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    Streamlining the Rake

    Posted by Coffee December 19, 2013

    I want to preface this column by saying that it is possible what I am about to suggest is stupid. In the quest to improve anything, bad ideas sometimes have to come forth in order to give birth to good ones. I’m not entirely sure which one this is, but I think that it is worth a conversation.

    I think that it is time for casinos to collect their fees in a different way. I think that we should move to a system akin to opening a tab in a bar, and I think that the floor managers should handle it, rather than the dealers.

    Casino owners have long wrung their hands about housing poker in their valuable floor space. Though they cannot deny the game’s popularity, it has them in a position unnatural to them: that of a pure service provider, rather than a participant in the outcome of their games. Rather than relying on the eventual advantage they enjoy over their table games and slot machines, they have resorted to the rather clumsy convention of raking each pot based upon the amount of money in the pot.

    No player likes the rake. It decreases the amount of money actually won in a pot, but also decreases the perception of how much money is won in each pot, too. From a casino owner’s point of view, the rake is temperamental (because of how it’s derived – more on this in a minute) and onerous because it slows down the amount of hands dealt by a dealer during their down.

    Another aspect of the rake that is problematic is the fact that, even with maximums per hand in place, a casino owner is enriched by looser, rather than tighter games. Hourly splash pots, aces cracked bonuses, and other promotions are all designed to loosen up the game and increase the rake. Though many poker players like a looser game, artificially creating one will eventually rub players the wrong way.

    Casinos have tried other strategies. The most notable is the time charge, where players have to pony up some of their chips whenever a new dealer sits down. However, players are truly not used to this concept yet, and I have heard many frustrating arguments when dealers have to explain to drunk old men why they just lost $7 without playing a hand.

    All of these approaches slow down the game, which is deadly for a game that moves at a somewhat glacial pace, anyway. So…why not create a system when a player checks into a room and is assigned a seat? The player could pay cash for a certain amount of hours at the table, or preferably, open a tab at the desk using a credit card. Rather than force dealers to keep track of how much money they need to drag, they can focus on their primary skill: the efficient conducting of their game.

    I realize that there would be many logistical challenges to overcome – chief among them the question of how to inform players that their time was up. However, since casinos are already able to building loyalty tracking systems into their tables, I see no reason they can’t keep this kind of information at hand on each table, either. I envision a sort of quiet alarm system in the railing, but probably we’d need a more profound alert.

    At any rate, removing the rake and money consideration would do worlds of good for the pacing of the game AND would have the added bonus of eliminating the motivation for casinos to juice the action. Players would be charged more accurately according to their usage of the equipment, which is, at the end of the day, what casinos charge us for, anyway.

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