Rakeback Pitfalls

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While rakeback is generally great for us online players, it is not without its pitfalls.  What follows is a discussion of what I have found to be some things that can cast a shadow on your rakeback deal.

Playing for Rakeback

There are two types of players when it comes to rakeback, those who consider it a nice bonus and those who treat it as another income stream.  I fall in the former category.  For me, rakeback is not the end-all, be-all of my poker playing.  I play poker for fun, hopefully winning a little spending cash while I’m at it, and just use rakeback to treat myself to a little gift now and then.  But for those who play poker for a living, and even serious amateurs, rakeback is sometimes almost as important as their actual poker results.  For those who don’t watch out, that can be a problem.

I have encountered many people who, even when they don’t feel like playing, will still play just to earn rakeback.  Why?  I’m not exactly sure, but it may be because rakeback is awarded win or lose, so it feels good to always have that bit of positive cash flow.  The risk here is when people play just for the rakeback, they usually don’t care as much about how well they are playing.  They are just grinding out hand after hand after hand, looking forward to the next one, as with the next one comes more rakeback.  Win, lose, or draw, it doesn’t matter, as long as the rakeback is flowing.  Just as you should not play when you are too tired to concentrate or make sound decisions, nor should you play poker just to plow through a bunch of hands.  The lack of concern for your quality of play and reduced concentration will cause you to lose much more money at the tables than you would bring in with rakeback.

I have run into a similar problem when trying to accumulate raked hands to earn a deposit bonus.  Sometimes I just play to earn the bonus, rather than playing to win.  There have been times where I’ve gotten the bonus, but in the process lost more money than the bonus was worth just because I didn’t care about anything but getting hands in.

Putting Blinders On

The easiest part of a rakeback deal to evaluate is the percentage.  The higher the percentage, the more money you will make, all things being equal.  However, just because a poker room offers you a higher percentage than the others doesn’t mean you should automatically jump at the opportunity.  You don’t want to ignore other factors that can affect your profitability.

If you focus solely on the rakeback deal itself, you may not see how active the poker room’s tables are.  You may not notice how strong the competition is.  You may ignore other features of a poker room that you may otherwise find valuable, such as special promotions and tournaments.  High percentage rakeback is all well and good, but if nobody is filling the tables, you won’t be able to play enough hands to earn rakeback.  If your opponents are very skilled, you will end up losing more money than you can make up with rakeback.  Some of these things may or may not be important to you, but it is never unwise to at least be aware of them.

Room Loyalty

Rakeback has become a controversial topic lately (or at least the controversy has only recently been made public), as most poker rooms and networks despise it.  One of the primary reasons for their hatred of rakeback is that it fosters disloyalty in their customers.  Many players just look for the highest percentage deal, so if they are playing at one poker room and another one on the same network offers an extra couple percent, they will make the switch.  There is no downside for the player, as he’s still on the same network that he’s used to.  The poker rooms, on the other hand, are cannibalizing each other.

You as a player, however, need to be aware of how the ultra-competitive rakeback rooms treat you.  They can be disloyal, as well.  The higher rakeback they offer, the smaller their profit margins are.  And because rakeback promotions are sort of the “easy” way to market to potential customers, these rooms often don’t put a whole lot of effort into actually trying hard to keep their customers.  You, as a high percentage rakeback player, are actually not that valuable to the poker room, so don’t be surprised if a room with astronomical rakeback percentages is willing to turn its back on you if the going gets tough for it.  Now, I’m not saying that you get screwed over just because a room gives you a good deal, I’m just telling you to do your homework.  Be sure the room has a good reputation and track record before you sign up.

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