As long as casinos have existed, they have found different ways to charge their customers. Today, the most popular method is called a poker rake. Yet, despite its importance, rake in poker is something most new players generally overlook when hitting the tables at a casino.
For cardrooms, this amount covers the operating costs and overheads. However, for players, it means they have to beat their opponents and the financial drain of the poker rake since the house takes a cut.
This post will explain how poker rake works and share some great poker sites where you can find the lowest rake and tournament buy-ins.
What Does Rake Mean in Poker?
Casinos, like any other for-profit business, need to generate revenue. In poker, this involves using a commission system called rake, which is when a percentage is taken out of the pot after the conclusion of hands and set aside for the cardroom.
This amount is typically 5% to 10% in cash games, depending on the site or casino. Cardrooms usually have a set maximum amount for rake per hand, and it’s typically around $5 to $10. However, in tournaments, the rake can be as high as 10% of the overall tournament fee.
Now that you understand the poker rake definition, you may want to learn how to calculate it when playing in online and offline casinos to manage your poker finances like a pro. Initially, this may seem like an intimidating task, but we’ve got you covered with this article.
How Casinos Calculate the Poker Rake
The rake is calculated based on the type of poker game played. It’s generally a percentage of the total money in the pot. However, the amounts can vary significantly depending on numerous factors. Let’s check out the different ways casinos’ calculate the poker rake, so you can determine how much rake is too much:
The pot rake is a commission charged by casinos on cash games. The rake in these games is a percentage of the total amount in the pot. There is also a predetermined max rake amount that cardrooms can take to limit their earnings.
For instance, if a casino charges 6% to 10% rake on a poker game, it will take no more than $10 from it. This method is the most popular poker rake model used online since low and medium-stakes players mostly use it. If the pot is over the threshold, the dealer will remove the chips by hand and add them to a dropbox. On online cash games, the rake is removed automatically by the poker software.
Moreover, most casinos and poker sites employ a “no flop, no rake” policy where no charge will be applied until the hand goes to a flop. Whether you’re playing a $50 pot or a $500 one, the casino can take no more than $10 even if the rake amount exceeds it.
Here are the rake rates in some of the most famous casinos in Las Vegas:
- Bellagio: 10% — up to $4 max
- Caesars Palace: 10% — up to $4 max
- Bally’s: 10% — up to $5 max
Many casinos introduced the fixed fee structure after several complaints from winners who argued it was unfair they were the only ones paying all the rake. With a fixed system, every poker player in the cardroom pays a predetermined buy-in amount before sitting down.
This method ensures that casinos don’t stop taking rakes even if several players at the table are losing. A fixed fee structure makes more sense for high-stakes players who usually pay large rake amounts on big pots.
Many cash players play poker for hours at a time in a physical or online poker room. As a result, many sites and casinos have introduced timed collections that are essentially an hourly fee charged as a rake.
Thus, the minute you join the table, you would be charged the amount even if you decide to walk away after 20 or 30 minutes. This technique is a clever way to ensure that every seated poker player pays a fee for the time they spend on it.
Some traditional card rooms charge a dead drop fee, meaning every player on the table pays the same amount regardless of the winner. Generally, the winner pays the rake in pot games. However, every player agrees to a fixed amount before the dealer serves the hand in dead drop conditions.
Online poker players have to pay a rake to register and participate in tournaments whether they’re playing Stud, Omaha, or Texas Hold’em. Every site has different tournaments for different levels. Therefore, charges can vary depending on the live room. However, every site collects an average rake between 10% and 20%.
Suppose you enter a Stud tournament that costs $50. If the rake is 10%, this means the poker room retains $5 and $45 goes into the pool. If you’re a new player, you should carry out an online poker rake comparison to find the best deals and lowest charges in the market.
Most top-rated and competitive online poker rooms offer tournaments with no rake, which is great for low or medium-stakes players. Many poker sites also provide limited-time zero rake tournaments for players who cover the actual buy-in. The no rake system is a smart strategy for attracting new players and ensuring they return for more.
For professionals or high-stakes players, some sites reduce the rake to use their popularity to attract followers while still making some money. Unfortunately, most online sites don’t offer rake-free cash games due to popular demand, especially during busy days or hours.
Final Verdict From This Information
As you might have noticed, every poker room or site charges players different rake amounts for playing in their cardrooms. However, regardless of the platform or price, most low-stakes players get hammered by the poker rake since you have to beat other players by a margin to turn a profit.
Have you ever heard the saying, “the house always wins?” well, this is where the expression originated. However, this is not the same for high-stakes players since they pay very little compared to the amount of money they’re playing for, which is usually 16 times more. Therefore, they have a better shot at breaking even.
How to Earn Online Rake Bonuses
Poker sites ensure business continuity by taking rakes from players as it’s their primary revenue stream. However, many sites offer online rake bonuses that you can use to win some of your money back.
For instance, most legal poker rooms in Atlantic City offer a lucrative Rakeback program to earn cash. For example, some use a point-based reward system based on the amount of money you spend. Once you hit the required points to make some money, the online poker room transfers the bonus percentage into your poker account.
Imagine if a program offered one point for every dollar spent in Hold’em cash games, with a 20% to 30% return. So, if you invest $100, you can earn between $20 and $30 in Rakeback.
Other sites tout generous rewards based on how you play instead of how much you spend. For example, some use weighted contributions to give points out to only those players who contribute to the rake in every hand.
In simple words, if players fold, they contribute no money to the rake, and therefore, get no bonus points. Active players usually opt for this option and enjoy points in every hand they play.
How Should Rake Influence Your Decisions?
