Going all in in poker needs more than just a strong hand. You need to think strategically and make good decisions. While it’s most common in Omaha Pot-Limit games and No Limit Texas Hold’em, it can be a powerful tool whatever poker variant you’re playing. Learn when you should and shouldn’t go all-in and whether it can be part of a good poker strategy in our guide below.

What Is All-In Poker?

In poker, going “all in” is when someone bets all the chips they have left on one hand. It can be a strategic move to help you win the most money possible, or to bluff an opponent. Quite often it’s done because there isn’t any other option besides folding.

Depending on how the rest of the hand works out it can end your game early, so be careful when using it.

How Does All-In Work in Poker?

As the term suggests, going “all-in” in poker is where you bet all your chips in a poker game. It’s a potentially game-ending move so you need to use it methodically.

If you have a great hand it can help you maximize your winnings. You can use it to bluff and pressure other players to fold, especially if you’re running low on chips.

You can’t necessarily go “all-in” whenever you like, however. You can’t go all-in if it means placing a bet higher than your total chip value. If someone bets more than you have, you can match their bet with all of your chips, potentially creating side pots.

We’ll come back to side pots later on, but they are essentially used to let players compete for more chips after you go all-in if they can afford it.

If you’ve gone all in and there are side pots you aren’t part of, you are just playing for the main pot. You can’t win side pots you haven’t contributed to.

The Table Stakes Rule

Introduced sometime at the start of the 20th Century, the table stakes rule proved popular due to the fairness and consistency it brings to the game.

The table stakes rule only lets you bet the chips you have in front of you at the start of a hand. There’s no purchasing more chips during a hand so you can’t just keep spending to win. If you don’t have the chips to keep calling or raising, you can match the bet with all your chips, or fold.

Side Pot Poker Explained

As mentioned earlier, side pot poker happens when someone has put all their money in despite others having the chips to keep betting. When this happens, the player who has effectively gone all-in is eligible for the main pot. The remaining players are eligible for the main pot plus the side pot.

Here’s how it works in practice:

  • Player 1 goes all in with $250. Players 2 and 3 have more chips and want to bet more. Any additional chips they put down go into the side pot.
  • Player 1 can only win the main pot as they haven’t contributed to the side pot. Players 2 and 3 are eligible to win both pots.
  • When the betting is done and the cards are revealed, the player with the best hand wins the main pot. The person with the highest hand between Players 2 and 3 wins the side pot.

This keeps the game fair and allows for differences in the amounts of chips players might have in a game.

All-In Poker Strategy

An all-in bet can be risky but it could also be part of a successful poker strategy. Knowing the right way to use it is key, and we’ve got some advice on when and when not to commit to it below.

When to Commit

We’ve listed and explained some of the best times to go all in below:

✅ When You’re Short-Stacked – Going all in when you are shot-stacked can be a great move. When you don’t have many chips left, any bet you make is a significant percentage of your stack, limiting your options. If you go all in you maximize your chances to win, even more so if your opponents aren’t likely to match it.

✅ When You’re Making a 5-Bet in a Cash Game – A 5 bet during a cash game is often a sign of a strong hand. Using all in poker strategies at this point is aggressive, and can help you make the most of your position. It means an opponent who doesn’t have a strong hand will likely fold, helping you win the pot with less risk.

✅ When You Want to Counter a Large 3-Bet – Countering a large 3-bet with an all-in bet can be a good tactical move. It can intimidate other players at the table, making them fold unless they have a top-ranking poker hand. It’s a good way to take control of the game, putting pressure back on your opponent who could be bluffing or overplaying.

✅ When You Want to Add Pressure to Short-Stacks in Tournament Games – When playing tournament games, putting pressure on short-stacked players with an all-in bet can be a great move. Short-stacked players are trying to play conservatively to keep in the tournament. A well-timed all-in bet can force them into tricky betting situations, forcing them to fold and letting you pick up more chips.

When Not To

There are also scenarios in poker when you should steer clear of going all-in.

❌ When the Pot Is Small – You should avoid going all in if the pot is small. The potential reward just isn’t worth the risk. Putting all your chips into one hand that won’t win huge rewards isn’t a great poker strategy. You always want to make sure the risk is worth the reward.

❌ When You Have a Middling Hand – Poker all in plays on middling hands are generally a bad choice. Middling hands are beatable, and committing all your chips runs a high risk of losing everything. It’s better to “live to fight another day” than to overcommit in a loss.

❌ When You Think an Opponent Has a Strong Hand – Don’t go all in if you think your opponent has a strong hand. You could lose your whole stack of chips if you’ve read them correctly, go all in, and are called. Whether it’s part of a full bluff or a semi-bluff, you’re risking a lot against a hand you think will be tough to beat anyway. Play safe, play smart, and protect your chips instead.

