Beating the rake in cash games

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Cory | Poker Articles, Poker Cash Games, Poker Rakeback

Submitted by Cory, this article belongs to the Poker Cash Games series.

If you play in low stakes games, you need to be more aware of how the rake effects how you should play.  My bread and butter game is currently $1-$2 no limit.  One of the major reasons I’m able to come out ahead consistently in this game is because I’m always cognizant of how I need to adjust my strategy with the rake as a factor.  Rooms vary significantly on how they get their cut, but if you’re playing in a low stakes live game, the rake is often going to be as much as 10% of the pot and this should help you beat it.

This is how the rake in my favorite room works.  If a flop is seen $4 gets dropped.  It doesn’t matter if the pot is $10 or $100.  Plus if you win a pot most times you’re going to tip $1.  So, it costs you $5 to win a pot.  Let’s say you lose $10 in a pot, you’ll need to win $15 to get even.  This can be kind of tough.  Here are some ways that will help you climb that mountain.

Play even tighter from early position.  Often times in cash games it’s pretty standard to limp from middle position with suited connectors and suited aces.  Watch out though, in a small game this might not be a great idea.  Even if your dream happens and you see a six way flop with 87S for just $2 you’re thinking that you’ve got $12 in the pot, remember you actually only have $8 in the pot and if you win and tip, it’s only $7.  So even given your immediate pot odds 7:2 or 3.5:1 is just over half the price you were getting if you were in a game with no rake or tip.

The even bigger problem is if you limped in with this hand from early or middle position, it’s going to be much more difficult for you to get the maximum value if you should flop big.  If you flop the nuts, do you lead out?  Do you check raise?  Do you check call and lead the turn?  Do you check call and try to check raise the turn?  It’s very difficult not to completely polarize your range when playing out of position.

On line the rake is more player friendly, generally running at about 5%.  If you’re playing $1-$2 live, in order to match the 5% rake and tip, each pot you win will have to be $100 or more.  If you can get the pot over $100, you’ve maxed out the rake and the additional money you win is free.  That’s why if you’re going to play drawing hands, you must be in position so you have the best chance of building that huge pot when you flop the joint.

The next thing is don’t worry so much about the small pots.  If you’re playing $5-$10, taking down a small pot can pay for your gas and dinner.  At $1-$2 taking down a small pot is just allowing the casino to make their four or five bucks off you and get to the next hand quicker.  Of course sometimes you’re going to win a small pot when you flop big and don’t get any action, but don’t go after them.  If the pot is $6 and your opponent bets $2 you probably don’t have to call with that gut shot and over.  The pay off just isn’t going to be big enough as often as you’d need it to be.

Make sure you win more than your fare share of big pots.  If you play tight chances are you’re going to have the best of it more often than not when a big pot develops.  If the majority of pots that you win are $100 or more, you’ll beat the rake.  Keep in mind that you’re not going to be taking down monster pots very often, but if the game only costs $3 an orbit; you’ve got time to wait.  If you can average about a big pot every hour or so, you’ll be in good shape.  Remember, this is average, you’re not going to win a big pot once an hour, just like you’re not going to get aces on every 221st hand exactly, but sometimes you’ll drag two or three pots in an hour, other times you’ll go two or three hours without playing a hand.

The casino is taking about a rack off the table every hour.  Think of them as your tenth opponent who is guaranteed to take $100 an hour.  How would you play this opponent?  Very tight and very aggressive.  You’d build huge pots when you have the best of it and fold when your hand or the pot isn’t worth contesting.  If you do this you’ll see a nice little win rate start to develop and you won’t be throwing away money to the house.

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2 Comments to Beating the rake in cash games

June 20, 2010

I never thought, that rake can affect the poker game very much. Thanks for the article. No doubt, 5 stars. There are many interesting ideas to think about.

August 24, 2010

What about side pots?

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