Unlike other card games, a game of poker is not played against the house. The house refers to any live poker room provider or an online poker platform service provider in this case. Whether online or live, the game is played against other players and the money is exchanged between the winners and not between the house and a player.
The house has no vested interest in who wins or loses in a game of poker, and the dealer is only there to deal the cards and keep track of the game. So, how do poker platforms make their money?
The answer to that is a small four-letter word that plays an integral part of the poker economy, RAKE. In poker terminology, “rake” is a percentage of money the platform provider keeps from almost every cash game pot or tournament entry fee.
Understanding The Basics
A casual poker player probably doesn’t think too much about how the poker platform makes money. Even though this information may not be of great importance to a player, a professional player understands rake and how it works while choosing his/her games.
In a cash game, whether it is No-Limit Hold’em, PLO, or any other form of poker, the rake is taken out of a great majority of pots before they are handed over to the winner.
In most offline poker rooms, it is a fixed percentage, ranging anywhere from 2% to 10% of the total pot. Both of these extremes are quite rare sighting and, in most games, you’ll be paying an average rake of 3% to 5%.
Usually, there is also a maximum cap on the amount of rake that can be taken out of any individual pot that is based on the particular service provider’s rules. Let’s take a look at a quick example, say you are playing Rs.10/ Rs.20 game, and end up in an all-in situation where you put all of your Rs.500 pre-flop against another player with a similar stack.
Let’s say the rake is set at 5% with the Rs.10 cap, so the maximum you are paying for casino services will be Rs.10 from each pot you win. However, if the casino has no cap on the rake and the total pot is Rs.1000 as in this example, you will have to pay Rs.20, which is double the first scenario with a cap.
Hourly rate option
A fixed percentage of the pot is the most common rake structure in poker. However a few employ an hourly model. Players have to pay an hourly fee to sit at the table, which means there will be no money taken from the pot when you play.
Tournaments are a completely different ball game where players compete for chips and try to outlast others in the event to reach the money stage. Thus, chip pots lose their monetary value unlike in the cash games, and poker platforms can’t get their rake the same way they do in cash games.
Tournament rake is paid ahead of time as a part of the buy-in amount. For example, a Rs.100 tournament will often have a buy-in of Rs.110 or Rs.120. The additional Rs.10 or Rs.20 on top of the Rs.100 is also a rake, and it doesn’t contribute towards the prize pool. This amount is withheld by the operator and used to cover their expenses for organizing the event.
If you notice you most often find that online games have much smaller rake than the live ones, especially at lower stakes. Reason being pretty straight forward, online platforms do not have any operational expenses for organizing the tournament, while live venues have to pay for the dealers, rent tournament floor space, all of which comes at an extra cost for players.
Now you know how online poker platforms and live poker rooms make their money and how they can afford to keep the games running. As a player, it’s important to be aware of rake and not dismiss it as something sinister. However, you should inform yourself about rake in the games you select as this can have a big impact on your bottom line. Games with high levels or rake and very high caps or no caps at all can be very detrimental and difficult to beat even if you’re an experienced professional player.
Time to rake those green felts!