Poker card rooms around the world continue to fill up with eager strategists and gamblers, all seeking to out-perform one another on their way to mastering the game. Despite many of these card rooms occupying space within licenced casinos (both brick and mortar and online poker sites), poker is unique in that players are not trying to beat the house, just their fellow players.
This leaves casinos with a problem; they spend money providing the facilities, personnel and software to host online poker games, but are not paid for doing so. This is where the poker rake comes in. The rake is essentially a commission that the casino takes on every hand played, and is the most common means of generating revenue from its card room (on a related side note, tips usually constitute the bulk of the dealer’s income).
A pot rake – the most widespread practice in both real-life and online formats – involves the dealer, on completion of a hand, siphoning off around 5%-10% of the total amount bet during the hand, before depositing it in a safe box. Usually, no commission will be taken on hands that do not see a flop – the first three community cards – so blinds simply revert to the winner of the hand without a rake.
Sometimes, though rarely, games within a brick and mortar casino will involve the player in the dealer position laying down an agreed commission before any cards are even dealt. This is called a ‘dead drop’ and, since the dealer button moves around with every hand, it ensures that players incur roughly equal costs.
The only other method of taking an online poker rake is when a poker room insists on a timed collection. In this unlikely scenario, players contribute towards a fixed sum after roughly every half hour of play. It’s worth noting that all land-based card rooms will implement one of these methods, more often than not the first. However, some online poker sites have developed other systems whereby a rake will not be taken.
Largely, this is used as an incentive for players to return to a site and go to other, more profitable areas of its business (Roulette and Blackjack, for example). Some online poker games will involve a scheme called a ‘rakeback’, whereby customers are handed back their portion of the rake as a reward for playing regularly. Online card rooms like those on Betfair Poker allow you to take advantage of this scheme.
The online poker rake, therefore, is an inevitable part of the game and one that should not affect players’ strategy in any way. However, just in case you think you’re being short-changed next time you play, just remember that the casino has to be paid somehow.
Poker is a complex card game - a rich world of statistics, strategy and psychology that takes various forms and can't be quickly or easily summarised.