Multi-Play Video Poker Primer

            This past week, I received an e-mail from a reader who had some questions about Multi-Play video poker.  For those who are not familiar with it, Multi-Play allows Players to play out the result of a draw multiple times.  The Player is dealt five cards as per normal video poker.  He then decides which cards to hold/discard.  The draw is then played out from 2 to 100 times depending on which version he is playing and how many hands he chooses to play.  Generally speaking, the casinos offer 3-Play, 5-Play, 10-Play, 50-Play and 100-Play.  The underlying video poker game may be any of the ones offered on a regular video poker machine – jacks or better, Bonus, Double Bonus, Deuces Wild, etc…

            The game was invented about 15 years ago by Ernie Moody of Action Gaming.  If you’ve never heard of Mr. Moody, well, I guess multi-play didn’t make him a household name, but it sure did make him a lot of money.  There are thousand, if not tens of thousands of these games across the casinos of the world.  While it seems that the game may be off its peak (in terms of popularity, not necessarily total machines), it is still an immensely popular game.

            The good part about Multi-Play is that you don’t need to learn any new strategies.  It does not matter if you are playing 1 hand, 2 hands, 100 hands or theoretically a million hands at a time.  The proper strategy is still Expert Strategy which will look at the expected values of each possible way you can play the hand.  The number of times the draw is played out does NOT change this one bit.  The payback of Multi-Play is NOT dependent on the number of hands being played, but rather is based on the underlying video poker variation being played and the paytable being used.

            The bad news about Multi-Play is that you had best be prepared to bring a larger bankroll or to lower the denomination that you are used to playing, which can have its problems too.  Ideally, you want to keep playing max-coin to help ensure being paid 800 for 1, instead of 250 for 1 if you hit a Royal.  Assuming you do this, then the amount you are wagering per game is multiplied by the number of hands you are playing.  If you play Five Play then you are going to have to wager 5 coins (for max-coin) times 5 hands or 25 units.  If you’re a Quarter Player, you just went from wagering $1.25 per game to $6.00 per game.  This does not necessarily mean you need to have 5 times the bankroll (for reasons I’ll get to shortly), but you will need something close to this.

            To help with the bankroll issue, you could lower the denomination you normally play at.  If you go from Quarters to Nickels, you’ll still be wagering $1.25 even though you will now be playing five hands instead of one.  The only thing you need to watch out for is that sometimes the paytable for Nickels will be different (i.e. lower) than the one for Quarters.  This is true even when you are on the same physical machine but merely switch denomination.  You’ll get away with a lesser bankroll by switching to nickels, but if the payback is cut by 1% (or more), you’ll pay for it in other ways.

            So, how does playing multiple hands effect our bankroll requirements?  The more hands you play simultaneously (in the manner of Multi-Play), the less volatile the game can be.  When you play a single hand and are dealt a Low Pair, the number of possible outcomes is relatively small.  You might lose, get a Two Pair, Trips, Full House or Quads.  Your payout will be exactly equal to zero (losing) or one of the payouts of a winning hand.  None of these are very close to the actual expected value.  However, as you play more hands at the same time, you’ll find that you’ll approximate the actual expected value far more often.  This is especially true if you play 50-Play or 100-Play.  It is amazing how many times you’re dealt a Low Pair in 100-Play only to find that you win 80-85 coins back (per unit wagered) and that this hand has an EV of 0.82.  In essence you bring the long run to your game much quicker.   This is why I said earlier that you don’t necessarily need 5 times the bankroll.  But, don’t be fooled into thinking that you don’t need a larger bankroll if you’re playing 5 times the amount of money per game.

            So, one of the questions my reader asked is, “Is there a "best" number of multiple hands to play out of: Triple, Five Play, Ten Play Video Poker?”  The answer is not really.  As always you have to play the one you feel most comfortable playing based on bankroll, paytable and enjoyment.