All In Poker Strategy

Using the “All In” Poker bet effectively

Do you realize the power of moving “All In” when playing No Limit Hold Em? Do you cringe when other players go all-in on you? Do you ever avoid doing it yourself out of fear of risking all your chips? Or do you realize just how powerful this play can be? Regardless of your feelings on it, going all in is the most powerful concept in No-Limit and is what separates it from all other poker forms.

It is no secret that No limit Texas Holdem poker is the most popular game around. Most of players don’t know how to truly utilize going all in to their advantage. Going “all-in” is so important, yet most players don’t know the right time to make this bold move. They sit back, relax and wait for the absolute nuts and then they go all-in. There are major problems with this strategy. For starters, the nuts don’t happen all the time and if you have the nuts, you are only likely to get called by a player with a 2nd nut hand and this is not very likely. Secondly, if you play that tightly, who would even call your all-in when you wake up and do it?

When to Go All In

In this article, we will discuss how, when, where, and why to go “all in” against your opponents. Not only is this move what makes no limit poker so exciting, but this is also the biggest difference between limit and no limit Holdem and it’s why you have to be tougher to play no limit. The ability to go All-In actually adds more skill to this great game. Without all-in, the game is an exercise in math and odds. Instead, by being able to go “all-in” you can rely on the skills of psychology and intimidation, and bluffing. When you learn the right times to go all-in, you’ll have a consistent edge over your opponents and you’ll be able to win even with bad cards.

Betting and Calling

One of the core principles of poker is that it’s always much easier and more correct to bet than it is to call. You can make a bet without actually having good cards. You might be “representing” the board, you might just have middle pair, you could be on a draw, you could have absolutely nothing. But to call a bet, you need to have a strong hand. That’s one of the reasons to play aggressively. Players win a lot more pots even when they don’t have good cards because their opponents become defensive and are forced to fold.

Calling All-In Moves

The concept that it’s easier to bet than call couldn’t be more true than with all-in bets. It is much easier to push all your money in the middle than it is to call an all-in bet. When your opponent goes all-in, he has put you to a decision for all your chips. Being forced to call takes away any and all bluffing opportunities and you must choose. Your life in the game/tournament could be over with just this one pot.

In order to call an all-in bet, you must be confident that you have your opponent beat. But in order to make an all-in bet yourself, you just need to be confident that your opponent will fold or that you have him beat. This gives the person making the all-in bet the advantage every time. And that leads to our second main principle, which is this:

Risking Chips

If you don’t risk chips, you can’t win chips. However, no limit Texas Holdem gives you the unique opportunity to win big pots with all-in bets, even when you don’t have the best hand. The All-In Factor is what allows you to bully your opponents and take a dominating position. One of the best times to go all-in is to steal a pot from your opponent but when you do this, you must be sure that:

1. You have outs
2. You have good positioning

Example of When to go All In

Let’s look at an example from a game of $1-$2 no limit hold em. Say you’ve get dealt 8-7 of diamonds while you’re on the button. Three players limp-in and the action is to you. You raise the pot to $15.The small and big blinds fold. But then Pete, who’s under the gun, comes back over the top of you and raises it to $30. You forgot that Pete is a smart player who doesn’t play anything but premium hands while under the gun. He limped-in, which was a warning that he had something good.

The action goes around and Jared- the guy to your right- also calls the bet of $30. So it’s $15 more to call and the pot size is already up to $80. With your positioning and the pot odds, you decide to call and see a flop. You don’t like the way this hand is going so far, because now you have $30 invested with just suited-connectors and you’re putting Pete on a hand like A-K, A-Q, or maybe something like pocket Queens or above.

The flop comes out 3s-4s-5s. Pete bets $10 into the pot and you know this flop didn’t help him one bit and there are straights and an obvious flush on the board. You can tell right away that he doesn’t like what he sees on the board. Jared mucks his hand and the action is to you. There’s $90 in the middle. You’ve got about $350 more in chips, and Pete has about $225. This is one of those times to consider going all-in. You don’t have a single spade and that’s not good. But you do have the gutshot straight draw which means you do have outs. But that’s not why you’re going all-in. You want to make a move at this pot because you’ve very confident that Pete is going to fold. For all Pete knows, you could have two spades, or the straight, or a straight draw and flush draw, or even a straight flush. The truth is, Pete probably has the best hand right now with two overcards he may even have a high spade. But that won’t be enough for him to justify calling an all-in bet. Pete knows there are simply too many cards out there that can beat him and he really doesn’t get proper odds to call if he is on a draw. So you go all-in and he folds and you add $90 to your stack.

