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Ask the Slot Expert: Multi-hand video poker thoughts

22 June 2022

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.


Here are the latest Covid data. There is a difference in the hospitalization data for US versus NV. The CDC reports total number of Covid hospital admissions. Nevada reports current hospitalizations, not total admissions.

All data comes from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#new-hospital-admissions), except for Nevada current hospitalizations (https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/).


Totals Weekly Changes
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths 
 06/21/22   86,168,902   4,826,898   1,008,930   762,082   410   10,990   648,857   30,459   2,040   8,081   95   41 
 06/14/22   85,520,045   4,796,439   1,006,890   754,001   315   10,949   757,093   29,971   2,630   9,809   42   40 
 06/07/22   84,762,952   4,766,468   1,004,260   744,192   273   10,909   813,916   30,146   2,190   6,818   55   26 
 05/31/22   83,949,036   4,736,322   1,002,070   737,374   218   10,883   670,041   24,555   2,285   5,738   16   41 
 05/24/22   83,278,995   4,711,767   999,785   731,636   202   10,842   756,047   25,027   2,317   5,324   37   28 
 05/17/22   82,522,948   4,686,740   997,488   726,312   165   10,814   680,888   21,183   2,097   3,693   35   26 
 05/10/22   81,842,060   4,665,557   995,371   722,619   130   10,788   534,465   17,934   3,932   2,802   32   11 
 05/03/22   81,307,595   4,647,623   991,439   719,817   98   10,777   432,666   14,755   2,448   2,213   (6)   49 
 04/26/22   80,874,929   4,632,868   988,991   717,604   104   10,728   348,507   12,597   2,446   1,447   (22)   46 
 04/19/22   80,526,422   4,620,271   986,545   716,157   126   10,682   266,330   10,525   3,308   1,232   (37)   497 
 04/12/22   80,260,092   4,609,746   983,237   714,925   163   10,185   228,465   10,343   3,627   1,228   23   53 
 04/05/22   80,031,627   4,599,403   979,610   713,697   140   10,132   203,709   10,312   4,105   1,059   (52)   76 
 03/29/22   79,827,918   4,589,091   975,505   712,638   192   10,056   206,914   9,572   4,083   1,187   5   40 
 03/22/22   79,621,004   4,579,519   971,422   711,451   187   10,016   200,627   8,502   8,178   742   (71)   83 
 03/15/22   79,418,377   4,571,017   963,244   710,709   258   9,933   253,069   17,393   5,492   24,844   (20)   113 
 03/08/22   79,165,308   4,553,624   957,752   685,865   278   9,820   310,308   24,471   9,870   2,099   (101)   116 
 03/01/22   78,855,000   4,529,153   947,882   683,766   379   9,704   465,845   33,261   14,988   6,421   (189)   196 
 02/22/22   78,389,155   4,495,892   932,894   677,345   568   9,508   551,462   46,726   12,797   4,023   (297)   173 
 02/15/22   77,837,693   4,449,166   920,097   673,322   865   9,335   1,005,691   67,963   17,059   5,280   (375)   149 
 02/08/22   76,782,002   4,381,203   903,038   668,042   1,240   9,186   1,769,556   92,750   18,185   11,144   (387)   235 
 02/01/22   75,012,446   4,288,453   884,853   656,898   1,627   8,951   3,193,570   121,420   17,885   26,555   (344)   191 
 01/25/22   71,818,876   4,167,033   866,968   630,343   1,971   8,760   5,102,999   143,329   16,393   57,574   99   133 
 01/18/22   66,715,937   4,023,704   850,575   572,769   1,872   8,627   4,983,654   147,105   13,301   25,927   (1,787)   99 
 01/11/22   61,732,283   3,876,599   837,274   546,842   3,659   8,528   5,421,565   139,572   12,168   32,486   2,594   100 
 01/05/22   56,310,718   3,737,027   825,106   514,344   1,065   8,428   3,501,427   104,272   8,867   20,966   276   61 
 12/28/21   52,809,291   3,362,755   816,239   493,378   789   8,367   1,693,987   63,185   11,127   7,977   89   56 
