Running it Twice Won’t Affect EV. Here’s What It Really Does


Running it twice is especially popular for high rollers. But in recent years this trend has become popular in our everyday stakes also. I can see many players opting to run it twice, but there are quite a few who resent the idea and will always run it once, no matter how deep they are, or how many buyins they are stuck for the day. 

running it more than once (twice)
Running it twice has become very popular in recent years. it has some benefits, but also some disadvantages.

Option to run it twice is available only for cash games. There is no running it twice in the tournaments or sit n go’s.

Options to run it twice aren’t standard just in live cash games. Now you have options to run it once on many online poker sites like PokerStars, RunItOnce, and many more.

Maybe you are unclear what running it twice means in poker? Running it twice means that once two or more players are all-in, the remainder of the board will get dealt twice. The pot will get divided on how many times you run it. Each share will be awarded depending on who won each run. Let me demonstrate this further.

After two or more players all go all in, and only if all of them agreed to run it twice, then firstly rake will be deducted from the total pot. The pot will be divided on the number of runs you agreed to. It can be you decided to run it twice or even three or four times. But for our case, let’s check for running it twice. Now imagine there are 2 smaller pots, each containing half of the pot (total pot divided by how many times you run it). If you win one pot, then you get one smaller pot (half of the big pot), and if you win both times, then you get 2 small pots (which equals the whole big pot). The deck of cards for each run won’t get refreshed, but dealing with the second run continues from where the deck finished with the first one.

Of course, the dealer won’t actually split the pot beforehand. It will wait to see how many times someone won at then give correct winning to players. In a 5/5 live cash game and both players going all-in with $500, this means that players are running it twice to win $500 each time (minus the rake, of course). So if you win both times, you get $1000, and if you win once, you get $500, minus the rake. If you lose both times, then of course, you receive nothing.

All this explanation is great, but a bigger question arises.

running it twice online - PokerStars
Many online poker sites have the option to run it twice. One of them is PokerStars.

Does Running it Twice Change EV?

Many players think that chances of hitting their draw increase if they run it twice. On the other hand, players with a made hand think that running it more than once reduces their chances to hold when they are ahead. 

But does running it twice in any way affect your EV? The short answer is no. It will not change your EV. It doesn’t matter if you have a draw on the flop, made hand, or measly 2 outs. You will still have the same odds to win your hand. Even if you decide to run it more than two times, the odds of winning will still remain the same.

What Does Running it Twice Affect?

So odds to win will remain the same if you run it once, or twice, or even more times. But why run it twice then at all? Running it twice will affect your variance. Variance is a big part of what appeals to poker players. Reducing variance means the risk to bust your bankroll is less severe now, and this results in lower swings on your graph.

Even 90% to win doesn’t guarantee you a win every time. Pocket aces don’t always win when going all-in pre-flop. With 90% to win, you will win 90 out of 100 times. So sometimes you are supposed to lose. This is where running it twice comes to good use. If you go all-in pre-flop twice with aces against the same hand, you are less likely to lose both times. Sure you might win only once out of 2 times, and only get your money back. But you are less likely to lose both times. Let’s put numbers to the test.

You go all-in for $200 (doesn’t matter at which street) and are 90% to win our hand. There is $400 in the pot. You and the opponent decide to run it twice. This means the opponent has 10% to win the hand twice. Lets put odds to win the hand into fractions (10% = 0.1). Running it twice means our opponent will win both times 1% of the time (0.1 x 0.1 = 0.01, which is 1%). So 20% of the time we get our money back, 1% of the time we lose it all, and we win both times (0.9 x 0.9 = 0.81) 81% of the time. The rest of the time, we will split the winnings as our opponent will win at least once, and that happens 18% of the time. 81% we win $400, and 1% of the time, we lose it all. So our expected winnings are (0.81 x 400 – 0.01 x 400) = $360.

With 90% favorite and running it once, we are supposed to win $360 (0.9 * 400) in the long term with our hand.

We see that the EV (expected value) doesn’t change. We will win $360 in both scenarios minus the rake. Please note, that rake taken is the same in both situations. Rake gets deducted from the pot before the money gets awarded to the players, and it depends on the amount of the total pot, so it is the same if you run it once or twice.

