What Is Poker Rake & Can You Beat It?
Poker rake is the commission that poker rooms take from each pot for enabling the services which allow the game to run smoothly (dealers, rent or platform fees, security etc). The rake is usually a percentage of the pot, though it can be a flat fee as well, and it’s collected before each hand is won.
How Is Rake Calculated?
Weighted Contributed Rake Calculation
With the Weighted Contributed Rake Calculation, players earn more credit based on how much rake they contribute to a pot. Players who fold preflop without even putting blinds into the pot, contribute no rake and earn no rewards. Conversely, anyone who sees the flop (or pays blinds), contributes to the rake and is awarded through whatever bonus system the site or casino has in place (more on that shortly). The Weighted Contributed Rake Calculation method is preferable for those looking play a solid tight-aggressive game while quickly earning points or bonuses.
Dealt Rake Calculation
As far as bonuses are concerned, in the Dealt Rake Calculation method, each player involved in the hand gets equal credit, regardless of whether they contributed to the rake or folded every hand. This is an ideal system only for extremely tight players – sometimes known as “Nits” – who prefer to wait for premium hands. Note that this is likely not a profitable strategy in today’s poker environment where players are more educated in how to play against various player types (for example, knowing they shouldn’t give Nits action when they start splashing a pot).
Contributed Rake Calculation
In the Contributed Rake Calculation, players earn equal credit regardless of how much they contributed to the pot, so long as they participate in the hand via the blinds or by entering the pot preflop.
Based on game format
Some sites may offer different rake structure for different poker game formats or variants. For example, some may charge lower (or higher) rake for fixed limit games versus no limit games, or for Omaha vs Hold’em.
Based on limit
Although some poker sites, such as Americas Cardroom for example, offer a fixed rate for rake charged across all limits, others will vary depending on the size of the game, with discounted rates often being afforded the higher you move up in stakes. This can be both a positive and negative, depending on which limits you play.
Tournament Rake - tournament fee
Generally referred to as the “tournament fee,” tournament rake is different than cash game rake in that it’s taken upfront and all in one shot. For tournament players, this has the benefit of giving them much more bang for their buck by letting them play poker much longer without paying additional fees. Whereas for cash game players, the longer they remain at the table, the more fees they’ll pay. Of course, when playing in a rebuy or add-on tournament, players will generally be responsible for added tournament fees (though some poker venues may offer rake-free rebuys).
Sample Rake Chart
Here is an example of a rake chart, taken from Americas Cardroom
|Stakes||Rake per pot||2 Player Cap||3 Player Cap||4 Player Cap||5 to 9 Player Cap|
|All Stakes Up to and including $1/2||$0.01 for each $0.20 in Pot||$0.50||$1.00||$2.00||$3.00|
|Stakes $2/4, $3/6 and $4/8||$0.05 for each $1 in Pot||$1.00||$1.50||$2.00||$3.00|
|Stakes $5/$10 and Greater||$0.25 for each $5 in Pot||$1.25||$1.75||$2.25||$3.00|
Notice how all limits pay an equal 5% of the pot in rake, and that there is not a large discrepancy between the cap limits. This means that regardless how high up the stakes you move up, you’ll never pay more than $3 in rake per pot. This could potentially be a key factor when selecting a poker site that will enable you to beat the rake. Speaking of which…
What "Beat The Rake” Actually Means
You will never not have to pay rake so there’s no real way to “beat it” because it’s not a competition. Basically, the poker platforms aren’t your enemy, they’re the battlegrounds against your enemy. Instead, the term ‘beat the rake’ is more about making your poker experience as profitable as possible, using all the resources available at your disposal so that your edge over your competition has enough time to exert itself over the course of thousands upon thousands of hands.
Ways To Beat The Rake
Look for the best poker deposit bonuses
Poker rooms often offer generous Welcome Deposit Bonuses to attract new players. Americas Cardroom, for example, offers a 100% first deposit bonus up to a maximum of $2,000, which is released in portions as you compete at the tables. This is the type of offer that you simply can not pass up in your attempt to “beat the rake” and must be the first step in every new player’s game. After all, if you’re going to be playing anyways, take advantage of the free money!
Look for the best poker reload bonuses
Similar to a deposit bonus, a poker reload bonus is a poker site’s way to reward active players. Although each reload bonus offer will often vary completely, even within each site based on what promotion they are currently running, the bottom line is, once again, for those players already in the game, it’s a completely risk-free advantage.
Look for good loyalty programs
Nearly all poker sites have a loyalty or rewards program in place, whereby players earn points for hands played according to one of the contribution methods listed above. These points can then be redeemed for cash, tournament entries, or other goodies available through the site’s rewards store. These are a great source of added equity that will help you beat the rake and potentially get a much more meaningful score.
Find good poker rakeback programs
Poker rakeback is a percentage of the rake that is paid back to the player, usually monthly. The player then enjoys this rebate percentage on all poker rake they generate for as long as they remain in the program. This can lead to an incredibly lucrative situation where you are effectively getting paid to play at the tables.
Find the best poker rake races & freerolls
Rake races are added bonuses awarded to players who rake the most amount at their specific game or stakes. Rake race or VIP freerolls are poker tournaments that take place on a regular basis for players who have raked a specific amount and award cash prizes to the top placing players.
