One of the most spectacular and exciting moves in a poker game is the all-in. Going all-in, betting the rest… you can hear it in many different ways, but the essence is the same: putting the rest of the chips in play.
In context, it’s a move that makes a lot of sense, that exposes the player to obvious risks, but that can put the “receiver” of the move up against the wall, forcing him to fold or fatten the pot with the rest of his chips.
When is it better to resort to this move, when is it not recommended, and what are the odds at any given moment with an all-in? Let’s take a look.
All-in in poker: what does it mean?
As we said, an all-in in poker has a clear meaning: bet everything. What for a novice can be a meaningless, almost suicidal move, for a more experienced player it can be an emergency wild card that allows him to put a tough but somewhat incautious opponent on the ropes.
The expression “all in” started to become famous in No Limit Texas Hold’em games. If you look at the score sheet, before No Limit Texas Hold’em took off, seeing an all-in was a rare occurrence that only happened when a player wasn’t even able to cover one of his mandatory minimum bets.
Another development that also helped popularize all-in betting was multi-table tournaments. The unique precedent became the norm, until eventually an all-in is an accepted and relatively common move in cash games or sit & goes.
All-in in online poker: when is it useful to go all-in?
Seeing an all-in in online poker is more common than you might think. We can see it in the following scenarios most often:
- As a way to intimidate an opponent into stealing his chips.
- When a player desperately needs more chips (this usually ends badly).
- During a bluff, to force the other players to fold.
- When you have a good hand and want to increase the size of the pot.
- When a player lacks enough chips to cover his bet, also a desperate play.
- When you try to deceive an opponent, with a simulated bluff, so that he or several of them will bite (erratic bets and contradictory signals that lead to bluffing) and enter a hand that they have lost, thinking that we have bluffed.
In other words, we can only see an all-in in poker for two reasons: pure strategy or full desperation. Getting a proper read on your opponent’s play will be crucial in trying to get an idea of what their play is.
If you have a weak hand, you can use the all-in to look absolutely confident in your hand. This is very useful, but you have to get it right so that your strategy doesn’t show the seams.
An all-in is also a very good option when you detect that an opponent is about to make a strong hand. If, for example, he is only one card short, an all-in can force him to fold. However, if he doesn’t fold and goes all-in, we run the risk that he could finish his project and end up making a strong hand that beats us, which would put us in a very delicate situation: the all-in would have blown up in our face, making us lose all our chips.
In poker, an all-in is only made when you are very sure of what is happening at the table. To take the above example as a reference: if an opponent is about to make a good hand and we want to force him to fold, we will have to read his game and the way he is playing at the table to think about whether it is worth taking the risk of an all-in or not. If he is an aggressive player and accepts our all-in, we should forget about it. But if he is hesitant or plays tight, it is a good way to prevent him from finishing his project.
When not to go all-in in poker
It is just as important to know when to go all-in as it is to know when not to go all-in. As a general rule, it is not recommended to go all-in as a remedy to win back the chips you have just lost. Although it is something that is always done to avoid being out of the game, it is actually better if it can be avoided, as it is a risky move.
Let’s take this scenario: we find that the first player to speak preflop “busts” all-in and leaves us all in the dark. It’s an unusual move, but it can happen. So, what do you do? You can bluff, but maybe even before the flop you have cards that you know your hand is going to be very strong.
As tempting as it would be, and as tempting as it would be to win by bluffing, it’s best not to play it too lightly. Because if his hand is really good, even if it’s unlikely, it means he’s going to crush us with his cards. Why gamble, then? Better to let it ride.
See how many chips he has if this happens. Because a preflop all-in with few chips probably means that his stack is strong or he’s bluffing, but if he has a lot of chips, he’s probably going all-in to show off his stack. Something very spectacular but also very absurd, which will only lead you to risk your chips unnecessarily. Chips that, by the way, will probably be less than your opponent’s, so you have everything against you to go all-in.
Another example of when not to go all-in: if an opponent goes all-in on the river. A blatant case of provocation is when the bets on the flop and turn have been low, and when the river comes and your opponent goes all-in. He is putting us between a rock and a hard place. You should only respond with an all-in if your hand is clearly stronger.