When to Go All-In in Poker

Last time, I presented part one of a 2-part series discussing the right times to go all in. In this segment, I will discuss some more situations and examples including tournament play when you can use going all-in to your advantage.

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. Let’s look at an example of what I’m talking about here. 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.

Another thing to consider is that in a 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 knocked 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.

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 $70 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 $600. 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. $90 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 my techniques for not getting “blinded to death” in a tournament and for staying in a game even when the good cards elude me.

Until next time, may the chips fall your way.