Most card players think there are only two ways to play a hand, all in or nothing…then they graduate from kindergarten and learn that every game of poker doesn’t have to be like the scene from that film where the guy wins that money… Little kids go all in because they don’t know how to groom a pot, or how to let raises do the work. All ins have a tendency to scare people off or cost you the lot. So should an adult consider going all in at all?
The all gets the most attention because it distils the win/loss moment to a single action (but please remember that when people lose on an all-in, they really lost their seat at the table a few hands back, and are all in-ing out of desperation). All In has been a popular staple of big poker tournaments ever since the ESPN cameras entwined themselves with the sport. There are plenty of tactical reasons for an all in, but the truth is that bet is exciting, the emotions are exposed and the big money is in the frame, THAT’s entertainment.
These days young players have seen this happen on TV for years, and have accepted it as part and parcel of the game, compared to the (good) old days when going all in was a lot less common. The ALL In was less frequent because (at the risk of sounding like a purist) took too much skill away from the game and put too much emphasis on luck. Going All In when you haven’t even seen the flop (let alone the river) leaves your fortunes up to…fortune.
Nothing demonstrates the arbitrariness of the all in like the fable of the tortoise and the hare. Once up on a time (2008) there was a wise old tortoise called Max Greenwood sitting at the final of Event #44 in the WSOP. He played the All In gambit holding a pair of fives, when across the table a hare had Ace Jack. Now this old tortoise was sitting pretty and in the lead before the cards flopped but it all went somewhat south when the flop (or the god of chance) gave out an Ace. AA against 55, what a good call Mr Hare… and Tortoise Greenwood had nowhere to fold, so just had to sit tight. But the gods of chance are mean and like a laugh, the power shifted again when a (huge) five landed on the board with the river. Three fives took the hot…That Greenwood what a smart tortoise (as if)!
And the moral of the story is…you never can tell when you go all in, so just sit back and try to enjoy the entertainment you’ve lain on.