All In, from Steve Leslie

October 20, 2006 |

Poker is a game that is part science and part art.

No-limit poker has been described as hours of boredom wrapped around a few moments of sheer terror. The feature of no-limit poker that makes it a game of terror is the all-in bet.

Let’s take a look at the all-in bet that makes it unique in poker.

Poker can have three types of betting structures and they are designed for a variety of reasons. They are limit, pot-limit and no-limit.

Limit poker is also called structured poker. That is, the player is limited to a size of bet he can make at any particular time. For example, a $10-$20 hold-em game means that the blinds are $5 and $10 and that an individual must wager $10 on the first two rounds of betting and $20 on the last two rounds. They also can make a maximum of three raises during each round.

Pot-limit means that at any time a player can wager the size of the pot. Once again, in a $10 pot-limit game, the blinds would be $5 and $10, and then the next player can bet the pot if he so chooses. In this case the bet has to be at least $10 and can go as high as $15. If that player does bet the pot of $15, the next player must either match the bet of $15 and can then bet as much as $30 the size of the pot at that time. As you can imagine, pot-limit can become very complicated and very expensive. The game is usually played only by the most experienced poker players.

No-limit, also called table stakes, is just as it sounds. At any time the player can bet everything that he has in front of him. This is the game that is unquestionably the most popular game around today, and almost every poker tournament uses this format. This makes no-limit unique and an extremely aggressive game and why it is referred to as the Cadillac of poker. It is the defining moment in every tournament. It can take you from chip leader to getting knocked out all in the space of a few moments.

The experienced poker player understands the all-in bet and uses it for a variety of reasons. The most common reason is to attack weaker players and force them to make a critical decision for all of their chips. For if they should lose this hand, they will be knocked out of the tournament. Psychologically, it is a very pressure-filled moment. It is the most wicked tool at the disposal of the poker player.

The other reason a player might use an all-in bet is to protect his hand and eliminate those with weaker hands or those on a draw. For example, let’s say there is $1000 in the pot and you are dealt Q-Q which is the third-best hand possible pre-flop. The bet comes around to you and you have decided that you definitely want that $1000. Instead of making a bet that will allow the other players to match and possibly outdraw you on the flop, you go all-in. This is an indication to everyone at the table that you are not fooling around. You are risking everything you have at this time, and they must match your outsized bet to compete for the flop.

A player who has a reputation of being an aggressive player and is willing to use the all-in bet is one to be aware of at all times. He must be respected, and this can lead to energy expended to watch him. This is the style of the new young poker players. They are very loose aggressive players. They raise with nothing, go all-in on stone cold bluffs, and constantly push the action.

The all-in can also be used at any time during the hand and that brings with it implied power. For example, If someone behind you has a big stack of chips, and has an image of being aggressive, you will respect that fact alone and may avoid playing hands that you might normally play. Or you might just call a bet rather than raise. This foces you to adjust your play and tighten up until that player either loses his big stack or gets moved to some other table. Thus they can pick up pots just by having an implied threat with the potential of the all-in bet.

There are other examples of where the all-in can be used but perhaps the one that has the greatest visibility and notoriety is to carry off the bluff. This is where you have nothing of real value in your hand, or you had a good starting hand but missed the flop completely. Since the all-in is so powerful it can be used to win pots while still having the weakest hand in play.

The all-in is the most potent tool of the poker player and it is a skill that should be developed and mastered to precision. After adding it to your arsenal of weapons, it will give you a greater chance of cashing or winning more tournaments.


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