That guy sitting to your left, with the really weird screen name—he’s acting kinda funny, don’t you think? He’s only playing like, 10% of his hands! Every time he bets, the amount is the same. He’s almost always folding to 3bets, and if he doesn’t fold, he’ll push! What’s up with that?
Look him up on your poker client’s search feature. Chances are he’s playing tons of tables simultaneously.
Multi-tabling is more common than you probably think. There are tons of people who play 8, 16, or even upwards of 20 tables at a time.
“Why the heck would anyone do that?” you ask. Good question!
There are two ways to increase your hourly earnings at online poker. The first is to move up in stakes. Playing 100NL? Move up to 200NL. If you aren’t comfortable moving up stakes, a second way to raise your hourly is to increase the number of tables you play simultaneously.
For illustration’s sake, let’s calculate your current hourly rate. Here’s the formula:
(BB’s won per hundred hands) * ((average hands per hour per table * # of tables) / 100) * $BB = Win Rate in $
Let’s assume your BB/100 on a single table is 7. You see an average of 80 hands per hour per table. You play $100NL, so the big blind is $1. Let’s check out how much you can expect to earn per hour, playing 1 table.
(7 * ((80 * 1)/100) * 1) = $5.6
You can expect to win $5.6 per hour. Hardly a living, right? Well, let’s see what happens if you decide to multi-table; you’ll be playing 4 tables at a time:
(7 * (80 * 4)/100) * 1) = $22.4.
BOOM. Your hourly rate just (theoretically) quadrupled to $22.4. Sounds pretty good, right?
Too Much Of A Good Thing?
Realistically, as you add tables, the quality of your play will decrease. You’ll tighten up, and yes, you will start to make more mistakes. This is a function of your ability to focus; you can’t give 8 tables each the individual attention you’d be able to give just one.
Let’s recalculate your theoretical hourly rate. Let’s assume that for every 4 tables you add (after your original 4), your play gets 30% worse. Check out what 8 tables will do to your hourly rate:
(7 * (1-.30)) * (((80 * 8)/100) * 1) = hourly
4.9 * 6.4 = $31.36
So even with the deterioration of your play, you were able to tack on an extra $9 or so to your hourly. How about 12 tables?
(7 * ((1-(.30 * 2)) * (((80 * 12)/100) * 1) = hourly
2.8 * 9.6 = $26.88
See what happened there? Your hourly rate actually decreased from the $31.36 you would have earned per hour playing 8 tables.
What this means is simple: play within your means. Yes, you can boost your hourly rate by adding more tables, but you can also damage your hourly rate by overextending yourself. There’s really no need to play a ton of tables at a time unless you’re extremely skilled at multi-tabling. And by extremely skilled I mean, you can’t play poker any other way.
Multi-table, or Move Up?
Let’s compare hourly rates. Which will earn you more: multi-tabling (8 tables), or moving up a level (sticking with 1 table)? We’ll use the same hypothetical scenario as we worked through above.
As you’ll recall, your hourly rate multi-tabling 8 tables at $100NL is $31.36. If you move up to 200NL, where the big blind is $2, your single-tabling hourly would be:
(7 * ((80 * 1) / 100) * $2 = $11.2.
Not bad, but you’d still make more 8-tabling 100NL. What about 4 tables of $200NL?
(7 * ((80 * 4) / 100) *$2 = $44.8
As you can see, your hourly rate skyrockets when you move up just one level. You’d earn significantly more per hour playing 4 tables of 200NL than you would playing 8 tables of 100NL.
Thus it makes sense to multi-table, within reason, if for some reason you’re avoiding raising the stakes. If you’re trying to pad your bankroll quickly to prepare for your jump, playing 8 or so tables could be a great way to do it. If you’re trying to maximize your earnings, however, it makes no sense to just keep adding tables at the lower levels.
It’s A Comfort Thing…
You’ll notice that the vast majority of online poker pros play 6 tables or less. Given the analysis we’ve seen above, that makes sense. The marginal benefits of multi-tabling are diminishing, after a certain point.
If you’re looking for a high hourly rate (who isn’t!) it makes a lot of sense to move up in stakes as quickly as you can. That said, if you’re not quite comfortable with the jump, stalling a bit by multi-tabling your comfortable level is a good way to go.