I care deeply about poker. I want to provide the best possible playing experience to as many players as possible, and I’ve tried to make a difference in this regard ever since I joined Microgaming.
For me, it’s not about protecting recreational players, it’s about protecting everyone. It means making sure that the game is fun, that everybody has a fair shot at winning, and ensuring that the games represent good value for money.
One of the ways that we’ve tackled this at the MPN is by taking on what I’ve called ‘parasitic players’. These players, who thankfully are a minority, are the poker equivalent of benefits cheats or tax evaders. They think entirely of their own short-term gain, and not at all about the other human beings that they are playing against or about whether the game will still exist tomorrow.
Parasitic players like to target the weakest opponents exclusively, and to extract as much money from them as possible in as short a time as possible. They’re not interested in fair competition or whether their opponent enjoys their experience and comes back again. They are the leeches who purchase datamined hands, who use seating scripts to sit with the weakest players exclusively, who stall on the bubble of tournaments. They skin the sheep once instead of shearing it many times. They are not the kind of customer that anybody wants.
At the MPN, we and our operators have taken measures against parasitic play. For example, we’ve taken our first steps in combating seating scripts, we’ve taken legal action against datamining sites, and we recently introduced alias changes. The goal of all of these changes has been to improve the experience of players on the MPN and create a more even playing field. They are ‘win win’ for us all, because if the changes cause players to stick around for longer, they not only have a better experience but also generate more revenue for our operators.
The MPN is one of only a few networks which is growing, year on year, both in revenue and player numbers. We had a fantastic summer where we bucked seasonal trends and significantly outperformed our closest competitors. Other providers who are doing similar things are also doing well (at least, as far as I can tell). These changes are working.
But we are certainly not done yet. There is another reason that players’ lifetimes are cut short, and it’s about time we addressed it. It’s rake.
Rake can have a major impact on players’ win rates. Obviously, the more money that leaves the game as rake, the less players can actually win. In micro stakes games, where players are winning pots of just a couple of Euro, the difference between a rake of €0.50 and a rake of €0.55 can have a major impact on player’s win rates and on the length of their lifetime.
Conversely, at certain stakes, rake has almost no impact on win rates. When players are playing €100/€200 and winning pots of €20,000+, the difference between a rake of €2 and €3 is minimal compared to the amounts actually won and lost. The current rake structure significantly favours higher stakes by charging a much lower rake, proportionally, to the players who play in those games.
After spending many months researching the topic and modelling different rake structures, we are changing the rake in Euro games on the MPN in late October, with the goal of minimising the impact of rake on win rates, where that impact exists.
Rake at micro stakes and low stakes is decreasing. In fact, we expect to have the cheapest micro stakes games of any major provider. Our expectation is that this will result in longer lifetimes and a better overall experience for players in most games, and some of these players will stay longer, or move up in stakes. This reduction will be financed in part by increasing rake slightly in other games.
I want to be clear that this is not a rake grab. If everybody played exactly the same as they did now, we’d expect to make the same amount of money, overall, from this new structure as we did from the old one. We’ll only make more money if this new rake structure actually causes players to play more, or to move up in stakes. In other words, this change only works for us if it works for players too.
The new structure will take effect on 21st October.
The New Structure
Our new structure is 5% rake, but with a cap that varies depending on the number of players dealt in and the stakes being played.
If 5 or more players are dealt in, then the cap is 3 big blinds or €3, whichever is lower:
|€0.01 / €0.02||€0.06|
|€0.02 / €0.04||€0.12|
|€0.05 / €0.10||€0.30|
|€0.10 / €0.20||€0.60|
|€0.25 / €0.50||€1.50|
|€0.50 / €1 and higher||€3|
If 3-4 players are dealt in, then the cap is 2 big blinds or €3, whichever is lower:
|€0.01 / €0.02||€0.04|
|€0.02 / €0.04||€0.08|
|€0.05 / €0.10||€0.2|
|€0.10 / €0.20||€0.4|
|€0.25 / €0.50||€1|
|€0.50 / €1||€2|
|€1 / €2 and higher||€3|
If only 2 players are dealt in, then the cap is 1 big blind or €2, whichever is lower:
|€0.01 / €0.02||€0.02|
|€0.02 / €0.04||€0.04|
|€0.05 / €0.10||€0.1|
|€0.10 / €0.20||€0.2|
|€0.25 / €0.50||€0.5|
|€0.50 / €1||€1|
|€1 / €2 and higher||€2|
Note: Our system collects €0.01 in rake for every €0.20 in the pot. This means that for a pot of €0.39 only €0.01 is collected in rake. This ‘rounding down’ means that the effective rake rate will be less than 5%, significantly so for some pots. No rake is taken from a pot of €0.19 or less.
Alex Scott (@AlexScott72o) is Head of Poker at Microgaming, which operates the MPN.
Any opinions contained in this blog are the personal views of the author only, and not of any other person or organisation.
Image credit: Kevin Cannon