Sunday, May 06, 2012

Running it twice

I remember vividly the first time I heard about "running it twice" in poker. It was during one of the first episodes of "High Stakes Poker" on the Game Show Network, and I had no idea what they were doing until Gabe Kaplan explained it. After learning a bit more about how it worked, I decided that if I were ever faced with that decision, I would just run it once. Among other reasons, that's how Barry Greenstein did it, and he was the consummate professional, my favorite of the regulars on HSP.

It was years before the option first presented itself. I was in a cash game at the Palms soon after their new manager, Joe Viator, had taken over. He had put in place some new rules, including what is still, I believe, the only low-stakes game in town where players can agree to run it twice. [Correction: on second thought, there's at least one other: the Tropicana, as I mentioned here.] At one point I went all in and was called, and my opponent asked if we could run it twice. I said no purely on the basis of having pre-made that decision years earlier, rather than based on any particular strategic consideration. It worked out for me that time.

Since then, the only times the issue has come up have been during the Pokerati games at the Palms, which I have done about five times now. It's half NLHE, half pot-limit Omaha, changing every orbit, with $1 and $2 blinds. My approach to the question in that setting has been to let my opponent decide, so that I don't cause any resentment from players who strongly prefer one way or the other, since I didn't feel I cared very much.

That's a noble enough goal. But lately I've read two things that are changing my mind on this point.

First, Phil Laak wrote in one of his recent columns for Bluff magazine (not available online yet) that he has switched his practice. He used to embrace running it as many times as he could get an opponent to agree to, in order to reduce his variance. But he has now decided to embrace the variance. (I think that was his exact terminology.) He feels that he is more even-keeled than most of his opponents, better able to absorb a big loss and still keep playing well. If he wins, though, he is likely to face an opponent who is stuck a lot of money, angry at the loss, and desperate to get back to even. That makes for a great opportunity for winning even more money.

A similar point is made in the newest issue of Card Player magazine by one of the publication's newest columnists, Bart Hanson. But he adds another argument that I had not thought about before:
Players commonly ask when deciding whether or not to make big calls all-in if the other player in the hand will run it more than once. This is an issue especially when you are trying to maximize your fold equity with a draw. Why would you want your opponent to know that you will run it more than once and not instill the fear that he could lose all of his chips? It also works the other way around when players try to push you around with their draws. If they know that you will run it more than once, they are more likely to make an aggressive action because if they get called there is less of a chance that they will lose all of their chips.
That seems like sound reasoning to me. So on the basis of these two considerations, I have decided to revert to my original plan from years ago: I am now a run-it-once player. I embrace the variance.


grrouchie said...

I have yet to be presented with this decision except Online (BCP).
And every time I have chosen to just run it once.

Eddie said...

There is some benefit if you can get the looser players to call with weaker hands because they can try to catch up knowing they'll be more than one board for them.

The fact is, you don't have to always do the same. If someone asks, I ask them to show their cards, I flip over mine, and make a decision. I've run it once, twice, 3 times, or 4 times depending on the situation.

Running it more than once, is the same as every other decision at the poker table: your choice depends on a bunch of variables. Figure out how it's most profitable for you and use that one. If the bad player will leave if he doubles or is felted, you should run more than once. If you think you can tilt an opponent by felting him, run it once.

LOLfolding said...

It's pretty fun to not say a word when you are asked to run it twice. Just clearly hold up one finger and shake your head no.