The poker rake

This article was posted on July 20, 2007

Online poker rooms make their revenue via the poker rake. The rake is basically a percentage of the pot, which the house takes in order to generate revenue. It's not exactly a significant sum of money when you look at each pot separately, but it gets huge once you add everything up.

The industry standard for the rake is around 5% with a max of $3. That means, the house will take 5% of the pots you play in, until that 5% doesn't exceed $3. When it does, they will still only take $3, regardless of the size of the pot.

The interesting thing about the rake is that - contrary to what rookies generally believe - it is not only paid by the winner of the pot. If you take an active part in a hand, meaning that you commit money to the pot, you are already paying rake.

The way the rake is calculated, differs from one poker room to another, but one thing remains a common denominator for all poker rooms out there: you pay rake if you actively participate in any real money hand, one way or the other.

It is quite obvious then, that the rake has a pretty solid influence on your play, in a negative way. Something has to be done about that. You see, part of being a winning poker player, is the ability not only to locate small and consistently exploitable edges, but also the capability to create such edges for yourself.

You have to know which situations you need to avoid rake-wise, and you have to find tricks to limit the effects of the rake on your play.

Before you do anything though, let's take a look at what you have to be on the lookout for when it comes to paying rake. In low limit games, you pay the full 5%. The maximum amount of rake for the poker room (which is what they like most, too) is a $60 pot. 5% of $60 is $3, so that makes for maximum productivity for the poker room. If you play cash games with pots that hover around that sum, you're paying the most rake possible. As the pots exceed $60, the amount of the rake will remain at $3. The bigger pots you play, the fewer percents of it you'll have to give up as rake.

A $600 pot only pays $3, which is exactly 0.5% of it. Instead of the 5% you'd usually pay, you'll only be paying 0.5%. This is one huge advantage online poker has on its real life cousin, where there's often time collection, so you basically pay the same amount of rake, no matter what limit you play at.

Playing in tournaments will limit the rake you pay. It is not nearly as profitable for the poker room to hold tournaments, as regular ring games are, but still, the tournament fees you pay when you register, are a good source of revenue for them. These fees usually amount to 10% of the buy-in, (e.g. $50+$5), but as the buy-in increases, the fees will become smaller and they'll hover around 5-7%. One way to limit the impact of the rake is by playing in tournaments, and if you take a look at the distribution of the traffic in a poker room, you'll realize most of the players already know that.

One thing you definitely want to avoid is playing short-handed or heads-up at a regular cash table. Because of the fact that short handed and heads-up games are much faster than most anything in an online poker room, you'll be paying the rake faster too. On an hourly basis, you'll be paying a lot more rake than you would usually. The skill factor also becomes a lot more important in these games, so you'd better be nothing short of an excellent player if you intend to beat short handed and heads-up cash games. Not only is it more difficult to beat your opponents, the rake will also represent and increased threat.

Avoid these games; however be aware that there is nothing wrong with such games, if you play them tournament-style.

The best way to defeat the rake to this day, is something known as rakeback. Sign up for it through a rakeback site, and get 27%-50% of the entire rake you generate, back from the poker room. There are some rakeback offers that give you up to 135% rakeback (so you end up getting paid to play) known as prop offers, but that's a different story.

For more info on that, check out our poker prop section.

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