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PokerStars review

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Multi-tabling in online poker

One of the possibilities that sets playing online poker apart from playing 'live' poker games is that of multi-tabling. For winning poker players this feature will be a very attractive one and certainly can be called an advantage, while for loosing players this possibility would only make them spend their money faster and hence won't be too appealing to look into.

Multi-tabling is a skill that has to be learned and developed gradually. It can be done in a number of different ways and you might not be comfortable with all of them. But before we dive into the details of how to multi-table and start clicking that mouse button like crazy, let's first take a closer look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of multi-tabling.

Advantages and disadvantages of multi-tabling

(Possible) advantages of multitabling:
  • More hands per hour
  • Bonuses clear faster
  • Win more money per hour
  • Play through your variance
  • Cure against boredom
(Possible) disadvantages of multitabling:
  • More missclicks
  • Timing out more often
  • Dropping win-rate
  • Tilting can be disastrous to the bankroll
  • Can become very mechanical
  • Hampering growth as a player
  • Increased risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI)

I won't go into detail about all the advantages and disadvantages of multi-tabling listed above as most are quite self explanatory and some are very personal. I would like to highlight some of them:

Bonuses clear faster - It is important to realize that multi-tabling is imperative if you want to have any shot at clearing bonuses at the micro stakes. If you can't manage to play at least 4-6 tables simultaneously, then you won't be able to clear many of the bonuses available in time before they expire. Take this into account before you start to go after a bonus and have no experience in multi-tabling yet. In that case it would be advisable to first spend some time getting used to playing multiple tables.

Win more money per hour versus dropping win rate - You win more money per hour (have a higher hourly rate) if the drop in win rate because of playing multiple tables is not too big. For everybody there will be a certain threshold in the maximum number of tables they can play to achieve the highest hourly rate. Try to find out where yours is at a certain moment and try to never exceed that threshold.

Increased risk of RSI - When multi-tabling large amounts of tables often and in long sessions it is very important to pay attention to ergonomics. At least don't keep playing when you feel pain, numbness or tingling in your hand or wrist. Try to find something that relaxes the over used tendons/muscles, whether it be configuring your mouse buttons in a different way as to use other fingers, using a tracker ball instead of a mouse or using two mice of which one is configured to use with your right hand, and one with the left hand.

Learning to multi-table

I can clearly remember when I started playing multiple tables that I had trouble keeping up with 4 tables at the same time. Now I can't even imagine playing less than, say, 8 tables before getting bored and falling into the pitfall of playing too many hands and giving way to 'fancy play syndrome'. Multi-tabling is a skill that mostly anyone can learn but will require some time to adopt.

The key to multi-tabling is making decisions quickly and resisting the urge to follow all the action in a certain hand. Therefore it is very important that you can play a solid ABC-game and can recognize and deal with standard situations quickly.

Also, the pre-select fold button is your friend. Constantly skim across your tables if you see any hole cards which you can fold. Check the pre-select fold button and forget about that hand. Focus on other hands that need your attention.

Don't click pre-select buttons for other actions than folding. If you decide to play a hand, wait until the action comes to you and then decide what exactly your action will be. Do not stay with this table until it is your turn to act once you have decided to play the hand! Rather make a mental note that there is a playable hand and see if there are any other hands that you can already fold until you can actually make your move. In the meanwhile try to think of several scenarios of action in front of you and what you would do in those cases. This way you can act more quickly once it is your turn. And directly after you have acted, skim your other tables again to find any hole cards you can fold, playable hands to make a mental note of and so on.

If you need more time to think about a certain hand, try to do the thinking while in the mean time folding some other hands or making other standard actions. Folding some marginal hands you would have otherwise played in such a situation will also give you some more time to focus on your big hands.

When following the above tips, multi-tabling of up to around 6 shorthanded and maybe 9 full ring tables should be very achievable. Don't expect to be able to do it at once, but rather add a single table every time once you can comfortably handle your normal amount of tables.

Multi-tabling in online poker: table positioning

Besides placing your poker tables randomly spread over your screen when multi-tabling there are three other ways to place them that are a little bit more structured, knowing tiled, cascaded and stacked:

5 tables tiled5 tables cascaded5 tables stacked

As you can see tables are increasingly overlapping from tiled to cascaded to stacked. This means an increased risk of missclicks and fewer hands you can follow as they are being played. The tiled layout I think is very useful when playing up to around 12 tables, provided that you have enough desktop real estate as they call it.

If you plan on mass multi-tabling, then the tiled method will probably not work for you and you might want to try cascading or even better, stacking your tables. The stacked layout requires the least amount of mouse movement and therefore you can probably play the most number of tables before reaching your maximum with this layout. Try to experiment with your table layout and see if there's any layout you prefer above another when taking the ease of handling, amount of action you can follow etc. into account.

Software to facilitate multi-tabling

Auto Hotkey (AHK-) scripts: Auto Hotkey is a program that allows you to run scripts. With these scripts you can assign an action like folding, calling, betting ¾ the size of the pot etc. to a single mouse button which can immensely speed up your actions (betpot script). There are also scripts out there that help you arrange your tables the way you want it and scripts to open multiple programs at the same time from one 'control panel' (for instance 'StarsPlanner' and 'The Opener').

