How to use the “Cash Out” feature to reduce variance in cash games

July 01, 2020inPoker

The “All-in Cash Out” feature was launched in August 2019. It allows players to secure their equity at the point of the all-in, rather than going big or bust on the turn of the next cards. This article discusses the main reason for using the feature, as well as the major drawback.

What is the Cash Out feature?

Remember the Run-it-twice feature? Players agree to run the hand twice (or more) to reduce variance. This happens often in the casino, and now it’s a feature in online cash games too. The Cash Out feature is an extension of this. It’s the equivalent of running the hand infinite times, so that players receive the value of their equity.

Cashing out is only an option when two or more players are all-in and there’s no more action to follow. If you do opt to Cash Out, you’ll receive the amount of equity you have in the pot, minus a 1% surcharge on the value of your hand.

  • If no players Cash Out, the hand plays out as normal.
  • If all players Cash Out, the results of the hand are no longer relevant
  • If one or more, but not all players Cash Out, players remaining in the hands will still play out the pot

The feature is only available in micro stakes (up to $0.05/$0.10) NLHE, PLO and 6+ Hold ’em cash games. You can find a full explanation of the Cash Out feature here.


Why would you ever use “Cash Out”?

The Cash Out feature doesn’t change the equity of the hand, value of the pot, or chances of a particular outcome happening for any player. In the long run, it makes no difference to the odds.

The main reason you would Cash Out is to reduce risk and variance.

Say you have pocket Aces all-in with 82% equity against an opponent’s underpair. Rather than risking them spiking trips, you can Cash Out to receive the value of your hand right there and then.

This applies to any all-in situation. If you’re all-in behind, you can use the Cash Out feature to claw back some of your bet. If you find yourself in a dreaded coinflip, you can Cash Out to avoid putting your whole stack at risk.

Poker’s a swingy game. With Cash Out you can reduce these swings. Statistically speaking, it won’t make you any extra money – cashing out changes nothing in that respect. But if you’re already on a downswing, are naturally risk averse, or are struggling to deal with a constant barrage of badbeats, cashing out may well save you from tilt and turmoil.

If you don’t like the feature, you can turn it off by going to “Settings” in the PokerStars lobby.

What are the drawbacks of using the Cash Out feature?

The only real drawback of using the Cash Out feature is the 1% surcharge that PokerStars takes on the value of your hand. Cashing out is effectively like taking Insurance. Your paid off regardless of the outcome of the hand. The cost is that you receive slightly less back than the actual equity of your hand.

So, if your hand has 67% equity at the time that you Cash Out, you’ll actually receive 66% before the usual rake is taken. Here’s the full formula:

Hand value = (pot size – rake) x probability of winning x 99%

For some players, this 1% surcharge is simply too much to give up. For others, it’s a fair price to pay for insurance against those brutal badbeats.

Does the Cash Out feature affect play?

As mentioned, the Cash Out feature does not change any of the percentages in terms of hand values or odds. Players who don’t use the feature will still have the same odds of winning or losing a hand, and players who use it will be paid their equity (minus the 1% charge).

In terms of strategy, it’s possible that players will view this feature as an opportunity to play differently. For example, less risky players may take more chances and be less reluctant to get it all-in if they know they can cash out. As with any tweak, perceptive players will want to notice how the feature affects individual opponent’s tendencies.

Unlike a huge variation in the rules or format, such as PKOs in tournaments that directly change gameplay, the Cash Out feature shouldn’t have a huge impact on the game. It’s there for those who want to reduce risk and variance, and easy to turn off for anyone who doesn’t.


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