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NLHE Rake Comparison of Online Poker Sites

Poker would be a zero sum game if it were not for the rake.  Rake of course being the fee that online poker rooms charge players to play their games.  The fees in the poker industry are far from standardized.  Many poker rooms sneak in a little raise in rates here, or offer a small discount in rake there, all in an effort to boost certain games, stakes, or satisfy certain segments of the market.

As Hold'em edges become thinner in the poker world due to the proliferation of knowledge and readily available training materials, the need to find a way to increase your win rate becomes vitally important. One of the most obvious ways is to choose a site that takes the least amount of money out of every pot, the lowest raked poker sites, and thus allows you to use your skill to take the most from other players at the table.  The challenging part though is figuring out what site takes the least from each pot and how it compares with other sites that are available to you.  This website specializes in real money play at US-friendly online poker sites, but please note that four of the five networks profiled in this report also accept players from all over the world (the exception being Ignition Casino's poker room). 

ProfessionalRakeback.com knows that you'd rather be playing No Limit Hold'em poker rather than scouring every possible available poker website or bugging live chat support for information and thus we are here to help you in that quest with these easy to decipher rake comparison charts.  We have broken down the charts into four groups, micro, small, mid, and high stakes. These tables and charts focus on the US friendly online poker networks, : Bodog Poker Network, Winning Poker Network, Revolution Gaming Network, Chico Gaming Network and Grand Poker Network.  When looking at the numbers we are just going to consider the raw data, and will talk about mitigating factors such as bonuses, rakeback and other money-added value considerations after all the charts.

editor's notes regarding rake at poker charts

Micro Stakes NLHE Rake Analysis

Micro Stakes Rake Comparison Chart

When it comes to the micro stakes games, there are two clear winners.  For the penny games, $2 and $5 buy-ins, Chico is easily the winner.  While it does charge a slightly higher percentage of each pot, the cap is half that of its nearest competitor and in some cases as much as one sixth as much as the most expensive site.  The $3 rake cap charged by WPN for example, will pretty much never be hit in penny games, and thus the effective rake percentage will always be a 5% drain in every single pot played.  Where as at Chico, when one takes down those huge multi-way pots that often occur in soft 2NL and 5NL games, the reduced rake will more than make up for the slightly higher amount one paid in smaller pots. 

Once one gets to the $10 buy in levels, things get a bit more interesting.  This is the lowest stakes that Grand Poker Network offers and, true to the discount nature of their parent company 5Dimes (an A+ rated "reduced juice" sportsbook) the rake is the cheapest of any site on offer.  Grand Poker offers the lowest maximum rake caps.  In those cases where the capped amount is tied with another site, they offer a lower percentage of rake taken, besting every competitor by at least 10%.  This ultimately saves one money on the more frequent small pots, as well as saving one money in the huge pots with lower caps.  The only bad news is that GPN is the smallest site in this list and rarely has more than a handful of small stakes games running at any given time.  If one is a recreational player, one will probably be just fine with this.  However, if one is a multi-tabling 10NL grinder, one will likely need to split one's action among multiple sites or help start games to create more action for oneself.

In the middle of the pack there is Ignition who has neither the smallest, nor the largest rake at any micro stakes levels.  They do have the advantage of being the largest site available to American players.  Ignition is the only site in this list which is not available to players outside of America (though if one is Canadian one can access the same network via Bodog).

On the high-end of the scale there is Winning Poker Network and Horizon Network.  Horizon charges the highest percentage rake at 6.67% which will hurt micro stakes players in the smaller pots.  WPN has the highest rake caps of all sites at these stakes.  Through Professional Rakeback however, one can create a rakeback account with either of these networks and bring the rake more into line with their competitors.  We will discuss this in more depth at the bottom of this article.

TLDR; - Lowest Raked Micro Stakes Poker Sites

2NL - Chico Network
5NL - Chico Network
10NL - Grand Poker, Chico Network, Ignition


Playing at the least raked micro stakes sites is a simple process.  All you need to do is to clear your web browser's cookies, then click any of the following links to create an account at: 
-- Chico (
Sportsbetting.ag, BetOnline, TigerGaming Non-US)
-- Bodog (Ignition USA, Bodog Canada)
-- Grand (
SportBet, 5Dimes


 

Small Stakes NLHE Rake Analysis

Rake Comparison Small Stakes table

These are the levels that one notices things start to get a bit more homogenous and caps become a much larger part of the equation.   Ignition, Winning Network, and Horizon Network all have 5% rake percentages.  This is a huge gain for Revolution Network and makes them just as competitive as everyone else with regard to percentages and particularly in short-handed games.  However their caps are still rather high in fuller games (luckily rakeback helps mitigate this).  

