In home poker games, a kitty is a pool of money that has been built by collecting small, pre-determined amounts from specific pots or even every single pot. This pool is often used to cover the costs of buying cards and chips, as well as drinks or other refreshments.
All in all, a kitty could be considered a home game’s equivalent of rake. However, the crucial difference between a kitty and the rake is the fact that the kitty is supposed to benefit all of the players involved. Rake on the other hand is exclusively about the host or operator of the games turning profit from each hand.
“We’re going to play $1/$2 No Limit Hold’em tomorrow at John’s place, but remember that $1 from every fourth pot covers the kitty.”
Even though the history of this term isn’t exactly well-documented, it is more than likely that the poker “kitty” originated from the word kit. After all, each player contributing to the kitty is funding a set of articles or implements used for a specific purpose – namely, playing poker.
Another argument for this theory is the fact that the word “kit” is often used to refer to a container used to store items or assets that share a specific purpose, while a “kitty” is used to store funds.