They say that only two things are certain: death and taxes. There is a type of "tax" even for poker players. This is a small amount taken from each pot in a poker game, and it is called "rake".
We don't begrudge the house its fee for organizing the game but we still would like to keep the fee as small as possible. This is where rakeback comes in.
Most casinos, both land-based and online, offer a rakeback program. There are several different methods by which casinos offer rakeback but they amount to the same thing: the casino gives qualifying players a chance to get back some of the rake they have generated.
First, let's understand who, exactly, is in charge of the rakeback program. There are two main actors in charge. One is the casino, itself and the other is a casino promoter and conduit called an affiliate.
If the casino offers rakeback directly, you will have to register in their rakeback program. Some casinos offer rakeback through their VIP program, so you will have to be a member. Other casinos simply offer rakeback directly to players.
Rake is taken from the money bet on a given game. There are two ways that rake is credited to players.
In the Shared Method of calculating rake, each player who received cards is credited with an equal fraction of the rake. For example, if there were 5 players in the game, each is credited with generating 20% of the rake. Keep in mind that the rake on any pot is relatively small, so rake amounts per game will often be just a few cents. Rake adds up when you play hundreds and thousands of hands.
In the Contributed Method of calculating rake, each player is credited based on the percentage of the pot s/he contributed. The player who folded early will be credited with less rake than the players who stayed in for the showdown.
Land-based casinos usually take a higher percentage of rake because they have more overhead and each hand takes more time. Online casinos take a smaller percentage and also cap the rake, usually at $5. In both cases, the casinos are responding to competition by offering rakeback.
Regardless of which method is used to calculate rake, players receive rakeback based on the percentage offered by the casino. Naturally, the percentage is not the same for every casino so shopping around is important.
This is where affiliates come in. Many, if not most, players to online casinos, first try out the casino based on a recommendation from an affiliate. These sites don't operate casinos, they study casinos for the benefit of players all over the world. Affiliates can tell you where the best rakeback percentage is, who has the most user-friendly rakeback program, who pays rakeback daily or weekly (some casinos pay rakeback monthly), and many other details of the various rakeback programs. There are so many rakeback programs, that having a professional study them for you is a great, time-saving benefit.
Some affiliates operate their own rakeback program with money that the affiliates are "paid" by casinos for promoting them. The affiliates and casinos work together, with the casino tracking each player's rake and the affiliate managing the rakeback program.
Rakeback Mistakes that Players Make
Players make two main mistakes regarding rakeback: .
They play when they are not at their best, just to put in a few hundred hands for the single purpose of generating rakeback. Unless you are a true rakeback pro, you will eventually lose more than you get back.
Players who are chasing rakeback often bet when they should fold.
Players sometimes move up to higher stakes to generate more rakeback. Until you are truly ready to play for higher stakes, this is a big loser in the long and in the short run.
Rakeback is a great promotion offered by poker rooms. Like everything else, some offers are better than others. Due diligence on the player's part is very important. Being vigilant not to abuse the offer is also the clear responsibility of the player. If you stay in control of your game, rakeback will give you many hours of seemingly free play.