Gambling Tips > Video Poker

A Quick Primer on Mult-Strike Poker - Part 1

By Henry Tamburin

Multi-Strike is a unique multi-line video poker game that is fun and exciting to play. I’ll go over the basics of how to play the game, including some pros and cons to keep in mind if you decide to play Multi Strike.


There are four hands (or lines) in Multi Strike and each hand is dealt from their own complete deck. You can play as many lines as you wish and bet from one to five coins per line but to get the maximum Expected Return (ER), you should play all four lines and wager five coins per line (more about this shortly). That means at the start of each game, you will be betting five coins on each of four lines or a total wager of 20 coins (at a quarter denomination that means a wager of $5.00).


After you make your 20-coin wager, the four hands will appear on your screen but only the five cards in the bottom hand will be seen. You play out your bottom hand as you normally would in any video poker game and if wind up with a winning hand, you will be paid 1X the payout. Now pay attention to this ... if you don’t make a winning hand, game is over, and you lose your entire 20-coin wager. However, let’s think positively and assume you made a winning hand. When that happens, you get to advance to the second hand where you will see the cards appear (remember the cards in the second hand come from its own freshly shuffled deck). If you make a winning hand on the second line, all payoffs are doubled and you get to play the third line (if you don’t have a winning hand on Line 2, game is over, and you can’t advance to Line 3). The same rule applies to Line 3 and Line 4; namely, you must have a winning hand to advance to the following hand (if you don’t, game is over). In addition, all winning payouts in Line 3, will be paid 4x the payout and on the top Line 4, all payouts are paid at 8x the payout.















Your goal in each game is to try to advance from the bottom line to the top line where the 8X payouts on the latter can result in some very big payouts. For example, if you hit a royal flush on Line 4, your payout is 4,000 coins x 8 = 32,000 coins, which is $8000 for a quarter player and a whopping $32,000 for a dollar player.


There is another way that you can advance from one line to the next and that is to be a dealt a “free ride.” The term ‘free ride” will appear randomly on any line (from 1 to 3) at any time and when this happens, you will automatically be able to play the next line even if you don’t get a winning hand. You never know when the free ride will appear and it could even occur twice or even three times in the same game. (On average, the free ride appears roughly 8% of the time on each line, slightly a little more on line 1 and slightly a little less on line 3). To recap: With Multi-Strike, you get to play the next line when you have a winning hand or if you receive a free ride.


Roughly 50% of the time, you will advance from line 1 to line 2 (either from a winning hand or from free ride). That means ... and pay attention to this ... 50% of the time you will lose your initial 20-coin wager and sometimes this will occur on several hands in succession. That means you will be losing quite a chunk of change on line 1 but if you advance, you get to play more lines at no additional cost with a much higher payout that will help you recoup your losses. (This results in Multi-Strike being a very volatile game, meaning you will experience some wild bankroll swings).


Expected Returns
You’ll find many of your favorite video poker games on a Multi-Strike machine, including Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker, Double Double Bonus, Deuces Wild, Joker Poker, etc. You’ll find short pay and full pay schedules for each game so it behooves you to play the full pay version. And get this ... when you play a Multi-Strike game accurately, the ER will be roughly 0.2% higher than it is in a standard game. For example, the ER for 9/6 Jacks or Better is 99.54% but when you play it in Multi-Strike (all four lines at max coins wagered) the ER is 99.79%. (If you played only two or three lines, the corresponding ERs are lower ... 99.60% and 99.66%, which is why you should play all four lines to maximize the ER.) Table 1 summarizes the standard and Multi-Strike ERs for several popular video poker games. (From an article on Multi-Strike by Bob Dancer that appeared in the February 2003 issue of Casino Player magazine. The Multi-Strike ERs assumes playing four lines.)





9/6 Jacks or Better



8/5 Bonus Poker



9/6 Bonus Poker Deluxe



10/7 Double Bonus Poker



9/6 Double Double Bonus  Poker



NSU Deuces Wild




Playing Strategy
The playing strategy for Multi-Strike is more complex than it is for the standard game. Because of the extra value of getting to the next line with the higher payouts, you will be changing your playing strategy to increase your chance of getting a winning hand (at least your money back), which will allow you to play the next line. Therefore, even though roughly 80% of the time you will be using the standard playing strategy, the rest of the time there are some key changes in playing strategy that you need to make. Essentially, you’ll have to learn four playing strategies for Multi-Strike, one for each line; however, this isn’t as difficult as it first appears. For example, you should always use the standard playing strategy for line 4 and for any line that has a free ride. You’ll be using the standard playing strategy for roughly 86% of the hands in line 2, 88% in line 3, and nearly 95% of the hands in line 3. In my column next month, I’ll go over some of these key playing strategy changes for each line when you play Multi-Strike.  

You are playing 9/6 Jacks or Better on Multi-Strike and are dealt the following hand on Line 1. How would you play it?

1   2   3    4   5


The standard play is to hold the low pair over the two unsuited high cards. However, for Line 1 in Multi-Strike, where your goal is to get at least even money to advance to Line 2, you should hold the two unsuited high cards over the low pair. (You give up some EV with this play for a slightly higher chance of getting your money back and playing Line 2.)