‘MULTI HAND’ VIDEO POKER GAMES

One of the biggest changes in video poker over the past decade has been the explosion in popularity of multi-hand games. These games started to appear on the casino floor in the late 1990’s and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. It might not be accurate to call multi-hand games a ‘variation’ in and of themselves since most other variations now employ some type of multi-hand format. Regardless of the semantics, they’re extremely popular and you’ll definitely run into them no matter if you play at a land based casino or online.

A multi hand video poker game is exactly what it says it is—you play a number off separate hands simultaneously, each representing a separate bet. The most common multihand versions offer 3, 5, 10, 50 or 100 simultaneous hands. Since the strategy doesn’t change, however, each hand requires an individual max bet.

Hands Max Bet

3 15 coins
5 25 coins
10 50 coins
50 250 coins
100 500 coins

For the higher hand multiples you’ll find lower denomination games (1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents) but if you’ve got the bankroll and the stomach you can play them for the same amount that you’d play any other video poker game.

One thing is certain about multihand games—recreational video poker players love them. The simple explanation for this is that recreational players want ‘action’ and the addition of multiple hands makes video poker a more high stakes, volatile game. In other words, it makes it more like a slot machine.

More experienced players are divided in their opinions on multihand games. Some like them, some don’t. In theory, they play exactly the same as their single hand counterparts except the more hands you add the greater the variance for a specific game. Most serious video poker players—and most serious gamblers of any type for that matter—seek to minimize variance if possible.

MULTIPLE HAND GAMEPLAY

Multiple hand gameplay works as follows—the only difference is the number of hands. We’ll use three hands of full pay Jacks or Better to illustrate:

For the initial deal, the player is dealt one hand:

10H AC 2C AD JH

We hold the pair of aces and that is repeated on the other two lines giving us the following prior to the draw:

X AC X AD X
X AC X AD X
X AC X AD X

We now hit draw and each hand is dealt three cards:

AH AC AS AD JC

5D AC 7C AD JD

6H AC KS AD 2C

So we’ve got a 4 of a kind on the first hand and a high pair on the second and third. The machine mays 125 for the quads and 5 for each of the two high pair hands.

That’s the way it works—the only difference is that you might be playing more hands.

THE STRATEGY REMAINS THE SAME

Remember that video poker and all other forms of gambling are circumscribed by legitimate mathematical concepts. In fact, the more you know about math the better you’ll do gambling—and the smarter you’ll become about knowing which games to avoid.

As we noted above, multiple hand games aren’t considered ‘variations’ themselves. Most multiple hand machines offer a choice of several rule sets that we’ve covered including Jacks or Better, Jokers Wild, Deuces Wild, etc. This means that you evaluate a multiple hand game the same way you would a single hand game—by the pay table. No matter how many hands you play at the same time the EV (expected value) doesn’t change. So if you’re playing a 99.8% payback pay table you could play anywhere from three to a gazillion hands and you could still expect the same rate of return.

The difference is the variance—we won’t go into the mathematical definition here (though we will in another section since it’s a very important concept) but basically a game with higher variance is more ‘unpredictable’ than a game with lower variance. That’s not an explanation that would make a mathematician happy but it should give you the idea. A game with higher variance can produce a wild swing in a shorter amount of time.

And you’ve probably figured this out by now no matter what level of math knowledge you have—the more hands, the more wild swings in profit and loss. Or in other words, the more hands we’re playing the higher degree of variance we’re dealing with.

So that’s the conundrum—longterm, the expected value of a specific pay table is the same regardless of how many hands you’re playing. In the short term, however, the variance increases with the number of hands. Is it worth it? That’s up to you—some of the newer video poker variations require multiple hand play (6 Card Poker, Powerhouse Poker). If you’re a professional player looking to grind out a profit over the long haul you’ll want to minimize your variance. If you’re a recreational player spending a week in Las Vegas it’s a matter of your personal risk adversity.