The rake plays a pivotal role in most players’ poker decision-making since it determines their expected value upon winning. The math is simple — a higher rake equals a lower expected value. Therefore, players have to be very careful in every hand they play, regardless of the rake type.
When the rake is high, most players play a tighter style of poker which involves playing fewer hands. In this case, most marginal post-flop calls become folds, which can affect everything you do before you flop since those hands involve raises, calls, 3-bets, and bluffs.
When playing with a high rake, most players look for hands that are already monsters, such as AA, KK, and QQ, etc., and play them in the beginning. Others try to play quality speculative hands with AK, AQ, KQ, and small pocket pairs.
Generally, simpler hands are avoided since they show negative expectations and make plays difficult after the flop. On the flip side, micro-stakes are virtually unbeatable for new players since starting small and building a bankroll isn’t always viable with a higher rake. As a consequence, beginners and intermediate players usually stay away from these tables.
Sites With the Lowest Online Poker Rake
All legal casinos and poker sites charge a rake and fees for different cash games and tournaments. There are thousands of online poker sites with varying value offerings, types of players, and rake types. Let’s check out the top sites operating today along with their respective rake:
PokerStars is the largest and most popular poker network globally in terms of traffic, with over 8,000 daily visitors and 4,700 cash players. Overall, the site is a popular hub for various gambling games. However, it has made a name for itself since 2001 as the place to go for the ultimate online poker experience, thanks to modern graphics, smooth navigation, and unparalleled reliability. The site also offers welcome bonuses and regular promotions to attract new players and provide a real sense of community.
PokerStars Rake: 5%
Tournament Fees: 0% to 20%
888Poker is among the oldest and most trusted poker sites globally, with over 10 million registered users, 1,800 daily visitors, and 700 cash players online 24/7. Since its launch in 1997, the site has improved its software and launched a mobile application, on which most users opt for Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and 7-Card Stud.
However, their most significant selling point is their deposit-free $88 sign-up bonus which no other service in the market can match. The platform also features a unique poker variant called SNAP Poker, in which every time a player folds, they get moved to a new table with a fresh hand.
The site is verified by McAfee, GamCare, and multiple regulatory agencies with different jurisdictions in terms of safety and recognition.
888 Poker Rake: 5% to 6.25%
Tournament Fees: 0% to 20%
GGPoker is the most popular destination for many online poker players around the globe. While it doesn’t generate nearly as much traffic as PokerStars or 888 Poker, it holds its own against most mid-size online poker rooms, with around 1,750 online cash players during peak times. Like most sites, the platform focuses mainly on Texas Hold’em, Omaha tournaments, and cash games.
GG Poker Rake: 5%
Tournament Fees: 8% to 10%
Partypoker is another renowned online poker cardroom that has been around since 2001. Up until 2006, they were the best in the business until they backed off due to the immense competition. However, they’ve made a massive comeback with new software and a host of features since then.
Several celebrities have also backed up the platform, such as Jason Koon, Kevin Hart, and Sam Trickett. However, the main reason Partypoker has been gaining more and more attention is its Rakeback program, which offers weekly cashback with one point for every $1 spent. Currently, the site has over 1,500 daily online visitors with 800 cash players.
Partypoker Rake: 5%
Tournament Fees: 0% to 20%
Global Poker is the most popular US-based poker site, which only operates in the US and Canada (except for in Washington and Quebec). It’s the most feasible option for Americans since the only licensed states in the country are Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
The best benefit Global Poker offers is that it allows users to play regular poker disguised as sweepstakes games for cash prices which can be converted using several payment vendors, such as Mastercard and American Express.
The only downside is that it doesn’t offer Rakeback incentives or loyalty rewards due to relatively low buy-ins.
Global Poker Rake: 5%
Tournament Fees: 0% to 20%
What Situations Are Most Impacted by Poker Rake?
The situations most impacted by poker rake are Big Blind calls and 3-Bet defences because they require considerable adjustments in high raked games.
Big Blind Defence
In poker, defending the Big Blind refers to a situation in which a player calls a pre-flop raise due to big bets or less than optimal starting hands.
In contrast, a 3-Bet defence effectively isolates weak opponents in fixed-limit games where an initial raise is worth two bets. Additionally, this defence limits the number of players that see a flop as the reraise equals three instead of two, in which case, most players fold.
Now that you understand what rake in poker is, you can better decide which cardrooms or poker sites to choose. This way, you have a better shot at maximizing your win rate by identifying different poker rake types and seeing which one works best for you. Overall, the idea is to choose the platforms that offer the best rake rates or loyalty programs.
How much is the rake on PokerStars?
The rake on PokerStars is typically 6% to 10% of the total tournament buy-in or the pot in each poker hand up to a predetermined maximum amount.
How does rake work in online poker?
In online poker, tournament sites typically collect a predetermined rake amount which is considered the tournament registration fee. This is why online poker sites usually display registration prices as “$2+$0.40,” in which case, the “$0.40” is the rake amount.
How is rake calculated?
Rake is a predetermined commission fee taken by the dealer and cardroom hosting a poker game. It’s calculated in cash games by multiplying a predefined percentage with the total amount of money in the pot. In online poker games, it’s calculated according to the stakes or predetermined threshold. For example, $0.03 might be taken for every $0.30 in the pot, with a max rake of $0.10.
Is 5% rake too much?
No. In most live casinos or cardrooms, the rake is usually close to 10% and becomes less punitive the higher you go in stakes. Most players don’t play in casinos with over-the-top rakes as it makes it more challenging and reduces the winner’s overall earnings.