Key Things to Consider Before Going All-In

If you bet all in in poker there’s plenty of reason to be nervous. There’s a lot to consider and you should take your time to think about likely outcomes. Some of the key variables that could come into play include:

Effective Stacks and Stack-to-Pot Ratios (SPRs) – Before going all in, you should always consider the size of the effective stacks and the stack-to-pot ratio (SPR). Working out how many chips in the pot are yours (SPR) and the maximum amount that all players in the hand can bet (effective stacks) is a good indicator of whether going all in is worth it.

The Type of Opponents You Have – You should have a good read on your opponents by the point you’re considering making your bet all-in. You can use that to your advantage. If your opponents are more aggressive they are more likely to call your bet, but more conservative players are more likely to fold. You should always tailor your poker strategy based on the situation at the table.

Previous Actions from Other Players – Think about the betting action from previous hands. If players are making big poker bets and raises from relatively weak hands, going all in can be dangerous. If the trend is for more defensive plays from positions of strength, it can be safer to take calculated risks.

Relative Hand Strength – Ultimately, you should always consider your hand strength relative to the community cards and what hands others might have. While you can’t control these things, assessing how your hand might stack up to others can help you calculate how much of a risk all-in bets are.

Benefits of Aggressive vs. Careful All In Bets

There are advantages and disadvantages to being aggressive or careful when you go all in in poker. We’ve listed some of the biggest ones below:

Aggressive All-In Poker: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
✅ You can force a fold from opponents ❌ You put more of your stack at risk
✅ You can build the pot if your opponent calls
✅ You can confuse your opponents into making costly mistakes

Careful All-In Poker: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
✅ You can potentially bluff your way to a win ❌ Aggressive players can disrupt your play
✅ You may be able to exploit a tight opponent
✅ You can understand your relative hand strength against others

Going All-In as a Bluff – Is It Worth It?

Bluffing in poker is always risky. Going all in while bluffing doubly so, but it can also offer big rewards if done at the right time.

✅ When to all in bluff

One of the best times to bluff on an all-in bet is against cautious players. If you’ve got a good read on your opponent and see they consistently fold under pressure, they are a decent target for a bluff.

For example, if you have a potential straight or flush and you can tell your opponent isn’t confident, they are ripe for an all-in bluff. Showing confidence in your hand will convince them that you’re in a position of strength, and they are likely to fold, giving you the pot.

While it’s never a guarantee, it’s a good opportunity you could potentially exploit to your advantage.

❌ When not to all in bluff

The opposite is the best time not to bluff with an all-in. A bluff is unlikely to work when you’re playing someone consistently aggressive across all hands in poker games.

For example, you’re up against a player who consistently places large bets regardless of their hand strength. That you’ve gone all in probably won’t change their behavior, and they will likely call the bet. A straightforward bluff here would be risky unless you think they have an even worse hand than your own.

Whatever you decide, bluffing with an all-in can be very risky. If the other players don’t fold you’ll be lucky to escape with the pot.

We’d highly recommend you practice your bluffing strategy before you try it in a game. A great way to do so is by playing free online poker games, where you can figure out the best times to bluff when going all in.

Conclusion: Is Going All-In Good for Poker Strategy?

Going all-in can be rewarding but it carries lots of risk. While you could win the pot, you could also lose all your chips on a single hand. That’s why it’s important to use it correctly.
As outlined earlier, there are some key things to consider before you go all in. Think about the type of opponents you have, the previous actions undertaken by players, and the relative strength of your hand.

While it can be a useful tool to call on, you shouldn’t rely on it. A good all-around poker strategy will see you win much more in the long run. If you’ve included scenarios for going all in it can have an important role in your overall approach to poker games and tournaments.

Responsible Gambling

Whether you choose to go all-in or not, it should only be done if it’s part of a responsible gambling strategy. If you find you’re doing it too much or in high-risk situations, you might need to think about your gambling behavior in general. Check for things like:

  • Chasing losses
  • Increasing the time spent gambling
  • Not setting a budget, or blowing through it
  • Spending money you can’t afford to lose
  • Gambling when you’ve been drinking or taking drugs
  • Gambling when you’re upset or angry

If you recognize any of the signs above or other changes in your behavior, you should get help. Institutions exist to help you spot warning signs with self-assessment tests you can take. They can also offer text, call, or live chat support. Gamblers Anonymous also provides in-person support, with groups existing so people can find support from other people suffering from gambling addiction.

Always remember that gambling should be fun, and when it isn’t you should stop.

All In Poker – FAQs

Why do poker players go all-in?

If someone goes all-in in poker do you have to go all-in?

How do you announce you’re going all-in in poker?

What happens if you go all in and lose?