Poker – Why the House Doesn’t Care If I Win or Lose

By Greg Reed
Published on October 09, 2017
person-playing-online-poker

Most casino games have one major thing in common- I am playing against the house. When the dealer wins, I lose. If I win, the dealer loses. Whether playing in person or online, there is a mathematical disadvantage I’m competing against.  I was looking for a game where I could play against other actual people and the house didn’t care who won. Luckily, I found poker!

This blog is intended to explain the how’s and the why’s. Any question you might have about what makes poker different or how the casino makes money from the players will be answered. Chances are after reading this blog you will be chomping at the bit to get your deposit in and start playing poker!

What Makes Poker Different?

This blog is not meant to explain the rules and strategies of poker. If you need, feel free to browse through this refresher on the rules of Texas Hold’em. Now before I get into how the casino makes money from hosting poker games, I first to need to make sure you understand how the other games work.

Playing Games Against the House

Blackjack, roulette, craps, and slot machines are all unique forms of gambling. On the outside, they appear to be different from one another. What some people do not realize is that there is a central theme among all of those games- there is no competition between gamblers.

In the games above, I am playing against the dealer, against the casino. Sure, there is basic strategy involved and recommended tactics to follow. But sorry to break the news to you- these aren’t skill games and there is no such thing as “being good at blackjack.”

The way these games are monetized in the casino is simple. The rules are set up in such a way that the player loses in the long run. There are fixed odds to ensure the casino will come out ahead the longer I continue to play. Of course, sometimes I can win. Heck, some slot machines pay out as much as 97% of the money that is deposited into them. That number appears bloated due to large jackpot payouts. The majority of gamblers will lose while a very small percentage will walk away ahead thanks to a large payout.

The point is if I am playing against the house, how will I improve and get better to try and win more money? I won’t.

Unfortunately, these games are intended purely for entertainment and to keep the casinos afloat. I am not supposed to win at these games- if I did, casinos would not exist. The casinos are able to flourish in part because of all the money they make from players losing at gambling.

Every single game you see on the casino floor is structured in a way that the house will beat the player in the long-run. Even simple games like Casino War and Keno are formatted in a way that the casino will come out ahead over the long-haul. If you are looking for that one game where the house doesn’t care if you win or lose, stop searching. We found the game for you, and it’s called poker.

Poker on the Other Hand

The way in which the casino makes money from poker players is an entirely different model than the one of other table games and slot machines.

Rake

This is a term that all poker players should be aware of. Poker players aren’t playing against any sort of fixed odds or percentages like the table game and slot machine players are. If I make $10,000 or I lose $10,000 during a poker session-the casino doesn’t care. Period. If I won, someone else lost. The casinos just collect the rake.

“Rake” is simply the money taken out of the pot or buy-in. It is a service fee of sorts. This can be used to pay staff members, rent equipment, hire a band, etc.

The poker rake will be different depending on what version of poker you are playing and where you are playing. Let me show what I mean in the sections below.

Rake in Poker Tournaments

Before I enter any poker tournament, I always check the structure sheet that explains the breakdown of my buy-in. When I enter a $500 poker tournament, not all $500 is going towards the prize pool.

A standard poker room will take around 15% of the buy-in as “rake.” In a $500 event, expect around $425 to go towards the prize pool. The $75 taken out is referred to the “juice.” In a live setting, this money is used to pay dealers and tournament directors as well as rent equipment like automatic card shufflers.

When you enter a $600 tournament, the buy-in may be listed as $520+$80. All this means is $520 is going towards the total prize pool. The additional $80 is taken out as rake.

In an online setting, the rake is significantly less- generally around 9-10%. This is because the sites don’t need to pay a large staff of people to run the event. Once their website is up and running, the tournaments run like clockwork.

Rake in Cash Games

The way the rake is taken out during cash games is a different process. Most cash games adopt the policy of taking a small percentage of each pot. About 10% of the pot is withheld as rake. $4-$5 is the typical cap on the amount that can be raked from a cash game pot. In a $5 capped rake game, once the pot exceeds $50, the cap comes into play.

This means if I win a big 3-way all-in pot for $3,000, they aren’t taking 10%, in this case, $300. The designated cap of $4 or $5 would come into play.

Time-pots are another way that cash games can take rake from the players. This is the common practice in higher limit games, such as $5-$10 No Limit and above. Every 30 minutes, the dealer collects $6 or $7 from each player. This serves as a substitute for taking rake from each individual pot. In timed-pot games, the dealer will not take any money from the pots.

A tip I learned and suggest moving forward is knowing when to end your session and leave the table in timed-pot games. I know the dealers will be rotating at the top of every hour and at the 30-minute mark, which is when the money is collected. By leaving right before the dealer change occurs, I am maximizing my time in the game and exploiting a small imperfection in the timed-pot games.

The Takeaway

I hope that by reading this blog you walk away with a solid base of knowledge for how the casinos and online sites make money off their customers. The casino games are not designed for gamblers to win money. This, however, doesn’t mean consumers aren’t entitled to knowing the rules and understanding the odds they are up against.

Poker is a perfect game for those of you with competitive backgrounds. If you like to outwork and beat your opponent, stop waiting. Sign up for an online poker site now.

If you want to stay away from all those fixed-percentages and playing against the house- I suggest you try playing poker at any of our recommended sites.

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