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Poker strategy essays

No Limit Holdem Cash Games - All about the All-In

By Martin Fromage

What separates the game of No-Limit Holdem from everything else in poker Ė what gives it its true moments of guts and glory and the exhilaration that comes with that Ė is the all-in move. It doesnít even have to be the actual move itself; just the threat of going all-in can create a bolt of electricity that shoots through the entire card room. Thatís a potent move and one of the main reasons Texas Holdem has been described as, 'hours of boredom, interspersed with moments of sheer terror.' The moments of terror? When all your chips are in the middle and itís down to two outcomes Ė doubling up or packing up Ė and thereís nothing you can do but hold your breath and hope the right cards come.

But itís not necessarily terror just for you. Here are some great ways to use the all-in as a weapon in your No-Limit cash games and strike a little terror in the hearts of your opponents instead.

For the Double Up
Bottom line, if you have the best hand, you want to win as many chips as possible. The best way it seems to do that is to bet as many chips as you have. But thatís not always the case. Take this example. An all-in bet of $100 gets you one caller. But a bet of $50 gets you three callers. Net result: $150 won vs $100 won. So the all-in bet there isnít the best value. Even worse, an all-in bet may scare off everybody, killing the action on your strong hand. A smaller bet might be able to keep opponents involved. Of course, that being said, if your hand isnít strong enough to play multi-way in the first place, you might prefer the heads-up action.

New players, especially those who learned Holdem watching tournament poker on television, love moving all-in pre-flop with a hand like AA, KK or A-K. Love it. But in a cash game, where the blinds donít go up, you can afford to wait for much better spots to move in than pre-flop with A-K. If you get called, youíll probably be around 50 per cent to win, but those arenít your best odds. If you move in pre-flop with AA and get called, youíre in great shape, for sure. But most times, you wonít get called and youíll win only the blinds, and thatís a waste of a great hand.

For the Bluff
Lots of online Texas Holdem players make the following big mistake: making an all-in bluff when a much smaller bet would be much more effective. Bluffing $400 into a $100 pot is a tactical error, plain and simple. First, youíre risking $400 to win $100, giving 4 to 1 odds. If your bluff fails only slightly more than 20 percent of the time, youíre going to lose money. The truth is $200 will usually serve the same purpose as your $400 bet, with way less risk. If your opponentís hand canít take a $400 bet, it probably canít take a $200 bet either. If you get called or raised on $200, you can easily put your opponent on a big hand and likely save half your chips.

All-in for the Win
Things arenít the same in a cash game as they are in Texas Holdem tournaments; losing an all-in bet doesnít necessarily mean you or your opponent are done. You can just go and buy more chips. So the fear of the night being over with an all-in move is not as much of a factor. To get the right perspective on an all-in bet in a cash game, think of it this way: simply making the largest bet you can possibly make at any given time. If itís the right play to make a bet this size (or bigger), then move all-in. If it isnít, then donít.

The 'When'. Three good rules of thumb:
1. If youíre confident you have the best hand and youíll be called, move all-in.
2. If you think your opponent is on a draw and the best way to give him incorrect odds to call is a decision for all of your chips, move all-in.
3. If youíre a short stack and youíre getting the right odds to call or bet the remaining chips you have.

And there you go. The ABCs of all-in bets in a No-Limit cash game. Keep the confidence up and make the right play and the terror will be all theirs.

Note: The advice given in these essays is the opinion of the author and not necessarily the opinion of the owners of this website. Experts do not always agree on all aspects of Texas Holdem strategy.


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