Taking a rake isn't just petty theft in a gardening store, it's what casinos and poker rooms do to be able to make money from poker games.
We'll be looking at the ways rake can be taken by the casino and what happens if you try to take a rake in your home game.
Taking a Rake Explained
In poker games, the 'rake' is the amount of money taken by the house for running the game. Rake is taken in both cash games and tournaments, though in different ways. Cash games take a rake from each pot, whereas tournaments will have the rake built-in to the buy-in.
The amount of rake taken will change depending on the game and the casino. The higher stakes the game, the lower the rake percentage tends to be. Some casinos charge a lot more rake than others so it pays to shop around for the best card room.
How Do Casinos Take a Rake for Specific Games
The way the casino takes the rake differs depending on the game type.
Cash Game Pot Rake
There are two ways that a poker cash game can be raked:
- with a dead drop
- with a time collection
This is the most common way of taking a rake. After each hand has been completed, a percentage of the pot will be taken by the casino before it is given to the winner of the hand. This percentage that the dealer takes is the rake. The average percentage taken from each pot is between 5-10%, and most casinos will cap the rake at a certain dollar amount.
The majority of casinos will only take a rake when a flop has been dealt, and will not if the pot ends preflop. This is commonly known as "no flop, no drop". However, some casinos will still insist on taking rake no matter what so try and find the one with the best rake structure.
Time collection is more commonly used in higher stakes cash games compared to lower stakes games. The primary reason is that they don't have small denomination chips in play that would commonly be used for taking rake. Instead, each player pays a set amount for every half hour/hour they're at the table. Commonly the amount charged will be between 1-3bb per half hour/2-6bb per hour.
This commonly works out cheaper for the players than raking each pot and acts as an incentive to get players playing at that casino.
For tournaments, there is only one way they can be raked as there is only one point where the players use real money rather than tournament chips - the buy-in. When a poker player buys into a tournament, a percentage of that buy-in is kept by the casino as the rake and the rest goes into the prize pool that the players are competing for.
For example, in a $100 tournament, you can expect around $15-$20 to be taken as rake by the casino, with the remaining $80-$85 going into the prize pool. The percentage of the buy-in taken as rake will vary on the casino and the buy-in amount - the higher the buy-in, the lower percentage is taken.
What Happens When Civilians are Taking a Rake?
However, if you're running a private poker game - especially in America and the UK, it is illegal to take a rake or make money in any way from running a poker game. There are some ways that players have gotten around this law, such as giving "gifts" to the host in the form of tips that substitute the rake - but this is a legal gray area.
A very famous example of this has recently been turned into a film - Molly's Game. It follows the story of Molly Bloom who runs a high-stakes poker game in New York in which A-list celebrities such as Tobey Maguire were rumored to play.
Initially, the game was not raked but Molly required tips from players in order for them to be invited back into the game. Technically the game was still legal at this point but later on, she decided to rake every pot for 2%, at which point the game became illegal.
While players don't like it, casinos taking a rake is a necessary evil to keep the game running. However, this doesn't mean you have to settle for a bad rake structure - avoid the casinos who charge too much rake!