When in Rome …

9 min read

We all had our first time in a public poker room. This was mine

Running it twice
“Running it twice” is a common practice when players are involved in big hands. It’s something you may consider doing to keep your tablemates happy and in a gambling mood in a casino cash game. (Image: Reddit)

It was a $6/12 limit hold’em game at Foxwoods soon after they opened their poker room in 1992. I had played in a bunch of home games for the prior 20 years, but never in a casino. A lot was new to me, but I was trying not to look nervous or unsure of myself.

I was very, very tight when I first entered the game. I did more folding than a staff person in a laundromat.

I was then the big blind. I posted my requisite $6. It was folded around to the small blind, who glanced in my direction and said, “Chop”? Not knowing what he meant, I’m sure I looked confused as I hesitated in my answer.

Someone, noticing my hesitation and confusion, helpfully explained that chopping meant we’d both take back our blinds. I thought it was some trick or something, and figured that ending the hand with no contest would make me look weak, so I said that I wanted to play it out.

There was a slight groan. He called. I checked. He checked the flop. I bet. He folded and I won his $3 – minus $1 rake. I was unsure whether I’d look cheap if I didn’t tip. So I tipped $1 and ended up with $1 profit.

I hadn’t heard of — and never thought about — chopping before, so I didn’t know if it was a good or bad option. In retrospect, I almost surely should have chopped and moved on to the next hand. I know that’s routinely what I do now. Sometimes, it makes sense to just go along with what everyone else is doing. As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do like a Roman.”

There are many times when everyone else seems to almost automatically do certain things – and the typical player, especially the relatively new player, doesn’t know if it’s okay to just go along or whether they should buck the trend. This article addresses that conundrum.

Below I list things that players sometimes routinely do in a public card room. I then offer an explanation of each, with my recommendation for when to give in and when to resist.

Chopping the blinds: tend to go along

Chopping the blinds means taking your forced bet back if everyone else folds. If the game is raked, go ahead and chop. It saves time. It avoids a rake. It keeps other players from taking notice of you and makes them less likely to be careful to play their most competitive game.

In the long run, unless you gauge yourself to have a significant skill advantage against the players to your left and right, it probably saves you money.

Running it twice (or more): tend to go along.

In some rooms, especially in some of the bigger games, the house lets players in a showdown where one player is all in “run it twice.” This means the house, if both players agree, will deal the board, or the turn and river, or just the river, a second time.

If a player wins both times, they win the entire pot. If each player wins once, the pot is split.

In some places, it’s routine for players to agree to do this. If it is, there’s no harm in running it twice. There’s also no advantage, besides reducing short-term variance.

Not betting when it’s heads up: don’t go along

I’ve played in rooms where players typically check it down when it’s just heads up. Some poker players consider it uncivil to bet against only one other opponent. Fortunately, this is atypical of most rooms.

I recommend you don’t do this. Resist it with a smile, but resist it. Your profit will come largely from your ability to outplay others. Heads-up battles are likely to be frequent and will be an excellent source of your winnings.

Bomb pots: tend to go along, but don’t initiate them

A bomb pot is a special hand, usually dealt when a new dealer sits down.

Each player puts up a double large blind ($10 in a $2/5 game for example). The game proceeds as normal from there, except there’s no betting and two flops are dealt. There’s a round of betting. Two turns are bet and two rivers are dealt, each followed by a round of betting.

Half the pot is awarded to the winner of the hand playing the top board and half the pot is awarded to the winner of the hand playing the bottom board. If one player wins with each board, he wins the entire pot.

Sometimes, the dealer will only deal the bomb pot if everyone or nearly everyone agrees, so there can be a lot of subtle pressure on a player to play.

I look at it this way. In a $2/5 game, it’s $10 extra every half hour for what amounts to a bigger-staked game. It’s still No-Limit Hold’em, but with the $80 or more in the pot and a flop and two boards, it makes it a game heavy on action. Some poker rooms rake double – because of the two hands and the fact that the hand takes longer to play. The pot is often split between two players – with one winning the top and the other the bottom.

Those who’ve played a lot of these bomb pots may have a decided advantage in understanding the strategy, as it’s not the same as in a conventional game.

Even so, just to avoid being the stinker who keeps people from having fun, I recommend you agree if others want to play it and if the rule is that they will only deal it if everyone wants in. If not, then sit it out. You shouldn’t initiate it. But if everyone says “let’s play a bomb pot,” don’t try to avoid being the one guy keeping everyone else from gambling it up.

If the house deals 40 hands an hour, with two bomb pots an hour, that will cost you $.50 a hand to help keep the game fun for others – well worth your investment. And you can just play extremely tight, seeing the flop before you have to make a commitment to put any more money in the pot.

Limping preflop: tend not to go along

Some games are really loose and passive preflop. If everyone or nearly everyone calls preflop and you’re in late position with a hand with any possibility, you can broaden your range extensively because of the huge implied odds, because you’re likely to be up against very broad ranges and because you can probably out-play your opponents on later streets. This isn’t the same as going along with limping.

Much of the time, you’ll want to raise to buy the button, to get others to check to you on the flop, and to make some of your opponents make incorrect calls. It may sometimes look like you are just limping because everyone else is, but you’ll be playing your best game.

Straddling: tend to go along

An under-the-gun straddle is a terrible bet. You’re putting up double the big blind when you’ll be in a terrible position for the entire hand. Your better opponents will tend to raise you, to isolate you when they have position.

Even so, it’s a small price to pay for appearing to be as loose of a player as everyone else. If everyone wants to do this and you refuse, you run the risk of looking like you’re playing the game more seriously than everyone else – and opponents may play more tightly and aggressively against you because of it.

So, even though it’s clearly a bad bet, if everyone wants to do this, you’ll give up this bet only once a round while others are also putting themselves at a disadvantage as well. You want to keep the mood happy and light so people will be eager to gamble. You’re only losing about $.50 – $1 a hand in a $1/2 or $2/5 game, respectively. But, if others aren’t straddling, you should avoid it.

A button straddle isn’t nearly as bad a bet as an under-the-gun straddle. It may even be a +EV play, as you’ll always have position on the field. Don’t hesitate to do this if others are doing it also.

Raising blind: don’t do this no matter how many others are

Raising without knowing your cards and without last action preflop defeats one of the main reasons for making an unrequired forced bet. I’ve never seen a game where everyone blind raises. But even if I did, I won’t take part.

Prop bets: do this for short money only or when you think you have the best of it

In some games, players routinely make small side bets on all sorts of things – the color or suit of the first flop card, whether you can win with 7-2, or paying royalties for certain winning hands. Whatever it is, if all or most other players are doing it, and if the stakes are small, you should join in.

Keeping other players in a happy and gambling mood will be well worth the tiny side gamble. On the other hand, if folks are making prop bets for significant money, you should respectfully decline, keeping your money for the skillful contest of poker.


To keep your opponents in a happy, gambling mood – and to avoid being seen as the one serious player at the table, when in Rome, do like the Romans – for short money.

Related Posts

Did you know about our poker forum? Discuss all the latest poker news in the CardsChat forum

Popular Stories