Off The Top

What is ‘Off The Top’?

Money taken ‘off the top’ is that which is held by the bookmaker or the owner of the betting pool, before the winning bets are paid off. It is therefore most commonly heard in pool betting. However, ‘off the top’ can also refer to any amount retained by the house from a prize pot – such as the ‘rake‘ in poker or the house’s retention of a sum from the progressive jackpot.

‘Off The Top’ Explained

‘Off the top’ is a phrase common in pool betting, where players put a fixed amount into a pot and make a selection on a winning outcome. The winning bets are paid a share of the pot. However, the operator of the game – usually the bookmaker, but sometimes a private individual – will keep a fixed amount of the pot before it is split, as payment for running the game. The term comes from the idea of skimming the cream off fresh milk and refers to the ‘free money’ earned by the casino without risk and without having to enter into any games. Any amount taken ‘off the top’ can be seen as a fee or commission.

The term has also spread into general gaming use and can refer to any prize pot which the house keeps a stake of. This includes the rake in poker – a fixed fee or percentage value, withdrawn at regular intervals during play or taken as a lump sum before or after play. Some casinos will also retain a part of the wagers made on a bingo, Keno or lottery game, before splitting the prize between the players. The amount retained by the casino or bookmaker ‘off the top’ will vary between operators and between games, and may or may not be made public before play begins.

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