How to make up the casino poker rake

December 22, 2015 3:00 AM


Casinos make their money by having an edge over the players in all games except poker. Edge is nothing more than an advantage.

The casino can readily adjust its edge to any amount it wants simply by setting the odds. The player’s skill can influence the amount.

For example, the money wheel (Big Six) figures to yield the casino as much as 24% of the money wagered. At the other extreme, in blackjack, the casino’s edge is only 0.25% for a card-counter with perfect strategy. But it’s 10% for the average player.

Slots are often advertised to yield a 90-95% payback. That would seem to indicate an edge for the casino of 5-10%. But, in actuality, the casino expects to keep about 20% of the money wagered.

How come? Well, the same starting amount of money may be recycled several times by the player during a single session. On average, the casino gets its “share” each time, with the casino “withholding” its edge as the total grows – until the player quits or goes broke.

Poker is different

Poker is a different “animal.” The casino gets its edge over the players primarily through the rake. That’s the chips withdrawn from the game as it is being played, and dropped through a slot on the table near the dealer, into a box just under the table. Periodcally security personnel will come to the table and remove the box – now heavy with lots of chips, and replace it with an empty one.

The money from the rake can really add up during a session to be a significant cost for each player. A typical rake in a limit game is $4 per hand dealt. On average, expect 33 hands to be dealt each hour of play. That amounts to $132 for the casino each hour the table is in operation.

If the table is full – nine players – then, on average, each player will have “contributed” about $15 per hour to the casino. Play for five hours; it has cost you $75. That could be more than your buy-in for a low-limit game. At a short-handed table, the player’s cost is even higher.

How to Get the Edge

You are not the casino so to go home a winner, you have to win enough to overcome the rake and other costs, including tips. The only one way to do that is by being better and more skilled than your opponents. An important start – the easiest way – is to know and abide by the Four Basic Rules for Winning at Poker:

Start each session with a goal. How much do you want to win? As you do so, there are money management concepts to help deal with variance.

Carefully select the game and table at which you play. Loose-passive opponents are best; avoid extremely tight and very aggressive players. Position, with respect to the various types of players, is important.

Play only those starting hands that have a good chance of winning. The Hold’em Algorithm is ideal for making that decision.

Focus on the game. Poker is a game of partial information; do whatever you can to get as much information as possible. Avoid distractions.

Of course, we should add that there are many strategies and tactics at which you can learn to be adept – skilled. Being expert at these is essential to gaining an edge over your opponents. These include the art of bluffing; the basic math of poker, counting your outs and estimating the card/pot odds to get a Positive Expectation; value betting; reading your opponents; looking for tells; using your image; reasons for raising; the Hold’em Caveat; Hi-Lo and dominated hands and the Two-Step.

That’s all it takes for you to gain the edge over your opponents in the game.

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