What Is Rake in Poker and How to Calculate It?

Most poker games and variants involve a rake but this often misunderstood or entirely ignored by less experienced players. It is certainly easy to do so, but not paying attention to the rake is an easy way to hand over the edge to your opponents.

The following article will dive deeper into what exactly a rake is in poker and how it is calculated.

What Is Rake?

poker chips betIn simple terms, a rake is a commission taken by the casino. This is usually scaled and put towards operating costs.

Rake can be collected at the start of play via buy-in costs for tournaments. Alternatively, it can be claimed as a percentage of each pot during the game.

If you have played in a casino, spotting the rake is far more apparent as the dealer removes chips from the pot of most hands. Online, however, the rake will be shown on-screen with a figure but is often ignored by many players.

Commonly, 2.5% to 10% of each pot is collected as the rake. There are also other non-percentage methods for the house to collect the rake.

It should go without saying, but higher rakes are worse from the point of view of the players.  Bigger players can often negotiate better rakes via VIP schemes and some sites offer cashback of a percentage of the rake.

How does rake work?

poker rake

Rake can be taken in many ways. Here is a rundown of some of those ways and how each work:

Pot Rake

Perhaps the most common type of rake is the previously mentioned pot rake. Here, a percentage rake is taken directly from the pot, either manually in a land-based casino or automatically online. This percentage is most commonly on a sliding scale with a maximum cap.

Dead Drop

This variation of rake collection sees one player pay the rake for each round. The fee is put on the dealer button by the player on the button and is collected by the dealer ahead of the card dealing. This is a far less commonly seen method of rake collection compared to pot rakes.

Time Collection

This method is also known as a ‘table charge’ or as a ‘timed rake’. As the name suggests, it operates based on time, usually a set half-hour period. Time rakes are the preferred method of rake collection for high limit poker games.

There are two different ways of collecting this type of rake. The first is based on player time and collects a set amount from every player in the game. The second is known as ‘time pot’ and a set value is taken from the first pot exceeding a predetermined total.

Fixed Fees

This type of rake is self-explanatory. Fees are fixed ahead of the game meaning the rake does not change. Fixed fees come in two different variants:

Tournament fees are used in cash games and the rake is taken for taking part in these poker tournaments is requested as an entree fee. This will often be denoted in the buy-in price by a ‘+’ followed by the rake alongside the initial buy-in fee. This additional house fee is also called the ‘vig’. Sometimes the fixed fee rake is included within the total price and is listed within this fee.

Meanwhile, subscription fees are used by some online poker platform providers. These usually come in a monthly deal and include a rake total, meaning no rake is taken for individual pots, games, or tournaments thereafter.

Rake Free

A select number of online poker platforms have abandoned rake fees. They have done so by generating income via other means, frequently directing traffic to casino pages and sportsbooks. Other sites do not charge a rake fee if you are a frequent visitor. Reduced rakes may also be available for less frequent visitors to these sites.

However, as there are often large costs associated with operating an online poker platform (servers, marketing, etc.), you might be hard-pressed to find many rake-free games. What you may find instead, are short-term promotional offers for new players, providing an incentive to sign-up and give the platform a go.

How Is Rake Calculated, How Does It Vary?

The rake is calculated in a different way depending on the type of game. For cash games, the rake is dependent on the pot size, whereas, for tournaments, the predetermined take total is built into the buy-in fee.

Rake Calculations for Cash Games

poker rake being taken from pile of chipsAs alluded to above, the way in which rake is collected will vary depending on whether you are playing poker in person or online. In online games, the rake will typically depend on the stake and is often set around the 5% mark.

In casinos, the rake can sometimes be higher at around 10% with a maximum cap included. In general, the higher the stakes, the smaller the relative rake. Naturally, rakes will vary from platform to platform, so it’s worth comparing various sites to make sure you’re getting good value out of your money.

Many poker rooms and online platforms will employ the ‘no flop, no drop’ rule. This means that no rake is taken if the hand does not reach the flop. This is irrespective of how large the pre-flop pot might be or how many players are involved in the hand. Obviously, this is a positive for players who stand to win more during these situations.

Rake Calculations for Tournaments

live poker game during tournamentFor tournaments, the rake is more often than not included within the buy-in. As with above, the higher the stake, the lower the rake. Tournament buy-ins will be expressed in one of two ways:

£’buy-in fee’ + £’rake’


£’ buy-in’ (with rake included within that price)

The rake total demanded by each poker site has to be a top consideration when picking a poker platform. Rakes can vary hugely between poker rooms so this is well worth bearing in mind.

