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HOME > > Ask the Slot Expert: Multi-hand video poker thoughts

Ask the Slot Expert: Multi-hand video poker thoughts

22 June 2022

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

I've spent the past few weeks playing multi-hand video poker exclusively (well, there's been some Invaders Attack from the Planet Moolah too, but I've pretty much come up MT from the ETs). I've been hitting the multi-hand machines lately for two reasons.

First, I've become a bit bored with playing single-hand machines.

Second, I need to requalify for elite in a slot club before the end of the month. I didn't want to spend the time it would take to requalify playing single hand, so I need to up my bet per hand.

I could play a higher denomination, but I also want to control the risk and volatility. Besides, there aren't many choices for denomination. Two-dollar machines aren't too bad, but five-buck machines are too risky for me. So multi-hand Illinois Deuces Wild it is.

First session was Triple Play dollars. Down $600 on $4000 in action. Not a good start.

Another day, another session. Hundred Play nickels this time. Down $400 on $6000 in action. Better than the first session. That's the best I can say for it.

Third session was back on Triple Play dollars. I was mixing Hundred Play and Triple Play that day to take advantage of the positive aspects of each game. Down $30 on $4000 in action. That's more like it. I can afford that.

Another day, fourth session in my quest. Back to Hundred Play nickels, but this time only $20 per hand to be closer to the bet per hand on Triple Play dollars. Down $1300 on $10,000 action. Yikes.

Fifth session. Hundred Play starting at 60 hands (to match the $15 per hand of Triple Play dollars), and sometimes going up to 80 or 100 hands. Down $500 on $12,000 action. This session would have been much worse if I hadn't hit a few good hands.

Here are some observations from my play -- occasionally while jumping for joy, mostly while cursing quietly under my breath. All are predictable from the math of the games. (I'll use the term hand to refer to the overall bet and the term play to refer to each play within the hand.)

Chances of a bust hand

More than half of your hands on a single-play machine will end without a payout. Bust hands are still fairly frequent on Triple Play and Five Play. On Ten Play it's rare. I never had a bust hand playing 50 or more hands, but some of those hands ended with so few plays paying so little that they weren't much better than a bust.

Chances of a pushing a hand

To push a hand on a single-play machine, all you need to do is hit the lowest-paying combination. On Triple Play, to have one play push the hand you need to move up the paytable and win 15 credits on that play. Move up to Five Play and now you have to hit a play worth 25 credits. Of course, when you increase the number of plays, you also have more chances to hit the combo. Nevertheless, my experience has been that it is tough to push a hand at Fifty Play and above unless you're dealt a paying hand -- and long stretches of not being dealt a paying hand are common in Deuces Wild.

Premium hand excitement

It's very exciting to see a high-paying hand on your screen on a single-play machine. The thrill is the same on Triple and Five Play.

On the Hundred Play machine, not so much. One reason is that the premium plays are buried in the array on the screen. (I discovered if you wait at the end of the hand, the machine will go through the combos you hit and highlight the plays for each combo.)

Another reason is that I went down in denomination to nickels in order to play so many hands at once. It's hard to get excited about four deuces when they pay only $50. The natural royal I hit paid only $200. At least it didn't require a tax form.

The real value of a payout is in how many hands it funds. A $4000 royal funds 800 hands on single-play dollars and 267 hands on Triple Play dollars. My nickel royal funded only eight to 13 hands, depending on how many plays I had enabled.

Chances of breaking even or better for a session

Although it's not the usual result, I have had many breakeven and profitable sessions playing single-play machines -- even without hitting deuces or a royal or having many dealt paying hands. It's tougher to have a good session on Triple Play, but they did happen. Mainly because I was still playing dollars, so a premium hand paid a premium price.

I was rarely ahead on the Hundred Play machine. Draw a straight line from my buy-in down to zero. Now make it squiggly. Sometimes I had a profitable hand, but nothing stopped the general downward trend.

Well, nothing but being dealt four cards to a premium hand or the premium hand itself. I was dealt a dirty royal. I don't remember how many hands I was playing at the time, but it did send me over my buy-in for a little while.

Other times I'm able to get enough good hands to almost make it back to my buy-in, but I can't quite get there. It seems like you can't have a good session playing many hands at a low denomination unless you're dealt many paying hands. A dealt paying hand has the same value on the multi-hand machine as on a single-hand machine with the same bet per hand.

I'll have to decide how to play my next session. First determine how much I want to bet per hand and then choose my strategy. First choice: play fewer hands at a higher denomination so each play that pays is worth more and deal with the higher volatility. Second choice: play more hands at a lower denomination and trade upside potential for downside safety net.

Jean Scott recently described dealing with the same choice in one of her Frugal Gambler blog posts.

We played around $50 a hand, 40 hands at quarters. However, we got tired of $1,000 royals that didn’t seem to come along often enough to make up for our losses fast enough, so we switched to 10-line dollars. To be truthful, hitting a $4,000 royal was just more exciting. However one has to make denominational choices by looking at both your emotional bankroll and the one in your pocket!

That reminded me of a recalibration I had failed to make. You can't expect multi-hand session results to be like single-hand session results when you're betting two, three, four or five times as much per hand. Session losses can be much greater, so you need a bigger bankroll.

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Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming's leading publications. Hear John on "The Good Times Radio Gaming Show," broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoons. You can listen to archives of the show online anytime.

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