RakeFree and ReliableFree?
Let's say you have been playing at the poker tables of a casino and staying in their attached hotel. You put your bankroll in the room's safe at the end of the night, only to awake in the morning to find that the safe is gone! In fact, every room's safe is missing! The casino claims that it is the safe company's fault, and they are going to sue the company and make sure everyone gets their refund. Years later and you are still awaiting the mail man anxiously every day, wearing the same socks you wore at the casino. (Why would you ever remove your lucky socks, huh?)
This very same thing happened to a lot of people virtually. Professional poker player Dutch Boyd began an online poker room called PokerSpot.com in 2000. You may have heard this story before: The site fails miserably because its customers cannot cash-out, or never ever receive their cash-outs. The woes were pasted all over rec.gambling.poker as Boyd attempted to make excuses, and ultimately blame Net Pro Ltd. None of those customers ever received their money.
For the past few years Mr. Boyd has been attempting to get a new idea off the ground. He has a plan to start an online poker room free of the house rake. Sounds good, huh? Well, it's only halfway free of the rake. They will be charging a $30 fee per month to play ring games, or a $30 fee to play in tournaments, or $50 to play both. The fee is collected through a rake, i.e. as you play in a ring game the 'dealer' will rake a percentage from you until you have reached the $30 limit for the month. In a tournament situation, you would pay tournament fees (on top of the tournament buy-in) until your $30 is paid for the month. Many online players pay MUCH more than $30 a month to their respective card rooms, so a ton of people will probably flock to RakeFree.com when it's up and running, don't ya think? Not quite.
In a very unscientific and extremely brief survey of some online poker players (through a poker forum) I found that most if not all regular players would not play at RakeFree.com. Why? A few different reasons:
Fish. Fish are players that really do not necessarily know how to play, aside from hand ranks, and cards with pretty pictures are worth more. There is a possibility that RakeFree.com would not be able to have micro limits because it may not make sense for a player to pay $30 a month to play extremely low limit games, which would in turn have extremely low rakes. Even if the micro limit games do exist, it would be hard to get many of those fish to switch from a big fun site like PokerStars.com to RakeFree.com without some amazing advertising. How many of those casual players care enough to do the math on rakes? The number is likely not high. Those players who do care about the rake are going to care more about whether they can make money from other players on the site, and without some fish, the sharks will starve and may end up resorting to cannibalism, eating each other until no one is left. Maybe I took that metaphor too far.
What is the main reason players will not flock to RakeFree.com you ask? Dutch Boyd. Sorry, buddy, but I could not find a soul that trusts you. It would be you and your mother (mothers always trust their sons) playing heads-up every night. Most people pointed out Boyd's previous site as their reason. It seems no one can get over that, and would rather pay $100 per month in rakes at PokerStars.com than risk losing their money at RakeFree.com. A few people also pointed out the continuing signs of flakiness by Dutch, such as the fact that he is now selling the chance to partially stake him in the World Series of Poker on eBay. Users may bid on the chance to partially stake Dutch Boyd in the circuit even in San Diego on February 27th. The bidders will win 1% of his winnings, as well as a chance to chat with him to help improve your game. This did not sit well with some online players taking a look at RakeFree.com.
The conclusion? A rake free online casino would be awesome, but it will have to be backed by someone else. Someone not named Dutch Boyd. In fact, someone suggested maybe one of the big names such as PokerStars.com, UltimateBet.com, PartyPoker.com, etc., jump the gun and adopt a similar policy to attract players from the other sites. Now THAT would be interesting.
In the mean time, good luck and good odds!