Play a solid, tight-aggressive, strategy
One of the best ways to minimize the impact rake has on your bankroll is to play a smart, tight-aggressive strategy. By practicing good hand selection, and not unnecessarily inflating pots without the right equity for it, players can avoid paying high rake in addition to any incurred losses at the tables. This brings us to our final and likely most important idea on “beating the rake”.
Stop Focusing On Beating The Rake
Although it’s no doubt crucial for poker players to research and take advantage of all the poker edges listed above – rakeback, deposit bonuses, loyalty programs etc – there are two other things that should be a much higher concern before sitting at the poker table, as they will have a much greater impact on your bottom line.
Find good poker games
One of the two key factors in turning a profit at the tables is sitting at games where you are likely to have a solid edge over many of your opponents. Although it’s fun to watch the biggest names in poker fight it out among one another on television, the reality is that most of the poker professionals we know make their livings playing against much weaker competition. This could be at home games, against wealthy businessmen and celebrities, or even online – where very few players at their level bother fighting for sure-to-be-tiny edges.
So, while it’s good to think about how to minimize the impact of rake on your bankroll, practicing good game selection (and the patience that will sometimes come along with it) will be an infinitely more fruitful endeavor.
Focus on improving your own poker skills
Without a doubt, the single most important factor in beating the rake is simply to be a good enough player. In today’s poker environment where the well-respected poker sites such as the aforementioned Americas Cardroom, are profitable but not exploitative, once you’ve done your research and taken advantage of all the bonus and loyalty offers on tap, you’d be much better served letting the rake do what it does and focusing all your energy on improving your play at the tables. Not only will this allow you to overcome any standard rake structure (aka beat the rake), but it will help you move up the stakes much more quickly, where the impact of the rake will be much less significant on your bankroll (remember the example above where a $0.25/0.50 game had the exact same max-rake as a $5/10 table).
Here are two key ways to improve your poker game:
- Live Play
As with most things in life, there is no substitute for practice. No matter how many times LeBron James thinks about shooting free throws, it’s not until he gets on the court, takes thousands of shots (tweaking and refining his form throughout the process) that his free throw percentage will increase. Much in the same way, no matter how many poker videos anyone watches, nor how many hand histories one reviews, without putting significant time in at the tables, it is impossible to tell how you will react in the moment when the pressure is on, the clock is ticking, and the real dollars are at risk.
So rather than focusing on the smallest details of every little happening in your rake contribution, simply sit at the table, practice your strategy at a limit that could never put your bankroll at risk, and observe both your own play, as well as that of your opponents while reflecting on the optimal way to play each potential hand.
- Poker Study
To use another sports analogy, no matter how good the Dallas Cowboys (or any other team) are as individual players, it is unlikely they can succeed in the long-term without putting in some heavy work in-between games. For example, reviewing game tape, discussing strategy, and practicing the tiniest of movements over and over again. This is the way to achieve greatness is to analyze both one’s own performance, as well as the optimal strategy required for each specific play.
This is true for poker players as well, particularly in today’s poker environment where so many players are much more well versed in basic (and sometimes not so basic) poker strategy. Just as with professional sports leagues, to make it to the highest level requires as much dedication off the felt, as on it. Some good ways for players to improve their play away from the table is to join a training site like Upswing Poker or Run It Once, watch instructional videos on YouTube, review hand histories through poker tools such as Hold’em Manager or PokerTracker, analyzing one’s game using poker software such as Poker Snowie or ICMizer, and working in 1-on-1 or group sessions with a qualified poker coach.
In conclusion, it is possible for players to “beat the poker rake” by selecting good sites or casinos to play at, judiciously taking advantage of every offer available, only participating in games where they have an edge, and above all else, focusing on building both soft and hard poker skills through live play and analysis away from the table.
Beat The Rake FAQ
How big should a bankroll be to play 20/40 limit poker?
Proper conservative poker bankroll management dictates having 200 buy-ins, regardless of what limit you are playing.
How to get rakeback on ACR?
To get rakeback on Americas Cardroom, simply sign up with them directly and contact them via live chat or email to get your account swapped over to rakeback.
Is net income the same as net profit?
No. Net profit refers to all money collected, while net income refers to the remaining funds after expenses (aka losses) are factored in. Net profit is sometimes referred to as gross profit.
What does it mean to take a rake in poker?
Rake is the fee charged by the ‘house’ in a game of poker to offset their costs.
What size yearly bankroll necessary to play 1/2 no limit poker?
Once again, regardless of the limits played, proper bankroll management dictates having between 100-200 buy-ins for your specific game. If you’re ever in doubt, you can use a poker bankroll calculator that can be found online.
Is it legal to run a poker game with no rake?
Yes, rake is not required by law.
What does beating the rake mean?
Beating the rake in a game of poker means making profit after the house (or poker platform) takes their cut. If you’re wondering how to calculate profit margin, simply subtract your fees (rake, travel, internet costs etc) from your total amount won.
Is it illegal to take a rake in poker?
Absolutely not. Rake is a standard part of the game and allows the ‘house’ to continue offering their services.