Exploiting Rake - Rake Methods & Rakeback
By Matthew Marietta, Rakeback.com Executive Editor
Rakeback, VIP points and VIP status are based on how much rake is paid, but it’s not quite that simple. In cash games the rake is taken from the pot, yet there are several different methods that poker rooms use to determine who gets the points that the rake merits.
Playing styles, whether loose or tight, can make a vast difference to the points you receive and rakeback you earn, depending on what system your poker room uses to allocate them.
If a solid win rate is ~4bb/100, then rakeback and VIP points can double that, doubling your poker income. Choosing a poker room with the wrong rake or VIP points system for your playing style can add or take away as much as 20% of that income. Below are the main systems currently in use and what they mean for players.
Every player dealt into a hand receives an equal share of the VIP points awarded for the rake generated by the hand. If 10 points are generated and there are 10 people in the hand, each player receives 1 point.
This system was employed by PokerStars until a couple of years ago, and moving away from it caused outrage among many players. Hardcore grinders had learned that the system could be gamed and under a different system their incomes would collapse.
If you receive points which have a real monetary value simply for being dealt into a hand that sees a flop, then folding has a positive expected value - the VIP points you receive while other players put their money at risk fighting to win pots.
The dealt system gives an advantage to players who play fewer pots than average. The other players are paying the rake, but super tight players are collecting the points.
Under this system only players who put money in the pot get points, but there is no advantage to winning the pot or contributing more than the minimum. The strategy that exploits this system best is to play loose pre-flop, and tight post flop. PokerHeaven on the Boss media network uses the Average Contributed method.
With the W/C system Every player who contributed to the pot receives a proportional share of the VIP points awarded for the rake generated by the hand. This is the system adopted by the major operators, including PokerStars, Full Tilt, Party and 888.
If ten points are awarded for the rake paid, then a player who has put 40% of the money in the pot gets 4 points, a player who contributes 30% gets 3 points and the final 20% is worth 2 points. Tight players don’t benefit, but loose players do, and players who are loose pre and post flop will get the lion’s share of the VIP points.
Under a WTA system the winner of the hand receives all the VIP points awarded for the rake generated by the hand. This is a great system for players who play tight and win more pots than they lose. No points are awarded for playing a pot, only for winning it. Winning pots has a greater expected value than would otherwise be the case.
This favors players who can maintain a good win rate while playing as tight as possible. One disadvantage is that high volume players will see more day to day volatility in the rate at which the earn points. Many players set themselves points targets to be achieved in a day’s work, and this system is not conducive to planning exactly when points milestones and targets will be achieved.
The first US regulated site to start operating in Nevada, UltimatePoker uses the Winner Takes All method - unfortunately, you have to actually be in Nevada to play there!
The Ongame Network introduced the Essence rake system back in 2010. The system uses a secret algorithm to distribute VIP points 'factoring in the style of play and relative performance over the last 90 days.'
The algorithm is biased to give an advantage to losing players who receive more points and reward winning players less, and adjusts dynamically. The higher a player’s win rate, the lower the allocation of VIP points.
As the system’s calculations are secret, it is difficult to know the value of the VIP benefits you will receive for your play - that means it’s almost impossible to balance your win rate against rakeback or VIP benefits to decide whether playing will be more profitable on the Ongame network or to move elsewhere.
The strategy of playing a set volume of hands and comparing the results to those you get at your usual room won’t work, because the Essence system will adjust. By the time your sample is large enough to remove the effects of variance, the rakeback percentage you gain from VIP benefits will have changed.
TAG players should play at Ongame rooms (e.g. Betsafe or Betsson) only if their winrates there are higher than at other rooms. As a recreational however you should be well rewarded under Essence, plus there'll be fewer sharks around to take your money.
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