Brick and mortar poker rooms often allow patrons to play rake-free or at a substantial discount when a game becomes shorthanded. This keeps a game from breaking while waiting for other players to join. Unfortunately, some online poker rooms have not adopted these same policies.
One of the biggest issues created by excessive shorthanded rake is that games break or never get off the ground. While this may not be an issue for a large online poker site with thousands of players at any given time, it can be devastating for a poker room that peaks at just a few hundred players each day.
Players willing to give shorthanded action are especially important to these smaller online poker rooms. These sites are most in need of players willing to start games. A shorthanded game is likely to fill up quickly at PokerStars, while a small site can struggle to draw players to a new table. This makes a rake break especially important for these smaller sites.
Challenges Facing Shorthanded Games
Players that agree to play heads up or three handed face several challenges. One is variance as luck is a bigger factor during shorthanded games than at full ring when players can sit back and wait for premium starting hands. The additional aggression required can also create large swings.
Shorthanded games can deal over 200 hands per hour. The rake is divided among fewer players so the expense for a someone in a shorthanded game is not only more per hand but it is paid to the house faster than at a full table.
Another issue facing these players is opponents that will hit and run. This means that an opponent sits down for just a few hands until a win of few big blinds is booked. A hit and run player will then get up from the table. These types of players often rathole and bounce from table to table.
If a game fails to fill then a situation can arise where the participants all end the session a loser to the rake drop. This is hardly a reward for trying to start a game for the house.
These are all issues facing players that are willing to start new tables in the hopes of getting a game off the ground. Unfortunately, some online poker rooms either do not recognize this or feel that lowering the rake hurts the bottom line. That type of mentality actually hurts revenue in the long run. Giving players a $5 or $10 rake break to start a game can help create a full table where hundreds or even thousands of dollars in rake can be collected over its life.
Some Sites Recognize Situation
Some online poker sites recognize this issue. For example, PokerStars only charges 2% up to $.50 for $1/$2 through $10/$20 fixed limit games. Merge Gaming mirrors this rake schedule. Bovada only charges 2.5% for many of its fixed limit games when it is two or three handed. Other sites give a break by not taking a rake until the pot reaches a reasonable level. This allows many pots to be rake-free.
The most egregious sites are raking pots as small as $.20. This guarantees that every hand that sees a flop gets raked. This creates a rake burden that may be impossible for the two or three participants seated to overcome.
Many players will not sit at shorthanded games because they simply do not want to play at anything but a full table. Penalizing patrons that are willing to start games for these types of players is counterproductive. Many small sites employ propositional players, often referred to as props, to help obtain the goal of offering full tables to customers.Props are usually paid 100% rakeback in exchange for playing shorthanded games.
Sites that charge excessive shorthanded rake are taking the opposite approach. These online poker rooms are penalizing players that start games for the site when it is a benefit to have more games running.
Heads Up Tables Are Different
This article is meant to raise awareness about the excessive rake paid by players trying to start six or nine handed games, especially at smaller sites. There are many reasons for sites to rake heads up tables excessively or even completely remove them. These issues were covered in a previous 4Flush article.
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