One of my standard warnings to players is to never overbet your bankroll. If you bet too large a percentage of your budget for the day's entertainment on each bet, the usual result is that you'll be heading home early, or worse, digging for extra funds.
Every so often, though, a player will bet too much by accident. That's what happened to Jenny, a reader who emailed to say she got a big surprise when she sat down to play Multi-Strike Poker.
"I like Multi-Strike," she wrote. "I don't play it all the time, because the maximum bet is 20 coins. On a quarter machine, that's $5, just like playing a dollar one-hand game. That's too rich for my blood in regular play, but sometimes, when I'm doing good, I play Multi-Strike.
"I'd won a little on some other games, so I still had my whole bankroll, and figured I could play $100 worth on Multi-Strike, and I chose the Bonus Poker game. I put a $100 bill in, and hit max bet, like I always do. I was shocked to see the credit meter go down to $75."
The machine was set up for a 100-credit bet, and Jenny hadn't noticed.
"This one bet was going to cost $25, but the deed was done," she wrote. "I figured I'd play it out, then cash out and go find a game within my means."
On Multi-Strike, there are four possible hands. A winner or free ride on hand No. 1 earns you a second hand worth double the first, then the player can qualify for hands at four times and eight times payoffs.
That increasing multiplier format worked wonders for Jenny.
"On the bottom hand, I got a free ride, and then on the second hand I got two pairs. Instead of 10 quarters times 2, the payoff was 50 quarters times 2, so I had my 100-coin bet back
"I breathed a sigh of relief. The third hand they multiply by 4, and I got a pair of Queens there, so that was another 100, so now I was going to make a profit."
Jenny's game was saved. Now she could take a little extra when she moved to a machine more in line with her budget for the day.
"You'll never guess what happened on the fourth hand. I held a pair of 8s, then I drew the other two. Four of a kind! And instead of 125 coins times 8, like with a 20-coin bet, it was 625 times 8. My total for the whole hand was 5,200 quarters, and that's $1,300! I got a tax form, but still!"
Players draw four of a kind about once per 420 hands in Bonus Poker. Factor in that you only get to hand No. 4 about once per eight trials in Multi-Strike, and Jenny was very fortunate good money came after a bad bet.
"I won't make that mistake again," she said "but I'm happy I did it that once."
I wrote back to Jenny and asked what she did after her big win. Did she stay at the game for a while? Did she play while she was waiting for the slot attendant to take care of the paperwork and deliver her jackpot?
"No, not even with all that extra money," she said. "I was excited, and I talked with other players and some employees. I wasn't going to bet that much again. I wanted to take all that money home with me.
Multi-Strike is unusual among multiple-hand video poker games in that you get a different starting hand for each hand. On games such as Triple Play, Ten Play or Hundred Play Poker, you get a single starting hand, decide which cards to hold, then have the draw played out multiple times.
In Multi-Strike, you must make a strategy decision for each hand. In other games, you make just one strategy decision.
The question I get often from players is whether they need to make strategy adjustments for Triple Play, Ten Play and the like. And the answer is no. The strategy on those games is the same as on single-hand video poker.
If you were dealt a flush that included four high cards, 10 or better, on a single-hand Jacks or Better game, you'd hold the four parts of a royal flush and go for the big jackpot. If the situation came up 10 times, you'd hold four parts of a royal 10 times. Ten Play Poker is the same situation. You're just playing all 10 hands at once. The odds don't change, and neither does our strategy.
Multi-Strike is different. The overriding goal is to increase win frequency on the lower level hands in order to qualify for the bigger multipliers. For example, a four-part straight with no high cards, such as 4-5-6-7 of mixed suits, is a fair starting point in other video poker games, but on the first level in Multi-Strike, we just discard the lot.
Gambling author and columnist John Grochowski's weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly.