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March 30, 2005

Playing Multiple Tables of Online Poker

Posted at March 30, 2005 06:08 PM in General Discussions , Multi-Tabling , by Greedy Gecko.

The idea of playing multiples tables (or multi tabling) at the same time is contrary to many of the ideas you may have read in books or on other websites. The primary arguments against this practice, which are reasonable, accurately cite the inability to watch and read opponents while multi-tabling. In essence, this practice boils poker down to more of a system than an art. However, for the player motivated by profit, with little risk, this can be an excellent tool by which to build your bankroll and your bank account.

What is Multi-Tabling?
In its simplest terms, multi-tabling is the practice of playing more than one table at a time. However, playing two tables is very different from playing a handful or more. The key difference occurs when you reach the point where you no longer are effectively able to observe and pick up tendencies in your opponents’ play. Note that the point at which this happens may be different for everyone, and in large part is dependent on your poker set-up. If you have a large monitor, or multiple monitors, you may be better able to observe opponents than if you are playing on a standard screen. For purposes of this article, I am going to discuss the concept of multi-tabling assuming that you are playing a large enough number of tables to where observation of your opponents is difficult, if not impossible. Additionally, note that I only recommend multi-tabling for ring games, as I devote my full attention to one table during tournament play.

How to Play Against Unknown Opponents
Online poker has an inherent challenge in that you cannot physically observe your opponents. Multi-tabling obviously compounds this limitation, to where you are constantly playing against unknown opponents. The adjustment you make to your poker game is that you place the utmost reliance on the three key pieces of information you have at your disposal: your cards, the community cards, and statistical odds. Multi-tabling, if approached in a systematic (assuming you have formulated a profitable system) and consistent manner, is an easy way to build positive long-term results.

Multi-tabling affords the unique opportunity to make a respectable profit per hour, with minimal short-term and long-term risks, assuming your overall strategy is profitable. For example, for most of last year I played 6-7 tables of $.25/$.50 No Limit Hold’em, profiting at a rate of approximately $35/hr. In order to make a comparable rate at one table, you would need to play significantly higher limits against much more skilled opponents. The swings in your bankroll at these higher limits can be severe. However, at the $.25/$.50 limits, my largest negative swing during the entire year was roughly $160, with normal loss swings around the $50 range. This is minimal variance considering that at any given time I have $350 at the tables ($50 max buy-in x 7 tables).

Limitations to Multi-Tabling
Obviously, at some point the skill level of your opponents will require your utmost attention. Consequently, there is a level of play at which this strategy will no longer be successful, and the rate of success will decrease as you approach this level. I currently multi-table at the no limit $.25/$.50 and $.50/$1.00 levels with long-term success. However, one can safely assume that the strategy would not succeed at the $5/$10 level. Where the line is will vary by the skill level of the individual and those of the opponents at your chosen site.

The Perfect Strategy for Multi-Tabling
While there may be no perfect strategy, and everyone is free to develop their own approach, I have successfully been multi-tabling using a strategy that I developed based on long hours of play and experimentation. Unfortunately, there is no book that teaches you to do exactly what I do. If there was, then everyone would read it and the strategy would no longer work. However, if you take your poker play seriously, continue to read the strategy posts on this site, and keep an accurate log of your play, you will eventually find a profitable long-term strategy that meets your needs. I encourage you leave comments on all the posts on the site, ask questions, and submit hand histories for review in order to improve your play. Alternatively, I offer to teach you my personal approach as discussed here.

What You Lose
Multi-tabling precludes you from examining your opponents’ play, and playing the player rather than the cards. Additionally, it forces you to use a more disciplined and consistent style, limiting your creativity and the excitement associated with making unusual plays. However, if you balance your multi-tabling efforts (essentially a way to grind out excellent profits fairly easily) with tournament play, which allows greater flexibility and creativity, you will ultimately get the total poker experience.

What You Gain
I feel that playing poker using the multi-tabling approach is an excellent way for a beginning player to gain an understanding of the statistics of the game in addition to the value and expected win rate of hands. Additionally, this approach provides a constant supply of excitement and action, as you are seeing premium hands and exciting flops on a more frequent basis per hour. Finally, multi-tabling can be extremely lucrative.

The Greedy Gecko

See an update to my multi-tabling experience here.