Running It Twice in Poker – How It Actually Works?
Last Updated: December 4, 2022
If you have watched any of the major TV cash game poker shows in recent years, you have probably seen players “running it twice” at least once or twice.
Many poker players don’t understand what it means because running it twice is not really a part of the base poker rules you learn as a novice player.
Yet, this practice has a big place in the poker world and is very important if you are going to be playing cash games to at least understand what it is and how it works.
Today, I am going to teach you what running it twice is in poker, how it affects the game flow and equity, and whether or not you should use it in your games.
Keep reading to find out what does run it twice mean in poker and when you should think about running the board more than one time.
What Does Run It Twice Mean in Poker?
So what exactly is running it twice in poker? Well, it’s quite simple, although it can seem a bit overwhelming with the dealer putting out a bunch of extra cards.
In cash game poker, whenever there is no more action to be had, but there are still cards to be dealt, players who are still in the hand can agree to run it twice or even more than twice.
When players agree to this, the dealer will deal out the remaining cards twice, three times, or as many times as the players agree.
Here is a very common scenario of when players choose to run it twice:
On a board of 9♥8♥3♠, Player 1 moves all-in and Player 2 makes the call. The two players flip over their cards and Player 1 has K♦K♠ while Player two has J♥10♥.
The truth is that the equity in this spot runs very close. Both players have monster hands and both understand that all the money would go in if the hands were reversed as well.
Since neither player is really a favorite, it is very common to see players run it twice in a scenario like this.
This means that the dealer will deal the turn and the river two times, and the pot will be split into two. On each runout, the first three cards will still count, but there will be two separate turn and river cards.
The winner of the first and the second board will each win half the pot. Of course, it is still entirely possible that one player will win the entire pot, but it’s somewhat more likely that the pot will end in a chop in this particular scenario.
However, players often run boards two or more times in other scenarios as well, regardless of how much equity they have.
Why Run It Twice in Poker?
I am going to explain the reasons behind running it twice, regardless of the equity, further in this text, but for now, you should remember that people may ask you to run it twice regardless of the cards.
In fact, in most cash games, you will not be asked to turn your cards over before you are asked to run it twice, and you should already know whether you will accept or not before you are even asked.
It’s also worth noting that many cash game venues will allow you to run cards even more than twice. Three, four, or even five runs are sometimes seen in certain cash games.
Pot Limit Omaha cash games, in particular, offer many great opportunities for such multi-runs as it is very common for monster draws to end up all in against made hands, putting the equities very close together and not allowing either player to get away from their hand.
How Does Running It Twice Affect Equity?
Over all my years of playing live cash games, I have encountered way more people who don’t understand how running it twice works than those that do.
Whatever you may think of it, running it twice in poker does not change your equity at all. You will have the same theoretical equity on the first and the second run, and you will get the same amount of money back in the long run as you would if you always run it twice.
Sure enough, certain cards coming on the first run may improve or decrease your equity on the second run, but the same can happen in reverse.
Thus, your equity before any cards are dealt is unchanged.
You can run any number of tests or simulations to find out if this is true, and you will find out that running multiple boards is always the same as running a single board in terms of sheer equity.
This means that accepting or declining this offer has nothing to do with equity and everything to do with other elements of cash game poker, which I will go into now.
Why Do People Run It Twice in Poker?
I just explained that running multiple boards does not influence the players’ equities, so why should anyone ever want to run it twice?
Well, the reason is quite obvious! Players want to reduce their short-term variance by running multiple boards in big pots, and this makes a lot of sense.
For example, imagine you find yourself in a coin flip at the cash game table, with a thousand big blinds in the middle.
All play is done, you have no more ways to outplay your opponent, and you have no advantage over your opponent in terms of equity.
Running it once means allowing extreme variance to cost one of you hundreds of big blinds in equity, with no apparent reason for it.
In fact, a pot like this would probably be smart to chop up right away, which many players also choose to do in games where it’s allowed.
