Multi table poker strategy: Multi-table madness

If you’re only playing one game at a time you’re missing out on some major profit. We explain how more tables almost invariably means more money

People keep telling us poker is ‘fun’. They also tell us winning poker titles is important. Well, the thing that’s fun and important about poker in our opinion, is that you can make money doing it. And if you hadn’t guessed already, the way you make the most money at poker is by multi-tabling.

If you’re serious about making cash from poker you should be playing as many tables as possible while still having a winning edge. Even if you’re just playing poker for fun you should still consider multi-tabling. More tables means more decisions and more action, and if you love poker, that’s got to be a good thing, right?

In this article we’ll look at the best ways to multi-table in order to retain your edge and maximise your wins. We should point out we’re referring to online poker here – if you try to multi-table in a live casino the poker room staff might get a bit antsy…

Upswing

The benefits of multi-tabling to any serious poker player are enormous and they all relate to expected value. But what does that mean and how does it work?

Despite what vendors of lucky rabbit’s feet might tell you, luck isn’t a factor in poker over the long-term, and the thing that will dictate your nancial welfare if you play a lot of poker isn’t suckouts and bad beats, but your edge (or lack of) over the game you play in. This is a product of your superiority over your opponents, but also includes the rake or house take in the game.

What it all boils down to is that providing you have an edge you ‘expect’ to make a positive return over time, though you may win or lose a given hand or session. The more hands you play the more you expose your money to that expected positive edge, and the more money you’ll make. Therefore it’s easy to conclude that the more tables you play the more money you make.

There is, however, a huge caveat to this, which is that the more tables you play the less you can focus on each table. This diminished concentration means you will inevitably miss things going on at each table. This may be a small detail, such as an opponent’s tendency to act quickly when he has a strong hand, or it could be a bigger mistake, like misclicking an option or misreading an opponent’s hand. Plus, the more games you play simultaneously the harder it is to play your best and develop reads.

In general then, it’s fair to say that the more tables you’ve got open the less well you’ll play on each table, resulting in an erosion of your edge and expected value. And, of course, there will come a point at which you’re playing in so many games that your edge will disappear completely and you’ll start losing. However, if you find a good balance the diminished focus of multi-tabling will not completely negate the huge advantage that playing more hands can bring to your bottom line – quite simply, almost every player will make more money playing multiple tables than just the one.

Less variance

There is another bene t of multi-tabling – the smoothing out of your results. As discussed earlier, the more hands you play the more your expected value is likely to be realised. In other words the quicker you’ll reach the ‘long-term’ stage where variance is a much diminished factor. For example, consider the difference between playing live tournaments and multi- tabling online.

In a live environment you’ll see about 30 hands an hour and you’ll be able to play one tournament a night. Even the most dedicated live tournament player will struggle to play more than one tournament a day, meaning that in a week he’ll probably fall short of just 1,000 hands and will likely play much less. An online player, however, will see between 60 and 100 hands an hour on each table, and can play as many tournaments as he feels he can focus on. So it’s quite reasonable for a multi-tabling regular online player to get in 1,000 hands in the space of a few hours, and tens of thousands of hands in a month. When you add in the top-heavy nature of poker tournament payouts, it’s easy to see that a live tournament player’s results will be hugely affected by variance.

If you’re multi-tabling your results will be smoothed out much quicker because you’ll play so many more hands. This means you can form a reliable view of your profit (hopefully not losses) from the game, whether it’s return on investment in the tournament world or profit per 100 hands in cash games. not only is this important in terms of knowing how much money you’re making, it’s also important in terms of your ‘poker happiness’. It’s far easier to play a lot of poker if no one hand is that significant because you’re playing so many of them, as opposed to your profits for the year coming down to one big race in a tournament, which can easily happen to live pros.

It’s for this reason that some highly proficient online players choose to play more tables at a lower limit than they can beat to prevent their bankrolls being subjected to big swings and to improve their sanity levels.

