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Keepin' It Real: Live Tournament Rake and Structures

by Katie Dozier |  Published: Nov 07, '11

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In the words of the immortal Ali G, and partially inspired by Daniel Negreanu’s most recent blog “Being Real,” I wanted to offer poker rooms some constructive criticism about picking a structure and rake for a tournament series.

I like the bright ambiance of the card room at Caesars Palace, and the fact that, unlike so many casinos, the poker room is far away from the annoying soundtrack of dinging penny slots. But I had some real issues with their most recent tournament series: the 5th Annual Caesars Palace Classic.

The biggest issue for me comes down to the rake, especially for the main event. The buyin is $1,000 with $100 for rake and 3% withheld from the prize pool. The $100 events had a $30 rake (plus 3% withheld), which is so high that there was no way I was going to play any of those events. The $200 events had a $40 rake, which is also high, and kept me from playing— especially since the Bellagio’s daily tournament on Friday and Saturday is a $500 + $40.

This brings me to my next gripe. Somewhere in Vegas, the following conversation is taking place in a poker room.

Well-intentioned recreational player A,“Yeah, I’m gonna go play x tournament.”

Out of towner player B, “Oh, what’s it like?”

Player A, “20 thousand starting chips.”

Player B, “Sounds awesome.”

Now of course all good players realize that the starting stack means absolutely nothing without knowing the blind structure, since the real information is how deep the effective stack is in big blinds, and what each of the levels are. For the Caesars Main Event, it started with the dramatic sounding $40k, and 400 big blinds, which is even deeper than the WSOP Main starts.

But I felt a bit hoodwinked when the blinds doubled (50/100 to 100/200 to 200/400) in the first three 40 minute levels, and there wasn’t an ante until 600/1200. So four levels in (just over two hours) the starting stack would be 67 blinds. In comparison, a $1000 + $80 Venetian Deep Stack (also with 3% withheld and including the goofy $10 “Optional” staff bonus, and .5% withheld for the series leaderboard system) starts with only $15k chips and the same starting blinds, but many additional hour-long levels such that by the fourth level the starting stack is still 75 bb. So despite starting shallower than I’d ideally like, the Venetian structure offers more play for less rake.

I also think that card rooms should offer greater transparency with the amount withheld from the prize pool. Often this info is given in miniscule print at the bottom of structure sheets. I’ve even been directly lied to by a staff member at a casino in Atlantic City and told that there was no percent withheld, when I inquired after winning a daily tournament and was deciding about the tip. In actuality it was the standard 3%.

Furthermore, while I praised Venetian’s structure above, I really dislike their “optional” staff bonus, which to me is an attempt to make the rake seem like less than it actually is. I do consider myself a fan of the Venetian Poker room, and think that their Deep Stack Extravaganza is well-run in general. The sketchy “dealer bonus” add-on is certainly not unique to the Venetian, but is the most high-profile example of this that I can think of.

For example, the Venetian’s Deep Stack Extravaganza’s info sheet lists the tournament on the 13th as $1,070. That seems like a pretty great deal, with the assumption being a $70 (+ 3% withheld) rake. One has to scroll down to the fine print to find out about the $10 staff bonus, which would obviously be extremely –EV to pass up as it’s for an additional 2,500 chips, to find out that the tournament is essentially a $1,000 + $80.

One could argue that my issues with the structures above are hypocritical, being as I still decided to play in some of the very tournaments I’m complaining about. But the fact is that I would play in even more of the series if the rake was more favorable. The rake is very relevant to a grinder’s ROI, especially in off-season poker in Vegas, which tends to have a higher percentage of grinders than in the summer. I think that the players who are continually registering for these tournaments should have more of a say in exactly the type of tournament they are playing.

What we need is for bigger name poker players to speak out in favor of transparency in rake, and for better tournament structures. This is a difficult thing to ask of the big names in poker, as they likely a lot less concerned about $10 more in rake for a $1k tournament, and perhaps do not like the idea about speaking negatively about a poker room that may be less inclined to offer them incentives in the future. I admire the fact that Daniel Negreanu spoke out about some of the EPT rules, despite his PokerStars sponsorship, and I think that the A list in poker needs to do more of that.

