Due to the rising popularity of poker throughout the United States (and the entire world), more casinos are adding poker rooms suitable for both cash games and tournaments. They have to make money somehow and they do so by adding a rake.
Today we’ll discuss what is a rake in poker and how the amount of rake a casino takes can affect your bankroll substantially.
What is Rake in Poker?
If you’ve ever asked yourself how casinos make money on poker, the answer is that they charge a rake in poker cash games and tournaments.
Since poker is not a player vs dealer game and is a player vs player game, the casino is taking a rake in poker to make money, whereas a typical table game relies on the house edge.
A rake in poker is a scaled fee that is taken by the casino’s poker room to run the poker game. In cash games, they usually run between 5-10% with a capped maximum for each hand while tournament rakes are usually 5-20% of the buyin.
When casinos take a rake in poker cash games or tournaments, they are taking their cut to pay the dealers, casino staff, gaming equipment, the operational costs of the casino, and for profit.
How is Rake Calculated in Poker?
Taking a rake in poker can be done in many different ways and varies based on the casino and the style of poker that’s being played. We’ll walk you through some of the different forms of rake in poker below.
This is becoming a more popular, player-friendly way of paying rake that is often used for higher-stakes games and in places where it’s not legal to collect rake.
At the Commerce Casino in Los Angeles, the $10/$20 Pot-Limit Omaha game charges a rake of $14 every 30 minutes, which is actually a fantastic rake fee in comparison to raked pots.
In Texas, it’s actually illegal to charge rake but legal to charge an hourly fee. For example, The Lodge Card Club in Texas charges a seat fee of $10 per hour to play in addition to a weekly ($15), monthly ($25), or annual ($200) membership fee.
This type of rake, which is a fee per hand that doesn’t change regardless of the size of the pot, is quite uncommon in today’s casino marketplace.
This is the most common type of rake you’ll see at poker casino cash games, where a percentage of every pot is taken out. The amount is generally between 5% and 10% and is usually capped at a certain amount.
If your casino or poker game has either a higher percentage and/or uncapped rake, we highly recommend that you stop playing that game. Most casinos will also not take a rake if the hand does not make it to the flop.
Dead Drop Rake
This, like the fixed fee rake, is also quite rare. When there’s a dead drop rake, the player on the button pays the fixed fee for each hand before the cards go in the air.
Poker tournaments advertise a tournament buy-in that includes a fixed rake that generally ranges between 5% and 20% of the entry fee. Online poker tournament rake is almost always 10%.
This fee percentage tends to drop as the buy-in gets higher as it generally costs about the same to run a tournament of the same size field regardless of the buy-in size. High roller tournaments can have a rake of as low as 1% and generally tops out at 5%. An additional percentage could be taken out as a fee to pay the dealers, typically around 3%.
Oftentimes, a $1,100 tournament will be advertised as a $1,000+$100 tournament, meaning that $100 of the entry fee is rake.
How Rake Should Impact Your Decisions When Playing Cash
When playing a cash game, you need to beat both your opponents and the rake in poker in order to be profitable long-term. This means you have to make adjustments when it comes to your playing style and your game selection.
Never Play Games with Uncapped Rake
Games with uncapped rakes can get very expensive, very quickly. This is especially true if the action is high-flying and the chips are getting in. Hands where both players have the nuts (such as two players having an ace on a K-Q-J-T rainbow board) can be absolutely disastrous.
For example, if this happens at a $2/5 game with a 5% uncapped rake with both players buying in for the maximum (usually $500), the house will take $50 plus whatever other money (blinds, antes, other bets) was in the middle. Both players will lose five big blinds, which is awful for your hourly rate.
Try to Avoid Playing Small Pots
If you have a 10% capped rake of, for example, $6 up to $60, this means that any money above $60 will be rake-free, thus reducing the percentage of total rake in the pot.
For example, a $200 pot with a $6 rake will reduce the rake percentage from 10% to 3%. This means you should be especially tight from earlier positions while also avoiding short-stacked games.
Steal the Blinds / Aggressively Raise
With no rake unless there’s a flop, there’s significant value to be had if you can take down pots preflop. While you shouldn’t be overly 3-betting and 4-betting light, it’s still relatively positive should you get called as you’ll likely already be well past the capped rake.
What is Rakeback in Online Poker?
While most live poker rooms have a very meager reward system of around $1 per hour for cash game players, the rakeback bonuses and rewards for online poker players are much more fruitful.
Rakeback encourages online players to continue to play by giving them points for each cash game and/or poker tournaments they play, which allows players to unlock rewards. Generally you redeem these points for rakeback (cash) but some sites allow you to redeem these points for prizes.
If you know how to play poker, each website has a different rewards system so it’s worth comparing before you sign up in order to figure out which rakeback system will work best for you.