Recently, a friend who doesn’t play poker asked me what rake is. I’ve been playing for years, but I was still a bit vague on the subject. So I did some research on the subject to find out the exact details of how the poker rake works. What is “rake” in poker? In poker, the rake is how the casino or poker site makes money. On a predetermined schedule, a portion of the pot is drawn from the pot at the end of certain hands and reserved for the poker room. Almost all casinos follow the “no flop, no drop” rule, which means that only hands that reach postflop are eligible for rake. Now that you know what the rake is, you may want to learn more about how it is calculated in different poker rooms or how to beat the rake. If so, I’ll be happy to help you.
Part 1: How rake is calculated
Rake is calculated differently depending on the type of game being played.
- In cash games, the rake is based on the amount of money in the pot.
- For tournaments, there is a preset rake amount built into the buy-in.
First, let’s talk about how rake is handled in cash games, as this is the most complicated one.
1. Cash Game Rake Rules
In poker, the rake is treated slightly differently depending on whether you are playing live or online.
Rake for online cash games
In online cash games, the rake often varies based on the stake being played. Usually there is a predetermined rake threshold that is taken up to a certain limit. For example, $0.01 can be taken for every $0.20 in the pot, with a maximum rake of $0.20. Here’s an example of a partial rake schedule:
Typical rake rules for online cash games
|Bets/Limits||Pot / Hark||Max Hark|
|$ 0,10 / $ 0,20||$0.01 to $0.20 per jar||$ 0,20|
|$ 0,25 / $ 0,50||$0.01 to $0.20 per jar||$ 0,40|
|$ 0,50 / $ 1,00||$0.01 to $0.20 per jar||$ 0,50|
|Games with No Limit and Pot Limit|
|$0.05 / $0.10 to $1 / $2|
|2 Total number of players at the table||$0.01 to $0.18 per pot||$ 1,00|
|3 players||$0.01 to $0.18 per jar||$ 2,00|
|4 players||$0.01 to $0.18 per jar||$ 2,50|
|5+ players||$0.01 to $0.18 per jar||$ 3,00|
As an example, let’s say a pot is played on a 3-player table at 100 NL. The last pot on the river is $40. The chart above shows a rake of $0.01 for every $0.18 in the pot, up to a limit of $2.00 for three players. The rake is calculated as $40.00/$0.18*$0.01=$2.22. Since the limit has been reached, $2.00 will be taken from the $40, and $18 will be split among the winner(s).
What are the casino poker rake rules for cash games?
In most live casinos, the rake is usually 10%, up to a maximum of $3 to $5. The rake is almost always much less punishing the higher you go in the stakes. Personally, I would never play in a casino that cost more than $4 per hand unless I was playing with bets over $5 or $10.
What is the “No Flop, No Drop” rake-rule?
No flop, no drop is a rake rule in cash games that is used almost everywhere in poker rooms. What it means is that no rake is generated if a hand ends before the flop is dealtker rooms. What it means is that no rake is generated if a hand ends before the flop is dealt. It doesn’t matter how big the pre-flop pot is or how big the action is; no rake is taken if the post-flop is not reached.
2. Tournament Rake Rules
Whether live or online, the rake is completely ingrained in a tournament’s initial buy-in. For example, usually the event is billed as a $10+$1 buy-in. $10 goes to the prize pool, while $1 goes to the house.
Usually, the higher the bet, the lower the rake. Some common buy-in levels are:
Poker Rake Comparison Between Online Sites
The amount of rake charged by the poker site should be a serious consideration when deciding where to play. Through my research, I’ve found that rake amounts can vary wildly from room to room.
