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Under the table rakeback has only relatively recently been recognised as a problem by the majority of poker networks. In an effort to regulate poker ecology and the level of recreational players, operators have started to realise that high raking, break-even grinders might not be quite as good for their business as they once imagined – especially when the poker room’s margins are being squeezed as low as a few percent of the player’s gross rake.

Price wars have come and gone, affiliates have started successful businesses on the back of these deals and some successful businesses have been completely ruined as a result. There is no doubt that this phenomenon has changed the industry and unfortunately it’s not for better.

Most networks hold an affiliate blacklist. If an affiliate is suspected of offering under the table deals the network will search for irrefutable evidence of their rules being breached. If found guilty the affiliate is typically placed on a blacklist which strictly forbids any licence working with the affiliate and often puts a fine in place if any skin is found doing so.

The Consequences

Blacklisting of course has some inevitable consequences. Demand for under the table deals remains the same whilst supply decreases almost instantly. As a result the few remaining affiliates can sweep up more business and even increase their profit margins.

Politicians complain about how illogical the war on drugs and the war against under the table affiliates is no different.

Sending a drug dealer to jail and expecting them to come out and not re-offend is just crazy. Their prospects for pursuing a legitimate career significantly diminish and upon release it’s easy to see how delving back into illegal activity is tempting. What should society have these offenders do?

Similarly, can a network realistically expect to blacklist an affiliate specialising in under the table rakeback and for them to turn their back on all their previous hard work (yes, like drug dealers these guys also have to work) and find another business? Any opportunity for these entrepreneurs to legitimise themselves and operate within network policy has disappeared. What do the networks expect these affiliates to do?

The poker room’s role in this process should not be disregarded either. Just like the affiliate, smaller poker rooms will understand that the demand still exists and it’s unlikely they will turn their back on a lucrative area of their business, especially when they know customers are not at risk as long as they remain vigilant.

The Customer

Buying drugs is a relatively risk free process. If the police catch you buying, you can expect a warning in most countries, but nothing more serious. You might not get exactly what you paid for , maybe you will be mugged and your friends might tell you that it’s stupid. The authorities, however don’t particularly care if you’re a customer. They want to cut it off at the source, but of course the real rules are dictated by money, not by the law. If the price is right anything is possible.

Similarly, negotiating an under the table rakeback deal is a relatively risk free process. If the network catch you, you might get a warning, but they will always welcome you back with open arms on another skin. Your affiliate might not give you exactly what you promised, maybe the site will go bust or like RakeReduction maybe the affiliate will just run away with your hard earned rakeback.


The Solution

As long as demand continues, a sub-industry of under the table affiliates will continue to cannibalise networks’ traffic and often it’s not the affiliates fault. At such a competitive time, it’s a case of either eat or be eaten and if they don’t keep up with the high end deals their livelihood is truly at risk.

Networks’ need to publically campaign against these offers and make it known they are for from risk free. If this is done effectively, demand will decrease and affiliates will be given the freedom to compete within the guidelines set out by the networks. These guidelines keep poker ecology in mind and will benefit poker rooms, players and affiliates that bring true value in the long run.

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Jamie Nevin