There is no simple formula that will give you an exact figure of a game’s profitability in relation to the rake or time charges. There are some things to consider however, that should allow you to make an educated decision on whether to play in a given game. You must consider the cost and how it is collected from the players, as well as the players and how much of a favorite to beat them that you are. Also, you must consider the action at the table and average pot size in relation to the charge and how it is collected.
First off, time charges are going to be better than rakes in most cases, but possibly not all (if the time was really high this might not be true). I have never seen a game with a time charge that I wished had a rake, in my experience it is always cheaper to pay time than rake. I play low limits in a casino where the time charge on 3-6 kill Holdem is 3$/half hour. That is a fantastic deal and is the lowest cost I have seen anywhere. On 4-8 kill the time is 4$/half hour. That is still well within the limits of beatability, and it is still cheaper than most raked games by a significant margin. The 8-16 game also has a 4$/half time charge, making it the best deal in the house, costing you only 1 small bet per hour. Not too shabby. This is the primary reason why I play almost exclusively in this cardroom, the other choices I have are all dropped games and are considerably more expensive. Time charges hurt all players equally whether they are loose or tight.
If the game is raked, you are probably paying quite a bit more than if it’s by time. Atlantic city has a 10% to 4$ max in increments of 1$ rake on most Slot Gacor games below 10-20 limits. That is pretty expensive, but the games are typically good enough that you can still beat them quite nicely if you are reasonably tight and play well. When the max is 5$ or higher, you are getting pretty much ripped off by greedy casinos, IMO. This is not to suggest that AC casinos are NOT greedy, their rake is borderline on the highest rake I would be willing to play in, assuming I had a choice in the matter. When I lived there however, there was no choice (I believe Foxwoods was MORE expensive, but I am not positive about that).
If the game is DROPPED, you are paying even more than if you are paying rake. There are two types of drops, “drop on the flop”, and “dead drop”.
Drop on the flop can implies that the drop is taken out only if there is a flop, thus making it possible to steal the blinds without paying the drop. There is also another type of drop where you post an additional blind on the button and it counts toward your bet. This type of drop is also taken by the house only if there is a flop. Drops like this are more expensive than rakes because the maximum is always taken regardless of pot size. Rakes may be less than the max in small pots. Drops are always the max. Rakes and drops on the flop hurt bad players more than good ones because bad players play more pots and therefore pay the rake more often than good players do.
Dead drops are considerably worse than drops on the flop. This is where you post a blind on the button, usually 3$, and it is immediately taken by the house, before the cards are dealt, and this charge does NOT count towards your bet. Therefore you ALWAYS pay the drop out of your stack EVERY time you are the button. This is pure thievery, the epitome of pure greed. Cardrooms that have dead drops have no concern for the players or their own repeat business, they simply leech off the unsuspecting, knowing that the lack of any competition will force the poker consumer to pay or don’t play. They do not care that they could make a decent profit and not be so greedy, it is only about taking the maximum from the unsuspecting. Unfortunately, in some places, like LA, there are so many people wanting to play poker, willing to play at any cost, that they can simply get away with it. Knowledgeable players can either pay the tremendous cost, or go elsewhere (which may be a very long distance away). Dead drops hurt all players equally because you DEFINITELY pay the drop every round.
If you think about it, it should be obvious why time is better than rake, and rake is better than drop on the flop, which is better than dead drop. IMO, I would never play in a dead dropped game, no matter how good the game, because I just couldn’t stand to pay that much, and the game would be so hard to beat that it wouldn’t be worth my effort.
When considering if a game is beatable, you need to see how loose it is and how well the players play. Tight games are harder to beat in the first place, but if the game is tight, now you are winning smaller pots on the average, and your are paying proportionately more time or rake than if the game was loose. Tight games with drops or high rakes should be avoided like the plague. They are UNBEATABLE. I saw a low limit game in AC where all the players played fairly well and there were no loose players. After 3 hours, my friend asked around the table who was winning. No one. That should say it all. In tight games, the pots are small and the rake is almost always the maximum in percentage. What I mean by this is that if they charge 10% to 4$, and the pot never goes above 40$, they are always charging 10%. If the pots average 80$ with the same rake, they are taking an average of 5%, which is much better. Loose games with poor players and larger pots are easier to beat in the first place, plus the charges are proportionately lower. Look for loose games. That is generalized advice that is one of the two most important skills as far as making money in poker (the other is reading hands).
If the game has a jackpot, that means additional money is being dropped out of every pot. This hurts you the same as if it was a rake or drop. I understand that the money “theoretically” goes back to the players, but face it, your odds of hitting a jackpot, or ever seeing that money again, are not good. I basically consider it to be history once it’s dropped. Jackpot games are not good for poker, IMO. Others share this opinion, but some disagree. For the serious player, jackpot drops do hurt your bottom line though, as you will be overall less likely to hit a jackpot anyway, because you play tighter and don’t foolishly chase jackpots.
The casino should lower the rake or time for short handed games (and most do). If they do not, you are suffering much worse when playing short handed. If they do not, they are being excessively greedy and I would point this out to the manager just before telling him I would not play there any more because of their policies.
The rake or time must be evaluated as part of the overall quality of the game. A game with extremely bad players may be quite beatable even if the rake is high. Conversely, a fairly tight game could be beatable if the rake or time charge is really low. Understanding how the house charges the players to be in the game and its effect on your bottom line is one more aspect of poker that you must understand in order to become a winner.