“All-In” entered the mainstream lexicon thanks to the poker boom of the early 2000s. The term is now regularly used in modern US culture, but the origin of “all-in” stems from the poker glossary.
Going all-in means putting all of your chips in the pot during a poker hand. Here’s an overview of the rules of going all-in, as well as a few instances of when it’s strategically proper to execute a poker all-in.
All-In Poker: The Rules
When a player goes all-in, they commit all chips in front of them into the current pot. The maximum amount a player can go all-in with is the amount of chips they started the hand with.
If you start a hand with $200 on the table, then $200 is the most you can put into the pot. You can’t, for example, decide to pull another $100 out of your pocket and add that to the pot when you know you have a strong hand.
Going all-in is commonly referred to as pushing, shoving, or jamming. When you go all-in, get called by one opponent, and win the hand, you double-up, doubling the amount of your chips.
Sometimes three or more players are battling in a hand, and one player is all-in, while the other two still have chips. The rules of an all-in poker hand dictate that the two larger stacks in this scenario play a side pot, where additional chips from both players go into a different pot.
For example, let’s say the player on the button goes all-in preflop for $100, and both players in the blinds have $200 in front of them. The small blind calls the $100, and the big blind calls as well.
The main pot is now $300, but the two players in the blinds still play out the rest of the hand. Any further action between the two players results in a side pot, only winnable by those two bigger-stacked players.
The rules of a poker all-ins don’t allow the button player to win anything from the side pot. If the button wins the all-in, that player ends up tripling up, winning $300.
Poker All-In: When To Shove
An all-in poker move should only be applied in certain situations. If you’re going all-in recklessly or not waiting for the right spot, an overly aggressive all-in strategy can lead to massive losses at the table.
There are times when going all-in is the right move, however:
When you’re short-stacked
Any time you’re sitting with around 15 big blinds or less, it might be time to consider going all in. This situation usually applies to tournaments more than cash games, as cash games allow you to top-up your stack after each hand.
Making a standard-sized raise with a very small stack puts you in an awkward spot if you get called or raised. The standard raise almost puts you all-in anyway, so you might as well push your entire remaining stack and get maximum fold equity.
When you’re making a 5-bet in a cash game
Assuming your playing with 100 big blind stacks, any kind of 5-bet should result in an all-in poker move.
For instance, let’s assume you’re playing a 100 big blind online cash game, at $1/$2 stakes. The button opens for $5, and you, in the small blind, 3-bet to $20. The button 4-bets to $48 and the action goes back to you.
If you’re sitting with a hand that’s strong enough to re-raise (aka 5-bet), you should shove in this spot. Any other size either gives your opponent pot odds to call with just about anything and leaves you with an awkward stack-to-pot ratio on the flop.
When you want to 4-bet versus a large 3-bet
Sometimes an opponent’s 3-bet is so large that a standard-size 4-bet isn’t optimal. This can happen quite a bit in live cash games, where the opening raises and 3-bets tend to be bigger than in an online cash game.
For example, let’s go back to our previous example and make it a live cash game instead of an online game. The button player will often open to $10 (or more) in that spot, and your 3-bet in the big blind should be at least $40 in that scenario.
Facing your 20-big-blind 3-bet, the button should opt for a jam if they decide to 4-bet.
When you want to put pressure on short stacks in a tournament
You’re in a commanding position when you have one of the big stacks in the late stages of a tournament. The shorter stacks might be waiting around for other players to bust, in an effort to move up the payout ladder.
As a big stack, you can go all-in with a wide range when the shorter stacks are behind you. When the money jumps start getting bigger in a tournament, the short stacks will be forced to fold more often than not if they’re playing an optimal ICM strategy.