The “rake” is their take

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I paid a visit to the “Pequots” (in other words, Foxwoods) yesterday and decided to sit in on one of their free poker playing lessons. I learned (actually I re-learned since I played poker for fun many years ago while I was in college) how to play Texas Hold ‘Em and Seven Card Stud. It looks as though it could be fun (of course, more fun if I win). Here is my question. It is unclear to me what profit a casino could have from offering a poker room; that is, if my lesson was at all representative of what happens in a real game. In those games that I “won” in my lesson, the dealer passed over all the chips to me. Not that I’m VERY concerned, but where does the casino make out on this stuff? (Hopefully, little or not-at-all). Michael K.

As you already know, Michael, players don’t actually bet against the house when they play poker; instead they bet against their fellow players at the table. And you are wondering how the casino can afford to provide the dealers, management, tables, cards, lighting and free cocktails. In gamblingo, it’s called the “rake.” The “rake” is the money that the casino charges for each hand of poker. Generally, it is a flat fee, or it could be a percentage taken from the pot after each round of betting. The percentage can vary from 2 to 10%, depending on the casino or card room where you play. In some casinos, the rake cannot exceed a maximum dollar amount no matter how large the pot gets, while in other casinos the rake is a posted flat fee.

Maybe you could settle a disagreement I have with my friend. We both recently played at the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. He was a slot player, and I enjoyed the game of blackjack. Although we both lost, what types of players are more valuable to the casino? Slot players or those like me who stick to the table games. Al B.

The Emperor Shah Jehan built the Taj Mahal in Arga, India, to hold the remains of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died bearing her fifteenth child. Donald Trump built “The Taj” to cram as many slot machines as he could onto his 116,199 square foot casino floor. He recognizes that the electronic gaming devices-slots, video poker, video blackjack, video keno, etc., generate more than 70% of total casino revenue, whereas blackjack, the most popular table game, accounts for only 15%. With those numbers stated, Al, you did not mention how much either of you gambled on your trip; otherwise, I could have told you which of you was more valuable as an individual player to the casino. If you bet $50 a pop at blackjack, while your friend milks a $20 bankroll for 25¢ video poker, “The Donald” will treat you like a living emperor and your friend like a New Delhi untouchable have-not.

Does deck penetration in blackjack have any effect on basic strategy expectation? Chris B.

Probably not, Chris. Unless the dealer is cheating, which is highly unlikely. The cards should be in a random order after the shuffle. Since you as a player are not counting cards, it is unimportant to the basic strategy player if there is a single round between shuffles or several rounds.

Gambling thought of the week: “Guessing has never been widely acclaimed as a good gambling strategy.” -Dr. G

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