The following chart shows the average amount a 6-player player pays per 100 hands at various poker rooms for each stake. In brackets, big blinds/100 are paid.
|2NL||$ 0,14 (7,0)||N/A||$ 0,41 (20,5)||$ 0,20 (10,0)||$ 0,25 (12,5)|
|4/5NL||$ 0,49 (9,8)||$ 0,56 (11,2)||$ 0,66 (13,2)||$ 0,42 (10,5)||$ 0,52 (10,4)|
|10NL||$ 0,89 (8,9)||$ 1,31 (13,1||$ 1,32 (13,2)||$ 1,09 (10,9)||$ 0,87 (8,7)|
|25NL||$ 2,26 (9,0)||$ 3,07 (12,3)||$ 1,93 (9,7)||$ 2,49 (10,0)||$ 1,90 (7,6)|
|50NL||$ 3,22 (6,4)||$ 6,11 (12,2)||$ 4,45 (8,9)||$ 4,37 (8,6)||$ 3,45 (6,9)|
|100NL||$ 6,04 (6,0)||$ 9,17 (9,2)||$ 9,78 (9,8)||$ 7,36 (7,4)||$ 6,39 (6,4)|
|200NL||$ 10,20 (5,1)||$ 13,13 (6,6)||$ 15,98 (8,0)||$ 12,04 (6,0)||$ 9,25 (4,6)|
|400NL||$ 14,70(3,7)||$ 15,15 (3,8)||$ 23,2 (5,8)||$ 14,42(3,6)||$ 13,40(3,4)|
The lowest rake of a given bet is shown in bold. Much of this information has been obtained from a variety of sources, including my own personal database. Rake rules are subject to change at each poker site.
What does this information tell us?
As you can see, each poker room charges its players slightly differently for the privilege of playing on its site. However, there are a few universal things we can take from the information:
- Players with microstakes get hammered by the rake. Basically, the lower you play, the worse it gets. For example, let’s look at 10NL. Even on the site that charges the lowest rake for that bet (Pokerstars), you still need to beat the players by 8.7BB/100 to make a profit.
- High-stakes players pay the lowest relative rake. In general, higher-stakes players pay very little compared to the amount of money they are playing for. Nonetheless, they pay far more in rake total.It’s the relative rate that matters. For example, a 1000NL player on Ignition pays 16 times more rake than a 10NL player, but only needs to beat the games for 1.7 BB/100 to break even.
Which poker sites have the lowest rake?
The sites with the best rewards usually have the lowest rake. If you look at sites like America’s Cardroom (Winning Poker Network) and Pokerstars, which traditionally have a lucrative rewards system, they tend to charge players the least amount of rake. They appear to be compensating by encouraging their players to play massive amounts of volume for rake race-style rewards.
How VIP Rewards Are Affected by Rake
Some poker sites offer generous rewards to attract players and entice them to play at high volumes. Either they have a direct rakeback programme or they offer a VIP programme that rewards you based on how much you play. The way rake is calculated does not affect you if you have a direct rakeback deal. However, if you’re in a VIP system, it’s good to know how points are calculated. There are two ways this is done.
Contributed rake versus shared rake
- Weighted Contributing Rake Calculation Method: Sites using the Contributing Rake method only give points to players who actually contribute to the rake during the game. In other words, if you fold and contribute $0 to the rake, you get 0 points. However, if you see a flop, the number of points you receive will generally match the amount of rake you paid during the hand.
- Shared Rake Calculation Method: The shared rake method does not require players to contribute to the rake during a hand. Just being dealt in the hand will qualify you for VIP points, assuming rake was generated during the hand.
Which rake method is best for me? traded or contributed?
If you are an active player who plays a lot of pots and is aggressive, then you will enjoy a higher VIP point per hand on sites that use the contributed rake method. However, if you are a tight player who is very selective about which pots you enter, you will be much better off on a shared method site.
Poker sites using the Contributed Rake method
- America’s Cardroom (WPN)
- Poker stars
Poker sites using the Deal or No Deal method
- Red Star
As you can see, virtually all poker sites are moving to the weighted contribution method. I think “tight” is no longer correct.
What is rakeback?
Rakeback is typically a fixed percentage of rake returned to players at a predetermined time.Usually, rakeback deals range from 20% to 40%. While many poker networks have stopped offering rakeback, some still offer it to their players.
Major poker networks that offer rakeback
- Win poker (27%).
