How Does Poker Rake Affect Your Strategy?

min read
Person using a mini rake pulls in red poker chips. Four more stacks in background, and cards: Ace, King, Queen, Jack, 10 of Hearts on the right.
BetMGM Dec 03, 2023, 11:36 PM

Poker is a blend of skill and strategy with a sprinkling of luck. That said, no matter how well you understand the poker game rules and how many rounds you’ve practiced, there are still various external factors that can influence your game outside the cards and bluffs. One of those factors is poker rake.

So, what is a rake in poker, and how can it affect your strategy? Read on for everything you need to know, including a few practical tips for building resilience in the face of inevitable setbacks when playing both live and online poker.

What Is Poker Rake?

It’s simple: the rake is the fee charged by a poker room, both traditional and virtual, for hosting the game. Think of it as a small commission for the service of providing a safe and regulated environment in which to play. Ultimately, the rake is how the house makes money from poker games, as opposed to games with a house edge, like blackjack or roulette.

How Is Rake Collected?

There are a few common methods used to collect rake.

1. Pot Rake

This is the most common method in cash games. A small percentage of the pot is taken by the house in each hand, usually capped at a certain amount. For example, a poker room might take 5% of the pot, up to $3.

2. Dead Drop

Here, a set fee is taken from the pot before the hand starts, regardless of how the game plays out.

3. Time Collection (Also Known As Time Charge)

This is typical in higher-stakes games. Instead of taking money from the pot, the house charges every player a set fee at predetermined intervals, say every half hour or hour.

How Does Rake Affect Poker Strategy?

In order to be profitable, a player must beat the other players and also cover the cost of the rake. Here’s how rake can shape your poker strategy.

1. Tighten Up Your Starting Hands

With the rake chipping away at the pot, playing too many marginal hands can be costly. You might need to adjust by playing fewer hands and choosing ones with a higher chance of winning big pots.

2. Bigger Pots Justify the Rake

Since the rake is often capped, you don’t pay extra rake in larger pots. Therefore, when you have a strong hand, you might try to grow the pot more than you would in a rake-free game.

3. Short-Handed vs. Full-Ring Games

In a short-handed game (fewer players), you’ll be involved in more pots, meaning you’re paying more rake per hand you play. You might have to be more aggressive to win pots to compensate for the higher frequency of rake charges.

4. No-Limit vs. Limit Games

The impact of rake can be more pronounced in limit games where the bet sizing rules restrict the pot sizes. In no-limit games, players can win big enough pots to make the rake a smaller percentage of their overall winnings.

When Is Rake Most Affecting?

There are certain instances where rake may affect your game more than in others. These are cases where this will apply.

1. Low-Stakes Games

Since the rake is a larger proportion of each pot in smaller games, it can be tougher to beat the rake at lower stakes.

2. When Playing a Tight Style

Tight players play fewer pots but must still pay when they enter a hand. The rake can eat into the profits of a tight player more than that of a loose player who wins a variety of pot sizes.

3. During a Losing Streak

When you’re already down, the rake feels like an additional setback, making it harder to climb back to a profitable position.

Coping With Poker Setbacks and Building Resilience

Every poker player faces setbacks, and rake is just one of the many challenges you’ll encounter. Here’s how to stay resilient, avoid tilt, and keep your poker face firmly in place.

1. Continue Learning

Always look for ways to improve your game. Read books, watch tutorials, play poker with friends online for practice, and constantly analyze your play.

2. Bankroll management

Only play with money you can afford to lose. Proper bankroll management ensures you can withstand the fluctuations that come with the game.

3. Focus on decision-making, not results

You can’t control the cards, but you can control your decisions. Focus on making the best choice every time rather than the outcome of the hand.

4. Track your play

Use software or keep a journal to track your sessions. This will help you understand your long-term progress and identify patterns that may be affecting your profitability.

5. Mindset is key

Maintain a positive mindset. A bad beat doesn’t define your skill as a player.

6. Stay healthy

Mental and physical health are crucial in poker. Exercise, eat well, take frequent breaks, and ensure you get enough rest.

7. Seek community

Engage with other poker players. Discuss strategies, share experiences, and support each other through the ups and downs.

8. Understand variance

Recognize that poker is partially a game of chance and learn to accept the swings.

The rake is an important part of the poker economy. While it might seem like a small detail, as you can see, it has the power to significantly influence how you approach the game. By understanding how it works and adapting your strategy accordingly, you can increase your chances of staying profitable. Above all else, enjoy the game.

Play Poker Online at BetMGM

Interested to know a big part of overcoming the impact of poker rake on your game? Practice. BetMGM is one of the top online poker sites in the U.S., offering you access to everything from video poker and poker tournaments to live dealer casino games, online slot machines, and much more.

Register when you’re ready to join in on the fun.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
About the Author

BetMGM

Read More

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.