Online Poker Rake & Tournament Fees

Paying rake is one of the unavoidable costs of playing poker. It’s how poker rooms (live and online) make money. Remember that poker is very different to casino games such as blackjack and roulette where you play against the house. In casino games the house makes money because the odds are stacked against you – and they’ll win in the long run. But when you play poker you’re playing against your fellow opponents. So to make money for hosting the games, the poker rooms deduct a small amount from each pot in cash games, and charge an entry fee for tournaments.

It’s important to have a full understanding of how online poker rooms take rake, and that’s the aim of this section of our online poker guide. Let’s start by looking at how the rake is deducted from online poker cash games.

How Rake is Calculated for Online Poker Cash Games

The first online poker room to provide real money cash games was Planet Poker, and they devised a rake system of 5 percent of a pot up to $3 dollars. Unfortunately Planet Poker isn’t with us anymore, but to this day their original rake structure is still used by many online poker rooms.

While we can say that as a general rule, online poker rooms take around 5% from each pot – this is too simplistic. Each online poker room has a different rake policy, and their rake structure will vary depending upon the stakes, but also based on the following:

Number of Players – The amount of rake deducted from a hand will often vary depending upon the number of players at the table. This is based upon the number of players dealt into a particular hand, not the number of seats at the table.

Rake Increments – An online poker room might take $0.05 out of a pot when it reaches $1. This would equal 5 percent. Another online poker room might take out $0.01 for every $0.20 in the pot. At this rate a pot of $1 would also be raked the same $0.05 (or 5 percent), but the intervals at which rake is deducted makes a big difference. If the pot is $0.80 then $0.04 rake will have been taken from the pot, compared with a big fat zero. Over many poker hands this can make a big difference.

Maximum Rake – This is fairly self explanatory. It means the rake taken is capped at a certain amount. Most online poker rooms will not take any more than $3 from any pot, regardless of the stakes. But there are still differences between sites, which need to be taken into consideration.

It’s worth noting that all major online poker rooms (such as those featured on adopt a “No Flop, No Drop” rake policy. What this means is, a hand isn’t raked if the there’s no flop.

Now let’s compare the differences in rake policy for two of the leading online poker rooms…

Comparing the Rake Structures of Online Poker Rooms

The following chart shows the rake structure for pot limit and no-limit hold’em cash games at PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker.

Rake Structures

You’ll notice that PokerStars have a lower amount of rake at the micro-stakes than Full Tilt Poker. For example, in a $0.01/$0.02 game they only take $0.05 when the pot reaches $1. At such low stakes the pot will often never reach this level, so a lot of hands won’t be getting raked. Compare this with Full Tilt Poker, who take rake as soon as the pot reaches $0.15 – and for pots that reach $1 or more, they take a larger percentage of rake ($0.06 vs. $0.05).

While Full Tilt Poker have a lower maximum rake level than PokerStars for these micro stake games ($2 vs. $3), pots at these levels are rarely large enough to reach the max rake amount. It’s not until you get to stakes of $0.10/$0.25 (or $25NL) at Full Tilt Poker that they become competitive with PokerStars, due to the rake increment increasing to a more favourable $0.01 per $0.20 rather than $0.01 per $0.15.

Online Poker Tournament & SNG Rake (or Fees)

So far we’ve focused on the rake for online poker cash games. But poker tournaments are also raked, although it’s usually referred to as the entry fee. The typical tournament fee for online poker tournaments is 10% of the buy-in. For example, a $10 tournament will usually have a fee of $1, and is listed as $10+$1. The cost of the tournament is $11, with $10 going to the prizepool and $1 to the house.

It might interest you to know that the overall rake (or tournament fee) percentage is generally higher for lower buy-in tournaments. For example, some tournaments on Full Tilt Poker or PokerStars with a $1 buy-in, have a fee of $0.20, which is 20 percent. This is twice as much rake (in percentage terms) as a $10 + $1 Sit & Go on the same online poker rooms. We don’t think you should ever be paying more than 10% in rake for online poker tournaments – and advise you avoid tournaments that are, in our opinion, a rip off.

Remember, the rake you pay goes to the online poker room, not the tournament prizepool. That’s why you should be selective in the tournaments you play. For example, on Full Tilt Poker they have Sit & Go tournaments with the following buy-ins; $5 + $0.50, $6 + $0.50, and $7 + $0.50. The rake or tournament fee is the same, even though the buy-in increases. It’s in your interest to skip the $5 and $6 games because you’re being raked at a higher percentage. So, next time you login to your favourite online poker room – be sure to check the tournament rake, and scout out a better deal for yourself.

Pay Less Rake, Make More Profit

If you want to be a winning poker player then you not only have to consistently beat the other players at the table, you also have to beat the rake. There are many online poker players who are winners but because of rake they are actually net losers. But the good news is, you can lower the cost playing poker by signing up for rakeback via