Understanding the rake, plus position in 7-stud

  • By Mike Caro | Exit

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This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.

No matter how many times I say this, some players don't grasp it. So, here goes again. There's a dramatic difference between the hands you can profitably play in a game where you rent your seat and a game where the pots are raked. I addressed this in Poker Player newspaper years ago under the heading, "Today's word is RAKE." I've updated that vintage column slightly. Take a look…

Guy writes me a letter, says, "Your standards for playing small limit seven stud games are too tight. Where I play, the dealer rakes from 50 cents to $3 out of every pot. At these prices, who can afford to sit and wait forever!"

I write him a letter, asks, "How much is being raked from your pots while you're sitting and waiting"

He writes back quick, says, "I see it now. I don't know how I got so confused. Not enough sleep, I guess"

While the logic involved here may seem trivial and obvious to you, it apparently escapes many players who fail to consider whether they're paying time (i.e., collections) or whether their pots are being raked. In most cardrooms in California, you rent your seat in the biggest-limit games, usually by the half-hour. This is also true of most large-limit games in other parts of the country. In smaller games, no rent is charged and, instead, money is taken out of each pot (usually on a percentage basis up to a stated maximum).

What does the casino do with this money? you may wonder. A seven-month investigation has discovered that 24 percent of all money raked from poker pots in Las Vegas goes to the casinos; 28 percent goes toward maintaining the flood control system; and the rest goes to charity. In Southern California all but six percent of the table rent goes to feed retarded children. So, you can see, there's no reason for any good citizen to complain about either the rent or the rake.

But there is good reason for you to know which is which. If you are being charged by the hour to play poker, then:

  1. You should play your best game, getting the most out of every situation, often value betting and raising even with the slightest edge.

  2. In order to make a long-range profit, you must be better than the other players by at least the amount of the rent plus your other expenses (tipping, coffee, etc.).

  3. All players, good and bad, pay equally for the privilege of playing poker in the casino.

If your pots are being raked, then:

  1. (1) Many of the hands you would normally value bet are no longer profitable! Suppose you are about to bet aces-up and you know under the circumstances that this bet will return a small profit in the long run. Assume that if you bet $5 and an opponent calls, the dealer will rake $1. This means the $1 will come out of the total $10, representing your bet and your opponent's call. Therefore, you're wasting 20 percent of your gain every time you are called and win. That's because you would normally win $5 on the successful bet, but with the rake you only win $4. On a final-round bet into a lone opponent (assuming no cap on the rake), you'd need a 5-to-4 edge just to break even – assuming you'd always be called and there were no possibility of a raise. (In a non-rake game, even the tiniest advantage would do.)

  2. (2) Many of the hands you would normally enter a pot with comfortably are no longer profitable.

  3. (3) If the maximum rake has already been reached (capped), you should value bet and make aggressive raises in much the same manner you would in a rent game.

  4. (4) Remember, a rake game will tax the bad players more than the good players. That's because bad players will enter many more pots than they should and, as a consequence, win more pots than you will. The rake is always taken from the winner of a pot.

The bottom line is that you must play rather conservatively in the early stages of a rake game. That's because many of your favorite, aggressive, image-building plays are big losers. Jump to a game where pots are not being raked and everything changes. You can then play much more aggressively and have a lot more fun. So, next time someone says, "Collection please," just say "Thanks for taking it" And remember almost all that money will go to retarded kid who need it more than you do.

About the same time I wrote that column, I did one in the same newspaper under the heading, "Today's word is SEVEN STUD." It went like this…

Here's a seven stud secret. If you're smart, you won't share it with anyone.

First, let's talk about position, which is a powerful part of poker. Players act in turn, right? The ones who take their turns late have big advantages over the ones who take their turns early. Players who act late have good position; players who act early have poor position.

What's so special about good position? For one thing, you're not as vulnerable to attack from those who act behind you. For another, you can see who's already involved in the pot and decide, on that basis, whether to raise, call or pass. One additional benefit in draw poker is that players in earlier positions will draw before you- do. Sometimes this can give you important information on how many cards to take.

Positional advantage is so important, that players who aren't aware of it can't possibly win in games such as hold 'em and draw lowball. Why those games? Because they're strongly positional. If you're in the dealer position, for instance, you'll be acting last on every betting round. When a lot of players remain to act behind you, it's time to be very selective about which hands you play. When few players remain, you can be more daring.

Seven stud isn't considered to be a strongly positional game. That's because the order of betting is determined arbitrarily by the exposed cards. On the first round, either the low card or the high card (depending on the rules of that specific game), acts first and then the action continues clockwise. On subsequent betting rounds, the highest exposed hand acts first. This means, the order of action is not guaranteed and it's likely the starting point will change. This is especially true when the low card "brings it in" on the first betting round.

Another thing. In hold 'em and draw poker, it's important to have loose players seated on your right, so they'll fearlessly enter the pot with inferior hands. Then when you raise, you'll trap them for two bets. If they sit to your left, your raise will keep them from even playing these same inferior hands. Well, this concept is true for seven stud, too.

Yep, position is important in seven stud. But that's not the secret. The secret is: In the course of a seven stud hand, you should consider what position you are likely to be in on the next betting round. That's not as difficult as it seems. If you have a big pair on the board, it's often safe to assume you'll be acting first, even after seeing the next exposed card.

That part's easy. But suppose there are five players in a pot and the player to your right has the biggest exposed pair. Figure you're going to act second on subsequent betting rounds, so your position is weak. When the player to your right has the only pair but it's small, there's a much greater chance that your position will improve on subsequent betting rounds.

Is this information worth much? Yes! When I'm trying for a straight or flush that seems marginal under the circumstances, I'm much more likely to continue to play if my position might improve than if my position is almost certain to remain early.

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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  1. It’s factual knowledge your the best stud player in the world, regardless of whatever or whomever.

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