Multi-Table or Move Up?

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Bankroll Building, Poker Strategy

Submitted by Jerry, this article belongs to the Poker Bankroll Building series.

One huge advantage online poker has over live poker, aside from the valuable poker bonuses, is that online poker rooms allow you to play on more than one table at once, also known as multi-tabling.  Multi-tabling, for all intents and purposes, is why so many poker players are able to make a living playing online.  

Players typically begin multi-tabling after they have been beating their usual game for a while and want to embark on a quest to increase their win rates.  Some players who have beaten the games at one level, however, decide to just move up a level and continue playing a single table.  Why would someone multi-table to make more money rather than just move up, you ask?  After all, it seems like it would be harder to concentrate on more than one game, right?  

More Money, Less Stress

It is perfectly logical to think that if you are beating the games at a certain limit then it makes sense to move on up and start making more money at a higher limit.  For many players, this makes sense and works out great, even if there are some growing pains that come from moving up.  But with higher stakes comes greater variance – winning sessions pad your bankroll more than before and losing sessions shrink it faster.  

Therefore, the way to achieve a similar hourly win rate at lower stakes as you could at higher stakes games (let’s assume you would be a winning player if you moved up), while keeping the swings at tolerable levels is to play multiple tables.

I know I am about to oversimplify things, but, frankly, I don’t particularly feel like diving into much more than “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader” math right now.  Say you make five dollars per hour playing one table at your usual stakes.  If you move up to the next level, you feel that you could make ten dollars an hour.  Or, you could add another table of your usual stakes and now make five dollars an hour twice.  Add another, and you’re at fifteen dollars per hour total.  Magic!  Of course, your profitability will likely take a hit as you add tables (more difficult to process information and play optimally), so that hourly rate won’t be quite five dollars at each table, but if you play three or four tables simultaneously, chances are you can make more money per hour than you could at one table at higher stakes.  As an added bonus, your variance will not increase.  In fact, it may actually decrease, as you can offset a poor session at one table with a good session at another.

Plus, even if you feel you can make a profit if you move up, you may simply be more comfortable staying where you are.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Poker is still a game, even if you can make a living playing it, so you might as well enjoy what you are doing.

Fringe Benefits

Another benefit to multi-tabling instead of moving up is the increased rakeback that you can earn.  Regardless of how well you do on any given day, rakeback will provide you with a relatively predictable stream of income.  If you play more than one table at a time, you have more than one income stream.  Again, going extremely basic on the math, if we assume that the pots, and thus the rake per hand, will double if you move up one level (obviously, we can’t assume this, but please humor me), you will earn the same rakeback at two tables of your usual level as you would at one table of a higher level.  Throw in a couple more tables, and now your rakeback is doubled.  This will help lower your variance even more, as your rakeback income can make up for a bad session.

One additional advantage to multi-tabling is that if you use poker analysis software, such as PokerTracker, you will be able to gather more data than you would be able to at a single table.  The more data you have on yourself and your opponents, the more accurate analyses you can make on your game and theirs.

Make it Interesting

For many players, playing one table is simply boring.  At least when you play live, you can talk to your table mates in between folds.  Online, you are just staring at a screen, twiddling your thumbs.  Sure, you can surf the internet, watch television, or do your taxes, but if you have that much time to concentrate on those things, you might as well not even play poker, since it sounds like it isn’t too exciting. Multi-tabling allows players to always be involved in a hand, to always have a decision to make.  It’s just more interesting for many people.  Besides, what better way to put your huge LCD monitor through its paces?

Remember, the more tables you play at once, the less you will be able to concentrate on a single game.  You won’t have as much time to process information and will have a harder time coming up with tricky plays.  You will need to constantly evaluate how multi-tabling affects your game and determine when adding another table hurts your win rate too much.  If you have to, move down a level when trying multi-tabling for the first time in order to acclimate yourself to your new way of playing.  Whatever you do, make sure you find the right balance between fun and profitability.

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12 Comments to Multi-Table or Move Up?

April 9, 2009

Hi Jerry

First of all great article. I’m not sure that I agree with you when you say that your variance might decrease when you multi table. Unfortunately I have forgotten all my statistics so I’m not able to substantiate this. Does anyone else have a comment?

Mark’s last blog post..Online poker tournament statistics : probability on winning a poker tournament

Poker Farce
April 10, 2009

I honestly think it depends on your stakes and your expectations as a poker player. If you are not trying to be a hero, then you should multitable. You won’t improve your skills as much when you play a lot of tables. There just isn’t as much time to analyze hands as they are happening and especially afterwards. But if you are already beating those stakes, youll make more money by multitabling.

The flip side… if you are looking to go from zero to hero and play for big money, then obv. youll have to move up and accept that you might lose a little bit, but it will raise the potential $ you can make.

April 12, 2009

@Poker Farce

I think you have a got point. In order to increase your winning potential at some point you should move up in limits starting with one table.
Once you are accustomed to the new limit, you can start adding more tables.


Mark’s last blog post..Multi-Table or Move Up?

April 12, 2009

@ Markus

Thanks for liking my blog:-)

Mark’s last blog post..Stake deal

April 12, 2009

Hi. I’m a p/t poker player trying to increase my skills. Being honest, I don’t find one table boring. Actually, I feel by multitabling, you start missing things. Just my humble opinion!

Vardis’s last blog post..User:Stupidcrapforcrap

Matt D.
April 13, 2009

I feel like I almost have a need to play multiple tables when I’m playing online poker. I find that personally when I am only playing one table I sometimes have a hard time focusing because the pace is so slow. With multiple tables the “rush” of the sped up action helps to keep my head in the game.

Matt D.’s last blog post..8 Commonly Left On Appliances that are Costing You Money

April 13, 2009

Well done article. All the information and reasoning is right on the money. I prefer playing live but there are definitely advantages to playing online and the Rake is a big one.

Curtom’s last blog post..Tom Dwan Revisited [Digg]

April 13, 2009

Why is the rake an advantage of playing online?

Mark’s last blog post..Charlie Glynn

April 13, 2009

@ Matt D.

I feel the same way with tournaments…I need about 4 to maintain my entire focus on the tables. Otherwise I start surfing the net.

Mark’s last blog post..Charlie Glynn

Cake Poker Bonus Code
April 13, 2009


1/ with respect to variance, let us say that your variance per hand does not change, which is close enough to reality. So if you play 4 tables for instance, you will have 4 times more variance than if you play one table. Variance is additive. Or to put it another way, you will have in one hour the variance that you normally get in 4 hours single tabling.

2/ also, the important concept in multi-tabling is the amount of boredom/multi-tasking you can handle. Myself beyond 12 tables I must admit I cannot think fast enough to make the proper decisions. Single tabling I am going to read a book as well. So it is going to be somewhere in between. So I guess I add as many as I can until I reach a cliff. But this is me.

May 6, 2009

Boredom is definitely the main reason I prefer to multi-table. So many people act like they are making the biggest decision of their life on every hand they play. They should already know what they are going to do by the time it is their turn. Then I start doing other things and miss important changes in the game state. When playing a few tables I am actually able to keep myself from getting distracted.

LennyP’s last blog post..Sit and Go Poker Tournament Strategy

May 8, 2009

I feel exactly the same way Lenny

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