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by Dunbar

Dunbar is a professional gambler with a strong mathematical background and a Ph. D. in biophysics. In 2005 he created his acclaimed software Dunbar's Risk Analyzer for Video Poker 1.0, which enables video poker players to assess risks and bankroll requirements for short- and long-term trips. Now Dunbar's Risk Analyzer for Video Poker 2.0 is available for about $20 from either of these fine establishments:, and


Multi-line video poker has been around a long time. Players generally understand that playing a multi-line game is riskier than playing a single-line game, everything else being equal. What do we mean by "everything else being equal"? That primarily would mean the same pay table and the same coin denomination (25c, $1, etc.). And, what do we mean by "riskier"? What I mean by "riskier" is this: if you want to limit your chance of going broke to some specified value - 5%, for example -- you need to have more money when you sit down to play multi-line than you'd need for single-line, if the machines are the same denomination and have the same pay table.*

But, what happens when the total bet is the same? Say, for example, you want to play 8/5 Bonus Poker**, and you have a choice between playing a $5 single-line, a $1 five-line, and a 50₵ ten-line. Each of those games requires a $25 bet per round when played with 5-coins per line. How much money would you need to bring for the multi-line games to have the same risk of going broke as on the single-line game?

Example 1: Ten Hours of 8/5 Bonus Poker

Let's assume that on a weekend trip you want to play at least 10 hours of 8/5 Bonus Poker. At 600 hands/hour, that's 6000 hands. Assuming you're willing to accept a 5% chance that you'll go broke, how much money should you bring?

If your only choice is a $5 single-line, then you'll need to bring about $11,500 if you want to have just a 5% chance of going broke before your 10 hours of play are finished. But if you have an option to play $1 five-line Bonus Poker, then you'd only have to bring $8,100. And if you're lucky enough to find a 50₵ ten-line game, you'd only need to bring $7,100.

In all three cases, you will have made $150,000 worth of $25 bets if you've avoided going broke. But the multi-line games allow you to bet that much while risking a lot less money. In particular, the five-line game allows you to bring 30% less money, while the ten-line game allows you to bring 38% less.

Example 2: Three Hours of 8/5 Bonus Poker

What if you only want to play three hours of 8/5 Bonus Poker? How much would you need in order to have no more than a 5% chance of going broke? Here are the required bankrolls for three different ways of betting $25 per hand at Bonus Poker for three hours:

$5 single line: $5,300

$1 five-line: $3,700

50₵ ten-line: $3,300

Again, the five-line game requires 30% less bankroll than the single-line game. And the ten-line game requires 38% less.

Example 3: Three Hours of 9/6 Double Double Bonus

What about with a more volatile game, like Double Double Bonus ("DDB")? With DDB, you need a lot more bankroll for the same amount of play than you would need playing Bonus Poker. But you can substantially reduce the bankroll requirements if you can find the same game with a multi-line version at a lower denomination.

Here are the bankroll requirements for the same three ways of betting $25/hand (assuming three hours of play, a 5% chance of going broke):

$5 single line: $9,000

$1 five-line: $5,900

50₵ ten-line: $5,000

The bankroll "savings" are even greater with DDB than with Bonus Poker. Playing 5-line DDB for 3 hours requires 38% less bankroll than single-line. Playing 10-line requires 44% less.

Example 4: 500+ hours of 8/5 Bonus Poker with 2% cashback (or other incentives)

One thing for sure: the longer you intend to play, the more money you'll need, right? Well, no, not exactly. If you find a video poker game where, after adding the value of cashback, bounce back, and other monetizable perks, the total payback is over 100%, then you can calculate a bankroll that would allow you to play that game forever with a specified risk of going broke.

With 2% cashback, Bonus Poker's payback (with correct play) is 101.17%. Here are the long-term bankroll requirements for unlimited play, with a 5% chance of going broke:***

$5 single line: $51,850

$1 five-line: $14,450

50₵ ten-line: $9,350

The impact of choosing multi-line games under these conditions is huge. You need 72% LESS money to play a $1 five-line Bonus Poker game than a $5 single line Bonus Poker game. And you need 82% LESS money to play a 50₵ ten-line Bonus Poker game than a $5 single-line Bonus Poker game.

What if you want to reduce the chance of going broke to 1%? Then you have these long-term bankroll requirements:

$5 single line: $79,700

$1 five-line: $22,150

50₵ ten-line: $14,350

Those bankrolls are higher than what you needed for a 5% chance of going broke, but the gains from using multi-line games are the same: 72% less for 5-line, and 82% less for ten-line.


Multi-line games can offer an opportunity to make the same size bets while risking less of your own money. For typical short trips with 3-20 hours of play, 5-line and 10-line games require about 30-40% less bankroll than a single-line game. For a very extended long-term play (when there is greater than 100% payback), those multi-line games require about 70-80% less bankroll for the same sized bets.

*For example, say you want to give $90,000 of weekend action to a casino, and you have a choice between $1 8/5 Bonus Poker in either the single-line or 10-play versions. At 600 hands/hour, it'll take you 30 hours to do it with the single-line game. You could do it in three hours with the 10-line game. But how much money do you need in each case?

For the single-line game, starting with $5,000 is pretty safe. You only have a 4% chance of going broke during 30 hours of single-line. But attempting just three hours of 10-play with a $5,000 bankroll will result in a 17% chance of going broke. In other words, you're more than four times as likely to go broke playing three hours of $1 ten-play as with 30 hours of $1 single-line.

** "8/5" signifies that a full house pays back eight times your bet, and a flush pays back five times your bet.

***For long-term calculations, Dunbar's Risk Analyzer for Video Poker 2.0 uses the jazbo-Sorokin equation. For all other bankroll calculations in this article, DRA-VP 2.0 gets the figures by simulation.

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