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Rake in Poker: A Complete Guide

Poker rake

Poker is one of the oldest and most loved casino games in the world today. Unlike other casino games like Roulette or Blackjack where you have to play against the house, poker only requires a group of players to play each other, and a dealer to oversee the game. Being a player-versus-player game, the casino doesn’t make money from rounds like they do when a player loses in blackjack or roulette. In order to generate revenue, poker rake was invented.

If you’ve played poker, whether in a brick and mortar casino or at an online card room, you must have heard of rake in poker. It’s basically a levy imposed by the establishment hosting the poker game to cover the cost of supplying the required services. So when playing a poker game where the casino collects a certain percentage, you must not only beat your fellow players but also the financial setback caused by the rake.

In this guide, we’ll explore rake in poker and how it affects your game play. We’ll also look into the common ways rakes are calculated and collected by casinos.

What is Rake and Is It Legal?

Rake is the percentage a house takes from a cash poker game. This is to cover the cost of hosting the game. If you’ve played a real cash poker game, you must have noticed that the dealer takes a certain amount of chips from the pot before the game. That’s the house rake.

Generally, the rake serves as a source of revenue for the casino. It pays the dealer and other staff salaries, it also covers the cost of the equipment used in the game and the building where the game is hosted. For online poker rooms, the rake is used to maintain the operation of the website, support staff, and the game software. So whether you’re playing poker online or in a land-based casino, the house always charges a rake. Nevertheless, there are some online casinos offering rake-free poker games but they’re mostly for promotional purposes and hardly last long.

As for its legality, charging rake is prohibited and illegal in most legal jurisdictions unless the person or house taking the rake has the proper permits and/or licenses. Typically, players are legally permitted to privately play poker for real money but an official government permit is required if there’s any collection of rake.

As a player, you might be wondering, why does it matter if the house has a permit or not? It sounds fair that a person who hosts a game gets paid for it right? Well, while this is fair, there are many consequences that might arise from playing at an unlicensed poker room. For one, when the house is not being regulated by the governing body, they are likely to breach and break the law. It’s not common to see underground card rooms cheating players or taking percentages that would normally be considered illegal. In such situations, the players are not protected by the law and can’t make legal claims against the host if they willingly played at an unlicensed room.

How is Rake in Poker Collected?

There are different ways by which a casino collects poker rakes. Here are some of the major methods.

Pot Rake

This is the most common rake collection method. The casino takes a percentage usually between 2 – 10% of the pot in every hand that’s played. The percentage depends on the casino where you play the game and also the number of players involved. In most casinos, 5% is the average rake. There’s also a predetermined maximum amount the casino can take.

In online casinos, the process is automatically done by the game software every hand. Some online poker sites display the rake while you play and you can see how it increases between betting rounds, others wait till the game is over then subtract the percentage from the pot before paying the winner.

Timed Rake

As the name suggests, the timed rake is a method of rake collection where the house collects a fee at certain intervals in the game. For most casinos, the collection is done after every 30 minutes and is usually a predetermined fee.

There are two ways timed rakes are collected during the time interval. One, the set fee is collected from each player directly or the dealer collects it from the first pot. Timed rakes is an uncommon rake collection method and is mostly used in poker games with limits set at $20 and above.

Tournament Fees

If you’ve ever watched or participated in a poker tournament, you might have noticed that the dealer doesn’t collect rake at the beginning and in between plays. This is because the casino has already collected a percentage of the tournament buy-ins and will use it to cover the cost of hosting the game. Sometimes, this fee is shown together with the tournament buy-in like $150 + $30 with the extra $30 being the Vig or house fee. Or, they just display the total tournament buy-in and the percentage that’s taken for expenses.

Subscription Fees

Nowadays, many online poker sites now charge players monthly subscription fees and abstain from collecting rake on tournaments and individual pots.

Fixed Fee

In most casinos, the rake is taken only from the winners. Overtime, players started to complain about how unfair this system of rake collection is and that in the long run, it caused major depletions to their winnings. This led to the introduction of the fixed fee method of rake collection in many online casinos around the world.

With this method, every player pays a fixed fee whether they win or lose. The rake is no longer taken from the winner’s pot but directly from every player. This way, everything is fair and whoever wins doesn’t have to carry the financial rake burdens of the whole game.

How Does the Rake Percentage Affect Players?

Thanks to the ever growing wonders of the internet and modern technology, fans of poker can now enjoy games from anywhere in the world. However, the absence of a physical dealer and building doesn’t mean the online cardroom won’t take its rake. Earlier, we discussed the importance of rake to the running of online poker sites.