- I-Poker: 60%-70%
- Revolution: 36%
- Microorganisms: 30%
- Natural8 (35%
Part 2: How to Beat the Rake
Now that we have this information, how can we use it to increase our chances of winning? While this article is not a strategy guide, there are a few career management things we can do to increase our hourly rate that have nothing to do with skill.
In cash games, beat the rake.
The first thing we can do is play on the softest possible site that has a reasonable rake structure. For example, although Ignition Poker has a higher rake than America’s Cardroom (ACR), you are much more likely to get a higher win rate than the former as it generally has much softer games.
Let’s say you can beat the players for 10 BB/100 against 50 NL on ACR and 18 BB/100 on Ignition:
|Site||Win percentage versus players||Hark||Net profit percentage|
Based on my experience, these numbers are not unrealistic. Ignition typically has 1-2 fish on every 50-foot table, while ACR tends to have one on every 3-4 tables. The effect of more recreational or bad players in the player pool cannot be overemphasized. So here’s my advice: Always choose the softest possible poker site and then play on a stake that is comparable in toughness to the more reg-heavy sites. In other words, if you can beat 50NL on ACR, you can probably be 100NL or even 200NL on Ignition. Simply put, a softer site with higher stakes equals more money for you.
Why it’s harder than ever to win at micro and low stakes
The micro-stakes can end up being virtually unbeatable, except for seasoned players who would probably play a higher bet anyway. As the micro players generally continue to improve as a group, it will become increasingly difficult for a novice or intermediate player to start small and build a bankrollimprove as a group, it will become increasingly difficult for a novice or intermediate player to start small and build a bankroll. Fortunately, I don’t think we’re there yet. Even the most difficult networks have plenty of fish on the micros.
Based on rake, where should I play?
Based on my rake research, if you want to start with a small amount and build up, I recommend the Winning Poker Network. That network has by far the lowest rake of any other poker site out there.
In fact, I recently did just that and made a $50 deposit at America’s Cardroom up to $500 in a few weeks. I then moved my money to Ignition and turned it into $1,500 in 4 weeks playing 50- and 100-NL. I found the competition at 100 NL on Ignition to be comparable to 25 NL on ACR.
Starting on one site and moving to another can be smart.
Feel free to follow my example and play ACR up to 25 NL. Once you have enough to go to 50NL, move your bankroll to Ignition. For Euro players, you can start at PokerStars and then move to a softer site like 888. Using this method also gives you the added benefit of unlocking more of a deposit bonus. By moving a bankroll of 50NL, you will be able to generate more rake and enjoy a higher hourly rate on the new site while clearing the bonus.
Smaller stacks tend to pay less rake.
I’ve been playing a starting stack of 30 to 40 big blinds in cash games since 2011. While doing this research, I looked through my own database to see how much rake I personally paid. I was actually shocked to find out that I pay less rake than full-stack players, and it’s not even close. Here are my personal 6-max rake stats compared to the field on Ignition Poker:
|Effort||I Pay/100 Handen Rake||All others pay.||Difference|
|5NL _||$0.36 (7.2bb/100)||$0.56 (11.2bb/100)||4.0bb|
|10NL||$ 0,83 (8,3)||$ 1,31 (13,1)||4.8bb|
|25NL||$ 2,18 (8,7)||$ 3,07 (12,3)||3.6bb|
|50NL||$ 3,69 (7,4)||$ 6,11 (12,2)||4.8bb|
|100NL||$ 6,45 (6,5)||$ 9,17 (9,2)||2.7bb|
|200NL||$ 7,43 (3,7)||$ 13,13 (6,6)||2.9bb|
|400NL||$ 11,62 (2,9)||$ 15,15 (3,8)||0.9bb|
The average is 3.4 BB/100, and I pay less in rent. This is overwhelming to me and explains why I’ve been lucky enough to have a high win rate over the years compared to other regs. It’s because my typical 8 BB/100 win rate is actually 4.5 BB/100 if I didn’t get the rake discount!
Here’s a screenshot of the raw rake stats from my play on Ignition over the past few years.
