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Rakeback (or How To Cover Your Ace in Online Poker)

It seems like yesterday when I signed up to play at my online poker site. That site was UltimateBet and I signed up there for two reasons:

  1. UB had the lowest limit ring games around at 1c/2c.
  2. The site was endorsed by Phil Hellmuth and the DevilFish.

Unfortunately, it was these types of rash decisions that have put me in a situation where I had to carefully plan my future in online poker.

I started to realize the folly of my ways as the world of bonuses and rakeback opened to me. In the case of rakeback and certain other special deals, if you have an pre-existing account with a poker room, you are ineligible for any deals or bonuses from places such as Poker Source Online.

Currently, I have rakeback deals at a number of sites: Interpoker, Eurobet, IntertopsPoker, and CrazyVegas Poker. Most recently, I added Rakeback Poker to my list of rakeback sites. Why? They are currently offering a 40% rakeback deal for any new sign-ups before February 28th. I signed up for this deal through RakeTheRake because they told me about the deal and because I deal with Rake The Rake on a regular basis.

With the setup I have now, I get rakeback on a number of the prime poker networks: the Party network, the Prima network, the Poker network, and the Cryptologic network.

Now, the rakeback deals right now don't do much for me. I played a ton of hands at Interpoker last month and got $18 in rakeback for my troubles. And if you're a losing player, rakeback will generate very little for you unless you can win some big pots here and there.

For those who don't know, here's how rakeback works. In any pot you win, you're paying some of your profits to the casino for giving you the privilege of separating other players from their hard-earned bankrolls. The rake collected helps poker rooms pay their employees, their shareholders, and their CEOs. Raked money also pays for all the special promotions offered by the online poker rooms. Paying rake is a fact of life and if you are a winning player, this shouldn't concern you all that much.

But if you happen to hold a rakeback deal with a site, a portion of the rake you fork over is given back to you. The amount refunded is normally expressed in terms of a percentage and this is determined at the time that you sign up with the poker room and, where applicable, the rakeback affiliate. You'll normally see rakeback values in the range of 20% - 30%. Sometimes, rakeback will be in cold, hard cash and other times, in terms of "funny" money that you can use to buy stuff.

Here's how you determine what you're making in terms of rakeback. Let's say you have a 25% rakeback deal with Eurobet. Over the course of 1 month, you win a total of 100 hands (won solely by you - no split pots) and pay a total of $300 in rake for these 100 wins. Your rakeback payment would be $75. Pretty sweet, huh? That's free money and it's the easiest way to get an edge over the online poker machine and the other players at your table.

Some poker rooms will handle the rakeback themselves and deposit your rakeback directly into your account. Some rooms provide rakeback based on an elapsed period of time (e.g. monthly), others require you to earn a certain amount of rakeback prior to giving you anything (e.g. minimum $50 in rakeback), and still others will give you your rakeback on a daily basis no matter the size (e.g. Rakeback Poker).

One thing to keep in mind though: you can make a lot more money in the short run by using the bonus setups offered by places like Poker Source Online if you are a new player and/or a micro-limit player. The reason is simple: at these limits, you are not paying all that much in rake.

So why sign up for rakeback deals?
  • It's free money.
  • It gives you an overlay to all your poker play at an online poker room.
  • It helps keep you afloat when the cards are running bad.
  • As you become a better player, rakeback payments will increase greatly in size.
  • Every penny counts.

I also believe that rakeback gives you an edge in tougher games at higher limits where your average hourly rate in terms of big bets per hour can take a hit. Let's say that you're playing some $100 NL.

Let's say your runnning bad and clearing 1.5 BB/hr. At 1.5 BB/hr, you're looking at an average win rate of $1.50/hr. You'd be better off working at McDonald's. In fact, most players will beat this win rate playing 0.50/1.

However, this is where rakeback can help out. As your winning and losing pots, the rake you're paying is adding up. You may only be up 1.5 BB after an hour, but you may have paid 3 BB in rake, bumping you up to 2.5 BB/hr. I don't play at the higher limits yet, but it's not unheard of to hear about people getting more than $1K a month in rakeback.