So what is the solution for all of the issues I have listed above? Transparency. End the staff bonuses and withholding that make it annoying for players and stakers alike, and most players who cash will tip fairly. And for the structures of tournaments in a series, why not have one reasonable structure sheet (ideally that starts at least 200 blinds deep without skipping levels) and then simply vary the level length based on the buyin. The Bellagio does this for their daily tournaments, with 25 minute levels for their $120 tournament, all the way up to hour levels for their $5,180 tourneys.

I urge poker players (particularly the bigger names) to be more vocal about calling out rakes/structures that we feel are not as good as they should be, and make it clear that we’ll play more tournaments that offer a better rake and structure.

Katie “hotjenny314” Dozier is a lead coach for Team Moshman and one of the Grindettes. An accomplished super-turbo and MTT player, she makes videos for Drag The Bar and PokerStrategy . Dozier, co-authored Pro Poker Strategy: The Top Skills and The Superuser. She posts more frequent updates on Twitter.

 
Any views or opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the ownership or management of CardPlayer.com.
 

Comments

LisaJax
10 years ago

Katie, if you or others don't like the rake, it's so SIMPLE.... just say no and don't sign up for the tournament(s). If casinos could get saps to signup for a 50% rake, they would! Why not? So quit your bitching and begging for the so-called "big name pros" to fight your battles.
Oh, and by the way sister, by the time the casinos take their rake and the State and US Govt. tax your winning, you've already signed up for a 40-50% rake should you finish high! I think it's time you thought about getting a real job, my dear, or stick to the cash games.
If you want some tips on colluding when online poker resumes in the USA, I can provide you some help and a few good tips there. :-)

 
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bparmalee
10 years ago

You might have meant it to be flip Lisajax but you actually have hit on something most "touney poker players" dont even consider. Tournement poker is a leech on the soul of poker. With all of the rake that comes out and now the government making sure they get their cut..... how can the poker community sustain this? I mean I have gone to a few of the bigger tourney series to play cash and a random tourney here and there (I suck really really bad at tourney poker) and all I am left with is Damn poker players are out a lot of money. I would love to see a calculation of how much money is gone for good over the entire World Series of Poker. Taxes+Rake+Est Travel related costs.... the number would be mind numbing. Thats money that is never going back into the pot. I know there are costs related to cash games but its not comparable to the tourney drain. It will be intresting to see how much longer this wheel can keep spinning before it implodes in on itself. With no online poker to keep the kids afloat year round.... how will the big tourney series be affected? I know numbers were up this year but I think next year will be a better representaion since it will have been long enough for peoples bank rolls to have been affected by the online shutdown.

 
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Katie_Dozier
10 years ago

Fwiw, Venetian tweeted to me about their $10 food comp per DSE entry, and this:

"@Katie_Dozier no pass needed for buffet. Any player may enter the La Scena lounge and have lunch on us"

So the buffet and the food comp do lower the rake by some small percent, but the buffet is not offered for all DSEs. I would prefer though that they handed out the comp when you by your ticket. A lot of times I forget to get my comp (which I do realize is my fault, but it does lower the value of the comp to me, as it is def not the same as deducting $10 from the rake.)

About that issue, I tweeted:

"@VenetianPoker Ty.Complimentary buffet for all DSE? What about handing out $10 comp w/entry, instead of at desk? Ending "optional" bonus?"

They replied:

"@Katie_Dozier we do hand out $10 food comp with every entry"

I replied:

"@VenetianPoker My mistake about that then, thought I recalled having to go up to the comp desk to get it. Where is the free buffet w/entry?"

Them:

"@Katie_Dozier players do have to go to the comp desk to get either their gift or comp. We allow the player to choose"

Players could have the same choice given to them right when they enter the tournament, which would mean many more people would remember and the rake would be cut more.