However , not all poker sites collect the same rake and research has shown that the rake varies per room and stake. This is why players need to be careful when choosing an online poker site so that they can get the lowest rake and increase their EV (Expected Value).

But how does the rake percentage affect the player? Here’s some vital information you need to know about how rake and stake size affects your game.

Players With Lower Stakes are Impacted More by Rake

Basically, the lower your stake, the lower the rake. This has led many players to believe that they are better off playing low stake games. This is not true. In fact, it has been proven that micro-stake players are more affected by rake. For example, let’s say you’re playing a $10 maximum buy-in no limit cash game with 5 cent and 10 cent as small and big blinds respectively. Assuming the casino only charges $0.87 as rake, you still need to make 8.7 big blinds ($0.87$) in every 100 hands you play in order to make profit. That’s why micro-stake games are mostly played by recreational players because despite the low rake, it takes longer and more hands to turn profit.

High Stakes Players Enjoy Less Rake Over Time

Yes, when you play a high stake game, you pay more rake upfront than a player playing a low stake game. However, the amount high stakers pay is very little when you compare it to the total amount in the pot. In the end, what really counts is the relative rake over time. For example, let’s say you’re playing a $1000 maximum buy-in no limit cash game with $5 and $10 as small and big blinds respectively. While you’re paying 15 times more rake than a 10NL player, you only need to beat your opponents by 1.7 big blinds ($170) per 100 hands in order to make profit

Rakeback and VIP Rewards

In 2004, the popularity of online poker sites began to grow tremendously and in a bid to attract players over competitors, some online poker rooms began to offer rakeback as a form of incentive and reward for playing. A rakeback offer is when the casino gives a percentage of the collected rake back to the player.

Many online poker professionals have now figured out a way to exploit the rakeback reward system. Depending on the tables being played, stakes, and hours spent playing daily. Professionals at online poker can make thousands of dollars from rakeback monthly. These professionals are called rakeback-pros. They lose creatively and use rakebacks to cover their losses.

Due to this, many online poker rooms have stopped offering rakebacks; instead, they offer VIP and loyalty rewards to players based on how frequent they play. There are two major ways these rewards are calculated, Contributed Rake and Dealt Rake.

Contributed Rake

Casinos that use the contributed rake system award points to players who actually contribute to the rake during the play. So basically, if you fold and don’t contribute anything to the rake, you’ll get zero points for that play. On the other hand, if you see a flop, the amount of rake you pay will equal the amount of points you’ll be given.

Dealt Rake

Unlike the contributed rake where you have to make contributions to earn points, the dealt rake method rewards players for every dealt hand in the course of play. The contributed rake method is perfect for aggressive players who play lots of pots. You’ll enjoy higher VIP points per hand because you’ll be contributing more rake. The dealt rake method is perfect if you’re a tight player that takes time selecting pots to enter. These days, only few sites still use the dealt rake method as most players now prefer earning points by contribution.

The Bottom Line

Rake in poker dates back to several decades ago. Casinos need to charge the players to stay in business especially when hosting poker games where the players play against themselves and not the house. Rake was introduced to solve this issue and is usually a percentage of the total pot taken at the conclusion of certain hands.

There are different ways casinos collect rake with the most popular being the pot rake method. In this method, the dealer takes a certain percentage usually under 10% on every hand that’s played. There’s also an agreed maximum amount the dealer can take. Other methods include timed rake where the rake is collected at certain time intervals in the game (mostly an half hour interval) and tournament fees where the rake is charged as an entry fee. Knowing about rake in poker and how it influences your game can help you make better decisions on how to maximize your winnings.

FAQs

Because the moment you do so, you’re no longer hosting a home poker game but running a gambling establishment and to do that, you need to obtain a permit and license from the local gambling commission.

Rake in poker refers to the amount a casino charges for hosting a poker game. Hosting a poker game is costly and since it’s a player-versus-player game, the casino cannot cover costs unless they collect rake.

On average, casinos collect 5% of the pot as rake but others can take rakes between 2.5 – 10%. Avoid playing at casinos that charge more than 10% rake because you’ll have to spend more to beat the financial setback caused by the rake. Poker tournaments usually charge rakes high as 15 or 20%, which is normally displayed as part of the tournament buy-in.

Some poker sites offer rake free poker rounds as a form of promotion to attract players. However, you should be wary of such sites because in order to cover the cost of operations, some find legal loopholes to exploit offshore players and deny cash withdrawals.

Yes, they too, need money to cover the cost of website and software maintenance plus staff salaries so yes, online card rooms charge rake too.

Yes, if you’re winning in poker, rake is important because it’s taken from your pot. Rake is even more important for break even players.

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