Exploiting Rake – Rake in STTs
By Matthew Marietta, Rakeback.com Executive Editor
Many of the points made in the last article on Multi-Table Tournaments (MTTs) also apply to Single Table Tournaments (STTs), also known as Sit & Gos (SNGs). Tournaments with two or three tables can be considered to count as STTs when looking at rake theory.
The level of rake is much less important in MTTs than in cash games, but in STTs rake returns to being one of the most important considerations in choosing what and where to play. As rake becomes more important, so do rakeback and VIP benefits. A bad choice of game or poker room can instantly turn a winning player into a loser.
STT Win Rates Are Highly Sensitive
Possible win rates expressed as return on investment (ROI) in MTTs are substantially higher than STTs. There are good reasons for this. In STTs blinds increase faster and average stack sizes are smaller.
When the stack size to blind ratio is low, there is almost no opportunity to bluff post-flop. When your stack is around the equivalent of 10 big blinds, decisions become almost purely mathematical, whether to shove all in pre-flop, or fold. Unless you are dealt a monster pair, it is rarely correct to call.
When games become driven by pre-flop strategy, then players who have studied the mathematics known as Independent chip modeling (ICM) have an edge over those who haven’t. This drives winning players to STTs, and that drives down the possible win rate.
STT win rates are so low that the profit from playing them is highly sensitive to the level of rake. STTs can still be insanely profitable, but only if rake and rakeback are given the same importance in decision making as the game strategy itself.
Exploit Operators Who Remain Lazy
As for MTTs, the first strategy is to exploit operators who are too lazy to calculate the appropriate rake for each type and stake level of STT.
PokerStars is almost alone in understanding STT rake sensitivity. Look at the make up of the buy in for three types of STT offered by PokerStars- how much of the buy in goes to the prize pool and how much goes in rake.
PokerStars $30 STTs
- 6 Max HyperTurbo $28.83 + $1.17 Starting Stack 500 2 minute levels
- 6 Max Regular $27.58 + $2.42 Starting Stack 1500 10 minute levels
- 9 Seat regular $27.40 + $2.60 Starting Stack 1500 10 minute levels
The rake is carefully adjusted according to the mathematical “beatability” of the games. The equivalent level at iPoker sites such as Ladbrokes is $33 buy in STTs. Notice there is no adjustment of the rake.
iPoker $33 STTs
- 6 Max Super Turbo Booster $30 + $3 Starting Stack 800, 2 minute levels
- 6 Max Turbo Starting Stack $30 + $3 Starting Stack 1500 7 minute levels
- 6 Max Starting Stack $30 + $3 Starting Stack 1500 10 minute levels
The PokerStars 6 Max Regular charges 8.07% ($2.42/$30) in rake. The equivalent at Ladbrokes charges 9.1% in rake.
The PokerStars 6 Max HyperTurbo charges 3.9% rake whereas the Ladbrokes Super Turbo Booster charges the same 9.1%.
Since potential ROI’s are much smaller in the faster tournaments, this difference is enormous. To close the gap would require the Ladbrokes Super Turbo tournaments to be permanently filled with huge fish – and as Ladbrokes operates on the iPoker network that is highly unlikely.
Conversely, since the rake on the regular 6 max STT is slightly lower at PokerStars, many of the high volume grinders will be there, not at Ladbrokes, so there is an opportunity here. The rake may be a tiny bit higher, but weaker opposition and a good rakeback deal could more than compensate.
Buy Ins Are Not All You Need To Know
On the face of it, all of Ladbrokes $33 STTs look very similar. A moment’s analysis easily throws water on any such idea. These are three radically different games.
A reasonable assumption for possible ROI for a good player over a large sample is 8% for the Regular STT, 5% for the Turbo and 2% for the Super Turbo. A middle level multi-tabling player may average 8 Regular STTs and hour, or 12 Turbos, or 25 Super Turbos.
The amount of rake paid, rakeback earned and winnings for each option are very, very different. Assuming 40% rakeback.
- Playing the Regular STTs generates rake of $24 an hour, rakeback of $9.60 and winnings of $21.12 – $30.72/hr
- Playing Turbos generates rake of $36, rakeback of $14.40 and winnings of $19.80 – $34.20/hr
- Playing Super Turbos generates rake of $75, rakeback of $30 and winnings of $16.50 – $46.50/hr
The impact of both rake and rakeback on hourly income are obvious.
Don’t Be Lazy – Check Out the Competition
It is too easy to work hard and study hard to beat a game at the site you are comfortable with. The top sites are now all owned by huge companies which are financially stable – they are all as trustworthy as any other public traded company.
A look at the detailed rake of other tournament types on the site that you are familiar with is a good start, but better is to check out other sites and look at where lazy operators have left a gap for you to exploit.
If their rake isn’t set at a different percentage for every stake level and tournament type, then there is an opportunity for profit. If nothing else, looking at STTs through the lens of rake theory can help you not lose money by playing a game where the rake is weighted too far against you..
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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