Running it twice (sometimes called doing business) is a method of determining the winner of a poker hand once all betting on the hand is complete but before the final card(s) (either community cards or other cards) have been dealt. In practice, this is only done when the hand has gotten down to heads up and one player is all-in and the other player has matched their bet. Running it twice can be done after either the flop or the turn, but can only be done after one of the two players is fully all-in. Both players must agree to run it twice in order for the procedure to be allowed.
Most commonly seen in community card games like Hold 'em, and only rarely seen in commercial casinos, running it twice directs the dealer to deal two sets of the final cards to be dealt, thus creating two different outcomes. The pot is split into two equal halves, and the first half of the pot is awarded to the winner of the hand using the first set of cards that were dealt, and the second half of the pot is awarded to the winner of the hand using the second set of cards that were dealt.
It is also possible to run it three times (or, in theory, run it as many times as there are cards available to do so), in which case the pot is split into thirds, and the thirds are awarded using the different sets of final cards.
Why run it twice?
The main reason to run it twice is to reduce variance. In big bet no-limit games, it is possible that a player's semi-bluff gets called by a player who currently has a better hand. Rather than let a large pot depend on a single turn of cards, both players may decide to reduce their risk by running it twice, which makes the odds of winning get closer to the theoretical "correct" odds.
As a simple example, imagine that after the flop, one player has a straight flush draw while another has top pair.
Player 1 pushes all-in and player 2 calls. The odds are roughly equal at this point: Player 1 has 12 outs twice to make their straight or flush, or a roughly 50 percent chance of making their winning hand. If they were to play this hand normally, the entire pot would go to one of the two of them, and the other would have lost 5000 of their chips. If, instead, they run it twice, they have a significant chance of splitting the pot, and each getting their 5000 chips back (which is what the expected outcome would be if they encoutnered this situation many hundreds or thousands of times), rather than depending on a "coin flip" to determine who wins the large pot.
Some players prefer to run it three times, both to reduce variance even further, but also to guarantee that the pot cannot end up evenly split: one of the two players must end up with at least two-thirds of the pot. For hands which have uneven probabilities (e.g. a player who only has a 40% chance of winning the pot), it increases the chances of them winning, but at the cost of winning them a smaller fraction of the pot.
How to run it twice
To run it twice, certain conditions must apply:
- The casino hosting the game must allow the procedure
- At very large limit or large buyin (high-limit or high-stakes) games, many casinos will allow players to run it twice as a courtesy.
- This cannot be a tournament
- Most tournament rules explicitly forbid running it twice; those which do not would almost certainly disallow it if it were requested.
- Only two players can be in the pot with live hands
- One of the players must be all-in
- Both players must agree to run it twice
- The river card must not have yet been dealt
If a player wants to run it twice, they generally must stop the dealer from dealing any more cards while they negotiate with the other player and try to get them to agree to run it twice. If not stopped, a dealer will generally continue dealing the rest of the community cards.
Once both players have agreed and the dealer understand the agreement, the deal continues as follows:
- The dealer deals the remaining cards to the board as normal, burning a card before each upcard, same as usual.
- The dealer then slides these recently dealt cards upwards, leaving the previously-dealt cards in place.
- The dealer then deals another set of finishing board cards (either the turn and river, or just the river, if the turn was already on the board before the agreement to run it twice was made), once again also burning a card before each upcard.
If one player has won both of the hands (that is, if one player has the best hand regardless of which of the two sets of board cards is used), they are awarded the entire pot, just as they would have been if they had not run it twice.
If, however, one player has the best hand using one set of board cards and the other player has the best hand when using the other set of board cards, the pot is split in half and half is awarded to each of the two players.
Reasons to Disallow Running it Twice
-It may create the appearance of or facilitate collusion where the two players who run it twice raise a third out of the pot and chop up their money.
-It keeps the amount of chips on the table in a cash game artificially low, assuming that the pot winds up being split. If the players did not run it twice (and assuming a non-split pot), a losing all in player would either rebuy or be replaced by a player with at least the minimum buy in, thus increasing the money in play.