Poker rake is the fee charged by the live poker or online poker room. It is the mechanism used to generate revenue for the casino or cardroom and whilst we all dream of free poker, we must be realistic and understand that online poker rooms spend huge sums of money building great software, having reliable servers. They are a business after all and we should, therefore, expect to pay a small fee to play poker there.
It is important you understand the different types of poker rake and here are some examples below.
During cash games a small proportion of the pot will be removed by the dealer upon completion of a hand. Poker networks differ in exactly how they do this but it is normal for no rake to be taken from the pot unless the hand makes it to the flop. If a player raises pre-flop and everyone folds, no rake is taken. A typical amount for this type of pot rake is between 5% and 10% of the total pot in cash games.
Some casinos use a “dead drop” to ensure everyone pays the same rake. In a dead drop, the player on the button pays an agreed fixed rake to the dealer before the hand begins. This is opposite to the pot rake where only the player who won the previous pot pays the rake from their winnings. The dead drop ensures everyone pays roughly the same amount of rake.
As an alternative to both techniques outlined above, bricks and mortar casinos may use timed collection where a fixed amount of rake is collected, for example, every 30 minutes from all the players. Timed collections and dead drops are less common and most of the top online poker sites prefer to use the pot rake method, which is understood by all cash game players.
Casinos may decide to take a fixed fee from each pot rather than have their dealer calculating 5% - 10% of varying pot sizes every hand. Fixed fees are common in higher stakes games where players would not want a large percentage of a $1000+ pot being raked each and every hand.
Online poker players will be very familiar with the tournament fee. The industry average is 10% of tournament buy-in, which can drop as a proportion of the buy-ins as they get larger. Casinos charge the fee on top of the prize pool to keep things separate. As well as generating revenue for the poker room, the tournament fee covers dealer costs, tournament referees, chips and general costs associated with hosting the event.
Part of your bankroll strategy should be to look out for promotions and special offers. No rake tournaments are cheaper to enter as there is no fee. Free-rolls and zero buy-in tournaments are also not raked and offer free opportunities to bolster or build your bankroll.
Some online poker sites are being extremely creative and offering completely rake-free poker. They use poker as a loss leader to then offer other profitable products within their portfolio to their customers.
Understanding how casinos rake poker is essential knowledge to have. Developing a winning poker strategy must factor in the small fees we must all pay to enjoy playing poker. It is also worth researching which are the lowest rake poker sites as rewarding the most competitive poker rooms with your custom is the way to support sites offering the best value poker games possible and encourages ongoing innovation in this area.
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