Should Rake Influence Your Poker Game? Pot Limit Omaha Edition

Jakub Szczotka
14 lut 2024
7 mins read

Your understanding of the poker strategy, how strong your mindset is, and the skill level of your opponents are the main factors influencing the success of your poker career. Another important aspect, yet often overlooked by less experienced players, is the rake in your poker games.

If you want to be a winning player, you must pay attention to the influence of the rake on your bottom line. That's why we'd like to look at the most common rake-related issues in this article.

The name of the fee implies it's profitability

What is rake in poker?

First, let's start with the definition: What is rake in poker? Rake is a name for a fee collected by the game organizer, meaning casino when we talk about live games and online poker rooms when we consider online poker.

There are a few possible ways of collecting rake, but one thing is almost certain: unless you play in your best friend's basement, "the house" probably collects some form of rake.

Rake collection is usually the most straightforward when it comes to poker tournaments. The industry standard is around 10% of each tournament buy-in going to the online poker site organizing the game. When it comes to live games, poker rooms usually withhold around 10-20% of the buy-in, but quite often, there is an additional fee for dealers or services provided to the players.

For example, whenever you play a $215 multi-table tournament online, $15 is the fee collected by the poker room, and $200 goes directly to the prize pool. In the live environment, whenever you play a $1,100 MTT, $100 is usually a casino's rake, around 3% of every buy-in covers the staff expenses, and the remaining money ($970 in our case) forms a prize pool.

Regardless of how high the rake is, it is only collected when you pay the buy-in for the tournament, and while you're playing later on, the rake does not influence the correctness of your decisions.

Things are different for cash games, though

Whenever you're at the poker table (virtual or real) playing a cash game, the rake is collected from every pot you play — except for when the "no flop, no drop" applies, meaning the rake is only taken when a flop is dealt.

Since Pot Limit Omaha is played predominantly in a cash game format, every aspiring PLO player should know its influence on the strategy. Before we move to this aspect, let's look at the rules of how rake is calculated.

When it comes to rake in cash games, there are two factors to consider: how significant a percentage of the pot is taken as a rake and what the rake cap is. Regarding the rake percentage, the most common number is between 3 and 5%, and here's how it works in practice.

Let's say you go all-in for $10 in a PLO 10 game on PokerStars and win the hand. The pot equals $20, and the rake on these stakes is set to 4.25%. As a result, after the hand, you'll end up with $19.15 ($0.85, a 4.25% from $20, was taken as a rake). At first, such a number may not look like a lot, but it adds up over time and with the hands you play.

When it comes to the rake, an even more important characteristic is the rake cap, which is the maximum amount of rake taken from the pot.

If instead of a $20 pot, you'd win a $60 pot playing the same stakes (PLO 10 on PokerStars), the amount of rake you should pay equals $2.55. Luckily, the rake cap for a 5+ player game is set to $1.50, and that's the amount of rake you'd pay this time.

Here's how the rake structure looks for PLO and No Limit Hold’em cash games on PokerStars.

Rake values for medium stakes on PokerStars

Side note: The live cash games are raked in the same way as the online games most of the time. Sometimes, however, a timed collection is used, meaning every player pays a fixed number of BBs (usually a few) for an hour of play.

Why is the rake structure so important?

You might have encountered an opinion that the rake is your biggest enemy on the low stakes. Here's why (we'd use the PokerStars rake structure for reference, but the trend is similar for other online poker rooms).

When we translate the rake numbers into BBs, the rake caps for PLO 5, PLO 10, and PLO 25 equal 20, 15, and 8BBs, respectively.

In contrast, the rake cap for low/mid-stakes PLO 50, PLO 100, and PLO 200 is set to 4, 2.5, and 1.375 BBs, respectively.

The win rates of poker players are presented in the number of Big Blind won per 100 hands (BB/100). How much of that is affected by rake? The average rake/100 hands on PokerStars ranges from 7.57 on PLO 10 to 4.65 on PLO 200. These numbers will vary from one online poker room to another, so we encourage you to see how much rake your operator collects. You can use primedope site for reference.

As you can see, you pay way more rake than low-stakes players when playing poker on micro stakes. Of course, the win rates possible to achieve on micros are higher, but overall, if you think about your poker career seriously, you should use the lowest stakes as a training ground and gateway to higher stakes.

Things work similarly for live cash games, where the rake on low stakes ($5/5) is usually set to 5% with a cap of $20-30. Quite often, live games play out higher than the limit would indicate and are softer than low-mid stakes online, so barring the extreme cases, the rake in a live environment shouldn't hurt your win rate as much as in online games. The rake in higher-limit games is even less of a concern.

Rake influence's on poker strategy

Every time you put money into the pot during a cash game, you must be aware that the rake amount will lower the final pot size. In other words, whenever you are about to call a pot-sized bet of $100 on the river in a live game (assuming a 5% rake with a $25 cap), you're essentially calling $100 to win $285 (300 - 5% of 300) instead of $300.

Since $15 will be missing, the average equity of your hand to be a call candidate should be higher (35% instead of the 33% you'd require in the game without a rake). As a result, the higher the rake in your poker game is, the tighter your calling ranges should be (we assume that when you raise the uncalled bet amount, it is not raked).

This dependence is subtle but applies to all streets of a cash game hand. How can you put that knowledge to work when playing Pot Limit Omaha?

Whenever you use PLO Genius, you can choose a rake structure that represents the one existing in the games you play and there are three settings to choose from.

Every solution starts with setting the parameters, including rake

Luckily, the optimal strategy does not change much for different rake structures, but for the record, here are a few things that can change with the different rake values:

  • some hands are profitable opens when the rake is low but are folded otherwise
  • the higher the rake is, the more you are incentivized to implement a 3b/fold approach (since you either win pot preflop or proceed with the hand as the aggressor)
  • some BB calls become folds on the low (highly raked stakes)

Do not neglect the influence of rakeback on your winnings

Some hate this approach, while some love it, but it's almost impossible to be a cash game grinder and ignore the subject of rakeback. Rakeback is the amount of rake you've generated returned to you after meeting specific requirements. Different rooms offer different rakeback deals, but the most popular option is a fixed percentage of paid rake returned to players based on how much they play.

While you should never rely solely on rakeback (since the number can change drastically and suddenly), it's impossible to deny that a good rakeback deal will significantly boost your winnings. So, it's a topic worth spending some time on. Luckily, as of the moment of writing this article (early 2024), the two biggest players in online poker, PokerStars and GG Poker, offer around 50% rakeback deals, making the life of many poker grinders easier.

Wherever you play right now, verify whether other operators offer better conditions for your stakes.

Rake and rakeback are important, but it's the skill that translates to winnings

When planning your poker career, you should consider all of the factors mentioned, but your poker skill is what impacts your winnings the most.

Despite adversities, PLO games remain one of the softest online and live, and they are likely to stay that way for a while.

Take advantage of that and outplay your opposition with a solid game plan. Start sharpening your preflop skill with PLO Genius, and stop making the silly mistakes your opponents commit!

Even better, we're developing the post-flop module, so a fast and reliable PLO solver is getting closer. See for yourself.