Figuring a proper cost for poker players and casinos

Apr 10, 2018 3:00 AM

Casinos and cardrooms are in business to make a profit. Otherwise they would not exist. As a matter of fact, not all casinos are successful. For example, in Atlantic City five casinos closed between 2014 and 2016.

So, it’s reasonable – perhaps essential – that there be a cost to play the games they offer. There is no question a poker room has huge expenses, including salaries for its staff and countless other operational costs. It usually must pay a fee to the local community where it operates. And, of course, those dollars must come from its patrons – poker players like you and me. There is a cost to play.

There seems to be some controversy as to how to measure the cost of poker and its significance. Some poker experts would consider the cost as how much you put into the pot in blinds, antes, and forced bring-ins. With that, I do not agree. Those chips stay in the game, distributed among the players.

In my opinion, a much better definition of the cost of poker is the money (chips) removed from the game as it is being played, hand after hand. That money is no longer available to the players involved.

In this case, we are referring to each player’s share of the casino rake, tips – primarily those to the dealer, and the bad-beat jackpot drop. (If you ever get lucky enough to win that jackpot, then we might overlook it as a cost factor for you.) To reiterate, these are chips that are removed from the game, primarily for the casino’s benefit; whereas, the blinds and antes remain in the game.

You might argue the casino should pay its dealers a higher salary so they need not look for tips to pay their bills. But, we must accept the situation as it is – or else play only in home games or online (no dealer to tip), or find a different form of recreation.

Rather than quibble over how best to count your cost-to-play, let’s consider whether this is important. To what extent will this cost affect your winnings – or losses – at the end of each session? I estimate the cost in low/middle limit hold’em games as about $25/hour of play, per person. That’s significant.

Say you play for six hours during a session, then your cost totals about $150. In $4-$8 low-limit hold’em, most players start out with a rack of 100 chips. That $150 cost represents 1.5 full racks. Some, perhaps less-opulent souls, buy-in for as little as $40; for them, that $150 cost represents almost four buy-ins.

What’s more, this cost-to-play estimate is based on 30-35 hands dealt per hour. If more hands are dealt (some dealers are more expert at speeding up the game), the cost-to-play is even higher!

Furthermore, my estimate is based on a full table (9 or 10 players). With fewer players at the table, your share of the total cost further increases – even if the rake is slightly decreased. Most players realize this, and will sit out the game when the number of players at the table drops to five or less.

Do not dismiss the cost to play as unimportant. Any recreational activity that costs $150 for an evening (and could cost even more), is expensive. We all want to go home winners. To do so, we need to win more than this cost-to-play. No wonder the vast majority (my guess: 80 to 90 percent) of poker players are losers. The cost of poker is important!

To our readers: What’s your opinion? Your comments are invited.

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