In the game of no limit texas hold'em poker you can at any time bet all of your chips which is called going all in. There are a number of different situations when going all in may be the best play that can be made. Too many players use the all in bet far too often. While others wait till their chip stack is far too small to make their move. We will discuss the reasons and situations when going all in is in your best interests.
Keep in mind in no limit texas hold'em poker each situation has many variables so the examples listed below may or may not apply to your given situation. They are generalizations under the assumption that other variables are favorable. For example prior acts by players at the table must be taken into account when deciding how to play a given situation.
There are a few things that you have to understand before continuing. The advantage to going all in is two fold really. Not only to they have to call the large amount what ever that is, but they also have to call knowing that your hand will be played all the way to the river. In other words they have to have the winning hand after all the community cards come out. This is an important aspect to understand. Often when you bet you want people to fold their hands. Betting a large amount will get lesser hands to fold and isolate the players with hands of high potential hand strength or made hands. Its important to see the difference because an all in bet will probably get a larger portion of the opponents to fold who have the high potential hand strength hands. For example if a player has $1000 and bets all in he will potentially have fewer callers than a player in the same situation with $5000 who makes the same $1000 preflop bet. However; it must be mentioned that this can be the other way around as well because callers may look at the all in bet as desperation and the other bet as potentially being increased up to the remaining $4000.
Now the first common situation for going all in is when the blind levels are about 20% or more of your stack size. If you are short stacked you have to start looking for hands to make aggressive plays at. The more the blinds take from your short stack less exponentially you will be able to take when you make your play. For example making an all in bet when short stacked with a medium starting hand strength is a much better play than waiting for a high starting hand strength because even if you win the hand losing even one more round of blinds may result in less potential winnings. I see far too many people let their stack size get too small before making a play. If you let it get to the point where in order to have an average stack size in the tournament you would have to win 4 or more all in bets with one caller each time then you have let your stack get too small without making a play.
Another reason to go all in preflop is to protect your hand when starting hand strength is high. Some starting hands are best played with a large preflop bet. An example of a starting hand that has a good starting hand strength but should be played for a large preflop bet in most cases is pocket jacks. The starting hand of pocket jacks has a high starting hand strength, but if it isn't played aggressively it can easily be beaten by anyone with a queen, king, or ace in their hand. By betting very aggressively, or all in, you can make most opponents with high starting hand strengths to fold because most of the high strength starting hands are draw hands. What this means is the hand that has to get particular cards on the flop in order to achieve a high hand strength. Pocket jacks are already a pretty high pair and so will have an advantage against a hand like ace-king early in a hand. So if your going to play a starting hand like pocket jacks either or a hand of similar starting hand strength I suggest you play it very aggressively preflop, and keep your eye out for the over cards that can beat you.
Keep this in mind when deciding on an amount to bet in no limit texas hold'em poker weather its all in or just limping in. All betting amounts in no limit texas hold'em poker are relative. What I mean by this is a bet of $1000 may mean a large bet at one point in a poker tournament and only cover the blinds at a later stage in the same tournament. Also from one hand to the next the amount in the pot also dictates what amounts are more suitable to bet. For example if there is $5000 in the pot and you bet $500 for the most part that is far too small a bet in proportion to the pot to make anyone want to fold their hand. It is a common practice in no limit texas hold'em poker to adjust betting amounts taking in to account your likelihood in winning the hand. This practice is commonly referred to as "pot odds". A very basic example of how this is used would be if you where 50% to win the hand then you would bet 50% of the amount in the pot.
A very good reason to go all in in no limit texas hold'em poker is if you think your opponent is bluffing, and you believe you are ahead in the hand. You may think it would be better to slow play and extract as much money as possible. The danger in playing a hand like this is the possibility the cards will give your opponent the winning hand. More often than not when a player bluffs in no limit texas hold'em poker he will have some outs. The more cards he gets to see the more likely he is to hit one of these outs and go ahead in hand strength. By reraising all in you can force him to make the critical decision as to weather he is ahead in hand strength or better yet if he will be ahead in hand strength after all the cards are out. An example of this would be if you had top pair with a high kicker on the flop and your opponent, who has been playing aggressively since he got seated at your table, bet about 5 times the big blind. You figure at best he has middle pair. If you just call he will get another card which may make him a set or give him two pair. Even if you reraise he may be inclined to call to see if he can catch a lucky card. By going all in in this situation he will have to know that if he calls he will have to have the winning hand after all the cards are out.
Understanding the advantages of going all in texas hold'em poker will help you both make better choices about when you should go all in; as well as, why your opponent may be going all in. If you play no limit texas hold'em poker tournaments you will probably go all in from time to time and you will definitely have to face the decision weather or not to call an all in. It is in these situations that are the critical points of texas hold'em poker tournaments. Make the wrong choice and you'll likely be out soon. Make the right choice and you'll one step closer to the prize money.