So, down to the nitty gritty. How do you make money playing online poker assuming that you're not the next Daniel Negreanu? Follow these steps:

  1. Don't sign-up with up with new poker rooms on a whim.

    Choose where you want to play carefully based on traffic on the site, skill level of your opponents, size of first-time deposit bonus, size and frequency of reload bonuses, and size and availability of rakeback deals.

    Simply put: make sure you're getting your money's worth.

  2. Always choose rakeback over other bonuses on site with heavy traffic and a large advertising presence.

    These sites will have lots of good games for most hours of the day. And if that's the case, you'll be spending more time playing there. This is the perfect type of online poker room with which to have a rakeback deal.

    Just remember that rakeback is a long-term investment in the future of your online poker career.

    Check out Rake The Rake or the 2+2 Forums Rakeback Review to help guide your decision.

  3. Find out which poker networks allow you to have multiple accounts on different skins.

    On these networks, such as the Prima network, get yourself a rakeback deal with the skin offering the highest rakeback percentage.

    For the rest of the skins, check out places like Poker Source Online and Vegas Poker Pro for other sign-up deals. These deals include such wonderful things as poker books (a necessity if you want to make money playing poker), poker tables, poker chips, and other cool stuff.

    The advantage that these types of deals have over rakeback deals is the instant reward you get for completing the raked hand requirements as set in the bonus agreement.

    For example, Poker Source Online had an Instant Bankroll offer that rewarded new PartyPoker players with $75 up-front and $25 after playing 500 raked hands. Unlike rakeback, I got instant gratification and my bankroll was up and running.

  4. Sign up for one site at a time.

    Give yourself time to clear deposit bonuses. Remember that your poker career should be a marathon and not a sprint.

    Try to sign up with sites that have good deposit bonuses. Just keep in mind that the higher the deposit bonus, the higher the stakes you'll need to play to clear these bonuses at a reasonable pace.

    If you look at the recent effort I put in to clear one of the endless monthly reload bonuses at Interpoker, you'll realize that this is not always best.

    The Prima network skins have some of the easiest deposit and reload bonuses to clear at the micro-limits followed closely by PartyPoker.

    When you're ready, however, the Poker Network sites (such as Eurobet or PokerRoom) and the Cryptologic sites (e.g. Interpoker) have some of the best and biggest deposit bonuses and recurring reload bonuses.

    Other good sites include Full Tilt Poker, offering a 100% up to $600 deposit bonus.

    And Absolute Poker offers so many reload bonuses, it's hard to keep up (although I'm not a big fan of the site myself).

  5. Expand the size of your network of online poker rooms.

    As your network of sites grows, you'll find yourself with a good balance of sites that offer juicy games at different times throughout the day. For example, European-based poker rooms offer good games during the 9-5 EST work day. Between 5pm - 8pm EST, sites that cater to North Americans offer the best games. Late night is a free for all and you'll do best if you stick with the bigger sites (e.g. PartyPoker, PokerStars,Full Tilt, etc.)

It seems like a lot of work to choose your sites as I suggest. In fact, it does take some effort. And some math. And some careful money management.

However, I guarantee that two or three years from now, you may look back and thank me for some of this advice.

In fact, why not thank me right now by signing up with one of my affiliates? You'll get a nice deposit bonus (depending on the site) and I'll get a nice bonus too! It works out for everyone...

...Wait, you want rakeback? You want special sign-up bonuses? You've learned your lesson well, I see...


drewspop said...

Good stuff to think about. I am needing to crank up my bonus whoring skills. I will check out some of these sites tonight.

Klopzi said...

It's always best to tackle these things early on. Think about where you see your online poker career going and choose the right sites and deals that will help you accomplish those goals.

Good luck and have fun - few things are more entertaining than some good, old fashion bonus whoring.

TripJax said...

i was being sarcastic, giving her a hard time about how she spelled it, but the good thing is I did learn a bit from your post. thanks for sharing!

Klopzi said...

I never saw the incorrect spelling.

Yet again, sarcasm makes me look the fool...

Although if you learned something, I guess its okay.

Veneno said...

Very informative! Thanks Klopzi.

masterp said...

I just signed up for poker rakeback at http://pokerrakeback.ninjaneden.com at battlefield. Im earning like 900 dollers a month back in rake.