Are you confused by the term “rake” in poker? Put simply, it’s a fee you pay to the game’s host for holding the game. It’s something you should always consider whenever you play poker online.

We’ve created a handy guide below to help you learn more about poker rake. Read on to discover more about what the rake is, how it’s calculated, the different types, and how to use it to your advantage.

Defining the Rake

Rake is one of the most common terms in poker. It’s the amount of money the host takes from cash poker games, usually a percentage of the winnings. It offsets the costs of running the game, and it’s how the casino or poker room makes money.

If you ever play poker in a physical venue, you may notice the dealer taking chips from the pot. This is how they take the casino’s gambling rake for the game in land-based games. In online games, it will just be a percentage of the pot deducted before winnings are handed out.

The amount of rake taken will depend on the variation of poker and the type of rake charged by the venue or online casino. The funds will then be used to pay staff salaries, as well as for equipment and fees for providing the game. Online, rake will contribute to website hosting costs, including support and software.

Taking a rake in poker is legal. It’s a common practice in poker rooms across the United States and the rest of the world. As long as the state provides legal poker within licensed casinos, then rake is a common fee to collect.

If you sign up to a real money platform like BetOnline or Bovada, or even to a free online poker site, the rake is collected as part of the games’ rules for each platform.

A poker room needs to declare the income gathered from collecting rake. If they don’t, it could be considered tax evasion. If there are legal limits on the amount of rake a casino or poker room can take, exceeding them would also be breaking the law.

While the rules are more lenient to gambling venues, private games are regulated differently. Any poker games you play in a home or unlicensed venue cannot legally take a rake fee. This goes against laws around providing legal and licensed poker games and would generally be considered a crime.

How Is the Casino Rake Calculated?

All casinos and poker rooms will calculate poker rakes differently.

The most common way to do this is to announce a percentage of the pot as the fee, which is determined on a sliding scale. It’s usually between 2.5% and 10% of the money in the pot. Of course, the figures will vary from casino to casino and game to game. Some charge a higher rake fee than others.

There’s also a predetermined maximum amount of rake that can be taken. A legitimate poker room, whether online or offline, will make you aware of the rake before you join a game.

BetOnline, for example, explains the maximum rake at different stake levels in its Help Center. The lowest they charge is 20 cents, and the highest is $3. This makes it a pretty good option if you’re looking for a low-rake US poker site.

While most rake is a fixed percentage of the pot, it is also possible for the rake to be a fixed amount regardless of the size of the pot.

What Are the Different Types of Rake in Poker?

Casino rake can be collected in several different ways. Poker game hosts can use the rake however they see fit, as long as it’s legal. Some of the most popular options include:

✅ Pot Rake

This is the most common way to collect rake. It takes a percentage directly from the pot. At live casinos, the dealer will remove the chips from the pot while the hand is in play. The poker software will usually automatically take the rake from the pot in online games.

Always check the site’s terms and conditions to see the house rake rates before you play.

✅ Time Collection

As the name suggests, the time collected rake is taken at a specific time. It’s usually every half-hour while the game plays out, and it can be removed in two ways. It’ll either be a set amount taken from each player or a set amount taken from the first pot over a certain amount.

✅ Dead Drop

The rake is placed on the dealer button on each hand by the player operating in that position. The dealer then takes the money before any playing cards are dealt out. This is a set fee for every hour played at a poker table, regardless of the pot size.

✅ No Flop, No Drop

Most poker rooms have a “no flop, no drop” rule. This means that if there is no flop in a game, there is no rake to pay either. This happens regardless of how large the pot size gets.

It’s most common when you play the Hold’em poker variation of the game. It’s used a lot here because players regularly fold before the flop. If they didn’t implement “no flop, no drop”, they’d be penalizing players for a common part of that game type.

✅ Dealt Rake

This is the simplest poker rake structure to understand, although it’s often accused of being unfair. It arguably rewards tight players much more than those who play many hands.

With a dealt rake, players are charged a fee for every hand they are dealt into. This means that, whether you fold or play to the end of the game, you’ll be charged the same fee just for being dealt into the game. So, while you haven’t played the game, you’ve still paid the rake just like those who did.

✅ Contributed Rake

Most online poker rooms have moved from dealt rake to contributed rake. This variation was introduced to try and make rake as fair as possible to every player at the table.

Contributed rake in poker only applies the rake fee to players who have actively participated in the hand. It then calculates how much each player has contributed to the pot overall.

It’s not completely fair, though. Aggressive players might contribute more to the pot overall as they play more hands for more rounds than others.

✅ Weighted Contributed Rake

This is one of the fairest forms of poker rake available today. It assigns the rake by the amount each player adds to the pot.

If you’ve contributed 50% of the pot, you would also be attributed 50% of the rake paid in that hand. If you contributed 10%, you’d be attributed 10% of the rake. That’s what makes it weighted. It doesn’t favor any play style and is one of the fairest types of rake used in poker.

✅ Hybrid Rake

The newest type of rake fee is the hybrid rake, a combination of the other types.

Casual players make the most deposits at online poker platforms. Yet most of that money tends to fall into the hands of the skilled professionals, who don’t deposit often.

Looking for games with a hybrid rake can be a great addition to your overall poker strategy. It’s especially helpful for beginners as it can protect less aggressive play styles by preventing them from paying more into the rake than aggressive players.

Should Rake Change Your Poker Strategy?

You should always consider the rake in any poker game you’re playing. It should be an important part of your overall poker strategy. While you should always base your play on how strong your poker hands are, a high or low rake can change how you play.

A higher rake lowers your expected value (EV). In essence, it forces you to play a tighter style of poker. It also means you’ll spend more joining the game and have a lower pot than you expect at the end.

