Online poker is the game of poker played over the Internet. It has been partly responsible for a huge increase in the number of poker players worldwide. Christiansen Capital Advisors stated online poker revenues grew from $82.7 million in 2001 to $2.4 billion in 2005, while a survey carried out by DrKW and Global Betting and Gaming Consultants asserted online poker revenues in 2004 were at $1.4 billion. In a testimony before the United States Senate regarding Internet Gaming, Grant Eve, a Certified Public Accountant representing the US Accounting Firm Joseph Eve, Certified Public Accountants, estimated that one in every four dollars is gambled online.
Typically, online poker rooms generate the bulk of their revenue via four methods. First, there is the rake. Rake is collected from most real money ring game pots. The rake is normally calculated as a percentage of the pot based on a sliding scale and capped at some maximum fee. Each online poker room determines its own rake structure. Since the expenses for running an online poker table are smaller than those for running a live poker table, rake in most online poker rooms is much smaller than its brick and mortar counterpart.
Second, hands played in pre-scheduled multi-table and impromptu sit-and-go tournaments are not raked, but rather an entry fee around five to ten percent of the tournament buy-in is added to the entry cost of the tournament. These two are usually specified in the tournament details as, e.g., $20+$2 ($20 represents the buy-in that goes into the prize pool and $2 represents the entry fee, de facto rake). Unlike real casino tournaments, online tournaments do not deduct dealer tips and other expenses from the prize pool.
Third, some online poker sites also offer games like blackjack or side bets on poker hands where the player plays against “the house” for real money. The odds are in the house’s favor in these games, thus producing a profit for the house. Some sites go as far as getting affiliated with online casinos, or even integrating them into the poker room software.
Fourth, like almost all institutions that hold money, online poker sites invest the money that players deposit. Regulations in most jurisdictions exist in an effort to limit the sort of risks sites can take with their clients’ money. However, since the sites do not have to pay interest on players’ bankrolls even low-risk investments can be a significant source of revenue.