For 25NL players Grand Network has the best rates across the board, but suffers from low traffic.  The second best option, Ignition, is on the other end of the scale with the highest amount of traffic available.  Horizon and WPN have the highest caps and Chico is somewhere in the middle with higher rates for shorthanded play but average rates in fuller games.

At the 50NL level, Chico takes the overall prize for full 6max and ring games hands down.  Grand wins at heads up and 4 handed play, and Winning has the best rates for three-handed play.   Horizon and Ignition at the $50 buy-in both take the opportunity to jack max rake up to $4 per hand in full games and thus are the most expensive.

100NL level is mostly dominated by discount poker provider Grand Poker Network.  GPN has the best rates, with the exception of Winning Poker once again having the best rake at the three-handed level.  Ignition's and Horizon's rake caps eat into profit in fuller games and in short-handed games Chico fares poorly with the highest caps and highest percentage rake drop.

TLDR; - Lowest Raked Small Stakes Poker Sites

25NL - Grand Poker, Ignition
50NL - Chico Network, Grand Poker, Winning
100NL - Grand Poker, Winning


Playing at the least raked small stakes sites is a simple process.  All you need to do is to clear your web browser's cookies, then click any of the following links to create an account at: 
-- Chico (
Sportsbetting.ag, BetOnline, TigerGaming Non-US)
-- Bodog (Ignition USA, Bodog Canada)
-- Grand (
SportBet, 5Dimes
-- Winning (
America's Cardroom, Black Chip Poker, True Poker, PokerHost)


 

Medium Stakes NLHE Rake Analysis

Rake Comparison Medium Stakes chart

This is the level where rake might start to matter a little less to some players and game selection, or even availability starts to become a factor.  The mid stakes is where winning players tend to win much more money over time than they pay in rake, thus leaving behind the proverbial "rake trap" that players in the lower stakes are often faced with.  Game availability also tends to suffer the higher up the ranks one goes.  Thus the larger sites in this comparison will be the sites where one can find multiple games running, even at non-peak hours.  The smaller sites one will often have difficulty finding games outside of peak times.  Starting games is always an option, just be sure to pay attention to the heads up and three-handed rake levels if you happen to be a frequent game starter.  WPN and Grand are best for game starters who enjoy short-handed play.

The two main winners at 200NL, 400NL, and 600NL are Winning Network and Grand Poker.  WPN blows away the competition with an astonishingly low 1% rake at 400 and 600 NL!  Grand Poker also has below average percentage fees along with the lowest maximum rake caps of all sites reviewed.

Chico Network and Ignition take up the high-end of the scale at these levels. The caps don't make this any easier to swallow with them being at about the same or higher than most other sites on the list.  It is important to note though that the games on Ignition and Chico sites are often softer than their counterparts, as there are large sportsbook and casino operations attached to both sites (with very active customer bases). This makes it easier for these two sites to cross promote and funnel players around to their different gambling verticals and often results in lucky punters going nuts on the tables after big sports or gambling wins.  Astute players would be wise to take advantage of this fact.  Even with the higher rake charged, there is considerable profit to be made on Ignition and Chico.

TLDR; - Lowest Raked Medium Stakes Poker Sites

200NL - Winning, Grand Poker
400NL - Winning, Grand Poker
600NL - Winning, Grand Poker


Playing at the least raked mid stakes sites is a simple process.  All you need to do is to clear your web browser's cookies, then click any of the following links to create an account at: 
-- Grand (SportBet, 5Dimes
-- Winning (
America's Cardroom, Black Chip Poker, True Poker, PokerHost)



High Stakes NLHE Rake Analysis

Rake Comparison High Stakes Table

High stakes poker players know that rake is not the biggest consideration when choosing a site to play at.  Game selection becomes a much bigger issue at these stakes due to lack of steady round the clock action at any of the sites.  At these stakes, it often makes sense for a high stakes pro to sign up at all available sites and cherry pick games as they are made available, or to simply start them oneself.  With this said, it is still important to know if one is getting a good deal or not, and the chart above should be quite useful in helping you pick which sites to devote more action to.