For games with a higher rake, there’s less reward for gambling on low-chance hands that might not win big pots. It can also eat into your bankroll over time, meaning you’ll get to play fewer hands and games overall.

For games at low rake tables, you can risk going for a wider range of starting hands as there’s more money to play with. You’ll also be less concerned about taking risks, as you have more money to fall back on than if the rake was high.

Can You Beat the Rake in Poker?

While it’s possible to beat the rake in poker, really you just have to accept it as part of the game.

You should work on your poker skills rather than trying to beat the rake. It’s not something that stops you from winning or costs you a massive amount of money compared to losses at the table.

However, you should follow the advice below if you want to try and beat the rake in poker:

  • Avoid Small Pots – Games with small pots aren’t as good as large pots when trying to beat the rake. The larger the pot, the less affected it is by losing a percentage of it to the rake amount.For example, a theoretical $50 pot is raked $5 – exactly 10%. A $150 pot is also raked at a maximum of $5, 3.33% of the total prize pot.
  • Avoid Short-Stacked Games – Short-stacked games are more likely to be impacted by the amount of rake taken from them. Short-staked games usually have smaller pots, and rake takes more money from them as a percentage.You should always aim to play at medium, or deep-stacked games if you’re trying to beat the rake.
  • Blind Steal for Profit – Going for a blind steal in a game is possibly the best way to beat the gambling rake. If the rake is taken from a pot that goes to a showdown, the blind steal can avoid this step. In other words, you could win the pot before the rake is taken.While it won’t save you much, it’s a way to make small gains if you can pull it off.

Finding the Lowest-Rake Poker Games

Poker players don’t like to lose money, so the lower the rake payments, the better. Especially as less rake usually means a bigger prize pot to pick up. So, how do you find the best low-rake games around?

✅ Ask the Floor – If you’re in a land-based venue, you can always ask other people playing live games at the casino to help you find low-rake tables. The best bet is to ask the poker dealers. They’ll know the high-raked tables to avoid, and where the best low-rake options are.

✅ Ask Online – Rather than search around from poker site to poker site for the best low-rake tables to play online, there is a better way. Spend some time at various forums like Reddit. You can ask the online community where they enjoy playing and use that to help inform your decision.

Live chat is another great option at online poker sites. As you get to know other players in poker tournaments and games, you can ask for advice on finding the lowest rake sits and tables.

✅ Compare Poker Sites – Visit online poker sites like BetOnline or Bovada. They will have sections displaying their rake structures so you can compare them easily.

✅ Read our Dedicated Poker Reviews – Our experts have rated and reviewed dozens of the best online poker sites, looking at the rake, range of games, promotions, and more. You’ll be able to see which option works best for you, getting the most bang for your buck with the lowest rake around.

Sites with the Lowest Poker Rakes Online

Various online sites exist that provide top-quality poker gameplay and low rake levels. The table below highlights some of the best poker rooms you can enjoy for less:

Online Poker Site Rake Percentage Rake Cap Tournament Fees
Bovada Poker 5% $4 10% of the buy-in
BetOnline 5.56% $3.50 10% of the buy-in

Are Rake Back Bonuses Worth It?

Rakeback is a player rewards scheme that began back in 2004. Some online poker sites return part of the take or tournament fees to a player, as an incentive for them to keep returning and playing there.

Some of the different types of rakeback promotions include:

  • Flat Rakeback – You get a fixed amount of rakeback, usually up to 50%. It’s the simplest type of rakeback promotion around.
  • Tiered Rakeback – Generally your amount of rakeback will vary depending on how much you’ve played on that website.
  • VIP Rakeback – VIP offers are better versions of tiered rakeback. You’ll usually get a higher percentage back based on your VIP level.
  • Rake Races – A more fun variation, rake races are competitions to see who can win the most rake. It will usually be a leaderboard, with the top positions getting the most rakeback.
  • Rakeback Boosts – These promotions increase rakeback for a certain amount of time. It could be anything from 30 minutes to a weekend-long event or more.

Everyone has their preference when it comes to rakeback offers. All online card rooms will offer promotions at some point, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with the types above so you know what’s likely to suit you best. Remember to check the T&Cs before you join any promotion.

Conclusion: Should You Worry About Poker Rakes?

Rake can be a divisive topic. Those who oppose it claim that no-rake poker would be better as it wouldn’t take money out of the final pot. However, given the percentage of rake is usually quite small, there isn’t much money lost.

Generally, rake only becomes an issue in certain situations. Mainly, it’s when you’re playing low-stakes games where the percentage removed can feel more significant. You can minimize its impact by playing at tables with higher stakes, or adjusting your strategy to minimize your losses.

Ultimately, rake needs to exist in poker. Casinos and poker rooms need income to make running games affordable. That’s how most of the rake is spent – on salaries, software, and other costs. By understanding what rake is, and the different rake types, learning to change your strategy if needed, you won’t need to worry about it.

Poker Rake – FAQs

Why are rakes illegal in poker?

Can you beat the rake in poker?

What is a good rake in poker?

What is the house rake in poker?

Responsible Gambling

Gambling can be a fun way to spend your time, but it can also become harmful if you don’t engage in it carefully. Responsible gambling is the practice of safe gambling, and it’s a useful tool for controlling your poker bankroll. It’s also a great way to avoid developing a gambling addiction. You can keep your gambling in check by:

  • Setting time limits.
  • Setting a budget.
  • Only playing when sober.
  • Not gambling when angry or upset.
  • Not chasing losses.

If you think your play is getting out of control, or if you notice any change in your gambling, you should get help. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) is always available. They provide useful self-assessment tools, with text, call, and live chat support available if you need it.