Online Poker Sites with the Lowest Rake
Many poker players don’t even realize that there’s a built-in cost to playing poker online. It’s called rake, and it’s how online poker rooms make their cash. If you play at a low rake poker sites, you can keep your costs down. That is how online poker sites facing the US such as Ignition Poker and Bovada Poker keep players happy, by keeping these costs down. (If you are in Canada, 888 Poker is a great low-rake option).
But if you choose a high rake poker room, you might find it hard just to break even. Thus it’s important to know all about rake: how it works, how it’s charged, and which poker sites are considered “low rake poker sites.”
What is Rake?
When you play roulette, the casino makes money because the odds are stacked against you – same for craps, baccarat, and any other table game. You lose more often than you win, and so the casino makes a profit.
Poker is different – the house doesn’t directly play the game against other players. In online poker, the house makes money by taking a cut of each pot as a playing fee. This cut is called the rake.
For real-money games, low rake poker sites siphon a portion of the final pot as rake. For tournaments, low rake poker sites charge a tournament fee on entry. Both charges are basically equivalent: they are rake, ways for the house to make a profit from running games.
Why Do Poker Sites Charge Rake?
It costs money to run a poker site. Don’t believe me? Try starting one. You’ll have to pay for:
- Web servers that can handle huge bandwidth.
- World-class software development teams to come up with a great product.
- 24/7 support staff to handle customer service.
- Head office employees to handle security, accounting, and legal affairs.
- Advertising and marketing.
When combined, these things represent a massive expense on the budget sheet. Thus low rake poker sites need massive profits to even it all out.
How Do Poker Sites Calculate Rake?
Most poker sites set rake levels as a percentage of the pot, and charge rake in predetermined increments. For example, a low rake poker site might charge 5% per $1 in a pot. This translates to $0.10 per $1. If you played in a $10 pot, the house would take $1 as rake at showdown. Seems like a lot, right? It is, but I’ve left out a key element of the rake charge: rake caps.
A rake cap is a set limit determining how much rake a site can take per pot in real money cash games. Think of it as a rake maximum. In the example we used above, a realistic rake cap would be $4. A low rake poker site might cap as small as $2, which would obviously save you some money.
As far as real money poker tournaments go, the general rule is for 10% of the tournament entry to be charged as a fee. So for a $10 buy-in tournament, you’d pay $1; for a $20 buy-in tournament, you’d pay $2; and so on.
You can tell how much rake you’ll pay for a specific tournament by its stake listing. Most sites list tournament stakes in the $XX + Y format, where XX equals the tournament buy-in and Y equals the entry fee. So a tournament listed as $10+1 has a buy-in of $10 and an entry fee of $1, which works out to 10% rake.
What are the Best Low Rake Poker Sites?
Most poker sites online don’t qualify as low rake poker sites. Even at some low rake poker sites you might find specific game stakes or game types with a higher-than-average rake. So how do we tell which sites are good low rake poker sites overall?
It’s all about doing your research, and that can be time consuming. I sense that your time is valuable, so I’ve gone ahead and done this research for you. I’ve scoured rake schedules and player reviews to determine which are the best low rake poker sites online. The figures below apply to pot limit and no limit cash games with 6 or more players. Rake rates sometimes differ at tables with fewer players, but you can infer what rates will be like from the 6+ player statistics.
Micro Stakes Low Rake Poker Sites
A good micro stakes low rake poker site will charge a reasonable pot percentage. It will also keep its rake caps low. Bodog Poker meets both of these criteria, and is indeed miles ahead of the competition when it comes to low micro stakes rake. At Bodog, you pay:
- $0.01 per $0.20 in the pot to a maximum of $0.10 at 10NL.
- $0.05 per $1 in the pot to a maximum of $1.50 at 25NL.
- $0.10 per $2 in the pot to a maximum of $2 at 50NL.
Compare these figures to a site like Party Poker, where you’ll pay:
- $0.01 per $0.20 in the pot to a maximum of $1 from 2NL through 10NL.
- $0.01 per $0.20 in the pot to a maximum of $3 from 25NL and up.
The real difference here lies in the rake cap: Bodog Poker’s cap is miniscule compared to Party Poker’s. This will make a huge difference in gross rake paid, and is a great reason to choose Bodog Poker as a low rake poker site.
Small to Medium Stakes Poker Sites
A good small/medium stakes low rake poker site only take rake in large increments. In addition, low rake poker sites at this level will have relatively low rake caps. Bodog Poker is the clear winner here again, mostly because of its increment structure. Rates for small stakes tables are:
- $0.25 per $5 in the pot to a maximum of $3 at 100NL.
- $0.50 per $10 in the pot to a maximum of $3 from 200NL through 600NL.
Take note that the increments at which Bodog charges rake are massive. For 100NL you won’t pay any rake unless a pot hits $5, and for other stakes you won’t pay any rake unless the pot hits $10. Compare this to a site like Bet365, where you’ll pay $0.05 per $1 in the pot for a maximum of $3. The rake increment here is much smaller than at Bodog, which means you’ll pay rake at lower pot amounts. To make this concept clearer, let’s run through an example.
Say you’re playing a hand of 100NL. At showdown, the pot amounts to $12. You would pay $0.50 in rake at Bodog Poker, and $0.60 in rake at Bet365 poker. Rake at Bodog works out to be significantly less because of the wider rake increment. Hence why Bodog Poker consistently ranks as a top low rake poker site at pretty much all stakes. Caps are low, rates are fair, and most importantly the increments at which rake is charged are quite wide.
High Stakes Vs. Low Rake Poker Sites
Rake structures at higher stakes tables vary in subtle but important ways across sites. Low rake poker sites will charge reasonable rates while managing to keep caps low as well.
Bodog Poker wins again in this category, but there’s an important caveat: there’s little to no high stakes traffic at Bodog. If you can convince a few friends to move over, you’ll all be better off for it; but as it stands, you might as well choose to play elsewhere.
Bet365 Poker is a decent option. At 5000NL and above, you’ll pay $1 per $20 in the pot to a maximum of $5. The good thing about Bet365’s rate is the high charging increment. You don’t pay anything unless a pot hits a multiple of $20, which will save you money in the long term.
Both sites can be considered low rake poker sites. Which one you play at should depend on what you estimate your average pot size to be, as well as your style of play. If you tend to take down many small pots without a showdown, Bet365 is a better option. If conversely you tend to wait for huge pots and show down a lot, you might want to pick Bovada Poker instead.