The "all in" bet – has it's uses – but is overused

I Win
Image by Kevin Labianco via Flickr

I like playing poker in its many forms, especially Texas Hold Em, limit, pot limit and no limit. In the last seven days or so I have been playing the micro limits while trying to build a bankroll from $10 to $250 as part of a challenge – see my previous post, “Update on the race to $250 and other thoughts” for more details.

In the last 41 sessions that I have played in the micro limits I have seen the “all in” bet used frequently and in my humble opinion, misused. Generally speaking, the all in bet is used to either cause people to fold or as a method of getting the most chips possible away from an opponent.

All too often I see players going all in – preflop, before the hand develops, then being called and losing to a lessor holding and wondering what happened? Well, what happened was that the all in player and the all in caller did not wait to see the flop in order to see if their hand had a chance of holding up.

Playing in a tourney this way is almost like a lottery. You have picked your lucky numbers, say AA and your opponent has picked 22 and you wait to see what number balls spin up in the poker card lottery. I just don’t think that this is sound tourney play.

When it works,  you feel like a genius but when it doesn’t work, you can go on tilt for days wondering what happened? Well what did happen was that chance was allowed to take place and suck outs happen. Yes, over the long run, your better cards will win a larger percentage of the time, but is not that the issue? It does not win all the time.

Do I go all in preflop? Yes, but I like to pick my spots. I would prefer to see the flop to see if that helps my hand first.I will fold pocket AA, KK, QQ pre-flop in the early stages of a tourney versus going all in. In the middle and later stages of the tourney I will use all in with these holdings when the blinds and antes are higher as a means of getting more chips. If I am the chip leader, I might take out the lower stacked players or try to steal blinds away from the middle stack players that don’t want to take a chance on losing their chips before they get past the bubble and are assured of winning a prize.

What are your thoughts about the all in bet? Do you go all in with  AA, KK or QQ and end up losing a race to a lessor holding. How is the “all in” tool used in your game?

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7 thoughts on “The "all in" bet – has it's uses – but is overused

  1. Steve, I just can't see folding AA early in a tournament. I mean, isn't the point of a tournament to accumulate chips? If someone in the tournament moves all in right in front of you, and you wake up with AA, what exactly are you worried about your opponent having? I mean, preflop, you've got EVERY hand beat (except the rare AA as well, which will mean a chop). I just don't see a justification for folding here.I'm also ok with going bust with KK to a degree. I'd rather see a flop, but if it delivers all unders, I'm likely to shove with KK too. If my opponent hits his 2 outer, oh well. I mean, I'm an 80/20 favorite against any pair and a bigger favorite against two smaller cards. I may not chose to shove it preflop as I want to build the pot with these premium hands, but how do you fold it?

  2. My plan, most of the time, is to see the flop. I usually do not want to go all-in pre-flop. Some exceptions are when I am short stacked or the chip leader by a large margin. Why do something that will end your game soon. I have placed and gotten paid in better than 23% of the tourneys that I have played in the last ten weeks and my method has worked for me. Yet as today's post indicates, I probably should have gone all in preflop to keep him from calling. These are just my opinions. I am a member of the Poker Players Alliance and as a benefit of the paid membership I get a weekly Newsletter from Daniel Negreanu and he basically says that most top pros play the early stages in a manner that does not get them eliminated too soon. Yes, risk is good, but why jeopardize your entire tourney on one hand at the wrong moment. Don't get me wrong. I do make this bad play more often then I would like. But I am currently enjoying a good cash in rate by my style of play. Since taking the challenge, I have improved my tourney play. My cash game on the other hand has gone south. But I hope that Deuces Cracked will help me with that.

    • For me, I'm just of the opinion (and I'll bet that you'll find aggreance from the likes of Negreanu and Lindgren, and other small ball players), that a hand like AA just can't be folded pre-flop, regardless of the stage of an MTT.The purpose of playing in Tournament poker is to accumulate chips. You can't go the right direction if your always folding the best hand. Pre-flop, AA is the best hand. I want to put my chips in when I'm ahead. I want to put the pressure on the other guy to have him make a decision for all of his chips. I don't want to be faced with that decision myself. I will likely not raise all in, as I don't want to scare off the other players without getting at least some of their chips involved, but I definately want action with AA.The one exception to this rule that I've seen is when it's a Satellite event, and they award a group of players the same prize. So if you have for example 30 spots being awarded and you have a good sized chip lead with 31 players left, there is no benefit to chipping up any more. Fold your AA, and let someone else bust. I mean, 30th place is a 1st finish. But tournament poker should be about finishing first, because that's where the most money is.I just really believe that folding AA pre-flop is a bad move. In the instance on your next post (and in our twitter conversation) the mistake was made by moving all in after your opponent over bet the pot. At that point, you have to ask yourself, what did I let my opponent catch. You called off your chips with nothing but a pair (albeit a good one), but it wasn't strong enough. Lets take that hand, and let me ask you, instead of Min-raising pre-flop, what happens if you 3 bet or 4 bet your AA. Odds are, the other guy folds here, and you get the blinds, but that's not an altogether bad result. You're generally only going to get callers with premium hands when you represent strength with preflop raises. The should allow for you to make better post flop decisions. But don't be afraid to risk your tournament life early with AA or KK. You're going to increase your stack in 80-90% of those opportunities. Those are VERY good odds in poker.

  3. I (almost) never initiate an all-in with someone who even with or ahead of me in chips. Not many hands are worth the risk and I figure myself to be a good enough player to win the slow and steady method.

    • I totally agree with that concept. In a cash game I might act differently depending on how much cash I want to risk. But in a tourney, I can chug away maybe catch some cards, maybe steal some blinds, maybe even suck out. But I just don't see why I would want to risk my tournament life on an all in. Again, thanks for commenting. I like the almost part of your comment. I do in fact go all in and sometimes I win and sometimes I lose. If I lose I am not happy. But that is the nature of the game called poker.

      • Poker is always an (almost) strategy. Everything depends on the situation.Of course, I do like saying “all-in” against the short-stacks of the table…but then it really isn't an all-in from my perspective.

  4. Poker is always an (almost) strategy. Everything depends on the situation.Of course, I do like saying “all-in” against the short-stacks of the table…but then it really isn't an all-in from my perspective.

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