What does rake mean in poker?

Jon Sofen
Published by:
Posted on 07/14/2021

What does rake mean in poker? It has nothing to do with sweeping up leaves in your backyard. And it’s a bit of a negative term from a player’s perspective. In fact, players like Daniel Negreanu and Doug Polk have engaged in bitter, ongoing feuds about rake, with Negreanu claiming more rake is better, and Polk saying that’s ridiculous.

What is rake in poker?

Simply put, rake is the money taken out of the pot by the casino. The purpose of it is so the poker room, or the online poker site, can make money. It’s essentially a commission fee, generally set at 2.5% to 10% of each hand’s pot. In casinos, the dealer usually takes the rake chips out of each pot.

When is rake collected?

In a cash game, whether you’re playing live or online, rake is taken out of each hand dealt. If you’re playing online poker, the rake is automatically taken from the pot. In a brick-and-mortar card room, the dealer must calculate the rake (see below for details on how this is done) and then remove the necessary chips.

In tournament play, rake is factored into the buy-in in the form of a fee that goes to the house. So, when you pay to enter a tournament, the rake is taken out right then instead of during each hand.

Why rake is collected

The poker room is in the business of making money, much like any other business. Thus, they must charge a fee to players for using their services (dealers available, games to play, security on hand). The way they make their money is through rake, which is the fee players pay to play.

Think of it this way: how much would you pay to have trained dealers provided for you, a safe and secure place to play, cocktail and food service, and juicy games? Without rake, those amenities wouldn’t be available unless you forked over millions of dollars to start your own poker room.

How to calculate rake

There isn’t a universal amount charged for rake in tournaments or cash games (live or online). Each casino and online poker site is different, although card room owners realize that poker pros consider the rake when choosing a place to play. For that reason, most poker rooms stay competitive and don’t try to rob the players blind with expensive rake.

In most cases, cash game rake is $4-$7 per hand, up to 10% of the pot. So, if there’s only $10 in the pot, the rake taken out of that hand would only be $1 (10% of $10). If the pot is much higher, say $500, the rake would be $4-$7, depending on the casino.

Card rooms that charge excessive rake fees are avoided by most poker pros because rake eats into their bottom line. As for tournaments, the rake is typically 8% to 12% of the buy-in. Tournaments with rake that is much higher rarely draw in large fields because they aren’t profitable (since the house is taking a huge cut). The only exception to the rule is the World Series of Poker, because of the prestige that comes with playing in the WSOP.

Charging rake in home games

In all U.S. states, it is illegal for an unlicensed casino to charge rake in a poker game. That means if you’re planning on hosting a home game, you should avoid charging anything that resembles rake. You can actually go to prison if you get caught, especially if you’re hosting high-stakes games.

Molly Bloom, a former athlete, famously hosted high-stakes private games in Los Angeles and New York for celebrities and wealthy businessmen. She made millions of dollars until the feds came knocking on her door, after someone tipped them off that she was charging rake, which made the games illegal.

Instead of charging rake in your home game, perhaps ask players to send you money as a donation for hosting the game. Some home game hosts will charge a $20 admission fee, which covers any expenses incurred for hosting the game. It also sets aside some money for pizza or food that’s ordered for the players. Just don’t charge rake, because you can get into legal trouble if you get caught. Even if you’re close friends with all the players, which is often the case in poker home games, you just never know who might turn their back on you and snitch.

Featured image source: Flickr