The pro’s and con’s of multi-tabling

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McTap03 | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy

Ever hear about the guy who plays 8, 12, 16, or 24 tables at once and wonder how they do that? How do they keep track of so many opponents in order to put them on a hand? How can they steal if they don’t know how their opponents play? What are the benefits of doing this? What are the pitfalls of doing this? These are interesting points when thinking about multi-tabling.

Now, by no means am I a skilled multi-tabling player. I’ve only been working on this for a few months now, but I can say, I’m really starting to see the benefits of this.

Before I go talking about the pro’s and con’s of multi-tabling, let me talk about the things you should consider before playing many tables at the same time.

The first thing is your screen. It’s not that you need a 30″ screen to play, it is just that you need the proper resolution to be able to have many tables on your screen at the same, without overlapping. When your tables overlap, the games will get confusing when it is your turn to play on a table and you can’t find it quickly. So try to stick with what ever # of tables your monitor will be able to show at the same time.

The next thing to remember is that you need a proper Bankroll in order to play multiple tables. If you currently maintain a 25 buy-in rule to play a tournament/cash game, then you can’t play 2, 3, 4, or more of those games at the same time, if your BR is only at 25 BIs, as you will be taking a major hit in your bankroll. Example: BR = $55 and tourney is $2.20 BI. 1st tournament is 25:1 rule, but 2nd tourney is 24, 3rd is 23 and so on. So although you are close to your bankroll rule, you are starting to move away from it. On the other hand, if you had a BR of $60, you could play 2-3 tables at the same time and not be going below your 25:1 rule. Just something to keep in mind when deciding whether to multi-table or not.

In following the above guidelines, another item to consider is the game you play. At first you should stay with the buy-in and game you are most comfortable with instead of multi-tabling at different buy-in/games. For example, if you are decent at $2 SnGs then multi-table them instead of 1 SnG and 1 cash, or a $2 and $5 SnG. This keeps you in the same frame of mind for all the games instead of trying to play 2 different styles while keeping your bankroll moving at the same rate. Also try to avoid 18, 27, or 45 player SnGs, or even Heads-up games, and stick with STTs as they are easier to follow.

This then leads to proper table selection. I understand that it is not always easy to pick tournaments that have plenty of ‘fish’, but if you plan on playing multiple cash games at the same time, then you should really review your stats (Poker Tracker/Hold em Manager) to see where the fish are congregating in order to maximize your opportunities to make money.

Finally, another thing to consider before multi-tabling is your current focus/attention span. If you are distracted, or foresee that you will be distracted while playing, stick to 1 table. The more tables you have going on at the same time, the more you need to be focused.

Now let’s talk about the Pro’s that I see about playing more than 1 table at a time.

If you are a good player, you can make money much faster by playing multiple tables at once. Since you are playing multiple tables, you need to make fast (somewhat accurate) decisions. You accomplish this by keeping things simple and playing ABC poker, i.e. play the monsters and muck the junk, which, in turn, should increase your bankroll at a faster rate than playing a single table at a time. Keep in mind that odds show that you will still lose, on occasion, with a monster hand, but over all your tables you should be able to absorb that single hand loss. A good way to make your decisions easier, is once you see your hand and know your position at the table, make your decision and don’t worry so much about what is happening before you. If you decide to muck, use the fold button and then move on to the next table. If you are going to play, then try to fold the hands on your other open tables, that you have been dealt pre-flop. All this makes everything go a little smoother as you won’t be getting buzzed by the other tables to act on your hand, while you are trying to focus on your current hand.

Now, whether you are a good player or not, you can lose plenty of money fast if you multi-table. That, I would consider a major con against multi-tabling. It just takes a series of bad beats, or bad decisions and you are out 3, 4, 5 or more buy-ins in a short amount of time (depending on how many tables you are playing). Another thing against playing in multiple games at the same time, is that you can’t, or won’t, get a read on your opponents. So their bets have to be taken at face value, as you have not really been watching them play. This also means that you miss out on possible money making situation. Whether it be mid range cards that you would have played had you only been playing 1 table, but decided to let them go due to being involved in another table, or because you didn’t use your position to win a pot. Another downside of playing multiple tables is that sometimes you have to act fast which could lead to making a bad decision which could cost you plenty, if not all, of your chips. This tends to happen late in tournaments, when the action is faster due to the limited players at the table.

To avoid this blog running on forever, I’ll stop there. By no means are the items listed the only things to consider, as I’m sure there are plenty more. Just remember, if you are going to play more than 1 table at the same time, take it slow and play smart. Over time you should be able to increase the number of tables you play. Finally, don’t be afraid to let tables timeout if you are involved in a hand that could either make or break you.

Good luck at the (multi)tables.

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14 Comments to The pro’s and con’s of multi-tabling

September 13, 2008

Great article on multitabling. I myself usually multitable 4 tables at a time.
I have been thinking all day about the part you wrote on bankroll management when multitabling. I am not sure I agree with you, but I haven’t been able to formulate a good argument yet to substantiate my thoughts. Maybe it will come after a good night’s sleep:-)

September 13, 2008

Oh and one more thing. The reason I multitable is actually to keep my focus on the tables I play. I quickly get bored when I play only one table and then I usually start surfing around on the Net. Multitabling keeps me focused on the game at hand. Multitabling is very well suited for a short stack strategy approach since you will mostly be either folding or pushing and not spending time on reads and medium hands.

