Three Four multi-tabling misconceptions

Playing at multiple tables is what separates the men from the boys when it comes to playing online poker.

Right, that's probably a misconception too, but not one that will be discussed in this article. Fact is that many of the experienced online poker players are multi-tabling. For some 'multi-tabling' doesn't even fit as a description of their online poker activities: they're 'mass multi-tabling'. Although there are some great resources to be found on the internet about multi-tabling, there are also still quite a number of misconceptions floating around regarding this skill. Let's take a look at a couple of them in the remainder of this article:

You'll learn poker faster by multi-tabling

Obviously you need to play hands to learn the game. With every hand you play you gain a little bit of experience and you'll become a little bit better. So, if you play five times more hands in the same timeframe by multi-tabling, then you'll become the next pokerguru five times quicker, right?

If only getting great at poker was this easy… The thing is, in order to learn something from the hands you play you will have to play them consciously. And if you start playing five times the number of hands in the same amount of time by multi-tabling, then you cannot achieve the same level of awareness/consciousness as when you aren't multi-tabling. You simply won't have the time to pay attention to your opponents as much, to think through your decisions as deeply and to evaluate your play directly afterwards when other tables keep beeping for your attention. And therefore you'll learn less from every hand you play when multi-tabling. If you play too many tables you might not even improve your game at all.

By multi-tabling you'll win more money per hour

This one is actually not too far from the truth but needs more nuance. The amount of money you'll win (or lose for that matter) is dependent on both the amount of hands you play and your win rate (including any bonuses you clear). By playing more tables you'll always play more hands per hour. So, that one is covered.

However, for the same reason you won't learn as much with every hand you play when multi-tabling, you also won't earn as much! You can't afford to pay as much attention to every hand you play and as a consequence your decisions will be less optimal and your win rate will drop. On top of that you will also time out and be making missclicks more often.

Hands/hour, win rate and hourly rate as a function of the number of tables played.
Figure 1: multi-tabling in online poker. Bb = big blinds; bb/100 = big blinds per 100 hands.

The increase in number of hands per hour you play on the one hand, and the decrease in win rate on the other hand will cause you to have an optimum hourly rate at a certain number of hands per hour. This is represented in figure 1. Here the optimum hourly rate is achieved when playing 12 tables simultaneously, or 600 hands per hour. If you play more hands per hour, then the decrease in win rate will have a more pronounced effect on your hourly rate than the increase in number of hands you play. If you play less, then the decrease in number of hands you play will have a more pronounced effect on your hourly rate than the increase in win rate.

The trick is to play the number of tables at which you reach your optimum hourly rate. As you get better at making quick decisions and multi-tabling in general, this number might become higher. If you're playing a session in the wrong state of mind, this number can be significantly lower (as in: one table might already be too much then).

You need a big screen for multi-tabling

You don't, really. It all depends on what table lay-out you prefer though. If you would say: "You need a big screen for multi-tabling without tables overlapping each other," then that would be a whole different story. In that case, yes, a big 24 or 30 inch monitor with a nice resolution of 1920 x 1200 or 2560 x 1600 pixels would be preferable so you can tile as many tables as possible without any overlap. Depending on the software of the online poker rooms you play at it can also be perfectly possible to play a healthy number of tables while letting them completely overlap each other (this lay-out is called 'stacking'). In that case you don't need any more 'desktop real estate' as they call it than you need for playing a single table. If however, you do decide you want to upgrade your poker monitor, then you might first want to take a look at the poker monitor buying guide.

Multi-tabling in online poker - conclusion

Well, that's it. I hope these explanations put straight any misconceptions you might have had about online poker multi-tabling. Remember that if you want to learn to multi-table it is very important to gradually increase the number of tables you play and to not start too soon after learning the game. If you are looking for an online poker room of which the software greatly facilitates multi-tabling, then I would recommend you to take a look at PokerStars. Good luck!

Further reading at First Time Poker Player:

[back to top]