A critical look at Multi-Strike poker

Jul 1, 2003 2:41 AM

I believe Multi-Strike Video Poker (MSVP) is the most exciting, innovative new game ever to be offered to the video poker player. Why? Because it incorporates the multi-game function, and multi-denomination won’t be left out of the program, I’m sure.

We already know that such machines ”” especially if they’re coinless ”” are the most popular in the casinos. But MSVP goes one giant step up the ladder ”” and with a cute twist thrown in along the way for added adventure. Follow me.

Let’s assume we’re playing MSVP and we choose the dollar denomination, for simplicity. You look up at the machine and see four hands ready to be unveiled, and each max-play requires a $20 bet.

At first, it appears like a multi-play (four-play) machine, and the 20-credit required investment fortifies those multi-play feelings. But after the bottom hand is dealt, something unusual happens. If you hold a small pair, the upper hands do not hold the identical cards as in multi-plays. And if you lose the hand, you lose not 5, but 20 credits, and the game is over!

Are you ready to quit yet? I hope you said no, because if you get discouraged by that, then think of how you’ll feel if you lose 10 hands in a row — which can happen anytime in video poker.

Now onto the good part, and if you want to walk away with some extra cash nearly every time you play, you have to set your plan around this part and stick to it. What if you get a high pair on the bottom line? Well, you win 5 credits. You say big deal. It actually is, because on the bottom line, all you really want is any winner and the chance to progress to line no. 2. Why? Because line no. 2 pays 2X.

But the big money still awaits you, as line no. 3 pays 4X and line no. 4 is 8X. Yet, you are only paying 5 credits for the privilege of playing each line, but you must win to progress each time. Great ingenuity ”” and it doesn’t stop there!

Every once in a while (7.8 percent, 6.8 percent, and 3.6 percent of the time for lines 1, 2, and 3 specifically), the "Free Play" card pops up while your hand is being dealt, meaning you need not win the hand to progress to the next line. Oh what fun!

MSVP offers players who have the proper bankroll (to withstand the volatility of the game), the discipline, and the ability to set a plan ”” and stick to it ”” a very good opportunity to take home some winnings nearly every time they play.

Easier said than done, sure, because casino action entices players into staying on longer than they should. Each of you has to work on that aspect as I successfully have. And there are few changes to expert-play strategy required in order to do so.

Whereas in my standard Play Strategy I have to start off on Bonus Poker because of the 10-credit win for hitting 2 pair, on line no. 1, all you want to do is hit ANY winner, so regardless of what game you’re playing ”” and you want to stay away from Bonus Poker and Deuces Wild if offered ”” the general strategy change on the bottom line is never to go for the four card straight or flush if you have at least one high card in the mix ”” unless playing 10/7 Double Bonus poker.

In this case, you always go for the flush ”” regardless of the payout for the straight. Otherwise, always hold the one, two, or three high cards. Also, when two pair are dealt and one pair is high, regardless if the other pair is high or low, just keep the high pair.

Other than that, there are no optimal changes from computer-perfect play for any of the games (and play only all the advanced bonus games where large bonuses are given for special quads).

Lines no. 2, no. 3, and no. 4 have a slightly different strategy. Because all winners pay double that of line no. 1, you always go for the full houses, straights, and flushes — except when one of the high pairs is Aces. Even most every other deviation from expert play that I incorporate into my single line Play Strategy is not applicable here, as the single intent is to get a factored winner and move up the line. Period. In no way will I keep 3-to-the-royal over a high pair as I normally would — unless, of course, that high pair is Aces.

My other strategies are based on win and loss goals along with denominational progressions, and with MSVP the major exception is in staying at the same denomination throughout your play. However, I do not recommend setting a very high win requirement/session with this game. It is more geared towards making a single medium-to-big hit and going home, and thus is more suited for the local player.

Bankroll size, as in all gambling ventures, is very important. I recommend having 1,800 credits to play with, and whenever you are at least 200 credits ahead, quit for the session.

Here’s where some people criticize me, saying they come in to play for a certain amount of time and not a goal.

Greedy players are losing players. We all know that. Look back over your past at the number of times you were ahead and wish you had quit long ago. MSVP, with it’s extremely high jackpot payouts on relatively easy-to-get hands at the higher tiers, is very capable of getting you home intact over and over again with a tidy profit.

Yes, you may go down in a hurry, but that’s not the only thing that happens in the push of a button. And although I recommend stopping at a 200-credit win, you never know what giant winners await, and will send you home far past your plateau.

I’ve followed this exact short-term strategy for 18 sessions with my home computer on the multi-strike poker website. I’ve won 16 of them, and I’m ahead 3,955 credits overall. I have no royals and no Aces as yet either, which leads me to believe I haven’t tasted the best the game has to offer in the way of profits. Good luck.

Better yet, good luck and good skill in the case of MSVP!