Trap Of The Rake Cap

A few days ago I posted a comparison between Pokerstars and Betsafe (part of the Microgaming Network) in the Poker Ecosystem Facebook group. It shows the rake structures used by these poker sites, the rakeback percentage as well as potential first-deposit/reload bonuses, to show you the influence of these important factors on your winrate. A lot of players complain about the rake structure of Pokerstars, but compared to industry standards it’s actually quite good. Though, the lack of rakeback and bonuses these days (approx. 5%) makes the combination a lot less attractive and there are alternative sites out there that benefit your winrate a lot more, like Betsafe, as shown in the example.

If you’re playing no-limit hold’em or pot-limit omaha below the 100 & 200 stakes ($0,50-1 & $1-2 blinds) at sites like 888Poker or Partypoker please pay close attention, you might be stuck in the ‘trap of the rake cap‘!

I wrote this article to help players understand in what kind of environment they’re playing, and show how they can analyse the off-table factors themselves. I’m not saying you shouldn’t play 888Poker if you’re playing below NLHE/PLO100 because other factors than the rake structure can make up for it, but just to create awareness why it can be harder to win at one site compared to another.

Let’s take a closer look to a few rake structures. For comparing purposes we focus on a 6-max PLO25 table.

Below is the example of the Microgaming Network and this particular screenshot comes from the Betsafe site. Note that networks might have different sites using their platform but the rake structure is the same for all of them.

Betsafe charges 5% per pot and the rake cap is €0.60 for PLO25. This means that pots of €12 and bigger will be charged €0.60 since the cap is hit. With 100bb stacks of €20 it’s nice to pay only €0.60 in rake even when two stacks go all-in and the pot becomes €40. The rake charged is the same amount as at a €12 pot because of the aggressive rake cap. When you play tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of hands you can imagine what the impact is of paying only €0.60 as in the situation described, compared to €2 in rake on a €40 pot when 5% would be charged without a cap. That is what we see when we dive into Partypoker and 888Poker’s rake structures.

Both Partypoker and 888Poker charge 5% per pot at a PLO25 6-max table (1 cent for every 20 cent in the pot). At Partypoker the rake is capped at $3 and at 888 it’s $4. What does this mean?

In this example, we take a PLO25 6-max table in consideration. A 100bb stack is therefore $25. If two 100bb stacks go all-in, the pot will be $50. Considering the $3 rake cap at Partypoker, players get charged 5% per pot until the pot reaches the cap of $3, which corresponds to a total pot of $60. As you can see in the example, the majority of pots won’t ever reach this cap. Only when stacks get deeper this cap is reached but the relative advantage you have as player is therefore small. At 888Poker the rake is capped at $4 which means pots over $80 won’t get charged more than $4. We’re talking about a table with blinds $0.10-$0.25 cents. Effectively, these caps are hardly ever met and if you compare this with the Betsafe cap of €0.60, thus pots of €12 and above won’t get charged with more than €0.60, you can easily see what an enormous impact this has on the total rake paid by players. Party and 888 will both charge 5% for almost all pots above the €12 until they hit their cap (hardly ever), whereas at Betsafe not more than €0.60 will be charged. Think about the frequency these pot sizes will occur and you can imagine the difference it makes.

Below is the rake structure that the GG Network obtains. The reason to look into a PLO25 table is because at GG the rake charged is 3% uncapped for just pot-limit omaha. For no-limit hold’em they have caps in place.

Most of the time when I speak to poker players about uncapped rake they somewhat freak out. It’s uncapped! To a certain extent they’re right. Consider a 5/10 table where two 100bb stacks go all-in for a total pot of $2000, then 3% corresponds to $60 rake. Since it’s uncapped, this is the amount charged. Compare this to the regular 3 Euro or Dollar cap of most regular sites and you’ll see why players are right being very cautious with uncapped rake. Always make sure the environment is worth to play in and calculate the impact of uncapped rake on your winrate.

I’ve done some calculations and for PLO10-50 this 3% uncapped rake is actually within the top-3 of rake structures! If you play PLO200 or above you have to be more cautious as the rake quickly adds up.

If we compare the above sites for a PLO25 6-max table given different pot sizes, let’s check the difference in the rake being charged.

(assume €12 equals $14 approximately, and €0.60 equals $0.70)



What I want to show you in this article is that although there are rake caps in place for allmost all regular sites at lower stakes, the stakes where the impact of rake plays a relative larger role, a lot of these caps are actually never met. As a result, most sites are effectively charging 5% per pot, uncapped! Therefore, the 3% uncapped at the GG Network is obviously good for the stakes where other sites actually charge 5%. Don’t fall for the trap of the rake cap: if you play the lower stakes, for example at Partypoker or 888, take the unfavorable rake structure into account and make sure other factors are worth playing at these sites! If you doubt it, consider other options like the GG Network, Betsafe or Unibet, sites that I consider to be the top-3 regarding rake structures for lower stakes.



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