It’s also worth noting you can make even more money if you’re on a rakeback deal, which effectively returns you money just for showing up. In fact, it’s possible to play a break-even game and make an income in this fashion just by grinding over a huge number of tables. This isn’t fun but it can be a reliable money-maker.

Multi-tabling also has benefits for the casual player. While you won’t reach the ‘long-term’ as quickly as a regular player, you will still see some of the benefits when you do play because you’ll be playing more hands and your results will be less variable. And anyway, playing more than one game can be a lot more fun – why go deep in one tournament when you can go deep in three? another good reason to start adding tables is that it can make a lot of players, especially casual ones, play better. This is because when you’re faced with more decisions and have less time to make them, you’ll be more focused on the games instead of watching TV or browsing the internet.

The downswing

Multi-tabling, however, is not without its disadvantages. As we discussed earlier, multi-tabling means you’ll be playing less well on each table. How much this becomes a factor will vary for everyone, but it’s something you need to keep a close eye on – possibly using tracking software. Some players suffer when they’re playing more than four tables. However, we know that many online players will comfortably play six, eight, 12 or even more tables. Find the right number for you by slowly adding tables and watching your results closely.

You should also work out the point at which adding tables stops being fun and starts being a grind. if you’re playing 12 tables with tracking software informing or even dictating most of your actions, you’re not playing much creative poker. In fact, you’re just grinding, which can be a dull, mechanical enterprise.

Another consideration which might not immediately spring to mind is that good online players are now starting to specialise in exploiting multi-tabling players. The reason for this is that playing a lot of tables makes your actions more mechanical (you’ll play certain situations the same way, open the same hands from a given position and so on), as you don’t have time to make subtle adjustments for each table. You should be aware when you’re playing too much this way and reduce the number of tables if it’s affecting your results. and naturally, it’s worth identifying the players you can target who are becoming predictable.

You also need to be careful not to let multi-tabling stunt your growth as a player. While you’ll probably become very good at beating the games you’re in for a reliable rate, you might not learn the subtle plays and reading skills you’ll need to succeed at higher limits.

As a final word of warning, the more hands per hour you play online the harder you’ll find it to play live poker. It’s extremely difficult to go from 400 or so hands an hour to 25 without getting bored and twitchy. This can be a great shame, as live poker is a fabulous game in its own right, but can be tainted by too much multi-tabling online.

The bottom line

Serious multi-tabling isn’t for everyone. in fact authentic multi-tabling, where you’re playing eight or more tables, is only for an elite few. You need to be able to quickly assess situations and make clear decisions in a very short space of time. You also need a really good command of your emotional state, because losing a few big pots, or going out of a few tournaments in a row, can take its toll. However, the bottom line in poker is winning money, and multi- tabling online is the best way to maximise the amount you make. It’s also the best way to reduce variance, by at least partly taming the poker beast.

If you’re currently only playing one or two tables, start adding games gradually and developing your multi- tabling skills. A pot of gold awaits you, we promise.

Multi-tabling tips

1. Feng shui

Build a poker palace where you’re completely comfortable and free from distraction. Invest in a great monitor for ease of play and a big comfortable chair for your increasingly leathery bottom.

2. Keep it clean

You should play a reliably winning, aggressive style with the emphasis on maximising value on your good hands and reducing variance. While it might be true that the most pro table style involves being more tricky and deceptive, trying to play this way across many tables can lead to costly mistakes.

3. Start to Finish

Arrange your tables such that the tournaments you’re deep in are on one side of the screen and the ones that are near the beginning are on the other. This way you can orientate yourself easily and make decisions quicker. Use spare time between hands to observe tables on the ‘deep’ side of your screen where decisions are more important.

4. Don’t look now

After making your decision on a table move on to the next table or decision. This may be counter- intuitive at first as you’ll want to know the outcome, but if you keep watching after you’ve made your move you’re wasting time that should be spent on other decisions.


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