On the other hand, some players enjoy variance and the gambling aspect of poker and will always run it once, which is also their right to do.
Professional poker players often run boards as many times as possible to reduce variance, while other pros always run it once as they understand the swings are part of the game and the equity is always unchanged.
Whichever group you fall into, you would do well not to comment on the decisions of other players, as running multiple boards is the decision of players who are in the hand and should not be a subject of discussion by others.
What Am I Allowed to Run Twice?
Another common question in regard to running it twice is when it can be done and which cards you get to run more than once.
The answer is that you can always run multiple boards, whether you are all-in before the flop, on the flop, or on the turn.
The only restriction is that the cards that have already been dealt cannot be dealt again under any circumstances for obvious reasons.
Furthermore, you will not be able to run it twice until all the players left in the hand have put their chips in and there is no more action to be had.
If one player is all-in, but there are multiple callers who still have chips behind, you will not be able to run it twice until the other players have also gone all-in.
Finally, remember that you should not ask about running it twice before you make the call. This is considered a breach of poker etiquette, and other players who folded their cards in the hand may take objection to it.
Finish all your action first and discuss making deals, such as running it twice after all the chips are in the pot.
Running It Twice in Online Poker
For many years, running it twice was really only a thing in live cash game poker, while tournaments and online poker didn’t have this option.
You still can’t run it twice in any poker tournaments, but many real money poker sites have included the option in their platforms.
At sites like GGPoker and PokerStars, you can now run it twice at cash game tables when you are all-in, just like you can in live cash games.
Of course, both you and your opponent will have to accept the option. This is very easy to do. After you move all in, you will be asked if you want to run it twice.
You can also turn this option off completely, which means you never want to run it twice, as well as instruct the software that you always want to run it twice, which will leave the choice to your opponent.
Running it twice is often an even better idea in online cash games where so many hands are played, and the money often goes in. It gives you the opportunity to reduce your variance to the minimum and get closer to your true equity faster.
Why Running It Once Can Be Preferable
In live cash games, there is some advantage to being the guy who always runs it once, especially when playing against recreational players or those who are playing above their bankroll, which is often the case.
If other players know you will always run it just once, they may be more inclined to fold to you in marginal situations when they are not sure they have the best hand or they are drawing.
Players who have a big chunk of their bankroll on the table may prefer to fold their cards now and wait for a better spot instead of gambling with you on one run, which you can use to bluff them more often.
Even after you get called, there can be some advantages to running the board just once.
Assuming you are properly bankrolled, you should not care too much about variance, which is more than most players can say.
Running it once with players who easily tilt or may be under financial strain can cause them to play worse in future hands if they lose the single run or try to “punish” you for not accepting their offer to run more times.
All of this means you may force players to play sub-optimal poker by running it once, which is always your goal at the poker table.
Of course, there are also players who won’t be affected by whether you choose to accept or decline their offer, so don’t expect this to work every time on everyone.
So Should I Run It Twice in Poker?
Opportunities to run it twice or multiple times come along quite frequently in cash games. There is no real answer to the question of whether you should run it twice past what you decide yourself.
I have explained that running multiple boards will not change your equity in any way, either positively or negatively.
The social and other implications of running it once or twice do exist and are something that you can keep an eye out for, as they can potentially help you make the right decision.
You can also decide to have a default setting and either always except multi-runs or never accept them, which is something many of those playing poker for a living do.
If you want to decrease your variance in poker, which is probably advisable regardless of your bankroll, you should go with multi-runs, especially in the biggest pots and if equities run close.
On the other hand, if you don't care about the variance or you are playing in a lower-stakes game just for fun, running it once and letting the cards decide your destiny can also be quite entertaining.
The only thing you should always remember is that running it twice in poker is all about variance, and it doesn't change anything about the end result. So don't worry about it whether you choose to run it once, twice, or five times!