We can play poker for chips or cash. (It was pennies in my youth.) As explained in a previous column, on those occasions when you push all of your chips into the pot, you are said to have gone “all-in.” During the rest of that hand, you cannot bet further, and a side-pot is set up for the remaining players. You are in the original pot only. Nor can you go into your pocket to buy in for a new batch of chips – at least not until the next hand is about to be played. To be sure, in a cash game you are allowed to “top up” your stack, by adding chips up to the table maximum at any point between hands. If you’re playing online poker, you can do this in the same way you’d top up your sports betting account with one of the top 100 UK bookmakers.
In tournaments, by contrast, you aren’t allowed to top up your stack once you’ve entered. If the tournament is a re-buy or re-entry affair, then you can do so after busting your stack, but while in the midst of tournament play you can’t just decide to add on any additional chips unless there’s a provision for that in the tournament rules.
When Do You Go All-In?
There are several different situations when you might go all-in:
(1) An opponent bets (or raises), and you decide to call but you don’t have sufficient chips. So you go all-in for your remaining chips in play.
(2) A player may go all-in as a bet (or raise) as a value bet to build the pot size.
(3) You might go all-in to force opponents out of the hand.
(4) And finally, there may be occasions when you go all-in by raising an opponent who has gone all-in before you – all-in vs. all-in.
The latter has become my favorite since I started playing no-limit Texas Hold’em on-line. So let’s explore this concept…
You are playing in an aggressive game with several loose players. One of them is a maniac, open-betting and raising in almost every hand dealt. Sometimes, he goes all-in hand after hand. We can expect playable starting hands on average no more often that one out of four hands dealt in the long run. So, apparently, our maniac is shoving all-in with weak hands also – before the flop.
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In such a case, when the situation is “right,” my plan is to go all-in over the top, provided that no one has called his all-in bet before the action gets to me. I assume that any opponent who calls the maniac’s all-in bet must hold a powerful hand, possibly better than mine. Of course, an exception would be if I held the nuts; then I could move ahead with my own all-in bet. (Can you imagine the size of that pot?)
Most often, in this situation, after the maniac’s all-in bet, the opponents will fold to me. With a strong hand, my goal is to isolate him – expecting my hand to be significantly better than his. (At least, I hope so.) As indicated above, I should take that pot about one out of four times. That’s what we call a Positive Expectation for a huge pot. (That makes me feel so good!)
Try it. You’ll like it…