PokerStars stirred up some controversy lately when they announced increases to their rake structure across many games. Reactions have ranged from “The Online Poker World is Over” to “All PokerStars did was bring their rake in line with their competitors”.
If you’re a recreational player, small changes to the rake structure will probably not affect you much – you are playing poker for entertainment purposes only, and may not even track your net money won or lost at the game. But regular and professional players can see thousand dollar shifts in your bottom line based on seemingly small changes in the rake they have to pay. If you are one of these players, then taking a deeper dive into which games are changing their rake structure and how is definitely worth your time. Let’s take a look at some of the games that are (and are not) seeing a change in rake structure at this time.
Tournaments: no changes to MTTs
The new rake structure affects hyper turbos, the new “Spin-and-Gos”, and Knockout tournaments (both regular speed and Turbo). The one type of tournament not affected to this point are traditional Multi-Table tournaments, or MTTs. There are plenty of regular profitable MTT players out there, and you might want to consider switching to this format of poker if your old formats are becoming much less profitable due to the increased rake.
Cash Games: Worse for 2 players
Firstly, if you’re a microstakes player (playing below the $.25/$.50 blind level), then no changes have been announced to the rake structure, at least not yet. The Microstakes regular appears to be safe for now, and doesn’t have to think about higher rake structures until he reaches NL50 and above.
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The biggest rake change in these PokerStars cash games is a 100% increase in the cap of rake played when exactly 2 players are sitting at the table. Most games went from a $.50 rake cap for two players up to $1.00 (and the $25/$50 level is seeing an even larger increase to $2.00). Almost none of the other rake caps are changing. What this means for you is that you can minimize the losses caused to you by the rake changes in cash games by avoiding heads-up games altogether. Although heads-up poker can be one of the most profitable forms of online poker (where the edge a good player has over a bad one has so much effect on the end result), the large increase in rake will definitely affect a player’s bottom line – even a strong player.
Also, keep in mind that even in non-heads-up cash games, one can end up playing heads-up poker for some period of time when a table is just starting or when it breaks apart – these spots will also be affected by increased rake, and you may want to consider not playing at a 6-max or full ring table at the very beginning or very end when only 2 players are sitting.
Perhaps PokerStars hasn’t completely considered the ramifications of making it unprofitable for their most loyal players to start new tables – could such a move result in a decrease to the number of tables running? That remains to be seen, but it is clear that sitting at a table with only one opponent is much more expensive than it has ever been, and a profit-conscious player needs to take this into account.
As a smart consumer, it is always wise to make sure you know all the details of the product being offered to you. You always have the right to take your business elsewhere if the changes to the PokerStars product remove your ability to make a living as an online pro. The market will ultimately decide the winner in the battle for your rake.