September 14, 2008

You, of all people, should be following some sort of Bankroll Management when playing multiple tables. The only exception to this rule is that if you are playing at the lowest BI that YOUR rules tell you to play, then you don’t worry so much about it when multi-tabling. This, by the way, is where I fall, so 2-3 $2 tables doesn’t bother me even though my BR doesn’t really support it. I can usually break even or have little loses over the many tables, that my BR doesn’t move much in either direction. But the skills/experience I gain from multi-tabling is well worth the BIs

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September 14, 2008

I agree with you, I used to play up to 4 tables at once in a whirling mix of cash poker and tournaments and the results were not good. One needs to concentrate and watch other players betting patterns at the table. I only play one poker game at a time now and the results are much better.

September 14, 2008

First of all congrats on writing a post that is ranked number 4 on the first page on Google when searching for “bankroll management multitabling” and number 6 when searching for “pros and cons of multitabling”.
I have come to the conclusion that you don’t need a larger bankroll when multitabling, provided that you can maintain your A-game on all tables. You have just as big a risk of losing 4 buyins on a single table due to bad beats than losing 1 buyin on 4 tables. Multitabling will just get you there faster.
Of course if you cannot maintain your A-game on all tables, you will need a larger bankroll to accomodate for the bad decisions you might take.

September 16, 2008

Good article!

One factor that some people might point out is that when playing multitable you give some information away to the skilled player…

What kind of poker players multitable? I would say players who can maintain a strict ABC poker style of play. Hence you fit into a certain category where the good player could take advantage of this.

What do you guys think of this?

September 17, 2008

I somewhat disagree with you Michael. You can’t tell me that the players who are playing more than 4 tables at the same time are playing ABC poker. These guys are playing position poker and don’t worry too much about their cards. They have numbers on most of the players at their tables and know how to exploit them. This is where the benefits really come it. I do agree that when you are first learning to multi-table, you are playing ABC and do give away information to better players, but as you progress, you become better and no longer need to play ABC over many tables.

September 17, 2008

Great post and conversation here. I’d like to pose a question. What’s wrong with playing ABC poker? I know this style will get you deep into a lot of tournaments. I personally have found the most profitable tables for me ar 6 player $5 tournaments precisely because I can almost always (no kiddintg) get to the bubble (top 3, these tourneys pay top 2) simply by playing ABC poker. Playing ABC poker reminds me of 2 poker sayings that I try to remember when playing. You can’t win a tournament early but you can lose a tournament early. Good decisions before the flop make for easier decisions after the flop.

Also, the best bluffs are completely random and infrequent, hence not easy to detect, right? I am not a multi-tabling pro but I can say this, when multi-tabling I have told myself, I’ve folded a lot on this table, time to mix it up. Maybe I didn’t explain that well but I think you can play ABC poker and still find ways to throw in the odd twist while multi-tabling.

I think another point to make about the best multi-table players is that they also learn when they really need to focus on a particular table.

September 17, 2008

For the record, I never said it was wrong to simply play ABC poker, I mostly play this way. But really think about who is playing ABC poker, the beginners to intermediate players, not the pros. There is nothing wrong with playing that style as it will get you ‘in the money’ in many STT, which is great when you are multi-tabling tournaments.

Getting back to the core of this article, multi-tabling is a great way to become a better poker player, as it forces you (early on) to play and understand ABC poker. Over time, your style will adapt and with the new found knowledge gained from playing many hands concurrently, you will be able to adjust and pick your spots to maximize your ROI.

September 17, 2008

I agree with you, my comment was more aimed at Michael who said “What kind of poker players multitable? I would say players who can maintain a strict ABC poker style of play. Hence you fit into a certain category where the good player could take advantage of this.” I don’t think that’s necessarily true, and I guess I took a long winded way of saying why.

September 17, 2008

Took me a minute but I figured out what I was trying to say so I’ll try again in a different way.

For good players (and I hope I am at least on the verge of being one of those) I think most pre-flop decisions are pretty easy to make, so call it playing ABC poker or playing good poker, playing at 1 table or 4, it doesn’t matter. Here’s an interesting challenge for anyone reading this post and thinking about playing at multiple tables, play a single table tournament tonight with a notepad beside you and add a check mark to the page everytime you are faced with a tough decision you really had to think about. I bet most players will find that these hands don’t come up often enough to warrant having to reconsider playing at multiple tables. I am going to try it myself tonight.

December 17, 2008

Nice post and comments.

Just one word about ABC, this strategy is not profitable at higher stakes, so it is not sufficient for good poker.

Multi-tabling is a very exciting topic, I do between 6 and 12.

I am totally amazed by some guys who do 24, with no HUD and with huge profits. I think when you have played a few million hands (as this is what multi-tabling leads to), you start to develop an instinct of the game, enabling instant-decisions.

April 23, 2009

I play against those multi tabling fishes every day on cash game tables. Their game looks like this: Fold, fold, fold, fold, fold, BIG raise! Now what can he have…lets guess AA or KK? Everyone folds.
Fold, fold, fold, fold, call, flop 2-5-7 and he starts to bet BIG. Lets guess…what can he have? 22 or 55 or 77.
Well they aren’t getting my money at least…

April 24, 2009

Luckily not all players have the same eye for reading their opponent’s hands as you do otherwise it would be pretty tough for multitablers to make a profit.


Mark’s last blog post..Don’t Get Married to a Hand

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