Online players love to use the all-in move. It is the simplest, yet sexiest bet to make, and indeed, probably what attracts many novices to the game of No Limit Texas Hold’em. Rather than having to use some poker skill on subsequent streets, just hit the all-in button and you can double up your chip stack or make everybody else fold. If you play much online poker, you have seen the all-in over and over. There are a couple of rules that I like to keep in mind though, when it comes to playing NL Hold em against players who use this play.
First, there is a huge difference between a pre-flop all-in and and all-in post flop. Many times players will go all-in pre-flop with less than premium cards because they know it will be hard for you to call them. You will see players raise all-in into a pot of 3 or 4 limpers just to collect the blinds. You will see players raise all-in from the button, again to collect blinds. You will see players raise all-in with high pocket pairs like K’s or A’s because they are so excited they can’t stand it. You will also see them raise all-in with middle pairs to try and push players with questionable A’s out. You will even see them raise with complete junk just because they get a kick out of it and they have not got the skill to make more advanced plays later on.
The point is, pre-flop all-ins may mean just about anything. Here is a good rule of thumb: stay away from pre-flop all-ins. As tempting as it may be when you think a player is just full of crap, there is really no need to call a pre-flop all in unless you have a huge hand like K-K or A-A or later in a SNG or multi table tournament to put a players out, etc. Remember this; even with Big Slick, you are only about 50-50 against 2-2. You will have better chances than that to double up your chip stack, trust me.
So, having said that about all-ins pre-flop, here is where most internet players get confused: the all-in after the flop almost ALWAYS means something. What does it mean? It means that player hit his hand, most likely in a big way and he is trying to suck you in for all your chips.
Here is another rule of thumb: most players will not bluff their entire chip stack post-flop. They are too scared that you might have hit the flop. It takes a real gutsy player (or a real moron) to go all in on the flop, turn, or river, on a total bluff. So what does that all-in bet mean? It means he has something.
Time and time again I see a player who has been aggressive, maybe pushed around the table a little bit go all-in, someone calls him and he has a monster hand. It happens more than you think because some players just do not want to give credit for a big hand. They have seen it on TV way too many times where a player with top pair, top kicker gets bluffed off the hand by a player with 6-2 off suit. Trust me, that is going to happen very little. 99% of the time when a player goes all in post flop, he has the nuts or pretty close.
Usually these confrontations are something like this. Player A in early position raises. Called by player B in the small blind. The flop comes A-T-3 rainbow. Small blind bets the pot, player A raises all-in. Small blind calls and turns over pocket Q’s and player A has A-K. Player B busts out and has to go find another Sit n Go to play.
Respect the all-in if it is made after the flop. It means something 99% of the time. (obviously, this is situational and we are talking about plays made in a cash game or early in a tournament. Exceptions to this rule would be late in a tournament where position plays are constantly made and few hands actually go to showdown. In these cases a player may bluff with all his chips simply to stay alive by taking the blinds and antes.)
The only time when you don’t have to respect the all-in is when you have flopped such a monster than you have the nuts or pretty close. For example: you have pocket 8’s in middle position. 2 players in in front of you, the flop comes A-8-2. One player bets the pot, one re-raises all-in.
Chances are, they both have a good Ace and will not be able to get away from the hand. Calling that all-in here is obvious, your set is going to win every time and they will not see it coming. So, there are times when they only “think” they have the best hand, but you do have to have a monster in order to call. Do not call all-ins in a hand like the above example when you have something like A-J or A-T. The odds of something else playing A-K are just too high.
So, remember in regards to the all-in, stick with these 2 simple rules of thumb and it will save you a lot of chips over the long haul. It may not be a perfect theory, but it is a good place to start to keep you out of trouble.
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