Rake is the tax of the poker world. It’s the only way poker sites make money off games like poker in which the house has no advantage. Every pot you play and tournament you enter is subject to this tax. It’s not a big tax, but it adds up to significant amounts over time. If you’re not paying attention to the rake, you’re probably giving up more than you have to.
On this page, I have listed a few poker sites that have reasonable rake policies. These are the poker sites that you should visit first if you play poker frequently and would like to minimize the detrimental effects of the rake. Below, you can read more about how the rake works at various poker sites.
This table is ranked according to the average rake in no-limit and fixed limit games. To create these rankings, I looked at two factors: the average rake and maximum amount raked from each pot. This isn’t the most scientific approach, but I think the above table represents, in order, the best low rake poker sites for most players.
It’s important to compare both the rake % and the cap. For example, BetVictor charges what looks like a jaw-dropping 10% on micro stakes no-limit games below 0.05/0.10. This would be ridiculous on its own, but the cap per pot is just 0.10 which is quite a bit lower than the industry average. You’ll have to see the rake charts below to get a better indication of which poker site is the best for your exact game-type.
Tournaments are raked about 10% across the board, but it varies quite a bit from site to site and game to game. So for now, the focus on this page remains on cash games. I will do a similar page with a focus on SNGs/MTTs at some point in the future.
The effects of the rake aren’t apparent from hand to hand, but believe me; the rake has a huge impact on your long term rate of return. Playing in high rake games is akin to giving your money away. To prove my point, I submit the picture below:
This is a screenshot that shows about 200,000 hands I logged in PokerTracker during a period of high volume play. This picture is ancient, but the point it makes remains true to this day. If you look over to the second column from the right, you can see that I paid a total of $21,544.20 in rake over that stretch of time. I could have bought a new car with all that rake!
Granted, this is over the course of many hands but it does show how much the rake can add up. The scary thing is that isn’t even close to the total number of hands I’ve played in my poker career. I can distinctly remember paying upwards of $7,000 in rake in a single month several times. Even if you’re not a prolific grinder, the rake still represents a good chunk of potential earnings relative to your total return.
How the Rake Works
Poker sites make money by keeping a small percentage of every pot in cash games and charging players a small fee to participate in tournaments. The house has no stake in who wins or loses because it makes money no matter what. This is a good thing because it makes poker a game that you can actually beat over the long run. It doesn’t matter if you’re a losing player or you earn six figures a month; the poker site gets paid either way.
In cash games, the house sets aside a portion of every pot and keeps that as its source of income. The percentage ranges from about 2.5% to 5% depending on the site, stakes and number of players at the table.
Another thing you should note when comparing the rake in cash games is the “rake cap.” This cap states the maximum amount each poker site will take out of any single pot. The lower the cap, the better.
On average, tournaments come with a rake of about 10%. Rake is generated from tournaments by charging a fee that isn’t added to the prize pool. In a $10+$1 tournament, for example, $10 of each buyin goes towards the prize pool while the additional $1 is kept as income for the poker site.
Rake Policies at Major Poker Sites
This next section will explain how the rake works at major poker sites. The purpose of detailing all this for you is to help you make the best decision for your style of play. You will find that the best low rake poker sites for cash games are not the same as the best sites for tournaments.
Rake policies can be fairly complicated with sites charging varying amounts based on the game type, number of players and stakes. Most poker sites don’t actually express the rake as a percentage. Instead, they have a policy that states something along the lines of “$0.01 of every $0.20 is kept as rake.” This works out to about 5% over the long run, but the percentage can vary because the rake only bumps up when each pot reaches the next increment.
If a pot reaches exactly $1.00 for example, a poker site with the rake policy detailed above would keep $0.05 for a rake of exactly 5%. However, a pot of $1.19 would still only be charged $0.05 because the pot hasn’t yet reached the next increment (which would be $1.20). Larger increments work out better for the player because the rake only bumps up at each increment.
How Much Rake is Appropriate?
This is kind of a subjective topic to tackle, but I do have a few opinions on how much rake is “appropriate.” I don’t mind that the rake exists – poker sites have bills to pay too. What I do mind is excessive rake that serves no purpose but to drain money from the poker economy.
A rake of about 10% is appropriate in MTTs and SNGs. This percentage often gets smaller as you move up in stakes. If you play in a $20 tournament, it’s normal to see an additional fee of $2. Likewise, bigger tournaments often give you a break on the rake. $200 tournaments often come with fees of $15, which works out to a rake of 7.5%.
Sadly, it is the small stakes players who get hammered on rake the most. If you don’t play at the right poker site, you can find yourself paying 20-25% in rake for micro stakes SNGs and MTTs. I know that PokerStars, for example, has $1.00 SNGs in which $0.80 goes to the prize pool and $0.20 is kept as rake. You should make it a rule to never play anywhere that charges more than 10% in tournament fees.
The rake in cash games varies based on stakes – or at least it should. Low rake sites charge lower percentages at low stakes tables to give the player there a viable game that doesn’t just suck money from everyone.
Low stakes heads-up cash games are also known for having prohibitive rake. In both fixed limit and no-limit HU ring games, the rake hits often and hard due to the speed of play. You’re seeing more hands per hour, which means more pots per hour, which means more rake per hour. The best low rake poker sites understand this and give heads-up players a break. They often lower the rake percent or they only rake pots above a certain size.
No-flop, no-drop is a policy that should be in effect as well. This policy states that if the hand doesn’t make it to a flop, no rake is taken from the pot.
The best thing you can to do minimize the impact of the rake is to use the charts above to choose the poker site that has the lowest rake for your preferred game. The site that’s best for low stakes low limit games may not be the best site for no-limit heads-up ring games. Choose the site that works best for you.