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Stickman's Stance: How Much Money Do You Need to Play Multi-Play Video Poker

By Jerry "Stickman"

Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in craps, blackjack, video poker and advantage slot machine play. Frank Scoblete's and Jerry "Stickman's" book "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker" presents dozens of video poker games and strategies for maximum returns. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at

Most serious video poker players know they must have a sufficient bankroll with them when playing their favorite game. Many know that the bankroll requirements increase as the volatility (or variance) of the game they play goes up. A rule of thumb for a sufficient bankroll for low- to middle-variance games is to have three to four times a royal flush available for your long term bankroll. That means if you are playing a quarter video poker game, where a royal flush pays $1,000, you should have $3,000 to $4,000 in your bankroll. Don't get me wrong; you don't need to bring $3,000 with you for a three- or four-day trip to the casino. But in order to have enough money to weather the lean times playing the game, you should have several thousand dollars in your total bankroll. (You know, that's the money you keep in a separate place that is used just for playing video poker.)

Many people enjoy playing multi-play games. Those are games where you can play three, five, 10, 50, or even up to 100 hands at once. For those who have not played these games, here is how they work.

  • The player bets enough for the total number of hands played (usually five credits per line). On a quarter game, this would be $3.75 for a 3-play, $6.25 for a 5-play, and $12.50 for a 10-play game.
  • When the "Max Credit" or "Deal/Draw" button is pushed, the same five cards are dealt to each of the hands that are in play.
  • The player selects which cards to hold. The same cards are held for the other hands in play.
  • When the "Deal/Draw" button is hit, the un-held cards in each hand are replaced by cards from different shuffled decks, along with the same remaining cards after the initially dealt hand. For example, if the initial hand consisted of Ks, 6h, 7d, 2c, and Jh, the remaining deck used to fill the upheld cards in each line would have 47 cards, which would not include those five cards.

In this article, we will look at bankroll requirements for a few popular single-play games and then see how the bankroll changes when playing multi-play games. Some of the results may surprise you.

We will assume a player will play for four hours a day on a three-day stay at a casino. We will also assume the player plays at a rate of 500 hands per hour at a 25 cent game - unless stated differently.

So, the player will play 2,000 hands per day for three days for a total of 6,000 hands. The term "hand" for multi-play games means all the multi-play lines (3, 5, 10, 50, or 100) is included in one hand. We will also assume that the player can tolerate a five percent "Risk of Ruin." All this means is that the player will have a one in 20 chance (which is five percent) of going broke with the stated bankroll. I will also include the bankroll requirements for a one percent risk of ruin. All the calculations were produced using Dunbar's Risk Analyzer for Video Poker v2.0.

Let's start with the basic game of 9/6 Jacks or Better (i.e., 9 for 1 credits payout for a full house and 6 for 1 credits for a flush). This game has a return of 99.54 percent with perfect play and a variance of 19.5.

In order to have a sufficient bankroll for the above trip, you will need to bring $509 for a five percent risk of ruin and $620 for a one percent risk of ruin.

It should also be noted that the bankroll requirements quadruple if you are playing a dollar game. If you are playing a dollar 9/6 Jacks or Better game, your bankroll requirements for the above example would be $2,036 for a five percent risk of ruin and $2,480 for a one percent risk of ruin.

Now let's look at a game with a bit higher variance - 9/7 Double Bonus Poker. It has a return of 99.11 percent with perfect play, which is about a half percent less than Jacks or Better. Its variance is 28.5.

Using the same playing parameters, in order to have a five percent risk of ruin at quarter denomination, a bankroll of $832 is required. To reduce the risk of ruin to one percent requires a bankroll of $1,025.

One more game with a still higher variance - 9/6 Double-Double Bonus Poker. This game returns 98.98 percent and has a variance of 41.98. For a five percent risk of ruin, you need to have a bankroll of $1,000 for quarter denomination. For a one percent risk of ruin, the amount jumps to $1,215.

Now let's look at multi-play games. Multi-play games have the exact same strategy as single play games. The only difference is your initially dealt hand has a much greater influence on your results because the same cards are in all lines of play; therefore, variance increases.

Let's look at the same three games for a 3-play game, compared to a single-play game...

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