The Case Against Rakeback
This post will win me no friends, posting anything even slightly ‘anti-rakeback’ gets the masses of small stakes grinders stirred up. I’ll make it anyway though, reading a couple of different forums today got me thinking about the subject… and the more I think about it the more it irritates me.
Here is my central view – Rakeback takes people who love poker and first turns them into robots, then slowly squeezes the love of the game out of them.
Of course, the beauty of a nice rakeback deal is it seems so damn sensible – if you can get 30% (or whatever) of your fees back, then why the hell not.
Next the logic becomes this, ‘wow, I played my regular games and got $20 back this week… if I just played more tables I would be able to double it’. Of course it does not stop there, the norm becomes 6 tables, then 8 and finally 12 – any pretense of outplaying anybody disappears – instead poker becomes defensive, the object is no longer to win… it is to avoid losing while playing as many hands as possible.
This is fantastic at first, new players have a cash machine based around the game they love – and of course the support of many other like-minded players reinforcing that they are the cool guys, that they are the ones making the money and nobody can criticize them.
Of course, it does not take long before the grind starts to take its tool. Before the fun of the game seeps away… Maybe they should move to Omaha, the even cooler guys are there.
What about the alternatives?
Here is a thought for all the 1000’s of players such at NL25 and 50 etc out there. Who are not improving their games, but making a ‘great’ living from the tables by putting the hours in.
What if instead of all those hours grinding they focused on improving, I mean really focused, got under the skin of the games and learned to beat the mid stakes. NL400 to NL1000, instead of playing 12 tables they played only a few, working out what opponents were thinking, their ranges and how their ‘robotic’ tendencies could be exploited.
Sure, the grinders would be way ahead in money terms after 6 months, maybe even a year… but in 2 or 3 years time? They will have either quit or be fighting to maintain their volume... I would argue that the player who did not worry about maximizing their rakeback in year 1 would now be looking for a deal – and would be in a position that those who discovered the grind too early will never catch up with.
But Mark, poker is all about maximizing every single edge – so why do without it?
Here is another common argument. My issue with this one is that it misses the entire point of the game for the majority of players. I’ll sum it up:
At it’s core, poker is not about maximizing your income for the vast majority of people who play it – poker is about having fun.
When you surround yourself with ‘grinder’ buddies this soon disappears… your $1000 a month rakeback is great money while you are at college, or still living with parents… in the real world, meh, not so great.
My central issue with rakeback is not that players should refuse to get money back from the poker sites, not at all. It that in my experience, once a players perspective becomes rakeback-centric, they swap high volume for learning and slowly but surely poker stops becoming fun.
I could go into more arguments against. The sites offering flat deals are full of break even grinders… making the games less profitable (just compare those sites with the poker networks including sports betting brands like OnGame!!). Even those who make a better living than I have mentioned quit after a few years, sick of the grind. I can personally count at least 10 people who were clearing $5k a month total who have now quit including one who was crushing $2 / $4… and every one of them would have laughed at the notion that they were doing anything other than ‘what they loved’ earlier in their ‘careers’.
Of course, I have a SNG course – the ‘$16 per hour SNG Blueprint’ which teaches people to grind! What a contradiction!
I say at the start of this that earning that $16 per hour is to build up a bankroll which gives each player the choice of where they want to develop their poker.
The funny thing with writing an anti-rakeback article, is that the very people who laugh at my ideas the loudest and pour the most scorn on my perspective are those who, after a couple of years grinding has turned their love of poker into hate, will one day realize that – actually, there is another way of looking at this subject after all...
GL at the tables, whether you play with or without RB!