Best Guide to All-In Rules | How to Play Poker

When playing Texas Hold’em poker, one of the most common areas of rules confusion is players being “All-In”. In other words, what are the poker all-in rules when a player bets all their remaining money or chips? This happens more frequently when playing no limit, but you can still run into all in situations when playing limit poker.

The good news is that poker all in rules aren’t all that tough to understand once you understand the basics. There’s a decent amount of math involved from time to time, but that’s poker. The basic concept is that no one can ever be knocked out of a pot if they run out of money, but there’s a cap on how much they can win based on how much they put in the pot.

In this journal entry, we’ll go over the rules governing what happens when one or more players go all in. This will span the simplest scenarios to the more complex.

The Core Idea of Poker All-In Rules

You might have seen one of a number of old movies out there in which people are playing poker. Inevitably, there will be a scene where the rich villain makes some huge bet that the poor hero can’t call. This tends to produce some desperate reaction like the hero betting his freedom or his house or something equally dramatic.

But the rules of poker don’t really work that way. In fact, poker all-in rules are specifically designed so that no one can push someone out of a pot simply by betting more than the other player has.

In fact, any reputable game of poker will not allow you to add anymore to the pot than what was in front of you when the hand started. This concept is called ‘table stakes’. This means that if you have $100 in front of you when the hands starts, $100 is the max you can bet under any circumstances.

If a player you’re in a hand with bets $500, you are not obligated to match the entire $500. But then, how do we handle that type of situation where a bet is larger than what you have in front of you?

Heads-Up Situations

Let’s start with the simplest form of an all-in scenario, in which there are only two people in the hand.

heads up action

We further assume that one of the players in the hand has more chips or money than the other. To put it in concrete terms, we’ll say that Mike has $100 and Lindsey has $500.

When Mike and Lindsey are heads up, the total maximum that can go into the pot is $200. In other words, all of Mike’s $100 and $100 of Lindsey’s $500 total stake.

In this situation, Lindsey could make a raise of $300, but it would be meaningless. If she were to do that and Mike called, $200 of Lindsey’s money would be returned to her. Mike can match bets up to $100 in total, and that’s all that goes into the pot.

Usually, players in a heads up situation will be pretty aware of what their opponent has in front of them. And it’s perfectly legal to ask your opponent how many chips or how much money they have.

Understanding what ‘all-in’ means for a given player is a big part of calculating pot odds and deciding whether to call, raise or fold in any hand. This is a huge part of poker strategy.

Multi-Player Hands

Poker all-in rules are fairly easy to understand and calculate when it’s just two players involved. But things get a little more complicated when there are multiple players in the hand. Now, we’ve got a chance for three or more players to each have different amounts of chips or money.

poker all in rules - multi players

You can immediately see that the basic rules run into a problem. What happens when the first player goes all in for more money than the second player has, but less than the third player has? The second player can call, which normally would see the remaining money returned to player one. But we’ve still got a third player who can match the original raise.

When three or more players are potentially going to go all-in, we turn to a concept called the side pot.

Poker All-In Rules: Side Pots

When three or more players are involved, it’s necessary to create side pots to make all ins work. What this means is that the overall pot is broken up into two or more groupings. The first grouping is all the money or chips that the player with the lowest starting stake can win. Then a grouping for the player with the next lowest starting stake can win. And so on, until every player is accounted for.

That may sound a little confusing or murky. So, let’s take a look at a concrete example.

Now, we’ve got four players: Mike with $100, Lindsey with $500, Ed with $700 and Beth with $900.

All these players are involved with the hand. Ed is first to act, and makes a bet of $600. Every player remains in the hand, either calling the bet or going all in. How does the pot look right now?

First of all, we go to the player with the lowest stack, which is Mike. Mike put in his entire $100, and everyone else put in at least $100. So, the first side pot represents what Mike can win.

$100 times 4 = $400.

Next, we take a look at Lindsey. She put in her entire $500, which is $400 more than Mike. Ed and Beth each put in at least $500, and again $400 more than Mike did. This next side pot represents what the maximum that Lindsey can win. The important thing to understand here is that Mike cannot win any of this money, even if he has the best of the four hands.

$400 times 3 (Lindsey, Beth, Ed) = $1,200.

Finally, we have Ed and Beth, each of whom put in $100 more than Lindsey did. The final part of the pot can only be won by Ed or Beth.

$100 times 2 = $200.

To illustrate exactly how these side pots work with a showdown, we’ll say that Ed and Beth decide to check their hands down to the river, and all four players have a showdown.

In the end:

Mike has a king high full house.
Lindsey has a seven high full house.
Ed has three sevens.
Beth has a flush.

Who gets what?

First, we take a look at who has the best hand overall: Mike. In a normal pot without side pots, Mike would be scooping everything. But Mike can only win the contents of the first side pot. Mike wins $400.

Next, we evaluate who has the second best hand: Lindsey. Lindsey can only win the contents of the first two side pots, and in this case the first one was already won by Mike. Lindsey takes the second pot, winning $1,200.

