Multi-Hand Video Poker and High Variance

Beware of Its Effects on Your Bankroll

In this post, Multi-Hand Video Poker and High Variance, I will show you how these games need a larger bankroll. I never realized how volatile they really could be. So do I still play them? Sure – but with a larger bankroll, and here’s why.

What Is Multihand Video Poker and Why So Popular?

A multi-hand video poker game is exactly what it says it is—you play many different hands simultaneously, each representing a separate bet. The most common multi-hand versions are 3, 5, and 10-play.

Each hand is played with an individual max bet, so players wager on multi-line video poker with a lower denomination.

Why So Popular? Recreational players want ‘action’! Multiple hands provide significantly higher payouts and a boost in volatility. Simply put, you can pay dearly for the added “rush.”

Related Post – Why Do We Play Video Poker?

Number Of Hands Makes The Difference

In theory, they play the same as their single-hand counterparts. However, the more hands you add, the greater the game’s variance. Therefore, most serious players want to minimize variance whenever possible.

While they may look daunting to the inexperienced eye, it’s simpler to play than it looks.

The most significant difference is that the starting five-card hand players receive on the initial deal is duplicated on the extra number of hands being played. Therefore, whatever cards players have chosen to hold on their starting hand will automatically appear and be held in all the duplicate hands. Here is an example of playing a Five-play JOB – first the initial hand and then the draw.

Each multi-hand game requires a separate bet (like individual pay-lines on multi-line video slots.) Because of this, bankroll management should be a significant priority of players. In addition, in multi-hand video poker, the cards for each hand players have bet on are dealt from individual decks. So, for example, playing 5-hand video poker (usually called 5-play), five decks will be in play on each wager you place.

Variance – What Most Players Don’t Consider

Variance refers to the swings of good and bad luck you’ll experience in the casino world. In Multi-Hand Video Poker, variance increases when more hands increase. Keep these facts in your head:

  • The initially dealt five cards determine the strength of each multiple-play game.
  • If it’s a strong hand, each play will have a strong hand.
  • If it’s a weak hand, each play will be weak.

It would be like playing three single-line games at three bar-top terminals. The variation of each one is multiplied by three while playing all three simultaneously (with the draw on all three being the same.)

You can make nice money if you’re dealt an excellent initial hand. However, over half of all hands in video poker are losers. So, the variance for multiple-play games is higher than for single-play games.

With getting into the math, standard deviation, and all that, let’s show an easy example:

GamePayout % (long-term return)Variance
Jacks or Better (JOB) – 9/699.54 %19.5
Jacks or Better, 5-play – 9/699.54 %27.4
Bonus Poker – 8/599.17%20.9
Bonus Poker, 5-play – 8/599.17%29.4
The more hands, the greater the swings in winning or losing

So, remember, the higher the return, the better for you (or your bankroll). The lower the variance, the less severe your bankroll swings.

The important concept is that a game with higher variance is more ‘unpredictable’ than a game with lower variance. So, the more hands played, the more ‘unpredictable’ it can be.


Game Strategy

Should the game strategy change to counteract the jump in variance? The answer to this is simple: the strategy remains the same. However, a few tweaks are to be made in some “carnival” video poker games, such as Ultimate X Multi-hand.

Most multiple-hand machines offer a choice of traditional formats such as Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Bonus, Double Bonus, Double Double Bonus, etc. So, start by checking the payables. No matter how many hands you play simultaneously, the base game’s EV (expected value) doesn’t change. So you could play anywhere from three to a gazillion hands and still expect the same rate of return over the theoretical ‘long term’. But variance will increase the depth of those peaks and valleys.

Bankroll & Summary

Related Post – Your Video Poker Bankroll – Pay Tables and Variance

You need a bigger bankroll to play multi-play games of the same denomination. That’s the moral of this story. One of the golden rules of gambling is that you must always possess a bankroll that is adequate for the game you will be playing—and this is especially true if your plans include multiple-play video poker.

Variance can be good or bad. Those hot and cold streaks occur with all casino games. Adding more hands will increase the video poker game’s variance.

If you want bigger bets and more exciting action, give multi-hand games a try and stack up winnings much fasteror have something else planned after your bankroll dries up like Lake Mead.

Related Post – Lose Your VP Bankroll With Stinkin’ Thinkin’