At $1000 buy-in, WPN and Grand offer the best rates based on cap and percentage fees respectively.  However Chico is pretty competitive also.  Horizon and Ignition have higher $4 caps, but Horizon barely runs games at this level where as Chico has considerably more action.  Ignition, while charging the highest rake for full games, often has the most action of all listed sites.

At $2,000 buy-in games, the only action you are likely to find is on Ignition and WPN.  Ignition by far has more 2k games, though don't be discouraged if you don't immediately see any in the lobby, as Ignition hides full games from view.  If one keeps the lobby open games with 5 of 6 players will often pop up when someone leaves and then one can grab a seat.  WPN does have 2000NL games that run, but oddly enough people often jump from 1000NL to the 25/50 games when they want to gamble it up.  With regard to the rake, Ignition is better for heads up and WPN is cheaper when games fill.  Horizon also has low heads up rake if you're into starting games, but it's rare to see a 2k game running by itself on that network.

At $5,000 buy-in, there is only one site in this list that offers tables, and that is Winning Poker Network.  There tends to be 1-3 25/50 games that spark up each day, the trick is to catch them.  They don't seem to run at consistent times.  We recommend searching for them at peak Euro hours, peak US hours, and late night in the US, especially on weekends.   Even though they have no competition at these stakes, WPN continues to offer a rake schedule that is superior to some other sites small stakes fees! 

TLDR; - Lowest Raked High Stakes Poker Sites

1000NL - Winning, Grand Poker
2000NL - Ignition, Winning, Horizon
5000NL - Winning 


Playing at the least raked high stakes sites is a simple process.  All you need to do is to clear your web browser's cookies, then click any of the following links to create an account at: 
-- Chico (Sportsbetting.ag, BetOnline, TigerGaming Non-US)
-- Bodog (Ignition USA, Bodog Canada)
-- Grand (
SportBet, 5Dimes
-- Horizon (Intertops,
Juicy Stakes
-- Winning (
America's Cardroom, Black Chip Poker, True Poker, PokerHost)


 

Value-Added Considerations

Chico Poker Network:   Chico Network is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to cheap rake, although it does manage to win a few categories in our comparisons.  Where it does shine is providing soft games with sports and casino punters.  It also has an amazing initial deposit bonus that is more than double that of all other sites in this report.  They offer a 100% bonus up to $2,500, the largest of any offshore US-friendly site!  This bonus clears at a fast 33% effective rakeback rate which will do wonders for reducing the effective rake.  Chico Network also occasionally offers reload bonuses that are quite lucrative.  If you also happen to play SNGs, they have a monthly $25,000 SNG race. 

If you want more info on Chico Sites, visit our full reviews for BetOnline, TigerGaming, and SportsbettingAG

Bodog Poker Network:  Ignition Casino's poker room has competitive rake at 10NL, 25NL, and 2000NL. They also happen to be the largest option reviewed and the third largest network in the world.  With anonymous games and no permanent player tracking, players who like to play GTO or highly exploitative Nemesis strategies will love practicing their arts on the soft and plentiful tables.  Initial deposit bonus is 100% up to $1,000 and clears at 20% effective rakeback in cash games, and 60% effective in SNGs and multi-table tournaments.

Bodog Network is composed of Ignition Casino for US players, Bodog for Canadians, and Bodog88 for Chinese players.  If you want more info on Bodog Network sites click the links above to read our reviews.  

Horizon Poker Network:  After analyzing the rake charts we have provided in this report, you may have no desire to play on Horizon Network, especially considering they won no categories until the 2000NL limit.  However, that narrow view fails to take into account the bonuses, rakeback, and rake races available.

Horizon Network offers an industry standard deposit bonus of $1,000, but what isn't standard is that it is a 200% matching bonus.  Meaning that you only have to deposit $500 in order to max it out. It also clears at a surprisingly fast rate.  If you have our industry best 36% rakeback deal (using dealt methodology) then it clears at roughly 27%, and if you are on the VIP system (best for players raking more than $2,000 a month) clearance rates can exceed 50%.  There are also four weekly rake races for players, as well as a monthly prize for the site's top performer with a total distributed prize pool of $20,000 per month.  With rakeback, the deposit and reload bonuses, and a rake race it’s a very profitable place to play and the effective rake drops down to ultra-competitive levels.

