Rake Traps, Part II: Online Poker
This is the second article in a two-part series about how to avoid paying too much rake. The first article detailed how to evaluate the rake at a brick and mortar casino. This article details several games online at certain sites that have higher rakes than usual.
The typical online rake is 5% up to a $3 maximum. For shorthanded and heads-up games, the rake is reduced significantly. Typically, a heads-up or three handed pot has a maximum $.50 or $1 rake, and a 4-5 handed game has a maximum rake of $2. A typical tournament has an entry fee that is equal to 10% of the buy-in. For tournaments with a buy-in of $100 or more, the entry fee is generally lower than 10%.
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While this rake structure is dominant on the internet, some sites charge a higher rake for certain types of games. It may be in a player's best interest to play these games at a different site that charges the lower, standard rake.
Cryptologic' pounds and euros tables and shorthanded tables
There are quite a few poker rooms that use Cryptologic software, including InterPoker, Betfair Poker, and Caribbean Sun Poker. With the exception of designated heads-up tables, the rake at this site is 5% up to 3 units of the currency the game is played. While this is fine for games in dollars with 6 people or more, it means no rake reduction is given for shorthanded games. It also means the rake is higher in pound and euro games, since the pound and euro are both worth more than the dollar. A max rake of 3 pounds is heck of a lot higher than a max rake of $3.
If you play on this network, avoid games with five players or less and also avoid mid-stakes or high-stakes games in pounds or euros. It should be noted that this rake structure is favorable for longhand $.50-$1 and $1-$2 games, since many sites have adjusted their rake structure to charge slightly higher than 5% in those games.
Pacific Poker's ring games
Almost every game at Pacific Poker has a higher rake than at other sites. Any no-limit game or fixed-limit game with stakes of $3-$6 to $30-$60 has a max rake of $4. The rake structure at the lower limits is steeper too. Some people are able to shrug off this extra rake since the games at Pacific Poker are much easier than at most sites, but this may change soon since Pacific Poker will soon be introducing multi-tabling.
Additionally, the 2-3 handed games have a max rake of $1.50 instead of $.50 or $1, making the rake quite brutal at these games (though not as bad as on the Cryptologic network). There is no rake reduction at all for 2-4 handed $.50-$1 or $1-$2 fixed-limit games and all no-limit games, so players should definitely avoid playing very short games at these stakes at Pacific. Most of the time, there are few games with less than 5 players at this site, so this should not be too big of a deal.
The only ring games at Pacific Poker where the rake structure is similar to most poker rooms are the longhanded $2-$4/$3-$6 games. While the max rake in these games is still higher than at most sites, very few times will the pot be big enough where the rake is over $3 anyway.
PokerRoom's low-stakes and mid-stakes ring games
Instead of a flat percentage of the pot, PokerRoom's rake structure is based on the number of big blinds in the pot. For example, in fixed-limit games with 5 players or more, PokerRoom takes .4 BB out of the pot (max $2) when there are 4 BB or more and 1 BB out of the pot (max $3) when there is 12 BB or more in the pot.
Though it's unlikely, PokerRoom's rake structure means that there is the potential for the rake to be up to 10% of the pot. For $10-$20 games or $5-$10 NL games or higher, the max rake means that this rake structure will not be higher than the standard rake. However, PokerRoom's rake structure can be pretty tough on players that play games such as $2-$4 limit.
Party Poker's $5+$1 tournaments
For the most part, Party Poker's rake structure is pretty standard. The entry fees charged for sit-and-go and multi-table tournaments are fairly typical as well. The one major exception is the $5 tournaments. For these tourneys, Party Poker charges a $1 fee instead of $.50. While most players are not too concerned about ponying up the extra $.50, it will add up over the course of time and significantly affect a person's win rate at that level.
The rake charged for $.50-$1 games is also slightly higher than the typical 5% up to $3 since they take a $.50 rake at $5 (and then an additional $.25 at $12 or $20).
Paradise Poker's high buy-in multi-table tournaments and rebuy tournaments
Paradise Poker's ring games and single-table tournaments have a typical rake structure. However, their multi-table tournaments deduct 9% from the prize pool, including rebuys and add-ons. For low buy-in freezeouts, this amounts to a typical rake structure. For tournaments with buy-ins of $100 or more, this represents a higher entry fee than average. Furthermore, most poker rooms do not charge an entry fee for rebuys and add-ons, but Paradise Poker does.