Even though it’s World Series of Poker time, I want to talk about something else: The Rake. It’s my opinion that the rake is just getting too high, and this applies to virtually all cash games as well as tournament entry fees. It’s my opinion that unless the rake begins to come down, long term damage will be done to poker.
When I first came to Las Vegas in 1987, the rake in most poker games was just $2, and this $2 wasn’t taken quickly. The main exception was the $1-$4 limit seven-card stud games which were mainly tourist traps that featured a higher rake, but the games where most regular poker players were would be considered an exceptional bargain today.
But then in 1989 The Mirage opened, and it featured what was easily the nicest poker room Las Vegas had ever seen, with 31 poker tables and a top notch management staff under Eric Drache. It was great for players like myself, and the fact that the rake had been raised to $3 in many games seemed like a small price to pay for something incredibly good. For those players who wanted the lower rake (and very liberal comps to boot) there was the terrific poker room downtown at Binion’s Horseshoe. But the genie had been let out of the bottle, so to speak, and today the rakes are much higher. Not only here in Las Vegas, but virtually everywhere, and that includes the Internet.
As a business owner, I understand that a profit has to be made and if this was not the case there would be no poker games. So don’t get me wrong, I’m not against paying rake. My question is at what point will the games be damaged (in the long run), and while I can’t offer any proof, it’s my opinion that we are beyond that point. That is unless the rake comes down, I wonder how many poker games there will be a year from now, or two years from now. If the trend for a higher rake continues, I’m also wondering how many Las Vegas (and elsewhere) poker rooms will simply close up as the host casino will begin to feel that poker just isn’t worth it any more.