Living in the U.S. I am certainly happy to have anywhere to play these days but it seems the fixed limit rake on Merge Gaming is a major ripoff. At the micro limits the rake is about the same as it is on Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars but once you get up to 1/2 the differences become very obvious.
At 1/2 fixed limit the rake on Merge Gaming skins such as Carbon Poker is $.01 per $.20 in the pot up to $1 in rake. This means that a pot that is $4.50 has $.22 in rake. PokerStars, Cake Poker and Full Tilt Poker rake $.25 per $5 up to $1 in rake. The same pot would have $0 in rake at those rooms. A $9 pot would have $.45 in rake on Merge and only $.25 on PokerStars, Full Tilt and Cake Poker. This does not seem like a lot but it adds up. I suspect at a 1/2 6 max game an extra $20 per 100 hands is taken off of the tables. This is another 1.67 big bets per player per 100 hands lost to rake.
It gets even worse at 2/4 and higher. At 2/4 Merge Gaming still rakes $.01 per $.20 but the cap is $3. Full Tilt Poker and Cake Poker rake $1 per $20 up to $3. PokerStars rakes $1 at $20, another at $40 and another $1 at $70. A $19 pot at Merge Gaming has a $.95 rake while that same pot would not be raked at all at Full Tilt, Cake Poker or PokerStars. A $39 pot has a $1.95 rake at Merge Gaming while only having a $1 rake at the others. At 2/4 players are getting raked about an extra $60 per 100 hands at 6 max. This is $10 per 100 hands for each player if the table is full. That is a loss of 2.5 big bets per 100 hands per player.
Merge Gaming 2/4 fixed limit players are paying about 3.5-4 big bets per 100 hands just in rake compared to about 1.5 big bets per 100 hands at PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Cake Poker. A player that won 1BB/100 at PokerStars, which is a respectable win rate, is suddenly a decent loser on Merge Gaming.
While it gets a little better at 3/6 and 5/10 the extra nickels here and there are still significant. With 50% or more in extra rake paid players that receive 35% rakeback and play fixed limit are really basically paying the same rake as players at Full Tilt Poker that are not getting rakeback. Sure there are some promotions that give a few percent back to the player but it is no better than the bronze level of the VIP program at PokerStars unless you go deep into the Merge Gaming VIP tiers.
By looking at this rake comparison chart at Poker table ratings you will see the difference between many different poker room’s rake for every 100 hands played. While Merge Gaming is not listed you will see the difference between PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Cake Poker and Cereus. The rake at Cereus is closest to Merge Gaming although Merge Gaming is actually worse. If the rake at Cereus is actually 50-60% higher then it is 60-70% higher at Merge Gaming, at least at 1/2 and 2/4.
The CEO of Hero Poker stated that this issue was known within Merge Gaming and was being discussed. He states something should be rolled out in a couple of weeks. Considering I have been trying to get fixed limit heads up sit and gos above $22 for months I am not holding my breath. Hopefully he is right though.
In my opinion the fixed limit rake structure is strangling their growth. While players in the U.S. must basically choose between Merge and Cake Poker players outside the U.S., who are much cheaper to process payments for, will not play fixed limit games with rake that is as bad as this is because they can play almost anywhere. While the no limit games have exploded in growth the fixed limit action has not grown at the same pace. The absurd rake must be one of the reasons.
Not only is it affecting the Texas Holdem games but it also affects Omaha High/Low and Seven Card Stud. It is hard enough to beat the rake in a split pot game and nearly impossible to beat the rake under these circumstances. There are thousands of U.S. players looking for somewhere to play split pot games but the rake is certainly not making Merge Gaming the place to do it.
Do not get me wrong. I am appreciative that Merge still allows U.S. players. I understand that they have taken on a much higher cost associated with processing payments for U.S. players not to mention the added risks but please Merge Gaming, fix your rake on fixed limit games before you kill them all. I think the higher volume of players and extended play time recreational players will get will help the bottom line in the long run.
If you are thinking of playing of playing on Merge Gaming rakeback is a must. Carbon Poker and RPM Poker are the best choices in terms of player promotions. Both sites offer 35% rakeback paid daily to your poker account and both sites accept U.S. players.