (millions of hands), and sure enough, pocket AA is by far my biggest win hand.

Also, the evidence told me that my pocket AA was winning about 80% amount of the time, as it should versus pocket KK.

So as painful as it is every time I lose with my pocket aces on PokerStars, the bottom line is that the cold hard data (the facts) over very large sample sizes, tells a different story.

This is why very famous poker players like Daniel Negreanu talk about how to play pocket AA better in his advanced poker training program.

And that is because while your pocket aces will lose from time to time, if you learn how to play them like the pros, you can really maximize your value and win big with this hand.


Final Thoughts


So is PokerStars a total joke? Well, I am going to have to say no.

I personally have not seen any conclusive statistically valid evidence at this point that there is any widespread rigging going on at Pokerstars. 

In fact, in one of the most popular posts I ever wrote on this blog, I already discussed whether PokerStars is rigged or not.

While the amount of bad beats and coolers that I have taken on PokerStars over the years has been difficult to believe at times, I have also made a lot of money on this poker site.

And all I really had to do was use a solid proven winning strategy against all of the bad poker players on PokerStars, especially in the low stakes cash games and tournaments.

The most important lesson that I learned is not to go on tilt when they hit their miracle river card against you. 

It is going to happen sometimes and a big part of learning how to win at poker consistently is being mentally stronger than your opponents when this sort of thing happens.

You can't afford to get all emotional about it like they do!

Real poker pros have a short memory. They are already focused on the next hand.

If you want to know the complete strategy that I used as a 10+ year poker pro to beat the low stakes games on PokerStars for some of the highest winnings ever recorded, grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

Is PokerStars a Total Joke?