Multi-tabling is an area of the game that's only applicable to online poker players. While some tournament series will allow for players to be sitting at multiple tables at once, there are hardly a lot of situations in live poker where multi-tabling would either make sense or even be allowed.
In online poker, multi-tabling is one of the most effective ways to boost your overall win rate. While your earnings aren't going to multiply in direct correlation with how many tables you are playing, you should be able to notice a marked improvement. As is the case with just about anything else, however, too many tables can ultimately lead to your downfall.
Multi-tabling is an aspect of poker that has marginal benefits. You'll find more and more money being added to your hourly rate as you add tables, until one day you are eventually running in circles.
Reasons for Multi-Tabling
There are a handful of different reasons why players opt to multi-table or mass multi-table, with the most obvious one being the increase in their hourly win rate. One of the other primary reasons for multi-tabling is the ability to earn significantly more in player points and other similar rewards. Believe it or not, some high volume players are able to pocket $5-$20 per hour in player rewards and points alone. This will be entirely dependent on the site that you are playing on, but more volume should always mean that you are getting more kickbacks, whether they come in the form of cash or other prizes.
Multi-Tabling Cash Games
Cash games are the most common type of game in which online poker players multi-table. Because the blinds don't go up, you can play many of the same games at once. The general availability of cash games that you'll find, is the prevalent foundation for multi-tabling on all poker websites.
When multi-tabling cash games, you'll need to develop a somewhat automated style of play. As you might imagine, this isn't going to be the most optimal route to take when it comes to improving your overall skills in poker. This is where the tradeoff is going to come in. For every table that you add to your monitor, there is one less bit of concentration that you'll be able to focus on making creative and winning plays.
Lower limit games will reward more automated strategies whereas mid limit and high limit games will tend to punish them. Micro and small stakes games aren't exactly the best places to be attempting unorthodox plays anyway, which is one of the reasons why they are a breeding ground for mass multi-tablers.
If you are multi-tabling in cash games, there are a few things that you should consider implementing. First, auto-top off options will make it much easier to ensure that you are always playing with the maximum number of chips allowed. Anything under the max buy in is a waste of time, because you'll be sacrificing a significant amount of your long term edge in the game.
Second, make sure that you have your options configured so that new tables properly align on their own. Most poker sites will allow you to input your own layout preferences, which in turn will make it easier to close and re-open tables as you play. This will help to prevent against you being forced into any spots where you time out or don't have enough time to make proper decisions.
Finally, poker tracking software is absolutely critical to any serious multi-tabling players. Because you are going to be involved in so many hands at once, it will become exceptionally easy to lose track of what is going on. You aren't going to be able to easily remember who the aggressive players are, who the passive players are, and so on and so forth. For an investment of $100 or less, poker tracker software that includes a HUD (heads up display) will be one of the best purchases that you can make in your online poker career, and the benefits will only be multiplied when you are multi-tabling.
Multi-tabling and tournaments don't usually go together very well. There are a number of reasons for this, with the main ones being availability of games and variation in real time action. Unless you are playing sit and go's, most tournaments are going to have different buy ins, different structures, and will start at different times.
As a result, you might be playing in a turbo with very high blinds at the same time as you are playing a normal tournament that has just begun. Forcing your mind to shift from one state of mind to another is very hard to do, but it's a definite requirement in tournament play.
If you are just playing a couple (2-3) tournaments at once, multi-tabling shouldn't be an issue at all. It's when players start to sit at 6, 10, 15, or even 20 tournaments at once that things begin to get very confusing. To summarize, multi-tabling tournaments isn't usually going to be a very good or profitable idea.
Increasing and Diminished Returns
Multi-tabling is both the best way to increase your win rate and the best way to ruin your win rate. Using an example of $20/hour for earnings while playing two tables at a time, you might expect to reasonably earn $35/hour if you doubled that number to four tables at once. You make $2.50 less at the two additional tables per hour, but your overall win rate does go up.
Now, imaging you double that number again to eight tables. At this point, you would likely see $60 or so as your hourly rate, which equates to $7 and change per table (from $10 per table originally). If you again add four more tables, you may earn $80, which would mean that you are at $6 and change per table. Finally, an increase to 16 could mean $75 an hour, effectively lowering your hourly rate and reducing your earn per table to less than $5 each.
This is exactly how adding tables to determine your highest hourly rate when multi-tabling works. You'll need to gauge how much money you are making with each amount of tables. Eventually you'll determine which number of tables allows you to max out your hourly earnings, whether that means 4, 8, 12, 16, or 24 tables at a time.
Author: Jonathan Wanchalk
Updated: March 2015
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