Noting costs to play

Noting costs to play

July 03, 2018 3:00 AM


There is a significant cost to play poker in casinos and cardrooms. You cannot fault the casino; it has substantial expenses and must make a profit to stay in business. If you won’t accept these costs, you could seek a home game – as do many recreational players. Your choice.

In a low-limit hold’em game, cost to play runs about $25 per hour. How is that? There are three parts of the cost:

1. The casino’s rake of $5 each hand played. (It’s more in higher limit games.)

2. The Bad Beat Jackpot drop of another $1.

3. The tip to the dealer – usually $1. (You are not obligated to tip, but that is the accepted convention when you win a pot. On a huge win, the tip may be bigger.)

That totals $7 per hand. Play (typically) 30 to 35 hands per hour, that amounts to $210 to $245 per hour, divided among the nine people at the table (including you). That’s $23 to $27 per hour for each player. Let’s round it off to $25. Play a seven-hour session and cost averages $175. To go home a winner you must win more than that. No wonder about 80 percent (maybe more) of the players are losers.

And, what’s more, if that is not enough to get your attention, the cost to play could very well be even higher. If it’s a short-handed game – say seven players on average in every hand, each player’s share of the cost increases to $30 per hour. Now your seven-hour session will cost you $210 (7 x $30).

Yet another way the cost to play can grow is if the dealer is especially deft, speeding up each hand so as to deal out more than 30 hands per hour. I have observed that some dealers can deal out as many as 40 hands each hour of play. Dealers have incentive to speed up the game. The more hands dealt, the more tips they get. I’m sure the casino likes that, too, as its profits increase.

Discussing this situation with a friend, she raised a good question: How can I reduce the cost to play for myself? What’s the lowest cost? Then she added, “I don’t care about the other players.”

Here’s what I told her:

First of all, you cannot reduce the cost to play as it is used today – your share of the table’s costs; but there are some things you can do to reduce your personal cost. Most important, you can win bigger pots (more chips) for the same cost to play. That could well make the difference in whether you go home a winner or a loser. After all, isn’t that your main goal? Furthermore, you should rarely play marginal or mediocre starting hands; and don’t chase. Let me explain:

1. Be especially careful in selecting your starting hands. As a result, you will get involved in fewer losing hands, saving lots of chips. Sure, you win less often but likewise you tip less often.

2. Don’t ever chase – even if you have a strong hunch. Calling bets with drawing hands having few good outs will lose many more hands than it will win. But you are still tipping the dealer on those you get lucky and win.

3. Try to build the size of the pots for those hands where you are the favorite to win. Toward that end, learn strategies such as slow-playing, trapping and check-raising. The cost to play is the same regardless of the size of the pot, so you will net out many more chips.

In short, you may be winning fewer hands, but the bigger pots more than make up for that – at the same cost to play. Result: Your personal cost to play is proportionately smaller – and you are sure to win more chips.