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Exploiting Rake – Rake in MTTs

By , Rakeback.com Executive Editor

Isildur All In - Poker Tournament Plays

Until now this series has focused on cash game rake. Tournament rake gets little attention from players and operators, and that is why it presents so many profitable opportunities.

Tournaments are very different to cash games; it is regularly correct in a tournament to shove pre-flop with weak hands like K-7 off suit. The same move is terrible in cash games, unless your screen name is Durrrr or Isildur1.

Because tournament strategy is often counter-intuitive, students of the game can have a much higher skill advantage over casual players. This leads many MTT players to disregard rake as an important factor in their choice of site or event. This is a big mistake.

MTT Rake

Also known as the buy-in ‘fee’ or ‘vig’, rake in multi-table tournaments (MTTs) should be considered separate from that of Single Table Tournaments (STTs) aka Sit n Gos (SNGs), and totally distinct from cash game rake.

To illustrate the fundamental difference between cash game rake and MTT rake, below is the rake in big blinds per hundred hands that players pay playing Full Ring cash games at Carbon Poker on the Merge Network.

Merge NL Cash Rake



25NL 50NL 100NL 200NL 400NL
Rake in bb/100 8.98 8.20 8.58 7.61 6.40 4.66

Each time the stake level increases, the rake collected by the operator decreases. At the standard buy-in of 100 big blinds, these figures could equally well be percentages. The reason for the decrease, as has been explained in previous articles, is the impact of the rake cap and the tighter play at higher stakes.

There is no equivalent gradual decrease in tournament rake as stakes increase. Typically, the rake is set at 10% for all stakes from $5 to $90. At the very lowest stakes, some sites set higher rake, sometimes as much as 15% and at the higher stakes there is often a reduction e.g. $100 +$9, $200 +$15 (9% and 7.5%, respectively).

This policy is punishing. As in cash games, the higher the stakes, the lower is the possible win rate. In tournaments, the win rate is not expressed in bb/100, but in Return on Investment (ROI). A player with a 20% ROI expects to make $11 profit every time he or she enters a $50 +$5 tournament.

ROI increases at lower stakes and reduces at higher stakes as the competition gets tougher. It should be immediately obvious that it’s going to be more profitable to play two $10 +$1 tournaments than to play one $20 +$2 tournament.

The total rake paid is the same, but the ROI is going to be higher at the lower stake. Taking a closer look at the rake your site charges for different MTTs – sensible choices can massively increase your ROI.

Reduce Bankroll Requirements to Move Up Past a Limit

If the stakes where you are comfortable playing straddle the levels where rake is reduced, stop playing the lower stakes which have the higher rake as soon as you can. Reduce the number of buy-ins (BIs) you need in your bankroll to move up.

If you are comfortable playing $5 MTTs with 100 buy-ins in your bankroll ($500) with a 10% rake, you can safely take a shot at $10 MTTs with a 5% rake. Move up permanently if you grind your bankroll up to 100 buy-ins for the new level ($1,000).

Rake Comparison - PokerStars Regular MTTs vs Hypers

Hyper Turbo MTT Rake

The only site which really understands tournament rake is PokerStars – rake varies according to the tournament type and stake level.

Other sites are simply lazy. One way to think about rake is to consider the time it takes to play a tournament.

The faster the blind structure and the shorter the chip stacks, the less time the MTT takes to play and the lower your potential ROI. Tournament rake should reflect these facts, and at some sites, such as PokerStars, it does.

For example in the two tournaments shown above players pay about the same (~$25) into the prizepool yet significantly less rake ($0.50) for the hyper turbo. In the regular MTT players enjoy a slower structure and extra time to outplay opponents with deep stacks.

If your site does not have lower rake for turbo MTTs and short stack MTTs, stick to the standard tournaments to maximize your ROI – or change sites.

Rebuys are Higher Stake MTTs with Lower Stake Rake

Rebuys are cheap! If you choose to play MTTs as your primary game, never let a rebuy go past. Sites don’t charge rake on the rebuy or add on, so effectively you are paying a much lower rake for your stake level. The PokerStars $3 +$0.30 rebuy is equivalent to a $10 +$1 MTT, but you are paying less than one third of the rake.

This isn’t the place to discuss tournament strategy, but remember to always rebuy and always take the add-on.

Exploiting Rake Series

  • Part I –   Why sites take a rake, and hate winning players – the big picture
  • Part II –   Win rates & rake theory – smart game selection
  • Part III –   Playing styles & Rake – how high VPIP games pump up the rake
  • Part IV –   Rake Methods & Rakeback – the dealt, contributed, WTA & Essence systems
  • Part V –   MTT Rake – adjusting bankroll for buy in fees, and game selection
  • Part VI –   STT Rake – considering winrates, buy in size, rake and rakeback in SNGs
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