AHK-scripts make multi-tabling easier and are indispensable for mass multi-tabling. For some poker rooms such as rooms on the Boss media/IPN network there are no AHK-scripts written. Auto Hotkey and most scripts can be downloaded for free at You migh also want to visit the software forum at Twoplustwo for a lot of information regarding certain scripts and how to get things to work.

Tracking software: Programs like HoldemManager and PokerTracker3 allow you to track your opponent's statistics and display them in a heads up display (HUD) at the poker tables while playing. This can help you make correct and quick decisions. Again, not all online poker rooms are compatible with these programs.

Table/card mods: With these mods you can alter the look of your poker tables and cards. This way you can sometimes make them look easier to the eye which helps when your screen is full of them and you look at them for hours on end. You could search on the poker forums or Google for a mod specifically for the poker room you are playing at.

Poker room software: The software of the poker room you are playing at greatly determines to what extent you will be able to multi-table. Some rooms offer features such as automatic reloading, synchronized breaks for the multi-tabling tournament players and smooth running software. Compatibility with tracking software like HoldemManager and PokerTracker and with AHK-scripts is also important. At some rooms the maximum number of tables you can play is 10 where other rooms have their limit at 24 or 99. Whether tables are resizable or not as well as the resolution of the tables are important aspects if you would like to tile your tables.

You can read about all these characteristics of particular poker rooms in their separate poker room review (under 'software'), but you can also take a look at the handy table below. Note that in this table the 'synchronized breaks' feature is not adopted. PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker are the only rooms offering this feature to the multi-tabling tournament player (see more online poker room comparison tables).

Poker rooms compared by multi-tabling facilities.
Room Overall Software AHK PT3 HEM Table resizing Min. table res. max. # tables Visit
PokerStars 9.9 9.5 y y y y 480 x 350 px 24 visit
Full Tilt Poker 9 9 y y y y 480 x 350 px 16 review
Ladbrokes 8.5 8.5 y y * y y 480 x 360 px 10 visit
BetFred 8 7.5 n ** y y n ** 520 x 350 px 16 visit
Everest Poker 8 7.5 y y y y 640 x 480 px# 12 visit
ParadisePoker 6.5 6 n y n y 490 x 330 px 99 visit

* ring games only
** try minimaximod instead
# see full Everest Poker review for how to resize tables even smaller

Monitor resolution

I won't say that a large screen is exactly necessary for multi-tabling the online poker games. After all, if you stack or cascade your tables or just tile with overlap you can do just fine on the smallest screens. However, the first time I saw a 24 inch monitor in a local electronics store I was in awe and instantly knew I just had to have one. Since then the 24 inch monitor has become the secondary monitor next to one with a 30 inch screen and I will say that a large screen, although not exactly necessary, is just plain awesome and will tremendously facilitate all of your computer multi-tasking.

Being used to 2560 x 1600 pixels now, I wouldn't want to go back to the 1024 x 768 pixels of my laptop. If you don't want to play with overlapping tables and want to adjust your monitor size to the number of tables you plan on playing (somehow that has to sound spoiled) then take a look at the poker monitor buying guide. A 24 inch monitor (1920 x 1200 pixels) is already very nice and can let you have your tracking software opened next to some poker tables.

If you would like to have an idea of how large a screen of 2560 x 1600 pixels is, then take a look at the screenshots below. More screenshots of poker tables on a 30" monitor can be found in the poker room reviews and the monitor buying guide. Keep in mind though that the size of your pixels (known as pixel pitch) might be different from the monitor the screenshot was taken on so that the actual size of the picture (in inches or centimetres, not in pixels) can differ from reality on your monitor.

Multi-tabling 9 Full Tilt Poker tables on a 30 inch monitor                      Multi-tabling 16 resized tables on PokerStars on a 30 inch monitor
2560 x 1600 pixel screenshots: click to download

Bankroll requirements for multi-tabling

In theory you don't need a bigger bankroll when multi-tabling compared to playing a single table. You certainly don't need a bankroll as large as your single table bankroll requirement multiplied by the amount of tables you play.

Proper bankroll management is needed to protect your bankroll against the influence of chance or variance. If your variance is the same whether you are multi-tabling or single tabling, then you can apply the same bankroll management guidelines. Of course, if you plan on 24-tabling, then a bankroll of 20 buy-ins becomes a little bit short.

However, your win rate will be lower because of multi-tabling which might increase your variance. Playing tighter as a result of multi-tabling on the other hand might reduce variance. It is unlikely that your variance will be the same when multi-tabling compared to single tabling and therefore it will be sensible to make your bankroll requirements for a certain level a little higher.

Multi-tabling in online poker - conclusion

Multi-tabling takes practice. When you become better at reading situations quickly and making quick decisions, then you will be able to play more tables simultaneously. Use the right software, indulge yourself with a big monitor and who knows you might be one of those mass multi-tablers earning a nice income with online poker in no time.

Further reading at First Time Poker Player:

Further reading across the internet

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