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all-in: - Back -

When a player is faced with a current bet amount that he has insufficient remaining stake to call and he wishes to call (he may of course fold without the need of special rules), he bets the remainder of his stake and declares himself all in. He may now hold onto his cards for the remainder of the deal as if he had called every bet, but he may not win any more money from any player above the amount of his bet. In no-limit games, a player may also open the betting by going all in, that is, betting his entire stack.

A player who goes "all-in" effectively caps the main pot; the player is not entitled to win any amount over his/her total stake. If only one other player is still in the hand, the other player simply matches the all-in (retracting any overage if necessary) and the hand is dealt to completion. However, if multiple players remain in the game and the bet rises beyond the all-in's stake, the overage goes into a side pot. Only the players who have contributed to the side pot have the chance to win it. In the case of multiple all-in bets, multiple side pots can be created.

For example, with three players in a game, Player A opens the betting round for $20. Player B only has $10 remaining. He bets the $10, going all in. Player C can call the full $20, and therefore must call, raise or fold. Player C has only $30 remaining, so he "raises all-in" by betting his remaining stake. The bet is now $10 to Player A, who calls. Player A is the only player at the table with a remaining stake; he may not make any further bets this hand. Because Player B can only win $10 from each of the other two players' $30 bets, that $10 is taken from all players' bets and the $30 total is placed in the main pot. The $40 remaining, for which Players B and C are separately contesting, goes in a side pot. As no further bets can be made, the hand is now dealt to completion. It's found that Player B has the best hand overall, and wins the main pot. Player A has the second-best hand, and wins the side pot. Player C is now out of the game.

There is a strategic advantage to being all in: a player cannot be bluffed, because he is entitled to hold his cards and see the showdown without risking any more money. Opponents who continue to bet after the player is all in can still bluff each other out of the side pot, which is also to the player's advantage since players who fold out of the side pot also reduce his competition for the main pot. But these advantages are offset by the disadvantage that the player cannot win any more money than his stake can cover.

Some players may choose to buy into games with a "short stack", a stack of chips that is relatively small for the stakes being played, with the intention of going all in after the flop and not having to make any further decisions. However, this is generally a non-optimal strategy in the long-term, since the player does not maximize his gains on his winning hands.

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