2011: Leaving the US. Continuing to grow
2011 started routinely for PokerStars, as the PCA became the richest poker festival outside Las Vegas with 48 events, 1,560 Main Event players, and a $15,132,000 prize pool. Galen Hall won the PCA Main Event and $2.3 million. For the first time, ESPN2 broadcast the PCA Main Event final table on a one-hour security delay, unedited with hole cards visible.
At around the same time, PokerStars launched its Home Games offering, allowing players to create their own private poker clubs and play games against their friends in a friendly and accessible manner. Soon after, Team PokerStars Pro Vanessa Selbst won the North American Poker Tour (NAPT) Mohegan Sun Main Event for the second time.
US Players Honored
However, the big news of 2011 arrived on the evening of April 15, when the United States Department of Justice (US DOJ) seized the domain names of PokerStars, along with then-competitors Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. PokerStars immediately decided to cease providing real money poker games in the United States of America (and territories of the United States of America), and made an agreement with the US DOJ to that effect. As part of that agreement, PokerStars regained use of the PokerStars.com domain name, and arranged for US players to be able to withdraw their account balances.
The company categorically denied the allegations brought by the US DOJ on April 15, and PokerStars services outside the US were not affected. The company remained compliant with all of its other international licenses.
Returning US players' funds was a top priority for PokerStars and the company immediately started the process of returning money to its former US customers. This involved making arrangements with a US bank, and the withdrawals started to be paid on April 27 - and by May 13, just two weeks later, more than $100 million had been paid out by PokerStars.
“I was impressed that PokerStars promptly refunded deposits to US players, in full, even when faced with uncertainty from the government,” said Terry from Hawaii. The check that he received is reproduced below:
PokerStars refund check
PokerStars Goes Mobile
Despite the issues with the United States, PokerStars continued to operate smoothly outside the United States, and in July, launched the first PokerStars mobile app. It was the PokerStars Clock iPhone app, and was initially available in 17 languages.
The second half of the year was dominated by Denmark. In July, the Brasil Poker Tour (BPT) was launched, with the first event taking place in São Paulo. 328 players took part, with Rolf Andersen from Denmark winning the event. Denmark’s ‘kallllle’ won the 2011 WCOOP Main Event for $1.26 million, and in December, PokerStars obtained a gaming license for Denmark. PokerStars.dk launched on January 1, 2012.
Around the same time, PokerStars celebrated its tenth anniversary with six weeks of promotions culminating in a $10 million dollar guaranteed Sunday Million, and set another world record for the biggest poker tournament of all time: 200,000 players took part.