Inside the employee-centric culture of PokerStars’ Toronto HQ

Inside the employee-centric culture of PokerStars’ Toronto HQ

Jackpot! The online poker behemoth is based right here in Toronto, and it’s officially an awesome place to work

PokerStars is going all-in on creating the coolest company culture in Toronto. Upping the ante on perks, benefits and career growth, the online cardroom business is betting big on a fun workplace culture to bring the best of the best to the table.

Now celebrating its 20th year, PokerStars is the largest poker site in the world, boasting more than 200 billion hands played and one billion tournaments hosted, along with PokerStars Casino—one of the fastest-growing casinos on the planet—and PokerStars Sports. And where’s the main tech hub for this global behemoth? Conveniently located just 30 minutes from downtown Toronto. “The majority of the poker and casino team are based here, all of which are individually super passionate about our platforms and what we can best offer our global players,” according to its talent acquisition manager Alice Kinvig-Dodd. “There’s over 500 of us now, but we’re all close in varying aspects! It’s an open-door policy regardless of seniority, and everyone is always willing to listen to an idea you might have.”

There’s a wide variety of roles available at the Toronto office, from front-end, back-end and full-stack developer gigs to management positions for technical BAs, scrum masters and delivery leads. An agile working style means that PokerStars team members can adjust products quickly when needed, allowing employees to build features faster and to deploy them to end users quicker. And, says Kinvig-Dodd, “knowing that these products are used by millions? If that doesn’t get you excited, I don’t know what will!”

Sick of micromanagement? Empowering employees is also critical to their success. “You get a great opportunity to try things for yourself and deal with the consequences, whether they’re good or bad. It’s amazing how much this aids your professional development,” Kinvig-Dodd says. This isn’t to say, however, that the guidance and leadership isn’t there: there’s always help if you ask for it, she says, but leadership does really well when it comes to taking a step back and trusting you to deliver your way. “The most recent example is the project work that focuses on several other parts of the business outside of our regular responsibilities,” Kinvig-Dodd says. “You really feel like you’ve owned and provided some input into that area of the company’s overall activities. Your suggestions are taken seriously and implemented.”

Team satisfaction is crucial for PokerStars, who prioritize employee growth. “We’ve recently launched an online learning platform that offers anything from working on your software development skills to learning a language!” Kinvig-Dodd says. “Every employee has the opportunity to chat with their manager, HR business partner or a member of our dedicated Learning Team to establish the career path they want with us,” adding that internal moves are actively encouraged.

Two employees meeting

But what about the bennies? PokerStars has raised the game when it comes to covet-worthy extras. There’s a killer health plan via Sun Life. A 13-month bonus. Oh, and free lunch and snacks in the office. The HQ is comfortably located off the 401 in Richmond Hill, plus there’s plenty of options in terms of where you want to work. “Once COVID-19 has settled down, we’ll have a hybrid approach, including flexibility of when you need to come to the office,” says Kinvig-Dodd.

Work-life balance is important at PokerStars, where wellness is prioritized. “We try to celebrate every win, big or small,” Kinvig-Dodd says. “It really helps to get that acknowledgment for something you thought wasn’t a big deal. We work together to support our team across the world. An example of this is sharing the workload when one of our team is overwhelmed. No one should be drowning in their work and everyone here understands that when one of us wins, the team wins as a whole.” There are also social, wellbeing and charity committees that organize activities and free gifts throughout the year, and a bustling online community via the Work At PokerStars social channels. 

Coworkers aren’t just in Toronto, either—they’re all around the world: PokerStars has employees in offices in the UK, Dublin, Malta, Sofia and Hyderabad, with the potential for inter-office transfers. “The perks of being able to collaborate with our global team is you have that knowledge and guidance at your fingertips,” Kinvig-Dodd says. “You get a chance to meet a colourful array of amazing people and great insight that you wouldn’t get to otherwise.”

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