I think that the Venetian is a very good card room, and in fact one of the ones I play in the most. Even if they choose to not lower their DSE rake, I do hope that they decide to operate with more transparency; like listing the "optional" bonus prominently on their DSE info sheet, and handing out the comps directly when you buy-in; like the Rio did for the WSOP.

They also tweeted:

"@Katie_Dozier I am never offended and welcome the discussion"

So if you also think they should lower their rake and offer more transparency in terms of rake, bonuses, comps, etc., now would be a good time to tell them. :) I'm meeting with the tournament director next week, at their invitation.

 
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Katie_Dozier
10 years ago

Fwiw, Venetian tweeted to me about their $10 food comp per DSE entry, and this:

"@Katie_Dozier no pass needed for buffet. Any player may enter the La Scena lounge and have lunch on us"

So the buffet and the food comp do lower the rake by some small percent, but the buffet is not offered for all DSEs. I would prefer though that they handed out the comp when you by your ticket. A lot of times I forget to get my comp (which I do realize is my fault, but it does lower the value of the comp to me, as it is def not the same as deducting $10 from the rake.)

About that issue, I tweeted:

"@VenetianPoker Ty.Complimentary buffet for all DSE? What about handing out $10 comp w/entry, instead of at desk? Ending "optional" bonus?"

They replied:

"@Katie_Dozier we do hand out $10 food comp with every entry"

I replied:

"@VenetianPoker My mistake about that then, thought I recalled having to go up to the comp desk to get it. Where is the free buffet w/entry?"

Them:

"@Katie_Dozier players do have to go to the comp desk to get either their gift or comp. We allow the player to choose"

Players could have the same choice given to them right when they enter the tournament, which would mean many more people would remember and the rake would be cut more.

I think that the Venetian is a very good card room, and in fact one of the ones I play in the most. Even if they choose to not lower their DSE rake, I do hope that they decide to operate with more transparency; like listing the "optional" bonus prominently on their DSE info sheet, and handing out the comps directly when you buy-in; like the Rio did for the WSOP.

They also tweeted:

"@Katie_Dozier I am never offended and welcome the discussion"

So if you also think they should lower their rake and offer more transparency in terms of rake, bonuses, comps, etc., now would be a good time to tell them. :) I'm meeting with the tournament director next week, at their invitation.

 
Reply
 

Jason8282
10 years ago

You suggest tipping but as it is there's no reason to. Before AC had a mandatory 3% prizepool reduction for staff, 3% would've been considered a reasonable tip for any final table finisher. Now 3% is coming out of the entire prizepool. You talk about transparency and I agree, the 3% would be better if instead of fine print at the bottom, it was listed as X+Y+Z. 485+40+15 is more honest than saying 500+40 when not everyone knows about the 3%. Also "optional" staff bonuses should not be permitted. In a 1k event they're converting their mandatory 3% to 4%. I have no problem with a casino making money but there is a "rake creep" in which 500+40 used to be standard and now tourneys in AC are charging 400+50. Most people don't notice or care thank you for raising awareness.

 
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Katie_Dozier
10 years ago

Great points, Jason! I totally agree. :)

 
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bparmalee
10 years ago

In a totally unrelated story: Cardplayer please allow us to comment on Dustys useless blog!! He has the worst blog ever written and its painful to see him peddling his useless junk without a stream of "cheeky" comments. If you allow us to comment of his blog.... his blog will then become vastly more entertaining. His blogs are horrid, bland and uninformative. Help us... help him (though I do accept that nothing on this Earth can help him).

 
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oldeschoolpkrr
10 years ago

amen bparmalee!!! this young lady allows comments and even gets on here to respond. she has chutzpuh, guts, balls...whatever. this 'dusty' guy has no balls, guts...and most of all no intelligence. who the hell is he anyway? and why does he get a column on Cardplayer????

oh yeah...his name must have been next in the phone book.....

 
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