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You’ve all heard of rake in poker, but what exactly is it, how is the amount determined, what are the different sorts of rake and how does rake differ in tournaments and cash games? Read on for answers to all those questions.

What is rake in poker?

In simple terms rake is a commission that is paid to the cardroom, casino or individual for operating and running the poker tournament or cash game. In tournaments it is part of the entry fee you pay and in cash games it is usually a fixed percentage of the pot up to a maximum capped amount.

How does rake work in poker?

It differs depending on where you’re playing and if you’re playing online or live, but for example on PokerStars when you pay $109 to enter a tournament $100 goes towards the prize pool that players can win and $9 is retained by PokerStars. For tournaments on PokerStars this information is always clearly displayed under the tournament structure tab, for example: $100 of every buy-in is added to the prize pool; $9 is retained by PokerStars.

When playing live poker the rake breakdown is usually clearly indicated in the structure sheet or advertising of the tournament and often the buy-in will be listed, for example, as $250+$25 meaning $250 goes towards the prize pool and $25 is retained by the cardroom or casino operating the tournament.

When it comes to PokerStars Live tournaments this information is available on the PokerStars Live app and website. To use the EPT Main Event in Monte Carlo as an example. The buy-in was €5,300 and this breaks down as €4,850 which goes towards the tournament prize pool, €300 House Fee and €150 Staff Charge, the latter goes towards paying the staff who run the tournament, the dealers, floor staff and tournament directors.

If you’re ever unsure of the rake breakdown for a live tournament or cash game you should speak to a member of the staff at the venue.

In cash games, well it depends on who is operating and running the game, and there is no universal way in which the rake is taken or determined. But the most common form, and the one that PokerStars uses, is a % of the pot which is capped at a certain amount, based on the stakes being played.

For example on PokerStars if you’re playing $0.01/$0.02 NLHE or PLO then the rake is 3.50% of the pot, capped at $0.30. If you’re playing a bit higher than that, say $3/$6, then it’s 5% of the pot capped at $1.50 if there are 2-4 players at the table and $3.50 if there are five or more players at the table.

At our live events it will differ from venue to venue, but to use EPT Monte Carlo as an example at €2/€5 the rake was 3% of pot, capped at €15.

A common rule that most cardrooms operate, including PokerStars, is ‘no flop, no drop’. On PokerStars, we do not charge rake if the hand ends on the first betting round. This is before the flop in Hold’em or Omaha, before Fourth Street in Stud variants, or before the Draw in Draw variants.

A poker dealer collects different coloured poker chips from the table.

Rake is the fee taken by the cardroom or casino for running and operating the game

Are there different types of rake?

There are, we’ve already covered the common forms of tournament rake, but in cash games it can get a little bit more complicated with differing rules at different online cardrooms and bricks and mortar casinos. Let’s run through the most common variants you’ll find.

Pot rake

The most common form of rake in cash games is pot rake, already discussed above, this is a fixed % of the pot and is usually capped at an advertised amount. Most commonly the rake will be calculated at the conclusion of the hand just before the pot is awarded to the winner of the hand.

Dead drop

The cash game equivalent of the button ante in tournaments, a ‘dead drop’ is a fee that is paid each hand by the player on the button and is placed on the button before the start of the hand.

Fixed fee

A fixed amount that is paid every hand and doesn’t change based on pot size or any other factor.

Timed collection

Also known as table charge, instead of collecting a fee from the pot a fixed amount is paid by each player at the table, usually this is collected at 30-minute intervals.

Tournament fees

Part of the buy-in for a tournament is a fee that is kept by the operator of the tournament. For example if you pay $55 to enter a tournament, $50 will go towards the prize pool and $5 will be kept by the operator as their rake fee.

No rake

Occasionally there may be game(s) in which no rake is taken.

There are many different ways in which cash games are raked with no set rules from cardroom to cardroom

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