Multihand Video Poker Strategy

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Many versions of Video Poker are now available in multihand formats. The most common among these are 3-play, 5-play, 10-play, 50-play and 100-play. The hand originally dealt (main hand) is duplicated whatever number of hands are selected for wagering. Whatever cards are held in the main hand will also be held in each duplicate. On the draw, however, each hand receives replacement cards independently and at random, producing as many different outcomes as there are hands in play.

Most of these multihand games allow selection of fewer than the maximum number of hands offered. Most also require that the same bet be made on each hand, although some allow for variance of one unit between the main hand and the duplicates. Take, for example, the 10-play version of Jacks or Better. The minimum wager would be one unit on just one hand—the main hand—while the maximum might be five units on each hand for a total wager of 50 units.

The existence of multiple hands and wagers on a single deal allows casinos to offer “penny poker” and other low denomination games because players are likely to wager on more than one hand at a time and thus increase the machine’s throughput in terms of hands played per hour. Also, because most of these games do not offer a bonus for the top combination—usually a Royal flush—unless “max bet” is in play, players are likely to wager the maximum each time.

Factors Affecting Hand Play Decisions

Regardless of how many hands are selected or how much is bet per hand, the two most important components of a multihand Video Poker strategy are the game rules and the pay table. Some multihand machines offer just one game, such as Joker Poker or Double Bonus. Others allow the players to choose among a number of common variations on a single console. The players should careful check the rules for each game to see if they are the same as those used in single hand versions. Multihand Joker Poker, for example, commonly has Kings or better as the threshold hand for a payout, but some version may raise the threshold to Aces or better, which will directly impact strategy.

Assuming the game selected has the same rules and payout schedule as the single hand version, the correct hand play strategy will be the same no matter how many hands are selected. As one video poker expert has expressed it, “There is no way to improve your odds by changing the amount of the bet or the number of hands played…. Each hand in multi-play is an independent random event.”

For Multihand Jacks or Better, use the standard Jacks or Better Video Poker Strategy. For Deuces Wild, apply the usual Deuces Wild strategy. The same is true for Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, Joker Poker and other games. The odds are no different for the duplicate hands than they are for the main hand. The difference is in volatility.

A Matter of Standard Deviation

Where strategy does require an adjustment is in terms of the amount bet. Ten units wagered on a single hand is not the same as a single unit wagered on a main hand and nine duplicates. Mathematical analysis shows that the combined variance on the deal plus the variance on the draw increases in proportion to the number of hands played, and that directly impacts standard deviation.

For example, the total variance for a single hand of Full Pay Deuces Wild is 25.83, which yields a standard deviation (SD) of 5.08. When three hands are played, the variance rises to 32.11 and the SD equals 5.66—just a slight change. But when ten hands are in play, the numbers jump to 54.09 and 7.35, respectively, and at 100 hands, the game’s variance is 336.70 and the SD is 18.35—a huge shift.

The larger the standard deviation, the more the results differ from expectation, hence higher volatility. That means bigger wins and bigger losses. The implication for most players will be to wager somewhat less than normal per hand to reduce the risk of losing a bankroll. Instead of betting £1 on a single hand or 10p each on ten hands, reduce the wager to 25p on three hands or 5p on fifteen hands.

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