The Top Ways Online Poker Rooms Make Money


Posted: November 14, 2023

Updated: November 14, 2023

Of all the casino games available at the online or brick-and-mortar casino, poker is different. It's one of the only games where players play against each other rather than the casino itself. However, this leads to the question: how does a gambling platform make money if the players don't lose to the casino?

It will come as no surprise to learn that online poker sites and online casinos are in the business of making money; that’s their ultimate goal, and while many of these sites may offer attractive – and lucrative – bonuses and promotions designed to temp in new players, the ultimate goal is to generate as much revenue as possible. All casino games are designed to turn a profit for the casino, and poker is no exception. Poker is unique; unlike other casino table games, you’re not playing directly against the casinos. This raises the question of how online poker sites and casinos can generate cash from their games.

On this page, we will look at how online poker rooms make money – and how they can keep this revenue steady for long periods. As a general rule of thumb, there are three main ways an online poker room can generate revenue – and we’ll be looking at these methods in this article.

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How An Online Poker Room Makes Money – The Pot Rake

As a general rule of thumb, and according to the latest online gambling news in the US, online poker rooms make money through what is known as the rake. The casino will charge this rake to generate profit whether you are playing a cash game or a tournament. Naturally, the amount of rake charged – and the method in which the casino charges it – varies greatly depending on the poker room you are playing in and the type of poker game you are playing.

There are a few main types of methods casinos can use the charge rake, and below, we’ll be taking a look at these in detail. Please note these are guidelines only, and you should always check with the casino or poker site you are considering playing at to find out their rules surrounding rake.

Understanding How Online Poker Rooms Make Money – Calculating Rake

Playing Cash Games

Whenever you play cash games at poker websites or land-based poker rooms, the dealer will almost always take a portion of the pot at the end of the hand. Once the round is finished and the winner of the hand has been announced, the dealer will deduct a small amount of money before the pot is pushed over to the winner.

online poker rooms make money
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The rake is not usually charged in the event of a tie or a split hand. At most online poker websites, and in the vast majority of land-based poker rooms, the amount of rake deducted from the pot is calculated using a fixed percentage. This percentage varies greatly depending on where you are playing and the type of game you enjoy, but it is usually between 2.5% and 10%. As an average, you should usually expect casinos to take a 3.5% rake out of every cash game pot.

The Rake Builds Up

Now, 3.5% may sound like quite a lot of money – and, to be fair, it is. When you consider that online poker rooms and land-based casinos typically run poker games 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can quickly see how much money they can make by taking a rake. However, the rake is almost always capped at a maximum amount per hand. For example, low-stake poker tables generally have a $10 rake cap. Any amount over $10 is not subject to the rake deductions. Naturally, the larger the stakes you are playing, the more rake a poker site will typically take. Not all land-based poker rooms have a fixed amount limit. As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid playing non-fixed rake versions of poker, as doing so can cost you a lot of money.

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Online Poker Rooms Make Money With Tournaments 

When it comes to how online poker rooms make money, poker tournaments are very different from cash games. Poker tournaments require players to battle one another for chips and try to outlast their opponents. In most poker tournaments, the players who reach the final table – and finish last – walk away with the biggest prizes.

Poker tournaments do not use real cash, as casinos and online poker websites cannot charge rake. Instead, you pay an entry fee to the poker tournament – also known as the buy-in. For example, if you enter a $300 poker event with 888Poker, you could pay a $30 surcharge to the casino. This $30 is not added to the total prize pool and is kept by the casino to pay their dealers and cover their costs.

Keeping The Entry Fees Low

One of the reasons why online poker tournaments have become so popular is because the entry fees are generally a lot lower than the ones found in land-based poker rooms. The reason behind this should be relatively straightforward; online poker websites have much lower overheads than their land-based counterparts, and these savings are usually passed on directly to players.

online poker rooms make money
Picture Source: Pxhere

Think about it; when you play poker in a live environment, the casino needs to pay for the dealers, floor space is being taken up, and everything needs to be planned – and this all comes at a cost. When you are playing online poker, there are relatively few costs aside from the technical staff employed and the costs associated with running the servers.

Paying Hourly Rate Fees

While most low-stakes cash games will utilise a rake-based format, casinos realise that players playing at larger stakes will not be happy with this. For example, if poker pots are frequently worth thousands of dollars – or even more – this can quickly add up to a considerable amount of money that the casino would need to deduct from the pots every hand. As a result, and because there’s a need for online poker rooms to make money, some casinos and poker rooms will also offer you the chance to pay an hourly rate. This means all the players at the table pay a set amount every hour; in return, the dealer does not take any rake from the pots. When an hourly pay structure is utilised, the money involved in the poker pots is paid directly to players.

This approach is usually taken by high-stakes players, although some poker rooms and land-based casinos offer the option of lower-stake cash games too. Usually, the hourly fee is chargeable once per hour, and players can pay it directly to the dealer using chips from the chips on the table or cash – whichever is most accessible.

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How Else Do Online Poker Rooms Make Money?

Aside from the methods we have just discussed, there are several other ways that online poker rooms make money from poker. For example, traditional brick-and-mortar casinos will attempt to supplement their revenue by charging high prices for food and beverages. While some land-based poker rooms will offer players free drinks, this is generally reserved for those playing in cash games – usually at relatively big stakes. For example, land-based poker rooms may offer all players free water and soft drinks – but when it comes to alcoholic drinks or food, the prices may be marked up by as much as 100%.

This is quite a clever technique, as most players at the poker table will not want to get up and go elsewhere to get cheaper food. They will usually be happy to pay higher prices for the convenience factor. The food is delivered directly to the poker table, and most brick-and-mortar poker rooms allow players to eat at the table – provided no other players object.

Play The Profitable Video Slots

When it comes to the meed that online poker rooms make money, they tend to get a bit more creative in generating additional revenue. One of the most common methods is to try and convince players to play casino games like video slots.

online poker rooms make money
Picture Source: Pexels

For example, when you play at many online poker sites, you will often be able to bring up a slot machine – and play – while playing in a poker game. This can be an incredibly lucrative source of revenue for the online poker website, and it’s one of the reasons why most poker sites also have an online casino. Many online poker websites will also run special live events. For example, PartyPoker runs several live tournaments throughout the year – and these tournaments, while offering sizable prize pools, cost players significantly more money to enter than the online games they offer.

Fees For Online Poker Licensing

Another technique we have seen used by online poker rooms to generate revenue is licensing out their software and technology to other casinos. For example, online poker software is often licensed under a white-labelled agreement in the US market. Developing and maintaining online poker software can be insanely expensive – and small operators often do not have enough money to develop their proprietary software from scratch. As a result of this, more minor, newer sites will often licence out the poker software from larger, more established operators – at a fee, of course. 

You’ll find that all the best online poker sites in the US, like 888Poker, are always getting creative with revenue-generating techniques. The ones we have just talked about are, in no way, exhaustive – and you’ll always find poker sites coming up with new ways to generate revenue.

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