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A Sobering Truth

After booking a small win tonight at Stars, I decided to take a quick look at my overall numbers for the month of January. At first, I was happy to see I'm running in the black. I'm up $0.24 over my first twelve sessions of the year - ship it!

But then my eyes darted over the "Rake Paid" column in my Poker Tracker 3 sessions report...

I knew that the effect of rake at the micro-stakes was huge. And I've been told that short-handed limit hold'em can be a real bankroll killer without the added support of bonuses or rakeback. But I never stopped to really take a look at how rake was affecting my bottom line.

I've played 2,155 hands at PokerStars since January 1st. And I've paid a total of $44.35 in rake. Doesn't seem like much, right? The problem is that I've only played $0.50/$1 limit hold'em and $25 no-limit hold'em:

  • I've paid $29.50 in rake over 1,291 hands of limit hold'em: a hit of -2.3 BB/100 to my win rate.

  • I've paid $14.86 in rake over 864 hands of no-limit hold'em: a hit of -6.9 BB/100 to my win rate.

Those are some sick, sick numbers. Of course, that's the price of online poker and it's one that I'll gladly pay while I continue to learn the game. I get to sit in my home and play poker without doing anything more than moving a mouse cursor on a computer screen. I don't need to get dressed and drive to the casino. My drinks, while not comped, are quite affordable. And I much prefer the company I keep while playing at home with my wife beside me.

But in terms of building my bankroll, the rake is really killing me. Of course, PokerStars realizes that the rake would probably finish off all of their lower-stakes customers. That's why we have bonuses, VIP rewards, and freeroll tournaments. If I factor the amount of my New Years reload bonus cleared, things don't look quite so grim. Weighting the cleared bonus by the rake paid, which I'll use as a rough means of estimating VPP earned for each of my LHE and NLHE sessions played, my win rates are affected as follow:

  • $0.50/$1 LHE: 1291 hands, $11.32 bonus cleared, +0.9 BB/100

  • $25 NLHE: 864 hands, $5.58 bonus cleared, +2.6 BB/100

Overall, I'd be much better off playing the higher stakes games. Of course, there's little point in moving up until I'm able to beat the games I'm playing. I am looking forward to reducing the effects of rake on my overall win rates. But I understand that this will take time, a lot of patience, and a ton of practice on my part.

In the meantime, I'll look at my rake payments as an extra premium that I'm forced to pay for my poker education. And there is a bright albeit small silver lining to this discussion: I'm only one session away from earning myself a complimentary set of PokerStars-branded Copag cards. Well, complimentary if you exclude the 25 hours of poker played and $170 paid in rake.

In all fairness to Stars, they do offer a safe and secure service that allows me to play poker 24 hours a day. They have great customer support. And, in the end, I'll also receive some bonus money and some VIP Stellar Rewards (i.e. free cash bonuses earned at numerous VPP milestones). Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Now let's see if I can crank out 250 (well-played) hands tomorrow night and order those awesome playing cards.

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