Is rakeback evil?
From the player’s point of view: certainly not. Rakeback means a constant edge for the savvy poker player, an edge that can mean the difference between being a break-even player or a big winner. From every respect, rakeback is the poker Gods’ gift for players. Nothing less than that. It is probably only due to the fact that most average poker players are poorly informed about this wonderful opportunity, that not everyone plays with rakeback.
The reality is, no player in his right mind should ever play a hand without rakeback.
At first glance, rakeback is also beneficial from the poker room’s perspective, because it comes to correct a huge flaw sign-up or first deposit bonuses have always had, namely the problems linked to bonus whoring and player migration. Basically, once he’s unlocked the bonus, a poker player has no longer any motivation to remain loyal to the poker room he signed up for. Most people just move on, find themselves another bonus to unlock and that’s usually the end of that account.
Rakeback not only keeps players motivated and prevents them from moving on, it also keeps them playing, and generating rake. From this point of view too, it is the perfect setup.
How come then, that so many poker rooms and networks are so outspoken against rakeback? Surely there must be a reason behind their not liking it.
One class of online poker website operators, which particularly hates rakeback, are the owners and operators of affiliated poker portals. Another class are the poker rooms and networks themselves.
The reason for their anger is simple: uncontrolled rakeback. Rakeback was initially introduced by affiliated poker portals. It was thought to be a powerful player-recruiting tool, and the assumption proved correct. The whole phenomenon was controlled by the portals, which came up with the idea in the first-place.
The problem was, that as players were gradually introduced to the idea, they began abandoning their rakeback-less accounts in order to switch to rakeback. Affiliates who signed them up for their initial deals were at great loss here.
Soon, different affiliates began offering more and more attractive rakeback offers, to turn the player-flow in their favor.
The result was not that they managed to get a bunch of completely new players to sign up, (which would’ve been ideal) but rather that the same old players began moving to and fro, between different poker rooms (towards the one offering the best deal), sometimes within the same network.
Recycling the same players time and time again, is obviously not helping the poker industry in any way, and it’s not helping the individual networks either, as they fail to attract fresh players. The growth that their individual poker rooms register is only apparent. If they were to do the math, at the end of the day, they’d find that they’re left with the same number of active, rake-producing players.
Add to this the fact that whenever a player switches rooms he/she will benefit from another bonus offer on top of the rakeback deal, and you got yourself a pretty good reason to be angry.
What’s the solution to this whole predicament then? Surely, rakeback is too good a player enticement to just let go…Especially for smaller poker rooms.
As complex as the problem may seem, the solution to it is simple as 1-2-3: Network controlled rakeback.
That’s right. Let the network determine a unique rate for all its poker rooms, and the player migration within the network will cease.
Certainly, there will still be a lot of rubbernecking going on between different networks, and maybe some occasional player migration as well, but that would all be in the spirit of a healthy competition.
I mean, if a network can afford to give a better rake back rate to its players than other networks, it probably deserves to attract more players too.
Whilst greedy little affiliates won’t shy away from decreasing their share of the rake in order to increase the rakeback, until they basically ruin the market, poker networks will be in a position to make much more cautious and long term decisions in this matter.
Players will get their cut, the market will stay alive and affiliates will thrive too.
The answer is basically in the hands of the poker networks. If they decide to turn rakeback into some sort of an endless bonus (basically, that’s what they’d be doing if they took control of it), then everyone would be happy for a while, and the spirit of competition would prevail in reasonable limits, for some time to come.
Naturally, once every network would offer the same rake rebate, things would get complicated again, however, small adjustments would still keep things interesting, without pushing the whole industry overboard.