All-in Preflop: What does it mean in Poker?

Many people refer to All-in Preflop as a ticking nuclear bomb and it is all about moving everything in prior to the flop. As a player, irrespective of how much you try to avoid getting into this situation, there will be a time when you find yourself with a short stack and you have to do something about it. Of course, this is no place where any player wants to be. However, it makes your decision making process much simpler. You might want to ask why? Well, it is a situation of an all or nothing and you have basically one of two decisions to make. You either fold your hand pre-flop or you go all-in, hoping that you will double up. There is practically no other decision you can make apart from these two in this case. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about All-in preflop to help you know how to manage the situation when you find yourself in it.


Why do you have to move All-in Preflop?

The first question that comes to mind when you think of all-in preflop is – why would you want to move all-in preflop in the first place and risk all of your chips? We’ll talk about that shortly. There are basically two reasons why you might want to consider this step.


First, when you move in, you place all the pressure in your opponents’ hand. When you move all-in preflop, you put your opponent on the spot as they have to decide whether or not they are ready to risk a major fraction of their stacks to call your bet. Since this is a significant fraction of their stacks, you are putting them under a lot of pressure. When this happens, there is the likelihood that they will fold. If this happens, then it is a good thing for you. You may ask, how come? Well, when your opponent folds, you will have the Ante and Blinds sitting right on the table and this signifies a boost of about 25% to 30% for your stacks. You will agree that this is something you would want when you are short of stack.


Second, when you move all-in, you are saved from a situation where you have to make a hard decision after a flop. This is most important when you are in the hand against the post-flop player.


What happens if you Raise?

Let’s assume that the blinds on the table are $200 and $400. Now, you have only ten big blinds and a total of 4,000 in your stack. You are also at the middle position and you discover you have a King and an Ace. If you go ahead to make a standard 3-x raise and another player on the button with thirty big blind in his stack called you; then what happens anytime you see a flop of Seven of Diamonds, Nine of Diamonds, and Four of Clubs?


In this situation, all you have are two over-cards on the board. So what does your opponent has? Does he hold a pair? Does he have a flush draw? Will he hit? With more than 8-big blinds in the pot and only 7-big blinds in your stack, what do you do in this situation? What do you do if your opponent calls? Should you bet your hand? Are you meant to check to see if the other player is placing a bet just to put you under pressure? What if he moves in? Will you just call with an Ace high? Or should you simply fold? What do you do in this situation?


Now, if you think about this scenario and the volume of decisions you have to make, you will understand that this is a big tight spot that you have to get out of. Interestingly, you could have avoided all these if only you had played your hand a bit differently. So let’s say when you got into this situation, you decided to move all-in, what happens? Let’s see what happens in this situation when you move all-in instead of raising your three acts pre-flop.


What happens when you move All-in?

When you move all-in, the first thing you will notice is that you put your opponent on a tight spot. So instead of them risking a mere 10% of their stack to call your hand, you have put them in a situation where they risk a complete 1/3 of their stack in order to stay in the hand. Now, this is a big difference. There is a lot that you can do to destroy your opponent’s stack. Another thing that you will discover is that you really don’t have to worry anymore about making a hard decision on flop pot. This is because all your money has already been placed in the middle. All you have to do is to wait and watch the hands play to showdown so you can see the five cards.


Now, the question you might want to ask is – how will you determine whether to move all-in prior to the flop or not? Well, as already mentioned earlier, the most critical factor when it comes to making this kind of decision is the size of your chip stack and its correlation with the size of the blind. Now, if your stack has only ten big blinds, you should move all-in early and at the middle positions with nearly any decent face card and with any pair that has something to go with it. Let’ say Queen-Jack, King-Jack, Queen-Ten, King-Ten, and any of those types of hands.


In case you are at the late position, say on the button, and players around you decide to fold around you at the button. Let’s say you have ten to twelve blinds; you might want to move-in without a consideration for the cards in your hands. The reason for this is that the likelihood that the big and small blinds will fold is very high and you are more likely to just get the antes and blinds in your stack. Another thing is if you get called, you still have the opportunity to win. The reason for this is – any two cards have the potential to win. Similarly, if everyone at the table moves around towards your small blind while they have folded, you can also move all-in the small blind without considering you cards, especially when you are in that major danger zone of possessing ten big blinds.


However, if you are in the 15 and 20 big blinds series, you may be pickier about the selection of your hands. This is because you have time to wait. Yet, you shouldn’t be too picky. Of course, you also don’t have to move all-in without checking your cards when you have up to 15 or 20 big blinds. In this case, you are not so much in a distressed situation. Usually, you will want to be the first person at the table to act when you make up your mind to move all-in preflop. This is because it is better to bet all-in than to call all-in for tournament life. The reason for this is – your opponent can decide to fold while you are betting and you can select all the antes and blinds.


The Place of Timing in All-in Preflop

Timing is very crucial when you want to move all-in preflop. Now, if you hold a high quality hand, you will move all-in irrespective of the situation. However, if you have something that is more tentative, such as King-Jack, you should make the play against other players that are likely to fold to your game. Now, if your stack is not that short, say like 20 to 25 big blinds, you can use the all-in preflop play as an effectual way of re-raising or re-shoving your opponent. By this, you will put pressure on him.


Again, let’s assume that there are 200 and 400 blinds and you have 20 big binds within your stack. Now, another player with 35 big blind decides to make a standard 3-x raise at the center position and you discover that there’s a hand like Jack of Clubs or Ace of Clubs on the button. Definitely, this is the kind of hand you would want to call with. But wait a moment! Although it is a good one but there are many other hands that can beat it. This means that calling a large portion of your stack when you are a little short may not be a good idea after all.


At this point, you should consider re-raising and push all-in against the other players. This will push out any opponent that has a weaker hands than what you have and at the same time apply high pressure on the first raiser. Even with a high quality hand of original raiser, your pre-raise won’t give him the right odd to call simply because he is required to call 17-x more. Now, this will amount to calling with most of his entire stack. With this, you can steal the most valuable blinds as well as the priceless antes at the spot. In addition to this, you also get the opportunity to have his original raise.