October 10, 2011

Fix Your Red Line – Play Fewer Tables

When you're a poker prop and you're enjoying copious amounts of rakeback, it is often tempting to put in as much volume as possible. What better way is there, when it comes to volume than to play multiple tables? Multi-tabling presents quite a few pitfalls for beginners and highly skilled players alike: those who play too many tables, will often play on TAG auto-pilot. Auto-pilot play takes a heavy toll on one's red line though, destroying the non-showdown winnings, and rendering players unable to pull off a bluff or even to catch one.

Multi tabling is quite attractive nonetheless: while at the live tables one can log about 20 hands per hour, online, that number can go up to 1,000, depending on the multi-tabling abilities of the player in question.
Many players think the following way when it comes to multi-tabling: my win rate is 3 BBs (big bets) for every 100 hands that I play. I know that for certain, having analyzed a more than large-enough sample size, so I'm not being optimistic about this at all. Suppose I play 2 tables instead of the one I do now. That'll log me 200 hands for every 100 that I would've managed at a single table, and that will double my win-rate.

This way of thinking is not always flawed: many players do indeed manage to raise their win-rates this way. The problem is that past a certain number of tables our multi-tabling guru will find himself unable to pay the same amount of thought to each decision that he makes. Basically, he'll slip into auto-pilot mode. He won't be able to make reads on his opponents and therefore he won't think: my opponent is a TAG fish and he will therefore let go of pocket 9s on a board of 10,5,3 when subjected to a little pressure. Instead he'll think: I reckon I bet before the flop so I'll just c-bet now. That is exactly the sort of thing that will kill the very edges that are responsible for the 3BB/100 hands win rate. You may log 500 hands instead of 100, but you will no longer win 3BBs for every 100 hands. You may even slip under your initial win-rate.
The question here is: how many tables should you play then? Unfortunately there is no actual answer to that. It depends on your abilities. If you're able to play 10 tables or 12, and not rush your decisions, do so. If you find yourself struggling with 2 tables, you're better off sticking to one.

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