The first time I heard about “running it twice” was watching an episode of High Stakes Poker. Two players agreed to run multiple river cards and suddenly there were two rivers instead of one, pots getting chopped, and a bunch of excitement around the table.
I didn’t understand it at the time, but the option to run it multiple times is an excellent addition to poker. To begin, let’s answer the burning question:
What Is Running It Twice?
When two players are all-in and agree to “run it twice”, the remaining board will get dealt twice. Half the pot will get awarded to the player who wins the first board, and the other half of the pot goes to the player who wins the second board. So a player could lose both boards and walk away with none of the pot, win 1/lose 1 and get half of the pot, or win both boards and scoop the entire pot.
Running it twice requires all three things:
- The poker room allows players to run it multiple times
- All involved players are all-in
- All players agree to run it twice
Running it twice is not an option in all poker rooms nor on all poker sites, so be sure to ask the floor (or check your site’s rules) before jumping into the action. In select spots, you may be able to run it even more than just twice (three, four, etc. times) – but these are the exceptions NOT the rule.
To get deeper into this, either keep reading or push play and I’ll break it down further.
Run It 2X Example
Take an example where you get it all-in on the turn vs one player and you both agree to run it twice. What happens next?
Two rivers will be dealt.
Half of the pot is awarded to the player who wins the first river. The other half of the pot is awarded to the player who wins the second river.
But if you both get it all-in on the flop and decide to run it twice, you would deal two different turn & river runouts. Note that you do NOT shuffle cards back into the deck at any point while running multiple boards.
It’s also possible to run it twice when you get it all-in preflop. In that case, you would run a complete board (flop, turn, and river) and then another complete board. Sending half the pot to the player that wins the first board and the other half of the pot to the player that wins the second board.
What Does Run It Once Mean?
Running it once is the default for online and live poker games. When you run it once you deal out the remaining board like normal with a single flop, single turn card, and single river card.
For what it’s worth, I’ve never seen the option to run it multiple times in tournament poker. So tournaments run it once, while cash games sometimes offer the option to run multiple boards.
Decreasing Poker Variance
One of the major upsides is that running it twice lowers your variance. What does this mean? Take a simple situation where you flip a coin. If you flip it once and guess heads, you have a 50%/50% shot of winning the coinflip. But because you will only flip that coin one time, you will either win 100% or 0% in this single run.
Flip that same coin twice, and you get closer to expectation. When you flip the coin once you either win or you lose. When you flip the coin twice you can lose both, win both, or win one. Getting you closer to the long term expectation of a 50/50 coin flip. This decreases your overall variance.
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Increased Chance Of Winning?
On top of lowering variance, players may be more likely to get it all-in with less equity when they know you will run it twice.
Unstudied players think their chances of winning the pot go up as they run it more times, but this simply is not true based upon what we’ve already spoken about. So if running it twice can encourage that same player to get it all-in with a weaker hand – that can be a benefit to your overall expected value.
Your odds of winning the pot do not go up nor down when you run it multiple times. You just get closer to the expectation of your equity at the point of getting it all-in. The overall EV is NOT impacted by dealing multiple boards.
My 1-Minute Rule Of “Doing Business”
The biggest thing that deters me from doing business is the proficiency of the dealer. A strong dealer can run it multiple times, keep clear track of the pot, and keep the game moving without a hiccup. If you ask a weak dealer to run it twice, you run the risk of it taking them 9 minutes to figure out what that means, and another 17 minutes for them to figure out how to split the pot.
Ultimately, this can slow the game to a crawl. And if you are playing a game like PLO or Big O that already has low hands/hr – this can be excruciating.
Along that same line, it can take time to negotiate this in a live setting. Especially when trying to explain to an unstudied player what the running it twice even means – this takes time and slows down the game. Since live games are already so slow – it is often better to run it once this time, explain to the other player during the next hand what running it twice is, and then let them decide the next time it comes up.
My general rule of thumb is that if it would take more than 1 minute to explain and negotiate running it multiple times – just avoid it and run it once. And of course, if you are playing online and have the option to run it multiple times, slowing the game down is not a factor.
Applying Pressure By Running It Once
There are some players that feel it is better to only run it once to apply maximum pressure to a player with a short bankroll. The idea is to apply pressure and put their bankroll at risk if they run bad in a few key pots. A few things to note about this:
- Good players use bankroll management and thus this does not really apply against them.
- If a recreational player loses their bankroll, they may leave poker altogether.
- A player who would fold their equity share incorrectly unless given the option to run it twice likely has huge leaks in their strategy. Applying pressure by denying them the option to run it twice is just one insignificant way to exploit your edge against them.
I do not want this to turn into a conversation about the poker ecosystem and ways to preserve it, but denying a player the chance to run it twice rarely has the intended effect. A bad player is going to lose money over time and introducing them to an earlier exit in poker does not benefit anyone.
The Social Implication
Since running it twice is typically a live/casino cash game option, it’s important to mention the social implications of running it multiple times. When playing live, I either decide to run it twice in all spots vs. everyone at that table – or I decide to only run it once in all spots vs. all players at the table.
It can be very socially awkward to choose to do business vs one player but not another – and it can create a social rift that does not favorably impact the game.
Your goal in live or casino poker games is to keep the game flowing, keep people happy, and avoid negative social interactions that turn recreational players away from the game. Remember that emotions can peak when players are all-in, which also means these situations have a higher chance of imprinting in their memory. Let’s make sure those imprints are as positive as possible.
There really is only one player type who I dislike when it comes to running it twice, and that is the player who gets it all-in on the turn and will run it twice when they have a flush draw vs their opponent’s set. But in that same spot would only run it once when they have the set vs a flush draw.
Do NOT be this person.
Make the decision to do business in all spots whether you are ahead or behind, or do not do business at all.
Do I Run It Two Times?
As a pure default, yes, I do run it twice. In fact, give me the option to run it even more times and I do that as well. I very much enjoy lowering variance and I find it keeps the game more social.
Now, the time factor mentioned earlier is vital. When I play live cash games (especially at the WSOP where there is a higher-than-normal percentage of new dealers) I make the decision within the first couple hands of a down if the dealer could even handle running it twice. I never want to be the cause of the game slowing down, especially when playing slower games like Big O – so time management is a primary concern. I would suggest only running it once if the dealer seems weak and likely unable to handle doing business.
Running it twice is a great way to lower variance and keep a game more social. If it ends up increasing the table’s motivation to gamble a bit more, even better!
Just remember to ensure that your poker room allows running it multiple times and avoid doing so it would slow the game down too much or create too much confusion for greener players. You can always run it once this time, explain what running it twice means later, and give them the option to run it twice later if an opportunity arrises.
Either way, the decision to run it multiple times is 100% yours. Just be consistent, have good reasoning, and good luck either way!