How Much Does Rake Cost?

poker chips in shape of a question markThere’s no hard and fast answer to this. Rakes vary depending on what platform you choose to play poker on, but there are universal standards that you can expect most operators to adhere to.

Fans of micro stake games will know that the rake is far from kind. The lower the stakes, the higher the rake. Even the biggest and best poker sites can’t offer the best rakes when it comes to micro stakes so be mindful of this if you decide to try your hand at this sort of game.

Meanwhile, high stakes players will have relatively low rakes compared to the amount staked. Obviously, as this is a percentage the actual fee paid in the rake is far higher, even though the percentage will be lower than a micro stakes game.

Rakeback Rewards Based On Contribution

RewardsIf you’re looking for some form of reward from your rakes, ‘rakeback’ is the route to go. This rewards method has been around for the best part of two decades and rewards online poker players. Regular tournament players are provided with the incentive of rakebacks for continuing to play on certain poker platforms.

There are two different methods of working out the value of rakeback – these are known as ‘dealt’ and ‘contributed’.

In the dealt type, every player dealt into the hand receives the same amount of rakeback. Whereas in the contributed type, players are rewarded based on contributions to the pot. This method of rakeback is often used at brick-and-mortar casinos and is taken from the entry fee.

Many poker pros use rakeback as a way of upping their profit margins or minimising their losses. Some professionals can secure thousands each month through rakeback alone, depending on how often they play and the sorts of games they are involved in. This has even bred a specific type of pro known as a ‘rakeback pro’ that takes full advantage of the benefits of rakeback.

However, it’s important to note that not all poker platforms offer rakeback to their players. In some cases, rakeback is offered by affiliates whereas, in others, affiliates are not allowed to get involved with rakeback. In these cases, loyalty programmes are often offered as an alternative, rewarding players for loyalty and regular play.

How Does Rake Impact Strategy?

poker strategyThe presence of rake can influence players’ strategy by lowering their expected value. In essence, the higher the rake, the tighter a player is likely to play as a direct result. High rakes mean there is more at risk in each hand and so risk-taking is minimised by tightening up and playing safer hands.

In a game without rakes, players may be more willing to chance it on marginal calls, whereas high rake games will force players to reel it in and fold on those same hands. All this results in tiger gameplay around the table, with players less willing to play a hand knowing a potentially significant rake may be taken.

Some players also like to open bigger when rakes are higher. Whilst playing tight, these players will bet larger amounts when they do play a hand, showing additional strength and avoiding limping in. In addition, many recommend not to call river bets and many other strategies used in short-stack strategies.

How To Reduce The Impact

Betting SystemsThe best way to get the most out of poker games despite rake is to play high stakes. This doesn’t mean you should play outside your means – far from that. However, if you’re deciding whether to play a micro stake game or a higher stakes game, know that you won’t be hit so hard by the rake should you go for the latter.

Serious players will work out their profit per hour and will know that, although not always substantial, rake can diminish your returns if you choose to play lower stake games.

In addition to this, getting a solid rakeback is well worth looking at if you want to minimise the impact of rake. It’s definitely a good idea to compare the rakeback offered by different online poker platforms to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal out there.

As well as rakeback, it’s important to keep the rake itself in mind. Not all rakes are equal, and some platforms are certainly looking to make the most out of their players as possible. Don’t forget to check the rake before signing up to a new platform and making a deposit. Even if you win, you may not be getting the profit margins you would elsewhere, meaning your time isn’t being invested in the best possible way.

legalTaking a rake in a poker game is considered illegal in many jurisdictions if the party doing so is licensed by the proper authorities. This isn’t to say that playing poker for money in a private setting is illegal. As long as no one takes a rake, all is above board.

Laws on rakes, and to a larger extent, poker, naturally vary across the world. For this reason, it is important to be well-informed on the legalities of participating in a game of poker in your given jurisdiction.

For example in the UK commercial high-stakes poker is restricted to licensed casinos, meaning you can play in your own home, but the rules are far from black and white. If you are unsure about the legal side of things, make sure to do further research for your country/state of residence just to be on the safe side.

Final Thoughts

folding hand poker flying acesRake is a significant consideration in poker as it’s a part of most games you’ll come across. New beginners may not realise just how much of an impact it can have, both in terms of potential losses and even affecting gameplay. It’s important to shop around for the best platforms in terms of rake deals, whether these are rake-free promotional offers, reduced rake, or rakeback deals.

Reading user reviews and using comparison tools online is a great way to compare several poker platforms. Like this, you can get a strong understanding of which provider is offering the best service in terms of rakes and user satisfaction.