How Does Rake Work for Poker Players?
Poker players have disdain for few things greater than the disdain generally expressed regarding the rake, the charge taken by the house for hosting cash games or tournaments.
In this article we’ll cover the basics of the rake, the impact it has on player’s bankrolls and ways to blunt that impact.
Different Types of Rake
Rake comes in a few different forms, each of which we’ll discuss briefly.
Tournaments are raked via the entry fee. When you see the cost to enter a tournament it is usually expressed as the buy in amount plus the entry fee. For example, the Sunday Million at PokerStars costs $200+$15. The first number is the amount that goes to the prize pool, and the second is the fee that the room charges, an amount that does not go into the prize pool. As an aside, live tournaments tend to take an additional amount from the prize pool for staff and the like, so check the fine print.
Cash games are raked either via a time charge or by raking the pot. Raking the pot is the typical method for the majority of the games, and works as such: The dealer removes some percentage of the pot every hand for the rake. So at a 1-2 NL game, a normal rake might be 10% of the pot size with a $5 maximum. If a pot grows to $80, the dealer “rakes” $5. If the pot is only $20, the dealer rakes $2. In a time-charge situation, players simply pay some set amount to the dealer every half-hour or hour and no money is removed from the pot. Time charges are more common at higher-stakes live cash games.
How Rake Impacts Poker Bankrolls
Rake is one of the toughest opponents a poker player will ever face. The rake does not make mistakes, and the rake is always taking bites out of your profit. Those bites can add up in a hurry and can make it tough for solid players to show a profit.
Mike goes to the casino a couple nights a week to play poker. He is a winning player at the $1-2 NL game. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say Mike wins an average of 4 $50 pots each session to make his profit of $100 (half the money in the pot was his to begin with). How does the rake impact Mike?
Well, all of those pots qualify for the maximum $5 rake, meaning Mike is out $20 of what should have been his $100 profit. That’s 20%, a staggeringly high number.
Blunting the Impact of Rake
The easiest step you can take to lower the impact of the rake on your game is to research the rake structures of various rooms. If you’re a live poker player in a city with only one room, you’re out of luck. If you have several casinos nearby, however, or play online, you can easily shop around for the best rake. For the live casinos, you can either call or stop by the room and ask for their rake sheet. Online it’s even easier – all the reputable rooms list their rake on their webpage. It might take a bit of hunting, but you can usually find it either in the FAQ or by skimming the site map.
You can also lower the amount of effective rake you pay by being smart about your participation in promotions rooms offer. Almost all promotions are basically ways for the rooms to rebate some of the rake you pay, so if you’re willing to do a little math and work to exploit said promotions you can usually get a very solid amount of your rake paid right back into your account. Here’s an example: The Winner Poker VIP program allows you to exchange player points (which you earn by paying rake) for cash or tournament entries. A little bit of math reveals that you’re getting the most value for your points at the highest level of cash rebates, but also that you get a better value at the low tiers if you choose cash rebates over tournament entries.
Rake is quite possibly the toughest opponent most players will ever face. Once players learn how to beat the rake, the rest of the game becomes all that much easier to conquer.
Article credit: Nikki Hanlon