When just starting to play poker, you often take a long time to make a decision at the table. While this isn't a problem when playing a home game or playing at the casino, online poker rooms often don't allow you to spend too much time thinking about your next move. You will seldom be in a situation where you have more than one minute to think about your decision when playing online poker. However, this long thought process will only affect you in the beginning of your long online poker career.
After playing online poker regularly for a while, you will get a better feel for the game and find that decisions can be made a lot quicker. You realise that many decisions you have to make throughout a session are pretty much standard, and you start getting bored more easily. As a result you start doing other things while playing at your one table. You start chatting to friends, surfing the net, watch a movie, or something else that will occupy you while you're not in a hand. Another possibility is, of course, to start playing more tables at once: You start multitabling.
Multitabling implies that you play more than one table at the same time. This can range anywhere from 2 tables to as much as 24 tables simultaneously. But why would you want to multitable in the first place? Multitabling is one of the many advantages from playing online poker, as it is the perfect way for players to increase their profits at the virtual tables. This can be compared to taking more than one job in the "real world".
A reasonable player at a 100NL table can expect to make a profit of around $5 an hour, assuming he is playing roughly 100 hands an hour at a 6-max table. This translates to a winrate of 5BB/100 hands. This isn't very high, but it's also not that low. If you now decide you want to win more, you have two options. You can either start playing higher limits, or you start playing more tables at the same time. The first option will of course imply that you will be up against better opponents. Although the second options may have some disadvantages as well, for many players it will be the easier solution. The goal of option number 2 is that your hourly winrate goes up, hence you make more money.
Apart from boosting your winrate, playing more than one table can also aid your concentration, as you no longer get distracted by the other things you do aside form playing and you can focus all of your attention on poker.
You start off by playing two tables at the same time. If that goes well, you open up a third one, then a fourth, and so on. But when should you start multitabling?
You need to start playing more tables once you realise that your hourly winrate from playing fewer tables at the same limits is lower in the long run.
This is very important, and you really need to be honest to yourself about this.
When starting to play more tables, the most important thing is that you are actually a winning player at the limits you play. If you play bad and actually lose money while playing, your bankroll will obviously suffer once you start multitabling. This usually doesn't imply that you need a bigger bankroll to start multitabling. A standard bankroll management scheme is still adequate. Only the period (measured in time, not in hands) in which you move up or down limits is shorter. Swings, in terms of variance, will also be greater.
So how are you going to start multitabling? First of all you need to choose a site at which to start playing more tables. All the well known poker rooms offer the option of multitabling. Make sure that you have a good internet connection which is stable with the room you're playing at. When experiencing regular interruptions with your connection, the consequences will be greater the more tables you play. This happened to me for a while when I was playing 9 tables on $2/$4, through which I lost pots by my hands getting folded and lost money through all the blinds I had to post.
The software of the site is also important when multitabling. Make sure the room you play at offers a good and clear layout. The more distractions you get from the room itself, the less you can actually focus on playing poker. Furthermore, the software itself should be fast. For example, you don't wan to activate a table first before you can act. Something that can also come in handy is if the site offers a long timebank so you don't get too pressured into making quick decisions.
In general, the more options you have to personalize your tables, the better. This includes choosing a background, switching off animations and chat, 4-colour decks, playing with or without avatars, and so on. Make it as easy for yourself as possible, so all you need to concentrate on are the cards.
Another handy tool is the preferred seat option. With this you will always sit in the same seat at every table and you won't need to waste time looking for yourself. An option that is being designed at the moment is auto-reloading when your stack falls under a certain amount. These are all options that make multitabling easier to deal with.
The disadvantage of multitabling is, of course, that you have less reads on your opponents. Furthermore, you often have less time to make decisions. As a result, you will have to make better decisions in a shorter period of time. A handy tool in this case is a statistics program like Pokertracker or HoldemManager, which memorizes statistics from your opponents and projects them onto the table with the use of a so-called HUD.
Many poker sites also offer the option to resize your tables, and you should almost always manage to fit 4 screens on a standard 17 inch monitor. If you want to play more than 4 tables, you will have to look for solutions. You could decide to play with tables slightly overlapping, so you can still fit all the tables on one screen and will still be able to see most of the table.
A possible disadvantage here is that you might not be able to see all the actions at a table. As a result, it will be harder for you tot get reads on certain players when not in the hand. However, once you get used to the setup, you will still be able to follow most of what is going on, and you'll even be able to make notes.
After some time, even playing 9 tables at once will start getting boring and you feel that it is time to start playing more. One option for this is to buy a bigger screen with a higher resolution. A pretty much standard monitor nowadays has a resolution of 1280 x 1024, but you can already buy 30 inch screens with a resolution of up to 2560 x 1600. A screen like this will allow you to play more tables without them overlapping. Make sure that when buying a bigger screen, you also get one with a higher resolution. Also make sure that your graphic card supports the higher resolution. With most new computers this shouldn't be a problem, but with some older models you might experience some faults.
Another option would be to set up two monitors next to each other. Before you buy a second monitor, make sure your computer allows you to connect a second monitor. You might have to buy a second graphic card to do so. Via the configuration screen and the screen settings in windows you can then extend your desktop to the second screen.
When you decide to stick with one screen and play with more of an overlap, you should make sure that the software of your poker room automatically activates the table at which you need to act and brings the screen forward.
You are now playing so many tables that it can be hard to keep track when scrolling your mouse over one big or two smaller monitors. The active tables are constantly popping up and you make a decision. For most of these decisions you will have to switch to autopilot. As a result, you will hardly ever see what goes on in the hand after you folded, which will make it very difficult for you to get a good read on any of your opponents that isn't based on the HUD. By playing so many tables, you also limit the distance you mouse has to scroll, so you should make sure you have a good and accurate mouse.
Apart from all of the above, there are also numerous hotkeys and other keyboard shortcuts that allow you to make faster decisions. For example, you won't constantly have to type in betting amounts when playing a hand as you can just use keys to bet a certain percentage of the pot.
In terms of the strategy, you will find that you have to adopt a more tight-aggressive line the more tables you play, as you want to reduce the number of difficult decisions you have to make. While you would play something like 22/18 with fewer tables, once you play 20 tables at once, your style will go more towards 17/15 or even 15/12. You will also limit the number of unorthodox lines you adopt, as this can often lead to very complex decisions that you will have to make, for which you won't have the time when playing so many tables at once. However, this will only work when playing relatively low limits, as you will otherwise become too predictable for your opponents.
The goal in poker is often to optimize your hourly winrate. You can achieve this by multitabling. This implies that you play a good mix of tables, thereby increasing the number of hands you play an hour and your expected winrate in the long run. The best way to do this is by optimizing your tables to meet your personal needs and acquiring a good and constant playing style.