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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

How Big Is the House Edge in Live Poker?

8 June 2007

Every game in the casino has a house edge. That's why the casino's there. But in live poker you don't play against the house – you play against the other players. That might make it seem as though there's no house edge to buck, but there is.

The house takes a "rake" from every pot. Depending upon where you're playing, this rake can be anywhere from $4 to $6. That's what makes the game worthwhile for the casino.

So how much, in percentage terms, does this poker rake amount to? Well, that depends solely upon the stakes of the game. You see, the rake remains fairly consistent at all stakes. If a casino rakes $5 per pot, it'll usually be $5 per pot in a $3/$6 game and $5 per pot in a $20/$40 game as well.

Let's look at a $3/$6 limit Hold'em game first. There are usually 10 players at the table, and the average pot is generally about $50. If the casino rakes five bucks, that's basically a 10% house edge you're "fading".

Now, 10% is a higher house edge than any other table game on the floor, but there's a loophole. While you do have to pay $5 out of every pot you win, you don't have to pay as much overall rake as the other players. How can you get around it? By playing tighter than the other players! In this way, you can cut down your own personal rake substantially.

With 10 players at the table, a Hold'em dealer will deal out around 40 hands per hour. If you play just as loose as everybody else, you'll end up winning around four pots per hour, long term. At a $5 per pot rake, you'll be paying $20 per hour to play $3/$6 poker. Now, if you put just as many bets into the pots as all the other players and the house is raking 10%, then you're paying 10% too. Make sense?

Now, think about this. If you're playing poker about the same way as all the other players, and you're paying 10% off the top, how are you going to beat that game? The answer is – you can't!

To even have a chance, you need to tighten up a whole lot, and play only your premium hands. Forget about stuff like 9/10, or Ace/6, or K/10. You want to play maybe one third as many hands as the competition. This has two big benefits. The first is, you'll have a much better batting average on hands played vs. hands won because you won't need to get as lucky. That's just good basic poker.

The second benefit is that you'll now probably be winning only two pots per hour. The upside of that is that you'll be paying only $10 per hour in rake as opposed to $20. Let somebody else pay your other $10 with all their loose action. You're paying a sawbuck an hour and are getting in there only when you have a real good shot at the pot.

Even at that, I still don't know if you can beat a game with such a high percentage of rake compared to the size of the pots - but playing super-tight is your only shot.

Now, how about the $20/$40 game? These pots are usually around $300. If you win one of those and pay a $5 rake, the house edge 1.6%. If you play tight there too, you won't be frittering away hundreds, maybe thousands in loose calls that never paid off. And paying $5 on a $300 pot will erode your chip stack a lot less.

At these stakes, the house edge (rake) is not a big factor – but the other players are! You won't find the rum-dums at these mutuels that you will at $3/$6. You simply must know how to play good poker, and if you do, you can beat this game. But don't try it unless you truly know what you're doing, or they'll eat you for breakfast.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey