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Friday, March 23, 2007 

PokerStars on a Mac. Crossover vs. Parallels

Several months ago I purchased a MacBook Pro as I was fed up with the world of windows. Spyware this, adware that. It was just getting old. I've followed along with the fanboys on digg.com, ejoyed the marketing on television. It was time to switch. The only thing causing apprehension though as an online poker player, was my concern over the limitations involving software compatibility (PC vs. Mac). After a little research my mind was put at ease when I determined Bootcamp would allow me to run Windows on a separate partition. While I really wanted nothing more to do with windows, I was not willing to forgo my presence on PokerStars.com.

I made the purchase.

First and foremost. I am completely and thoroughly happy with my Mac purchase. After a slight learning curve, it was like the expansion of a whole new world. Everything just worked. And it worked well. No buyers remorse. No guilt. Probably the best purchase I've made in the last 5 years. My only regret is not having the balls to make the transition sooner.

So, now the true test. With poker being a serious source of income and enjoyment, it was now time to put Bootcamp to work. After a little fumbling around, I had it up and running and was quite pleased at the result. In essence, I could either boot into OS X or Windows. Pokerstars worked flawlessly in Bootcamp. However, a problem quickly emerged. I think an hour passed by as I sat there in a tournament and realized...with the amount of time I spend playing poker...what's the point of having a mac if I'm not able to utilize the Mac OS? I'm a multi-tasking fool and while I could tinker around in Windows, it just wasn't right. I was feeling like I was just given a great new gift on Christmas morning but I was grounded for a week and wasn't allowed to use it. There had to be another way.

Did some more research and was pleasently surprised to find Parallels; a program allowing Windows to run inside of OS X. The concept was great. Did a little reading and heard nothing but good things. Didn't bother testing it. Went straight to the Apple store up the street and purchased it.

$70 later, it worked exactly as it was touted. Boots right up in it's own little world directly inside of the Mac OS. Great. I now have the best of both worlds. At the time, Parallels was still in Beta and could only be run in it's own window. This was fine though. It was stable, I could multi table and still use all of my mac programs. Life was good.

Parallels continued to evolve. Mostly for the better. I was extremely excited when they released the coherence mode which allowed the programs running in Parallels to be their own windows which would appear seamless in the Mac OS. Long story short, made everything appear as one operating system. mmmmmm

Unfortunetly, the joy that was parallels soon turned into a very frustrating user experience.

It seemed that after the inception of coherence, Paralles would crash when playing PokerStars. Sometimes this would happen every few hours, sometimes several times an hour. Sometimes not at all during a session. But it was like it's own little side game of Russian Roulette. Irritation would quickly turn into outright anger when you're sitting there in a $500 buy in tournament, you look down and see AA, action comes to you and the whole damn Parallels system crashes. You are left helpless as your money sits there. While the poker software gives you a little bit of a buffer in the event of unforeseen disconnects, it often times took me in excess of 4 minutes to log back into Parallels and get into the poker client. By this time, my hand would be folded. Granted, the crashing was random and didn't just happen when I had premium hands...but it only took my AA crashing one time to know that this issue HAD to be addressed. I put up with this for several months hoping a fix would be implemented with new release of the software. No luck. Changed various settings, increased memory allocations, etc.

Back to my research.

I found several similar instances with people running PokerStars in Parallels and experiencing the same random crash bullshit. Questions were posed directly to Parallels in their forums with no response. People were mad.

With absolutely no fix in sight, I changed my search criteria in google. Instead of searching for a fix, I looked for an alternative. I instantly found reference to a program called Crossover produced by CodeWeavers.

Crossover works and it works well. I installed the trial version yesterday and did not look back. Crossover allows you to install Windows programs directly into your OS X. Granted, there's a lot of hocus pocus working in the background...but it works like a charm. Plus, you do NOT need a Windows license or OS install to utilize Crossover. Ahhhhhh.

After everything was said and done, I ran 6 windows last night in PokerStars and let them run for nearly 8 hours. I did not experience the slightest slowdown in performance. My Mac OS did not suffer any type of memory hit. Pokerstars windows acted as their own Mac windows. It was truly glorious. The only issue I had was the sound produced by PokerStars. I believe it has something to do with the way Crossover allows the compatibility to function being based off of earlier versions of Windows. I still have more research to do on this front. But at the end of the day, I did not have one issue relating to the loss of potential profit due to software. Crossover may very well be my long term solution.

While I'm a little bitter having spent $70 on Parallels and will need to plop down another $60 for Crossover, it will be well worth it. I thank Crossover for allowing a thorough, true trial version. Job well done.

So, Crossover Vs. Parallels? If I'm basing this questions solely on the use of poker software, then Crossover is the clear winner thus far. I will continue to monitor the situation but all signs are pointing to a long term relationship with Crossover. I hope this article proves useful to those exploring a similar path.

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Great article, especially considering my recent considerations into buying a MacBook Pro. I was under the erroneous assumption that Parallels was working flawlessly w/the Stars software.

Much appreciated, even if it will take me some time to plunk down the $2k for the hardware.

Thanks badblood! Glad you found it useful. As for the 2k purchase...seriously, you'll love it!

In a few months, you won't have to worry about Crossover or Parallels. Pokerstars should have their Mac version out by then. At the moment they're testing the software out on a seperate alpha/beta server.

dbirider, thanks for the tip. That'll be huge! I had asked their support team last year if they had any plans at all for a mac version. Their response was that there were no plans to accommodate a mac version at all. This was probably August? Somewhere around there. Sounds like they're tune probably changed when legislation changed. Good info!

Another option for running Windows while you are still in OSX is VMWare's Fusion product. It is still in beta, but it is the 3rd version and has been really stable for me. It is currently free. I really enjoy your podcast and blog, thanks for all the insight.

Thank you for posting a thorough experience here. I have been having the same issue with Parallels (although it's great otherwise).

I have the MAC beta client for Poker Stars and it's pretty solid. You can only use it for play money now ... but I realized that if you start a tournament in windows and then close the program. If you then go log into the MAC client for PokerStars ... the tournament pops up and you're good to go. This doesn't work for cash games, but if you play tournaments it's a nice little workaround.

I will definitely check out Crossover and I already know about Fusion as well from VMWare.

Thanks for the comment Sam. How'd ya get your hands on the beta?

Nevermind. Found it. Get your Mac Beta heres: woo hoo
http://www.pokerstars.net/poker/room/getting-started/mac/

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