One of the most common questions that I receive is about the beatablity of live low stakes no-limit games. In southern California, a $200 max buy-in game with $2-$5 blinds drops $5 after the flop and $1 for the bad beat jackpot. This is a flat drop, not a rake. Once the flop comes out the full drop is taken. Unlike other games with a “rake” (a percentage of the pot up to a maximum) a drop leads to a very high proportion of money being taken from small pots.
Let’s look at an example. In a $2-$5 no-limit game a player in middle position limps and the button over limps. The small blind completes and the big blind checks (Pot $20). Then, $6 is dropped—thirty percent of the pot. This leads to a scenario where it is almost always unprofitable (with the exception of stacks being very deep) for the button to over limp the first player. The rake consideration in drop games like this is enormous. If you play at this level you should be consciously aware of staying out of these single limped pots unless you plan on attacking the limper.
I have discussed on my podcast the likelihood of beating these types of games. Several listeners have said that they can beat the $200 cap games for a small hourly rate. If you move down to the $100 cap game, however, the drop is reduced only by one dollar. At 30 hands per hour with the bad beat jackpot the casino literally takes all of the money off of the table within six hours.
Because of the drop structures in these small capped games it is very difficult to build a bankroll without some sort of auxiliary income. Without online poker it is almost impossible for a new player to learn the game while consistently turning a profit. It is imperative that you pay attention to the amount of money you are paying to the casino at the lower levels.