Rake has generally been an ever present feature in online poker, with the exception of certain “zero rake” poker rooms who have thus far had limited success. Nowadays, not only are educated players cautious of how much rake a specific room charges, but also which method of rake a poker room uses to divide the rake amongst players at a table. Historically, all poker rooms began with the “dealt” rake method, which consists of splitting the rake paid evenly between each player at the table. This evolved into the weighted contributed method, which consists of the rake being split between players based upon their proportional contribution to the pot. Originally, many regulars saw this as a tactic utilised by poker rooms to increase short-term revenue, but the majority of players have now come to the agreement that it is indeed a fairer method of rake apportionment. Following upon this trend, a new rake method has recently emerged, causing regulars to again question if such a method is deployed with their best interests at heart. But are poker rooms really trying to exploit players with the motive of maximising their own revenue?
In July 2010, Ongame announced the launch of their new rake system, known as “Essence.” This method categorises players using a real time algorithm which consists of various factors, and essentially apportions rake to players based on the results of this algorithm. Ultimately, this system results in losing players being attributed more of the rake and winning players being attributed less of the rake. Following the release of “Essence”, critics praised the success of this new rake system based on an initial surge in traffic at Ongame, however player numbers have noticeably lacked in growth over the past 6 months.
Why should an “Essence” type system be optimal in theory? First of all, if losing players are attributed more rake and hence are eligible for greater rewards, they should theoretically stick around for longer and contribute more to the poker economy overall. Secondly, it should encourage skins on a network which uses such a system to be more proactive in attracting recreational players – who we will assume are generally losers – since the skin can expect to receive a greater return than before on these players. However, not only has the transparency of Ongame’s new rake system been criticised heavily by regular players, but there are some palpable flaws in their implementation of such a system. The poker software at Ongame has never been aesthetically pleasing or fast running, so if the plan was to launch the new rake system to get more recreational players to the tables and keep them there, then why not improve your software and user experience which is essential from both a recreational players and regular players perspective. With Bwin leaving Ongame to join the Party network in early 2012, the future of the Ongame network is unclear. However, one thing that we can surmise with some certainty is that their decision to implement such a rake system without improving other aspects of a player’s poker experience was an ill thought move. Nonetheless, the theory behind the possible success of such a system has been recognised by various prominent figures within the online gaming industry. Indeed, PokerUpdate recently revealed the iPoker network’s intentions to release its own unique rake system, but can we expect their system to have different results to that of Ongame?
It’s difficult to predict if the iPoker network can implement a similar system with success, but let’s consider the information we have so far. First of all, the criteria within the proposed iPoker model appear to be more transparent and initial reports suggest that the system won’t have such a drastic effect on winning players rake in comparison to that of Ongame’s “Essence” model. Furthermore, iPoker has revealed that it will release new software improvements in January 2012 – Which can be seen Here – which will make it faster, easier to navigate and will cater to the ever increasing demand for social interaction.
All of these improvements are surely aimed to cater to the recreational player, and unlike Ongame, making such software improvements in lieu with a recreational player facing rake system could prove to be successful. There are many large sportsbooks on the iPoker network who currently don’t have a strong motivation to convert users to poker – It’s much more profitable for them to simply encourage these players to stick to sportsbook and casino games. “Fishy” players are increasingly expensive to acquire, and the changes at iPoker should not only encourage the large sportsbook’s to convert more players to poker, but also to give recreational players a greater reason to stick around at the tables by providing them with a more enjoyable gaming experience. Despite this, it’s still unclear how effective these changes will be, however the iPoker network has undoubtedly launched such changes with an achievable goal in mind.
PokerUpdate will be following iPoker’s new rake system closely, so make sure to check out our detailed analysis in early 2012!