Multi tabling In Poker Guide

Multi tabling is a well-known concept in online poker, with some pros like nanonoko or leather ass taking it to an extreme by playing 20 or more tables at a time. However, the average online player should not replicate this feat, and is much better off playing a more reasonable number of tables. So how do you know how many tables you should play? This article will cover some concepts you should consider when deciding how many tables you should sit at when you play online poker.

The most important thing to consider when deciding how many tables you should play at one's is what you care about the most. Is profit your primary motive? Or do you only want to focus on improving your game? There are degrees in between, but knowing what you care about will make this decision more straightforward.

If you are primarily playing to try to improve your poker skills, thinking more deeply or implementing new plays into your game, then one table is always going to be optimal. Like it or not, playing more tables causes us to auto pilot more, focus less on individual tables, and make more mistakes on average. This brings us to the most important concept of multitabling.

Play less tables. Focus on the decisions you're at, and take notes on the games. This will force you to think deeper about the game and be more prepared. As you do this more often, you'll eventually find it more fluid to add back those tables.

Jeff Gross

Professional Poker Player with over $4.5 million in online and live winnings

Your Base Win Rate Is Inversely Related To The Number of Tables You Play

Repeat that to yourself until it sinks in. The rate of change is different for everyone, but there will always be a negative change in your win rate for each table you add. It may be small in the beginning, but it will get bigger per table you add. For example let's say that you have a good win rate of 6 bb/100 when playing one table. This may only drop to 5 bb/100 one playing two tables, and 4 bb/100 when playing 3 tables, but it might only be 2 bb/100 when you're playing four tables. For the sake of the example, let's say that you have a negative win rate when you play more than four tables. This takes us to the next most important concept of multitabling. (See also How much money can I make playing poker?)

Your Hourly Rate Fluctuates Depending On The Number Of Tables You Play

Hourly rate

This is obvious of course, since you see more hands per hour when you play more tables. So it seems obvious that your hourly would increase. We've also established that there is some point at which you're playing so many tables that your win rate is negative. Let's use the numbers from above to calculate an hourly rate.

We'll assume that we see 100 hands per hour per table. So when playing 1 table, our hourly rate is:

6 bb/100 hands x 100 hands/hour/table x 1 table = 6 bb/hour

And for two tables, we see that our hourly rate is:

5 bb/100 hands x 100 hands/hour/table x 2 tables = 10 bb/hour

  • 1 table - 6 bb/100
  • 2 tables - 5 bb/100
  • 3 tables - 4 bb/100
  • 4 tables - 2 bb/100

So two tables are clearly better for profit than one, by a significant margin. This is in spite of the fact that our base win rate took a hit when we upped our tables from one to two. So perhaps we should play as many tables as we're able to handle while still playing with a positive win rate. To think about this, let's take a look at all our potential hourly rates:

  • 1 table - 6 bb/hour
  • 2 tables - 10 bb/hour
  • 3 tables - 12 bb/hour
  • 4 tables - 8 bb/hour
  • 5 or more tables - negative win rate

In our last example, we notice that even though we are still making a positive win rate at four tables, we take a hit to our hourly rate when we move up from three tables.

Why did this happen though? Not everyone's change in hourly rate per table will look the same, but everyone's hourly rate will drop off from its peak at some point when they add a new table. Eventually, the value you get from adding one more table with a small positive win rate will not outweigh the hit to your win rate you take on every other table you are playing. Take it to the extreme: Let's say you are 100-tabling at a win-rate of 0.1 bb/100. You add one more table, and your win-rate is now 0.099 bb/100. Assuming 100 hands per hour per table, you added 0.099 bb/hour on the new table, but you lost 0.001 bb/100 on every single other table. This comes out to being a loss of 0.1 bb/hour combined from the other 100 tables, so you're losing net 0.001 bb/hour by adding your 101st table.

The quick formula to remember is this. You will reach your peak hourly rate when by adding one more table, the fractional hit to your per-table win rate is larger than the fractional increase to the number of tables you are playing. In other words, when

{[(win rate at X tables) - (win rate at X+1 tables)] / win rate at X tables} > (1 table) / (X tables)

or when

1 - (new WR / old WR) > 1/old number of tables

Let's look at one more example and see how this concept applies. Pretend that at one table, your win rate is 9 bb/100 hands, and that for each table you add, you lose 1 bb/100 hands off of your base win rate. Plugging our assumption (new WR = old WR - 1) into the formula above will tell us at how many table we would expect to cap out our hourly rate. We find that it is at 5 tables. To see this is correct, we can determine the hourly rate with each degree of multitabling (again assuming 100 hands per hour per table):

  • 1 table - 9 bb/hour
  • 2 tables - 16 bb/hour
  • 3 tables - 21 bb/hour
  • 4 tables - 24 bb/hour
  • 5 tables - 25 bb/hour
  • 6 tables - 24 bb/hour
  • 7 tables - 21 bb/hour
  • 8 tables - 16 bb/hour
  • 9 tables - 9 bb/hour
  • 10 tables - 0 bb/hour
  • 1 tables - 11 bb/hour

So we see a few options are clustered pretty closely together in terms of hourly, but there's a pretty huge drop off once you continue up. This leads into the last important concept:

Its Hard To Know Your Exact Win Rate

Exact win rate

It's an unfortunate reality, but most people don't even have sample sizes big enough to have an estimate of their win rate for any number of tables, let alone a discrete range of them. Opinions vary on the sample size required to have a good idea of what your win rate is, but 50,000 hands is usually a low estimate. Most people agree that 100,000 to 200,000 hands is a fairly safe range, but the bigger the better.

This means that in order to know your base win rate at one table through 4 tables, you'd have to play at least 400,000 hands - and that's just to figure out which number of tables is the most profitable for you to play! Most of the time if you've played 400,000 hands and haven't moved up, you likely need to focus on improving your game, not figuring out how many tables to play. But this begs the common question.

How Do I Know How Many Tables I Should Play To Maximize My Profit?

Maximize profits

You probably never will, realistically. But as a general rule, most people would benefit from playing fewer tables than they currently do. Even if you take a small hit to your hourly rate, you will improve faster, will increase your inherent win rate regardless of how many tables you are playing, and often also allow you to move up faster and stay at higher limits more easily when you take shots. In addition to this general guideline, there are several pieces of advice you should follow when deciding how many tables you should play at once:

Remove a table or two if you are struggling to make your decisions in the allotted time. Add a table if you find that there isn't enough going on to keep you occupied. It's okay to change how many tables you play from day-to-day based on your current levels of attention and focus.

Overall, just use your best judgment. Thinking about how many tables you want to play already puts you ahead of the competition, since most players will semi-randomly fire up their games and play without considering why they chose that number of tables. Remember to think about what you want to accomplish when you play, and make your decision of how many tables to play based on that.

Improve your game further by checking out even more poker strategies and guides or bring it back to basics with the poker rules for other poker variants.