The Correct Way To Utilize The All-In Bet In a Tournament

published on 03/29/10 at 8:51 am

The Correct Way To Utilize The All-In Bet In a Tournament

It’s hard to talk about no limit poker and not discuss the All-In bet in detail. This is what sets this game apart from all other games. The ability to put someone’s entire stack at risk at any given moment. This is a very powerful tool and, utilized effectively, can really help a player control the action and, perhaps, the outcome of a hand. The All-In, however, is a double edge sword and needs to be handled with kid gloves as it could be equally devastating to you if not used appropriately.

If there is one mistake novice players make time and time again, other than the most popular error of playing bad hands, it is their utilization of the All-In bet. Over 90% of all players that bust out of tournaments do so because they have pressed the action. They pushed All-In, got called, and busted out. An All-In bet is not designed as an offensive weapon, it is a defensive weapon. It is not designed to entice a call; it is designed to entice a fold. Keep in mind, no matter how great a player you think you are or how good a hand you may be holding anyone can suck out and win with any two cards. Sometimes they don’t even need two cards. One card is more than sufficient. Can you double up with an All-In bet? Yes you can, but your hand has to first hold up. The first classic mistake beginners make is as soon as they see two good hole cards they can’’t get their chips in fast enough. In an average session of Poker you are only going to get so many premium hands. Don’’t waste them on a stupid bets that no one is going to call. Especially when you have been playing tight the last half hour and this is the first hand since then you have entered the pot with. Place out a good size bet of 3-5X the BB and limit the competition without limiting your tournament future. You need to have your premium hand pay off otherwise your stay at any tournament will be short lived.

One good way to look at the All-In bet is as a powerful protective shield that can be utilized to protect your hand. Here is one simplified example when All-In bet can be utilized to protect a hand. You are in late position with AK suited. You have two callers out of position. The flop is Ah, 2h. 3c. You have top pair top kicker. This was a very good flop for you. However, there is both a possible straight draw and flush draw on the board. The first player checks, the second player bets out a bet of about one half the pot, you come over top and push all in. In this example, you are trying to protect what is currently the best hand against any possible draws. Your All-In bet does not provide the necessary Pot Odds that a skilled player would require to continue play and it certainly prohibits any under pair from continuing on drawing to a set.

Another way the All-In bet can be utilized as a defensive weapon is in short handed situations when you are one of the chip leaders. The last thing you want to permit in this scenario is short stacked players to accumulate chips easily. I have seen short stacks push All-In pre-flop and the chip leader on the button, who has the short stack covered 20:1 fold his hand. This was a horrendous lay down on the part of the chip leader. You have the responsibility to protect your lead and make any short stack making a play at a pot realize that their entire tournament will be at risk the second they enter a pot. When you have isolated short stacked players always make it a habit to push them All-In. This will keep them in check and afraid to take a shot at the blinds and antes that they desperately need.

A very good example of this strategy being properly utilized is Greg Raymer’’s play at the final table at the 2004 WSOP Main Event. He knocked out the first three short stacked players in a matter of minutes by not being afraid to put a few chips at risk to improve his standing at the tournament. Keep in mind, at a final table or anywhere in the money for that matter, every time someone gets knocked out you move up in the pay out structure. The beauty of this game is that you have a direct benefit from every hand played even when you are not in the hand. If another player knocks out a short stack, you have just moved up in the payout structure along with all the remaining players, without any risk to you whatsoever.

If you ask 100 Professional Players their opinion, 50 will most likely tell you not to press the action and the other 50 will tell you not to call your money away. Both are very good pieces of advice. Well if you do not do either, then what do you do? Confusing, isn’’t it? What you do is learn to rely on the information available to you so that you can make an informed decision specific to your current predicament. When facing an All-In bet you have to do a great deal of analyzing in a very short period of time. First of all, is the player bluffing? How have we gotten to this point in the hand? What have his actions been that led up to this decision? Could any of the cards that have hit the board improve his hand in any way? Did they improve your hand? (It’’s unlikely that it improved both). You need a lot of information quickly and the ability to process it so that you could begin to assess where you stand. When you can answer the necessary questions then you could convince yourself of what the appropriate action would be. When you cannot or are unsure, then remember one third piece of extremely valuable advice. “There is no such thing as a bad lay down.”” Get away from the hand, regroup and live to fight another day. At the end of the day an All-In bet should be a primary action, not a reaction.

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