Rakeback Vs. Loyalty Rewards

In the good old days of poker, many skins offered what is called rakeback as an incentive to get players in the door. With many of these sites now choosing to offer other incentives such as VIP programs and other reward schemes, the question of which to go for can be a bit confusing.

Both programs have their advantages and disadvantages. Each has their own value and depending on what type of player you are, will determine which program is best for you.


Let’s first discuss what rakeback is for those who aren’t familiar with the term. When you play a hand of real money poker online, a percentage of the money put in the pot goes towards the house. This is called the rake, and its how the poker rooms make their money. A second form of rake is called the entry fee charged by the house when you buy into a tournament or SNG. The fee is also how the sites make money.

Regardless of how you pay rake, it all goes to the same place. Rakeback will be a percentage of all the fees and rake you have contributed, given back to you at a set time.

For example: If you contributed $100 to the rake for a week, and you had a rake deal of 27%, you would receive $27 back from the rake you contributed. Not bad!

The way poker rooms now calculate rake is a bit tricky and could require a degree in math for some equations they come up with. Regardless of how it’s calculated, a rakeback deal will always give you something back.

Loyalty Programs

A loyalty, or VIP program has many names, but one thing remains the same with all of them, and that’s how they are designed to work.

A typical program will reward players with points based on how much rake you contribute to the house. These points will accumulate over time and you will gain specific rewards based on how many points you have.

Almost all programs will have tiers that offer more rewards as you move up in levels. The more points you get, the higher you can climb the tiers. Each level will offer something more than the previous one. Be it, cash back bonuses, satellite entries or free rolls. Most will also have some type of store that you can use your points to purchase items.

Most of the time you will need to gain enough points in a month to reach a certain level. For an example: Let’s assume you join a poker room and start at 0 points. The first tier requires you to earn 100 points. You gain the points in no time and you move up a level. You can now reap the rewards offered at this level. The next tier will require 200 points, which you get. You now have the benefits of both levels at your disposal. The rest will work the same for all levels.

Which to Choose?

In my experience, the best option for most players is to take the rakeback whenever possible. The average player will never play enough to get the full benefits of the higher tiers in a rewards program. The higher levels are where the real money is at and you will need to play a ton to get there.

To give you a reference, you would likely have to play almost 100,000 hands a month if you played at 50nl cash games, to get the highest levels of most reward programs. That would likely take you 20 hours a week if not more, of steady playing. That’s being generous as well.

Most of us don’t have the time or luxury to sit in front of our computers all day, just to shoot for the top tier of a loyalty program. This is usually by done people who play for a living or take it very seriously and do nothing but work and play poker.

However, many casual players get sucked into the advertising of those juicy rewards at the top levels. They are appealing and if you can obtain that status, it will be worth it in the end. But, not many know what it takes to get there and wind up at the bottom levels, making a pittance of what they could be with rakeback.

The rakeback structure will always be better than what most would achieve using a loyalty program. The lowest rakeback deals are in the range of 27%, this is still more than one would earn on all but the highest levels of a loyalty scheme.

The rakeback is also guaranteed regardless of how many hands you play. If you play one hand or 1 million, you will always get the 27% rakeback.

To conclude, rakeback is almost always better than a loyalty program. For 95% of poker players, getting rakeback will earn you more money and rewards than a loyalty program.

If you can play enough poker and have the drive to put in some time, the VIP programs at their highest levels will be worth more than most rakeback deals. On average the highest tiers will be worth around 45-50% rakeback.