Disadvantages of paying less rake (lol)
I know, it seems silly to even consider that there’s anything negative about paying less rent.
Still, I’ve tried to “chase the beast” a few times over the years on the Winning Poker Network and have been frustrated that I’ve generated far fewer Beast points than seemingly everyone else. The obvious reason is that I pay much less rake and collect less BPs and hand as a result. I can’t believe I’ve never put two and two together before. I mean, who needs rewards when you’re paying so much less rent?
How to pay less rent
Besides deciding to buy in for less money, I think the key to paying less rake is in the choices we make in pots to participate. I think the average player gets involved in far too many fringe areas. Here are a few ways to minimise your exposure to blown dust:
- Throw away the call button. Usually it is rather unclear whether a pre-flop flat call will be profitable. After the flop, make sure you have a plan when you call and don’t just do it randomly.
- Be more positionally aware. It is very difficult to make a profit with a very large range in early position or in the blinds. I suggest checking your database to see if there are any unprofitable hands in any position. Simply shaving off the biggest losers can have a big impact on both your win rate and how much you pay in rake. That’s doubly good!
- Stop playing fit or folding. If you ever call with a 3-bet or continue post-flop to “see what happens,” you’re probably losing money in the put. Every time you put money in the pot, make sure it has a purpose and you know exactly what your plan is. This usually involves some form of reading.
Essentially, this all comes down to strengthening your poker fundamentals, which I talk about in detail in my comprehensive poker tutorial. Be sure to check it out.
Succeed in tournaments and SNGs
Winning money in tournaments is usually much easier as the fields tend to be much softer. However, you also have to pay a lot more rake to play these eventstend to be much softer. However, you also have to pay a lot more rake to play these events. Poker sites usually charge 5% rake in cash games and 10% rake in tournaments. However, the larger the buy-in, the less rake you will normally have to pay.
How to beat the rake in fixed buy-in events
There are a number of strategies you can use to lower your total cost to play:
- Mix satellites into your schedule. Satellites are generally much softer than regular events. Using it to win seats to bigger buy-in events can lower your total cost of doing business.
- Play more turbos. Turbos usually have a lower rake. Look for events that charge a lower rake because they have a higher rate. Just keep in mind that your win rate will be lower in these cases due to the higher luck factor due to how fast the blinds go up. This is an especially big consideration for STT and SNG players.
- Play on softer sites: The biggest contributing factor to your ROI is the number of bad players in the tournament field. While all poker sites have tournaments to beat, some are much softer than others. I recommend avoiding rewards sites for high-volume players. I’d stick with Ignition Poker or Bovada for US players and 888 for the rest of the world.
One thing to keep in mind is that turbo events tend to charge a lower rake than standard events. This is usually true for single-table SNGs and not necessarily true for MTTs. If the buy-in is $10+$1 in a standard event, it’s often $10+$.50 in a turbo or hyper-turbo event.
Rake in poker history
For as long as casinos have existed, they have found ways to charge their customers.
The first casinos were called “gambling houses” and have been around for hundreds of years. In America, saloons were where you went to gamble. In the early 1900s, most of these “casinos” were banned. It wasn’t until 1931 that Nevada fully legalised gambling.
Why do online poker sites even accept rake?
Online poker sites are businesses. Like their physical counterparts, they must find ways to monetize their customers. Charging their rake is the logical way to do this.
Now that you’re armed with all the information you need about rake, you can make an intelligent decision about where and how to play to further maximise your win rate.
If you’re interested in a poker system that minimises the rake you pay, my short and mid-stack poker strategy will help. Sign up for my newsletter to get a free basic short stacking strategy.Thank you for reading!
Is underground poker illegal? There’s a reason it’s called “underground poker.” If it were legal, it wouldn’t have to operate in the subway. However, playing an unauthorised poker game is generally not illegal, or at least the laws aren’t enforced, unless you charge rake.
Why is it illegal to take rake in home games?In almost all jurisdictions, it is illegal to charge rake on a poker game without a licence from the local gambling commission. This also applies to home games or local leagues.