When playing a no-limit hold’em cash game, you may find yourself all in for a big pot and be offered a chance to “run it” multiple times. This means that the remaining streets will be dealt more than once which increases the likelihood that the pot will be split and proportionally awarded.
For example, let’s say you have pocket aces and get it all in on the flop against your opponent’s flush draw. If you agree to run it twice, the turn and river will be dealt as usual. Then, a second turn and river will be dealt as well. If either player win both times, that player is awarded the entire pot. If each player wins one time, each is awarded half of the pot.
In these situations, agreeing to run it twice (or three times or more) has several consequences, not just on the particular hand but on other aspects of the game as well. Next time you face such a decision, consider these five effects of running it multiple times.
1. Effect on the Odds
Running it multiple times does not increase either player’s chance of winning the pot. However, many people believe that running it multiple times benefits one player or the other. Let’s look more closely at whether or not this is the case.
Let’s call the player who is ahead when the decision is made to run it multiple times the “Hero” and the player who is behind the “Villain.” If the Villain has an approximately 35% chance of hitting his flush draw and winning the entire pot when running it once, he has that same 35% chance of scooping when running it twice — or ten times, for that matter.
The only thing running it multiple times does is lessen the effect of variance and luck. In this example, we know that the Villain has a decent chance to hit his flush and win the pot if we only run it once. If that happens, the Hero gets nothing.
But what happens if we get crazy and decide to run it 20 times? In probability theory, there is something known as the “Law of Large Numbers.” It states that the more times we run it, the closer the actual result will be to the theoretical result. This means that there is a very good chance that the Villain will actually win 35% of the time, or 7 of the 20 runs. Thus does running it multiple times lessen the element of luck in the game.
2. Effect on Hero’s Luck
Running it multiple times reduces the chance that Hero will suffer a suck out and thus win nothing. All poker players know the pain of getting their money in good only to get unlucky when all the cards are dealt. Having a chance to run it twice (or more) and likely win some of our money back seems like a good thing. However, there is a flip side to reducing the chance that Hero gets unlucky.
3. Effect on Villain’s Luck
Running it multiple times reduces the chance that Villain gets lucky and wins the entire pot. Some recreational players live for the chance to get their money in bad and suck out on some wannabe pro. The fact that running it once occasionally allows them to get lucky and win it all is what keeps them in the game. If they never got lucky, then such players would likely lose their money too quickly and the game would quickly dry up. As crazy as it sounds, you should be thankful for suck outs because without them your opponents would not be willing or able consistently to get it in bad against you.
4. Effect on the Atmosphere
Running it multiple times is harmful to the Ozone layer. Just kidding. What I mean is if you are playing in a friendly game with a fun atmosphere, denying someone’s request to run it multiple times may cause the table to turn on you. Winning players ought to do what they can to keep the other players happy. Regardless of what the math says, you cannot win any more from players who refuse to play with you.
5. Effect on the Dealer
Running it multiple times can cause the dealer to do more for less. I’ve seen players get it all in preflop and then agree to run four separate boards in a coin flip situation. Not surprisingly, the pot was chopped evenly. Since neither player felt like he won, neither of them tipped the dealer. She spent more time and did more work than usual, but received no pay. If you run it multiple times and chop the pot, consider tipping the dealer a bit more than you normally would since she is doing more work.
When deciding whether or not to agree to run it multiple times in a cash game, consider how doing so lessens variance and the “gamble” of the game, but also keep in mind other effects, too, including how doing so can influence the table dynamic going forward.
Photo: Jean-Robert Bellande.