This might actually be bad for the dealers in live games, as by running it twice, there is a bigger chance the pot gets split. If a pot is split, nobody wins anything, and players are less likely to tip. So be sure to tip the dealer a bit more the times when you don’t split the pot by running it twice to offset for this.

It is just that by running it twice, we now have only 1% to lose it all, and 18% of the time, we will just split the pot. This sounds better than winning 90% of the time and losing it all 10% of the time?

It positively affects our graph to look smoother, with less severe downswings. Before losing it 3 times when going all-in pre-flop with pocket aces happened to me on a semi-regular basis. If I would be running it twice every time I get it all in with poker aces, then I would lose 3 times in a row in one of 10,000 all-ins! You get aces once every 222 hands, and the majority of the time, you don’t get it all in. So such an event is extremely unlikely to happen.

Our equity is 90%We lose the whole potWe win the whole potWe win half of the time (money back)
Running it Once10% of the time90% of the time/
Running it Twice1% of the time81% of the time18% of the time

The decision whether to run it once or twice is up to you, and we need to consider several factors before running it twice.

Should I Run it Twice

Running it twice might seem like a no brainer from the calculation above.

In fact, the more times you run it, the more likely you are to run closer to your real EV.

Running it twice has another great benefit in live games. Weaker players might be more willing to stack off postflop. For some reason, the human brain works differently than math. Now you know that your odds to win don’t change when you run it twice. Yet many weak players are willing to call your all-in with incorrect odds if you announce them before that you will run it twice.

top two pair vs a draw running it twice
Getting it all-in on the turn and running it twice and being 75% to win the hand is a dream situation.

A good example of this is if you hold the top two pairs on the KcJs7s6h board, and the opponent has a strong draw like Qs9s. Here you have 75% to win the hand. If you make a pot-sized all-in bet on the turn, then the opponent needs 33% to call your allin. But in this case, he only has 25%. He will be more willing to call the shove if you tell him you will run it twice. We will lose both times only 6.25% of the time (0.25 x 0.25), and our opponent is more likely to make an incorrect call. That would be an excellent outcome for us!

But should I really run it twice all the time? Well, the answer is, it depends. If you only want to reduce the variance and don’t care about anything else, then the answer is a clear yes. It is also a good idea to run it twice if you play with your friends. It makes the atmosphere more relaxed, and it assures better hanging out time for all your buddies. But you might enjoy getting the real thrill poker gives you. And running it twice takes some of that away. 

playing poker with friends
When you play poker with friends, it might make more sense to run it twice.

When is it Better to Not Run it Twice

  • When you don’t want the adrenaline rush when going all-in be taken away
  • Unlikely to happen, but running it twice can put you in a more significant tilt. If you lose as a 90% favorite once, you might shrug it off and continue. But if you lose it twice as 90% favorite it can cause you to tilt more (luckily this will happen only 1% of the time)
  • Playing against a very weak opponent who is deep stacked and you aren’t. It makes sense to run it only once, to get to equal stacks with the weaker player as soon as possible
  • In live games do whatever the weaker player wants if you want him to keep returning to the table in the next sessions. Don’t make a bad player unhappy, as he will be less likely to play at your table again. But if you don’t think he will join the table in future sessions again, then it just makes sense to do what you want and ignore his wishes – this might get him to tilt even faster.
  • If your opponent is already tilting, then don’t run it twice. A tilting opponent is more likely to keep tilting if he loses. He is already willing to get it in light, so don’t give him a bigger chance to win at least half of the pot. I would still advise to run it twice if both of you are deep.

Conclusion

Now you know everything about there is in running it twice. Remember that most of the time, it makes a lot of sense to run it twice, it doesn’t cost you anything. Moreover, it has many benefits, including reducing the luck factor and downswings. However, there are cases where running it twice is not advisable.

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Primoz

I have played poker professionally for more than 10 years. I was a winner at every poker format that I played - from tournaments to cash games, both in NL Holdem and PLO. Now my biggest satisfaction is to provide enthusiastic but new poker players with answers to all of their questions.

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