Ah, volatility – we call Multi-Strike the Game We Love to Hate! It’s our favorite form of video poker – and the one that frustrates us the most. It’s the one that brings glorious highs – think royal flush on the top line – once in a blue moon. And it’s the one that can keep you struggling in the deepest holes for seemingly interminable sessions on end.
We have played MS off and on since it came out around 7-8 years ago, whenever we could find it with a good paytable. This was usually 9/6 JoB or 8/5 Bonus but sometimes we could find it with a good Deuces Wild schedule. It often was a better EV choice than other games in a standard format, because a MS long-term return is usually about 0.2% higher than for the regular game. For example, the EV of MS Jacks or Better is 99.79% compared to 99.54% for the same 9/6 game in a regular format. (One of the valuable features in The Frugal Video Poker Scouting Guide will give you the EV of all common MS schedules, comparing it to the EV of the regular game.)
But in spite of the increased EV, this game is definitely not for every player. The brutal volatility demands an extremely large financial bankroll and an even more robust psychological bankroll. There are so many ways for this game to punch you in the gut. You are betting the amount to play 4 lines, but you can go for unbelievably long periods when you just can’t reach those top two lines that give you the best bonus payoffs. You can get good starting hands on the first and second lines and then get trash starters on the top lines, or your good starting hands on those top lines often come to naught.
I could write a small book on the disappointments that come as you play MS. These happen even more frequently if you are playing Deuces Wild. The reason is that one expects more from wild cards. If you hold a lone deuce, you are excited because you now “expect” – hope? – to get a winning hand. Even a little 3-of-a-kind will advance you to the next level; or, if you are on the top line, you will at least get a bonus payoff. But the math says that 47% of the time you will not make a paying hand. Holding two deuces, your big hopes/expectations really rise, and then are dashed 50% of the time (so says cruel Math) when you are left with only the dealt 3-of-a-kind. And dealt 3 deuces? Well… our favorite whine: You know your luck is bad when it takes 3 wild cards to make 4-of-a-kind! And that is the result 80% of the time.
The other big negative in MS for many players is the fact that you must learn three new strategies in addition to knowing the basic one for the game. This is definitely not an easy task and one that took Brad and me many many hours of play with a strategy chart very close by. And even today, especially if it is a game that we don’t play often, there is always a strategy chart in my purse or in Brad’s shirt pocket. Back when we first played MS, there was no software on which we could practice. Fortunately there is one now, Bob Dancer’s Video Poker for Winners, and I would strongly advise much practice on it when you are trying to learn any MS game.
Tune in next time when I will talk about a special reason why we continue to play MS even though it is such a rough ride. And as a bonus I will tell you a funny Multi-Strike Brad story.