John Grochowski

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Multi-Strike Poker and Five Play Multi-Strike have been with us for well over a decade, long enough to settle in as niche games. Casinos that reach out to video poker players with a large selection of games offer Multi-Strike, but not every casino carries it.

I’ve always loved the games and still get questions about it. One arrived via email in early January from a reader who asked, “While playing Five Play Multi-Strike Poker, should I change my strategy depending on which level I am currently playing? I’m guessing that on the bottom levels my goal is to just advance, and I should choose the cards to keep that will get me to the higher paying levels. The top row pays 8x and that is where I should go for the big payout.

“In addition, if I get a Free Ride to the next level, should I go for the biggest payout or should I stick to the usual expert play choices?”

It’s been a while since I last wrote about the Multi-Strike games, so let’s start with a short explanation. Multi-Strike is available in the usual game options — Jacks or Better, Deuces Wild, Double Double Bonus Poker and others. Payoffs on your initial hand are made according to a standard video poker pay table.

If you have a winning hand or a randomly awarded Free Ride, you get a second hand worth double payoffs. That can lead to a third hand worth 4x pays and sometimes a fourth hand worth 8x pays.

Frequency of free rides is different for different games. The free rides plus winning hands give you a 50-50 shot of moving up at each level.

Five Play Multi-Strike works the same way except that the initial deal is cloned into five hands, a la Five Play Poker.

The reader is correct that expert strategy for Multi-Strike includes a focus on advancing to higher-paying levels, unless you have a free ride. With free rides, your best play is to use standard strategy for the game you’ve chosen — that is, if you’re playing Jacks or Better, use standard Jacks or Better strategy when you have free rides.

When you don’t have free rides, getting the most out of Multi-Strike or Five Play Multi-Strike requires adjustments. At the lowest levels, low pairs and four-card straights are less important than in single-hand games.

Let’s use 9-6 Jacks or Better as an example. In the standard game, low pairs and four cards to an open-ended straight all rank higher than holding one or more unsuited high cards.

However, on the first level of Multi-Strike, two or more unsuited high cards are a better play than low pairs, and 10-Jack-Queen-King is the only open-ended straight draw that outranks two or more high cards.

Open-ended straight draws lower than 8-9-10-Jack don’t even appear on the first-level strategy table you can find at Michael Shackelford’s Wizard of Odds site, WizardOfOdds.com.

Adjustments from there to level 2 are minor, but at level 3 strategy moves are closer to standard. At that level, two pairs become a better play than two or more unsuited high cards, and four cards to an open-ended straight, even with no high cards, moves ahead of unsuited high-card hands.

On the final level with 8x pays and no more move-ups, the best play is to revert to standard Jacks or Better strategy.

Different games will require different adjustments. Multi-Strike strategy is not the same for Double Double Bonus Poker as for Jacks or Better or for Deuces Wild. You can practice Multi-Strike strategy on Bob Dancer’s WinPoker software, and there is a Multi-Strike strategy calculator at BeatingBonuses.com

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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