Multi-Tabling Online Poker — Tips for Success

One of the biggest differences between online poker and live poker in casinos, is the opportunity that online sites give you to play multiple tables at the same time. You can open more than one cash game, more than one tournament, or some of both.

Most online pros play a minimum of two games. Many play far more than that. Some play as many as 16 to 24 tables at a time! These pros are seeking not just to win money in the games they play, but also to take advantage of the VIP programs and other bonus programs that Carbon Poker and other sites award for playing high numbers of hands. But when playing at the higher stakes, players generally prefer to play fewer tables, in order to focus their concentration.

For beginning or recreational poker players, as well as poker professionals, there are many factors to consider in deciding whether to play more than one table online.  Here is what I see as the chief advantages and disadvantages to multi-tabling online, as well as some tips for doing it successfully:

ADVANTAGES TO MULTI-TABLING

1)  Play Faster: Obviously, the more tables you are playing, the more hands you will be dealt to play in any given time period.  This is a great attraction to players who get bored waiting for hands to be dealt in live poker rooms. When multi-tabling they will find themselves constantly in action.

2) Learn to Play Poker Faster: Experience is invaluable in poker. The more hands of poker you play, the more you learn about how to play.  By multiplying the number of hands you play, you will be honing your poker skills at a radically faster pace than you could playing one table.

3) Win More: Many poker professionals and winning amateurs play more than table at a time in order to multiply the amount of money they can earn.

4) Decrease the Amount of Time Needed to Play: Some professional poker players (I am most certainly not exempt) suffer from laziness.  They love the ability to multi-table online because it decreases the amount of time required for them to play in order to support themselves. For amateur players and semi-professionals who have other jobs, multi-tabling allows them to expand the amount of play they can fit into a tight playing schedule.

5) Ability to Play Tighter Pre-Flop: Many poker players crave action, and are unable to play tight enough to win.  They simply get bored waiting for good hands, and find themselves in pots and losing money with hands they shouldn’t be playing.  By multi-tabling online, these impatient players can find an immediate cure for their problem. They will find themselves constantly in action, even while playing far more tight.

6) A Good Alternative to Moving Up: Traditionally, once you had mastered a certain limit of poker, you were ready to move up in stakes.  “Moving up” offered you the opportunity to make more money, but also came with the risk of learning new players, and confronting the possibility you weren’t ready for the higher standard of play to be found at the higher stakes. Now, with the possibility of multi-tabling, a winning poker player doesn’t have to move up in stakes to earn more money.  He has the alternative of simply multi-tabling more games at his current limit.

7) Rewards Programs: Carbon Poker and other online sites offer rewards programs based on how many hands are played.  Many professional poker players are content to “grind” at 24 tables at once, even though they are simply breakeven playing that many tables, simply because of the substantial returns they earn from these programs.  Those returns can amount to over $100,000 a year for players who play a very high number of hands.

DISADVANTAGES TO MULTI-TABLING:

1) Lower Win Rate per Table: Once you reach the threshold of number of tables you can play comfortably, adding tables will result in lowering your win rate per table you have open.  This is unavoidable, and occurs for the following reasons:

  • Inability to concentrate on the game flow of each table.
  • Inability to recall each player at the table.
  • Inability to take good notes on each player due to time constraint.
  • Inability to think clearly due to being rushed.
  • Physical mistakes such as misclicking, that may cause you to take an action that you didn’t wish to, such as betting when you intended to check, or calling when you intended to fold.

Despite this lower win rate, it may still be profitable for you to play more tables.  Let’s say you make $10 an hour playing one table. If you play two tables, let’s say your win rate goes down to $8 per table. Well, even though your per table win rate went down, you’re making another $6 per hour!

2) Higher Variance: The more tables you play, the more swings you will take. You will win more when you win, and lose more when you lose. For this reason, you must be very careful that you are not putting your bankroll at risk when you decide to increase the number of tables you play.

Despite the increase in variance that multi-tabling causes, I do believe that doubling the number of tables you play actually results in less variance than if you double your stakes.

3) Increased Propensity to Tilt: As you learn to play faster and faster, you may find that you have less control of your emotions than you did when you were playing at a slower pace.  This may especially be true when you happen to get unlucky in several big pots all at once. To become a successful multi-tabler, you must guard against tilt at all costs.  It is easy to lose a weeks work in only a few hours when playing poker while you are angry or bent out of shape. When I start feeling angry when playing, I shut down my tables at once, and go do something else for awhile to regain my equanimity.

TIPS FOR MULTI-TABLING:

1) Watch Videos:  At top online poker training sites such as DeucesCracked, most of the training videos are of professional players multi-tabling in cash games.  Actually watching top pros handle the challenge of multi-tabling is the quickest way to familiarize yourself with what you will need to do.

2) Get Good Stats Software: Programs like Holdem Manager and Poker Tracker will provide you with updated stats on all of the players on your table that will assist you in keeping track of how they play.  I have a couple of friends who play high-stakes online poker without the use of software.  These friends are always playing at only one or two tables, though, and know the players they are playing against intimately. If you intend to play more than two tables at a time, I believe that stat software is a must.

3) Drop Down in Limits: When you want to experiment with adding more games, drop down and do it first at a lower limit until you are fully comfortable.

4) Add games slowly: Don’t go hog-wild to start. I can remember that going from one table to two was a bit of an adjustment for me!  As was going from 2 to 4, and 4 to 6.  Take your time, go slowly, and make sure you are still winning at every step of the way.

5) Play in full games: It is extremely difficult to play in short-handed games when multi-tabling.  You will be playing many more hands, and the amount of important decisions you will be making will increase substantially.  Stick with full games until you are extremely comfortable.

6) Don’t Mix Games: Playing in different types of poker games at the same time can really mess with your mind.  Don’t play no-limit at the same time you are playing limit.  The style of play between limit and no-limit is so radically different that it is impossible to play both well at the same time.  Likewise, playing holdem at the same time as you play Omaha can cause you to make basic mistakes, such as misreading your hand.

7) Monitor your Mental State and your Emotions: You should only play poker when feeling at your best, both physically and mentally.  That is especially true when multi-tabling, as it is very mentally demanding.  When playing, make sure you quit when you start to feel tired, or your attention wavering. And it is especially important to monitor your emotions. If you feel yourself beginning to get angry or impatient with how things are going, quit immediately, and come back to play later. The games will still be there when you come back. Avoid tilting!

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