not a wager is all in has enormous influence when you are considering a bet,
raise, or call. I like to use the term "leverage" for the potential to fire
another wager. Facing any bet before the river that is not all in, a player must
consider the possibility of facing another wager. This possibility may dissuade
him from calling, because he may have to fold when facing another barrel or risk
losing more money on the hand. Conversely, an all-in wager, even if the same
size as the wager that's not all in, is much more likely to be called.
Here is an example: You pick up a pocket pair of queens when playing $25-$25 blinds no-limit hold'em and open with a pot-size raise to $100. The button reraises to $350, a pot-sized amount, and the field folds to you. What should you do? This question probably will have two different answers, depending on whether the reraise is all in or there is a lot of money left. If the reraise is all in, it would be hard to find anyone who would lay down those queens. On the other hand, if you and the opponent both have another couple of grand in front of you, this is a tough decision, and you have to answer the questions regarding whom you are playing against, how often he reraises as a move (as opposed to having kings or aces), whether he is stuck and steaming, and so forth. You are getting the wrong odds to call with the hope of flopping a set, and are out of position. I would not regard this as a favorable gambling situation, and would fold much more often than call. Whether the wager is all in or not makes a huge difference.
There are many reasons why a player may wish to be all in. I took a weeklong trip to California right before Memorial Day, and played in a $1,500 buy-in no-limit hold'em tournament at Commerce Casino, where this hand arose. Playing with blinds of 50-100, I was in the big blind with the 10 9, having about 3,000 in chips in a sixhanded limped pot. The flop came K 10 6, giving me a pair and a flush draw. This was a powerful hand, of course, but had some flaws in it. I wanted to avoid a multihanded pot, in which I could get trapped between a better made hand and a higher-ranking draw. Even heads up, you seldom are sure of whether you want to hit the flush or not. Against top pair, you are about even money, and a slight favorite against the nut-flush draw. So, getting all in against one opponent is fine when there is a lot of dead money in the pot; not getting called is even better. The small blind checked, and I chose to check, since this flop should have hit someone. The player on my left bet 600, and a player in late position called. I moved all in with a raise of about 2,200 more. This worked perfectly, as they both folded. The lesson here is that a pair and flush draw is a hand with which you usually would like to get all in (though multihanded pots are not advisable), so that you do not have to make any uncomfortable guesses later.
Here is a hand from a no-limit hold'em cash game with $5-$10 blinds that I played in. I had pocket tens on the button, and someone had straddled for $20. Everyone called around to me. I decided to make a small raise and see what happened (just calling would have been more normal), so I raised $50 more. Six of us saw the flop, which came 9-8-7 rainbow. Everyone checked to me, and I fired $300 at the pot, holding an overpair and open-end straight draw. The player on my right called, so there was almost 1,000 in the pot. I had about $1,000 left in my stack. The turn was the Q, putting a two-flush on the board. My opponent checked. What should I do? I thought my opponent might have two pair, and I would need to help my hand, so I checked. This proved to be a case of overestimating my opponent, who held the K 8. (How did he call a $300 bet? Did he really think I would fire into a large field with two overcards and that coordinated flop?) The river was the J, giving my opponent a flush and me a straight, so I had a disaster. After the hand, I was quite upset with myself for not moving all in on the turn. I might have had the best hand, and might have drawn out if I did not. On the other hand, this particular opponent very likely would have called me, and then drawn out. But that does not make my check right, since he was about a 2-to-1 underdog. The moral of the story is that when you have both a made hand and a draw, you should be more willing to bet if you can go all in, because you cannot get raised off your draw.
another hand with the same theme of a combined made hand and draw. I was playing
in a big no-limit hold'em cash game, and had about $6,000 in front of me. I was
in late position with pocket eights. Nobody raised, and six of us took the flop
for $100 apiece. It came J
giving me bottom set. The blind bet $600, and a middle-position player called. I
raised to a total of $2,300. After some thought, they both called. On the turn,
came, which was a hideous card for my hand. However, they both checked. I had
$3,600 left. Should I believe them and go all in? I have encountered a lot of
flushes in my career after someone hit and checked. Sometimes, players make a
small flush and want to see what the others do; other times, they check the
nuts, hoping to get someone else to bet. I checked, since I thought someone was
likely to have made a flush with this betting. The last card was a fourth club
on the board. It turned out that neither player had a flush on the turn, but
both made a flush with the fourth club. I do not know if I would have lost
another $3,600 on the hand or driven both of them out by going all in on the
turn. We'll never know, but no one can accuse me of being bold and brave.
In my next column, I will discuss some more all-in situations. Knowing the effect of being all in is extremely important when you and an opponent both have the option of betting the entire ranch at every opportunity.