For more in-depth information on Horizon Network poker sites, visit our reviews for Intertops and Juicy Stakes

Winning Poker Network:  This network has low rake compared to its competitors and that's a fact.  The only down side to this low rake is that the games tend to be a bit tougher at this site than the others on this list.  Still, since US players are allowed, this network is softer than virtually all European poker networks.  Take into account the added benefits below, and this becomes a very low rake environment to grind in.  Also, FWIW, the management at this site want to become the next PokerStars (pre-Amaya) and are tirelessly working towards achieving that goal.

WPN offers an initial deposit bonus of 100% up to $1,000 and frequently has reload bonuses that range in value from $200 to $1,000.  All of which clear at 20% effective rakeback. 

There is a flat 27% rakeback offered on many of the skins on Winning Poker Network.  This is optimal for lower stakes players as it guarantees a 27% rate of return.  If you are a player who will rake less than $1,500 per month, we suggest opting for flat 27% rakeback.  If you fit into this category, we also suggest that you quickly read this WPN rakeback sites comparison guide and choose an appropriate skin for whatever country you reside in.

Higher stakes and higher volume players, those raking in excess of $1,500 per month, should instead opt to be on the Elite Benefits rewards program.  High stakes / high volume players can earn up to 70% rakeback on an annual basis using Elite Benefits VIP.  In addition to rakeback and VIP rewards, there is also a weekly cash game rake race called “The Beast” that rewards 5 to 7 players per week with $2,500, twice that many with $1,000, and so on down the line.  It's a huge boon to high volume grinders.  In fact, players who grind at Super Nova Elite level (old Stars players know what we're talking about) can earn upwards of $200,000 per year in VIP + Beast rewards!

To read our full reviews of all of the aforementioned WPN poker rooms simply click any of the following links to said reviews:  America's Cardroom, Black Chip Poker, True Poker, PokerHost.  For native Spanish and Portuguese speaking players who wish to play on WPN, we suggest signing up on YaPoker

Grand Poker Network:  Grand Poker Network is the all out winner when it comes to finding a low raked poker site.  They consistently charge the lowest percentage of pots as well as having the lowest rake caps.  It is a shame that this is also the smallest network reviewed and that their game selection rarely exceeds two dozen tables at any given time.  However, if you like small and cozy sites with fast payouts, you should definitely look into this option.  5Dimes backs this network and they are well-known for offering discount sports betting and low edge casino games, it's kinda their trademark.  Thus it's no wonder why they've positioned their poker product to also be so cheap.

Grand Poker doesn't offer a deposit bonus, and that is unfortunate.  However, they make up for that by offering a huge flat rakeback deal.  Players can convert points at a flat rate of 35% at any time.  However, if a player is willing to take a few minutes to grind an "Advance to Go" sit and go, that player will earn tremendous rakeback.  In every AtG SNG that runs, all players receive 50% rakeback on the points spent to enter the SNG.  The winner of that AtG SNG will earn 100% rakeback on those points.  If you are decent at SNGs, your effective rakeback could be 70% or more when converting points.

It's amazing to us that with the lowest fee rake schedule and 70% effective rakeback, players aren't flocking to Grand Network.  But it just goes to show that very few players are savvy like you, and few of them pay attention to the rake.  We recommend GPN to anyone who likes to casually play, wants a site to play along side larger sites, likes to start games and play short-handed, as well as guys who  bet sports and want access to their "reduced juice" book.

For those seeking more information, please read our general Grand Poker Review, or our full reviews of 5Dimes poker, SportBet Poker, Island Casino.

 

Conclusions

Everything is a bit of mixed bag and individual promotions and game softness need to be taken strongly into consideration when choosing a poker site.  If you are basing your decision on what site to play at solely based off of the effective rake taken from each pot then Winning Poker Network is very competitive at all levels, with Winning Poker Network's VIP program offering the majority of the lowest rake levels to players.  Revolution Network enters that conversation as well when you get past micro stakes limits as it has the same rake rate as WPN but slightly higher rakeback percentages with reportedly soft games.

When taking rakeback and bonuses into the consideration things get more complicated once again.  Bodog begins to fall behind as Winning Poker Network and Revolution Network close that gap significantly more.  Chico Network could be good for players in certain situations as well.  Rakeback is very hard to talk about in some ways as well though as each player is different and because of that we would encourage you to Skype us for a personal consultation so we can most appropriately guide you to what Internet poker sites would work best for your particular playing habits. 



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