When stealing a pot like this, be sure it’s worth the risk. The fewer players in the hand, and the more money in the middle, the better the payoff is to you. The key is knowing that your opponent is going to fold. If you’re up against someone who’s too smart (or too dumb) to muck it, then you shouldn’t do it.

Let’s say Pete looked at you and said, “Well, I know you’ve got the flush, but I can’t lay this down.” And then he called flipping over an Ace of hearts and an Ace of clubs.

Now you’re in trouble, of course. But at least you left yourself some outs as you’ve got a 16.47% chance of hitting that six. And you’ve also got the slight chance that two more spades come out or the board makes a straight (which would be a split pot).

If a player has fewer chips, he’ll be easier to “push around” and “bully”. That lowers your risk. Of course this gets more complicated. You want to be very careful about stealing pots or making stone cold bluffs against anyone who’s “short-stacked”. If you’ve got $400 in chips and your opponent has $40 in chips, you wouldn’t make the same kind of bluff as you did against Pete in the example because that player is right in calling with virtually any two cards he has.

Moving All-In is a key technique for no limit Texas Holdem. Not only does it separate limit from no-limit, but it also separates the men from the boys.

Going All In - Poker Tournament Play

Tournament play is another interesting case of moving all in. Who should you move all in on? Well, the simple answer to that question is that you should move all-in on a player who is not willing to risk all of their chips making a call of your all-in bet. For example, a player who’s short-stacked is looking for any opportunity top move all his chips in as soon as he picks up any type of hand in the hopes of doubling up. So you can’t bluff this player out of the pot by going all in after the flop.

What you can do, however, is put the short-stack all-in before the flop when you have something decent therefore putting him to a decision for all his chips. If he calls, it will probably be a loose call, and you have a chance at winning a good pot. If he folds, you win the blinds. and if he wins, you only lose a small percentage of your stack.

Example of Going “All In” at a Texas Hold’em Tournament

Say Pete has $50 in chips and you’ve got $500 in chips. You’re second to act before the flop, which isn’t very good positioning. Pete’s second to act and he goes all-in with his short stack. You look down to see pocket Kings. You’re almost certain that you’ve got him beat. What should you do?

Well, the worst thing you can do is just simply call. Instead, you should also go all-in. With Kings, you don’t want multiple players in the hand seeing a flop and by just calling, you are encouraging players with a weak ace to call and possibly outdraw you. In this spot, you just want to take Pete’s $50 and the blinds that are already in there and to make this happen, you must make a move to scare out the remaining players behind you. Let’s say you just call, and then Marc also calls with an A-5 suited. The flop hits A-4-J and guess what? You lost the hand because Marc’s weak ace paired up. Had you moved all-in before the flop, Marc and everyone else would have folded and it would have been just be you and Pete as Pete flips over his losing pocket 5′s.

Loose Calls

Another thing to consider is that in a poker tournament, players will make loose calls to all-in bets when there’s a chance at eliminating someone from the table. Eliminating someone from the tournament means that each player has moved closer to finishing in the money and knocking off short-stacks will accomplish this goal.

This is something you can use to your advantage when you are playing short-stacked. If you pick up monster hand, you can be assured that you’ll get lots of action with it and if it holds, you might even double or triple up. Keeping this concept in mind, this is why you cannot make an all-in bluff when you’re short-stacked. You can’t bluff anyone out of a pot because you don’t have enough chips to scare them off. Going all in is only intimidating when you have lots of chips. When you don’t have lots of chips, your opponents will be pleased when you’re all in because it means there is a chance you will be eliminated.

Going All In Shortstacked

This principle is also true when facing players who have a lot more chips than you. Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’re 5th in chips at a 7-handed table with about $700 in front of you. You should absolutely not try to bluff at a pot with an “all-in” against the chip leader, who’s got $6000. He can afford to make a call with just a mediocre hand or a draw because he is not remotely intimated by you because you can not hurt him or his stack. $700 won’t hurt his stack much and the opportunity of knocking you out is worth the risk. So now that I’ve given you these principles, when is the right time to go all-in when you’re short-stacked?

Obviously, when you actually have a good hand is ideal. But as we all know, you won’t always get good cards. Generally speaking, once my stack is about 10 times the Big Blind, I’m looking to make a stand for all of my chips. If you wait longer, you will be too short-stacked to make bluffs that will scare anyone out of the pot. But, with more than 10x the big blind, you should be able to steal some blinds and get yourself back in the game. If you run into a monster, or get outdrawn, there’s nothing you can do in that case. That’s just poker. But if you make your stand based on chip stacks, positioning, and sensing weakness, you won’t get any callers to your bold “all-in” and you’ll take down the pot. This is also one of the techniques for not getting “blinded to death” in a tournament and for staying in a game even when the good cards elude you.