PokerStars Launches Spin-and-Rake for Cash Games

Alex Weldon : April 1st, 2016


In yet another effort to improve the online poker ecosystem for the benefit of recreational players, PokerStars has unveiled its latest innovation, the Spin-and-Rake format for cash games. This new addition to the PokerStars lineup combines two of the company’s most successful products to date: the Spin-and-Go and unbeatable rake. Although the tournament landscape at PokerStars has changed dramatically since the company’s acquisition by Amaya, cash games have until now remained largely unchanged since the takeover. Part of the problem has been that the fluid, open-ended nature of cash game play has made it difficult to adapt mechanics like Spin-and-Go or Progressive Super-Knockout to those tables.

The way the format works is this: rake will no longer be collected from pots as they are won during the course of a Spin-and-Rake session. All chips placed into the pot will go to the winner of the hand. Instead, a random amount of winning players’ profits are taken in the form of rake at the end of a session. When a player who holds more chips than they sat down with closes the cash game window or hits Stand Up, they will be taken to the Spin-and-Rake screen automatically, to find out how much of their winnings they’ll get to keep, from 0% up to a possible 100%.

“Although the majority of players feel that our revised pricing scheme has been a massive improvement, our latest market research has revealed that we do have a minority of players playing on our site who prefer less rake to more,” said Derek Trollrouser of the PokerStars Ministry of Transparency. “The Spin-and-Rake format has been introduced for everyone’s benefit, including theirs. Now these niche players will have the opportunity they want, that is the chance to occasionally keep most or even all of what they’ve won.”

The current probability structure for the various rake tiers currently has full rake (that is, a 0% payout) coming up half of the time, with other sub-50% payouts coming up another third. Overall, the statistical expectation of players will be to keep, on average, 14.5% of the chips won from their opponents over the course of a session.

“People have claimed that our goal is to make sure that no one ever withdraws more from the site than they deposit, but this is clearly not the case,” continued Trollrouser, “The Spin-and-Rake format only collects money that has been won; if no one was profiting, we’d get nothing. And, in fact, our valued grinders will even get to keep at least some of their winnings a full half of the time. Besides, if we didn’t expect people to be withdrawing, why would we be working on a Spin-and-Cashout feature? We’re deploying that one next month.”

Those still clinging to some hope of making a living playing on PokerStars have already begun working on ways to exploit the new system. In one TwoPlusTwo thread, it was pointed out that the impact of Spin-and-Rake is greater for users who play short sessions, due to variance and the repeated raking of short-term winnings. This is understood by the site, which has explained that this is for the benefit of recreational players who enjoy paying rake and who likewise play shorter sessions anyway.

For this reason, some grinders have stated their intention to simply never leave the table until they’re ready to retire, at which point they’ll sell action to friends at a randomized markup prior to taking their spin, to hedge against the possibility that the site ends up taking it all. Already, a possible hiccup in this plan has come up, however, as in an unrelated thread, a PokerStars representative announced that the new format still has some technical glitches, and until further notice, all Spin-and-Rake tables will be closed for maintenance on an hourly basis, with the randomized rake being taken at that juncture.

Alex Weldon (@benefactumgames) is obviously a PokerStars employee posing as a journalist from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Credit for the “Spin-and-Rake” concept goes to Will “Shills-for-Beer” Shillibier (@Shillibier).

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