 12/21   51,115,304   3,569,570   805,112   485,401   700   8,311   1,063,296   55,734   9,102   5,639   9   110 
 12/14   50,052,008   3,513,836   796,010   479,762   691   8,201   853,262   57,885   8,946   5,008   17   91 
 12/07   49,198,746   3,455,951   787,064   474,754   674   8,110   821,215   66,191   8,575   5,011   23   125 
 11/30   48,377,531   3,389,760   778,489   469,743   651   7,985   563,746   28,426   6,309   3,343   (50)   55 
 11/23   47,813,785   3,361,334   772,180   466,400   701   7,930   667,924   41,145   10,754   4,784   (24)   86 
 11/16   47,145,861   3,320,189   761,426   461,616   725   7,844   604,748   63,164   7,862   4,577   22   85 
 11/09   46,541,113   3,257,025   753,564   457,039   703   7,759   516,764   33,219   8,290   5,539   34   103 
 11/02   46,024,349   3,223,806   745,274   451,500   669   7,656   555,915   38,028   9,226   4,327   45   109 
 10/26   45,468,434   3,185,778   736,048   447,173   624   7,547   488,829   42,265   9,842   4,753   (87)   96 
 10/19   44,979,605   3,143,513   726,206   442,420   711   7,451   578,396   11,963   4,381   136 
 10/12   44,401,209   714,243   438,039   7,315   795,586   14,067   15,710   149 
 10/05   43,605,623   700,176   422,329   7,166   554,194   10,642   3,852   121 
 09/28   43,051,429   689,534   418,477   7,045   817,218   14,463   6,160   165 
 09/21   42,234,211   675,071   412,317   6,880   971,637   14,691   7,466   152 
 09/14   41,262,574   660,380   404,851   6,728   1,176,763   12,919   10,256   145 
 09/07   40,085,811   647,461   394,595   6,583   975,725   10,076   5,237   104 
 08/31   39,110,086   637,385   389,358   6,479   1,113,414   9,385   7,592   173 
 08/24   37,996,672   628,000   381,649   6,306   1,045,491   7,507   8,117   116 
 08/17   36,951,181   620,493   373,649   6,190   959,978   4,715   7,065   150 
 08/10   35,991,203   615,778   366,584   6,040   819,524   3,987   7,652   122 
 08/03   35,171,679   611,791   358,932   5,918   622,832   2,279   7,489   81 
 07/27   34,548,847   609,012   351,443   5,837   652,251   2,394   8,347   79 
 07/20   33,896,296   606,618   341,096   5,758   169,933   1,478   3,351   28 
 07/13   33,726,363   605,140   339,745   5,730   181,047   1,959   4,982   33 
 07/06   33,545,316   603,181   334,763   5,697   75,104   1,373   2,234   27 
 06/29   33,470,212   601,808   332,529   5,670   87,507   2,057   3,020   24 
 06/22   33,382,705   599,751   329,509   5,646   75,420   2,157   1,930   22 
 06/15   33,303,285   597,594   327,579   5,624   95,797   2,293   1,560   17 
 06/08   33,207,488   595,301   326,019   5,607   114,250   3,762   2,271   21 
 06/01   33,039,238   591,539   323,748   5,586   123,333   3,709   991   27 
 05/25   32,969,905   587,830   322,757   5,559   174,125   4,234   1,676   26 
 05/18   32,795,780   583,596   321,081   5,533   223,966   4,230   2,301   27 
 05/11   32,571,814   579,366   318,780   5,506   303,856   4,687   2,541   33 
 05/04   32,267,958   574,679   316,239   5,473   343,348   4,908   2,559   40 
 04/27   31,924,610   569,771   313,680   5,433   383,163   4,958   2,747   65 
 04/20   31,541,447   564,813   310,933   5,368   464,556   5,072   2,590   36 
 04/13   31,076,891   559,741   308,343   5,332   480,061   5,321   2,986   57 
 04/06   30,596,830   554,420   305,357   5,275   448,935   7,124   3,084   38 
 03/30   30,147,895   547,296   302,273   5,237   439,510   6,793   939   63 
 03/23   29,708,385   540,503   301,334   5,174   388,928   7,446   1,863   53 
 03/16   29,319,457   533,057   299,471   5,121   381,695   8,362   3,078   81 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
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. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
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. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots