General concepts

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The Rake

Any poker player who chooses to play in a casino poker game must contend with some sort of rake. Many private games also have a rake.

The term “rake” usually refers to cutting the pot. It also can refer to the time charge that is used in California casino poker games, as well as a few Nevada games

The size of the rake is not trivial. Any serious poker player who is trying to win over the long haul had better consider the rake before deciding whether to sit down in a particular game.

The rake is like the ninth player in the game except he can’t lose.  How would you like to play in a game where you knew that one particular opponent  would would be ahead $ 600  after ten hours?

With this knowledge, you very probably would not sit down, especially if the game were small. The chances are that that player will wind up the only winner if all the players compete the full ten hours.

Well, you are encountering just this when you play in a 10 percent rake, $ 3 maximum, $ 1-$ 3 limit poker game.

Depending on the speed of the game and the size of the pots, the rake very well could take $ 60 per hour off the table.

In order to consider playing poker game like this it has to be very good (unless you are just playing for fun, of course, and don’t care whether you have the best of it.)

When a professional player or a serious amateur evaluates the playability of a game as far as the rake is concerned, he must consider several factors. 

Hoever, it all boils down to one thing how much is the rake cutting into his expected profits? To answer this question a player first must answer another question how much would be figure to win per hour on average if there were no rake?

This projected hourly profit is an important concept. A winning player should be able to approximate how much he should average winning in one hour if there were no rake.

The best player, for instance, usually can figure chance of winning approximately two bets per hour before the rake. Thus, the expert should average approximately $ 20/hour in a $ 5-$ 10 game, $ 8-/hour in a $ 20-$ 40 game, etc. 

(In actual practice, the higher the stakes, the lower the expected hourly win in terms of bets, since the bigger games usually are tougher. Still, it is better to win one bet an hour in a $ 50- $ 100 game than two bets an hour in a $ 20-$ 40 game.)

The next step is to calculate the amount you figure to lose per hour to the rake. This figure is self-evident if the game charges time.

For example, If you are considering playing in a $ 10-$ 20 seven-card stud game you might estimate that it is worth $ 15 an hour to you if there is no rake. 

Now if the casino charges $ 2 per half hour, your profit figures to be $ 11 an hour (on average, of course). Whether it is worth playing for this net hourly rate is up to you.

When the pot is being cut, it is a little more difficult to determine how much money the cut is taking from you. If a lot of hands are being played each hour, the total rake from all the players will be greater. 

Should the game be slow, however, usually because a lot of players are in almost every pot, you would certainly prefer to be playing in a moderately cut game than in a time game.

Thinking along similar lines, we see that the amount you will average paying to the casino per hour is related closely to the number of players in the game.

A short-handed poker game is brutal if the pot is being cut. They should usually be avoided unless the game is very easy, except when the cut is substantially reduced. 

(Some casinos understand that keeping the same percentage rake is unfair when the game becomes short-handed and thus reduce the rake. 

Unfortunately, this reduction doesn’t usually take place until the game has been reduced to four-handed. Thus, five-and six-handed games are the ones that cost you the most.)

There are three reasons why short-handed, cut-pot games take the most per hour away from your profits:

1. You figure to get more deals per hour, thus you can make more money if it is taken out of the game per hour.

2. You will win a higher proportion of the pots in a short-handed game.  Since you are also getting in a lot of hands per hour, you figure to win many more pots per hour than in a ring game.  Each of these pots have been cut.  Thus, you pay much more per hour to the rake in a short-handed game.

3. The pots will be smaller in short-handed game, but the rake will not be proportionally smaller. This is because most of the rakes are set up to get the maximum amount almost immediately.

As an example, a typical rake structure might be posted as “5 percent rake, $ 2 maximum.”  This means that the full $ 2 is cut when the pot reaches $ 40 and none thereafter.

In a full game, the average pot may reach $ 100 which would make the $ 2 cut out of it a 2 percent rake.  A short-handed game is much more likely to have pots of $ 40 or less where the cut is a full 5 percent of the pot.

What all this boils down to is this: When you are considering playing in a game where they cut the pot, you must estimate the amount that the cut will take from you on average every hour.

You subtract this number from the amount you figured to win on average, per hour, if the pot wasn’t cut. This is your net hourly win rate

If it is still high enough you play. However, it is very possible, especially in a short-handed poker game with no reduced rake, that the size of the rake has made a normally profitable game not worth playing.

(I should point out that this whole discussion is mainly concerned with smaller games such as $ 1 –$ 3, $ 3- $ 6, on up to $ 15- $ 30. Higher games than this nearly always charge time.  When they do cut the pot, the percentage is negligible.)

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