Last, we take a look at Beth and Ed, and see that Beth has the best hand. Beth wins the remaining $200.

Just so it’s all clear, here are two more quick scenarios based on different ending hands:

Mike has a seven high full house.
Lindsey has a king high full house.
Ed has three sevens.
Beth has a flush.

Mike wins nothing. (Even though his hand was better than Ed and Beth’s)
Lindsey wins both pot #1 and pot #2, for $1,600 in total.
Beth wins pot #3, for $200.

Mike has a seven high full house.
Lindsey has three sevens.
Ed has a king high full house.
Beth has a flush.

Ed takes down all three pots, winning $1,800 in total.

The main poker all in rules to keep in mind when creating side pots is that any given player can only win as much money as they put in times the number of players who called that sum of money.

It’s very helpful to know how much money a player started a hand with, for this reason. If you know how much they started with, when they go all in all you need to do is multiply their starting stake by the number of players calling or raising beyond their stake. That’s the size of that player’s side pot.

All-In and Minimum Bets/Blinds

If you understand the above scenarios, you can handle nearly every all in situation you will run across. But there’s one more all in situation that comes up with some frequency: What happens if a player doesn’t have enough in front of them to cover the minimum bet, or the blinds?

First of all, note that the same rule applies as before – No one can be knocked out of a hand for not having enough money or chips. If you have more than nothing in front of you when the hands starts, you can go to a showdown.

But there are some specific poker all in rules that govern the situation, particularly for other players in the hand.

All-In Below the Minimum Bet

Many poker tournaments and poker games will have a minimum bet size. This bet size can change depending on the street you’re on, typically rising on the turn and the river.

What happens if a player goes all in with less money or chips than the minimum bet? In other words, let’s say the minimum bet is $50 and Mike has $30 left, which I go all in with. What happens?

There are two general poker all in rules for this situation. They are called the ‘Half Rule’ and the ‘Full Rule’.

The half rule states that if the all in bet is at least half of the minimum bet, this counts as a bet for the purposes of reopening the betting. If the full rule is in effect, unless the all in amount is at least the minimum bet size, it does not reopen betting.

To illustrate that, let’s take a scenario where Mike has only $80 and the minimum bet is $50. Mike is second to act in the hand. Lindsey was first to act, and bet $50. Ed is last to act, and the action is on Mike. Mike goes all in, calling the $50 bet and raising $30.

Because the full rule is in effect, Mike’s bet isn’t treated as a ‘real’ bet. What this means is that Ed has the option of calling the $80 without allowing Lindsey to re-raise. If Ed calls, Lindsey can only call the additional $30.

If the half rule is in play with this exact scenario, Lindsey would have the option to raise. That’s because Mike’s all-in would be considered a valid raise, giving Lindsey a chance to re-raise when the action returns to her.

All-In Below the Blind Levels

If a player ever ends up in one of the blinds with less than it would take to match that blind, the player is considered automatically all in. A side pot would be created representing the maximum that player could win based on the number of callers.

All-In and Rebuys

We’ve already covered the fact that you can’t force a player to bet more than they have in front of them at the start of the hand. However, some tournaments will allow players to re-buy after going all in and losing their entire stake.

At a re-buy Texas hold’em poker tournament, there will be a certain time frame during which players can re-buy if they lose all their chips. This will usually be toward the beginning of the tournament, and after a certain point you can’t buy in again.

re buy tournament

Keep in mind that you will always need to re-buy immediately if you want to stay in the tournament. You can’t sit out for a while and then jump back in.

Final Thoughts

The poker all-in rules can seem daunting at first, but if you stick to the basic principles you can work your way through most situations. Keep in mind that any player is able to go to a showdown no matter how much extra is bet, but that they can only win money equal to what they put in times the number of callers up to that level.

This will help you in any poker-related situation, whether it be a modest home game or a high stakes Texas hold’em poker tournament at the WSOP!

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Poker All In Rules – FAQs

Q: What does all in mean in poker?

A: When you’re all-in, it means you have risked/bet all of your remaining chips. You can go all-in by pushing your entire stack forward or by saying “all-in” while placing one stack of chips forward.

Q: How does all in work in poker?

A: In NL Texas hold’em, you can go all-in at any time. If someone calls and you win the hand, you have doubled the amount of chips. If someone calls and you lose lose the hand, you have zero chips.

Q: Do you have to flip your cards when you go all in?

A: It depends if it’s a cash game or tournament. In a cash game, you don’t have to flip your cards. In a tournament, all cards must be tabled (flipped) on a all-in hand if someone has called, always wait till the dealer tells you to turn over your cards. (Note: Don’t flip your cards if other players are still playing the hand)

Q: Do you have to show your cards if you call?

A: I think you’re referring to all-in hands. Same as above. In a cash game, you don’t have to show. In a tournament, you have to show, but wait till the dealer tables all hands.

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