When Should You Go All-In? (It Might Surprise You)

When Should You Go All In Preflop?

People often ask me when should you go all in preflop? And this is a tricky question to answer because it depends on a lot of different factors.

For example, what type of poker hand do you have? Is your opponent tight or loose? Is there anybody left to act behind you? And there are many other considerations for both cash games and tournaments.

But in general, you should only go all in preflop with a strong premium hand like AA, KK, QQ or AK when the stack sizes are deep like in a cash game. When the stack sizes are more shallow like in a poker tournament though, then you should go all in preflop with a wider range including many broadway hands like KQ, KJ as well as mid and small pocket pairs like 99, 88, 77 and 66.

This is a pretty simplistic answer though.

But don't worry, because I am going to cover it all for you in this article. Here is your complete guide for knowing when you should go all in preflop in poker.

1. You Should Go All In Preflop With These Hands

Let's talk about what type of poker hands you should go all in preflop with first.

Typically there are only going to be a small amount of poker hands that I will be willing to get all my chips in with, especially in a cash game where the stacks can sometimes exceed 100 big blinds.

These are hands like:
  • AA
  • KK
  • QQ
  • JJ (sometimes)
  • AK
  • AQ (sometimes)

Depending on the situation and player type we are up against though, this range can sometimes be widened a bit.

For example, if you play poker tournaments and you are near the final table with shallow of stacks of like 20 big blinds, then you can't afford to just sit there and wait for one of these monster hands.

And this is because the blinds are always going up in a tournament and so there is a direct pressure on you to survive and not get blinded out.

So in the late stages of a poker tournament, I may be willing to go all in preflop with a few more hands like:
  • TT
  • 99
  • 88
  • 77
  • 66
  • AJ
  • AT
  • KQ

And sometimes some others as well depending on just how shallow the stacks are and my position at the poker table. I think you get the point.

Overall, you should be very selective about which hands you decide to go all in preflop with.

Because you are risking all of your chips when you do. You always want to give yourself the best chance of winning.

However, in some situations like the late stages of a poker tournament, sometimes you simply cannot afford to sit around waiting for a monster hand.

2. Stack Size is Very Important When Going All In Preflop

As I just touched on regarding tournaments, it is really important to consider what the stack sizes are before your decide to go all in preflop or not.

So let's dive a bit deeper into this.

In a cash game, the stack sizes are usually pretty deep. For example, the maximum buy-in in most online cash games is 100 big blinds.

And therefore, since there is a lot of room to work with here, you need a stronger hand in order to go all in preflop.

So in a 6-max Zoom cash game for example I will go all in preflop with:
  • AA, KK, QQ, AK and sometimes JJ or AQ

And in a 9-max Zoom cash game for example I will go all in preflop with:
  • AA, KK, QQ and AK

Although I need to be clear here that the positions at the table are extremely important as well. 

For example, I will very rarely go all in preflop in either 6max or full ring versus an early position open raiser unless I have AA or KK. 

This is a topic that is a bit complex and outside the scope of this article. I talk about this at length in Modern Small Stakes for example though.

If you are playing a cash game against a short stack, then the math will also change though, and so should your range.

Check out this video I made on how to beat short stacks in a poker cash game:

But as mentioned, sometimes in the late stages of a tournament or a sit and go the stacks can be as low as 20 big blinds or even 10 big blinds.

Also, since you are at risk of getting blinded out of the tournament because the blinds increase in tournaments (as opposed to cash games), this will force you to go all in.

You also need to know that your opponents are going to be willing to go all in preflop with a lot of substandard hands at this point as well. So you need to widen your range accordingly.

For Example:

It is folded to you on the button in a tournament and you have 15 big blinds. You should go all in with the following:
  • AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, 99, 88, 77, 66, 55, 44, 33, 22
  • AK, AQ, AJ, AT, A9, A8, A7, A6, A5, A4, A3, A2
  • KQ, KJ, KT, K9
  • QJ, JTs, 98s, 87s

And maybe even a few others depending on who is sitting in the blinds. The "s" stands for suited by the way which means both cards are the same suit (example: both cards are hearts).

In a cash game though, you would never just go all in preflop in this situation. You should instead just raise it up to around 2x or 3x the big blind and just play poker.

This is because in a cash game the stack sizes are often much deeper and also the blinds always stay the same. This means there is no pressure to simply "survive" like in a tournament.

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3. You Should Only Go All In Preflop Against Loose Players

Another hugely important key to deciding if you should go all in preflop or not is what type of player are you up against.

To put it really simple, you should be much more willing to go all in preflop against loose and aggressive players, than against tight disciplined players.

And this is because you want to go all in versus players who have a wide range. Or to put that in plain English, they have bad hands and bluffs along with big hands.

Tight and disciplined players on the other hand tend to only have extremely strong hands when they go all in preflop such as AA, KK, AK or QQ.

So you want to be extremely careful about going all in preflop against these types of players because chances are, they have a huge, huge hand.

And of course we do not win at poker in the long run by frequently getting all of our chips in the middle with a statistical disadvantage.

We of course want to get all of our money in with the best of it. That is, with the hand that is a mathematical favorite before the flop, turn and river are dealt.

See my book The Micro Stakes Playbook for more on how to understand the math in all these situations.

4. When Should You Go All In After the Flop?

Alright, so now that we have covered preflop, let's discuss when to go all in postflop. This is the flop, turn and the river.

Now once again, this will depend heavily on the stack sizes but let's just assume 100 big blind typical cash game stacks here.

It will also depend heavily on the player type you are up against. For example in this hand we are up against a maniac fish, so all the normal "rules" kind of get tossed out the window.

The general answer though (assuming 100 big blind stacks and a normal non-fishy opponent), is you should only go all in on the flop, turn or river if you have a very strong hand such as:
  • Two pair
  • Trips
  • Set
  • Straight
  • Flush

So this means that you should NOT go all in with deeper stacks like this if you only have a one pair hand like top pair.

For Example:

You raise with AK preflop on the button in a 2c/5c Zoom 6-max cash game
A tight regular player calls you from the big blind

The flop comes: KT9

The tight regular player checks

You bet

The tight regular player check raises

What should you do here?

The answer is, you should just call. You should NOT raise all in here.

And the reason why is because this is a very draw heavy board where there are a ton of made hands and even straights that can have us crushed right now such as:
  • KT
  • K9
  • 99
  • TT
  • QJ

All of these hands are in this player's range when he just calls us preflop from the big blind, and all of them are way ahead of us statistically.

Furthermore, there is no flush draw available on this flop. So there is no possible chance that he can have a flush draw here which is one of the few value hands he can have that we are ahead of.

This is why it would be a big mistake to go all in here or even to re-raise.

Because this is one of those spots that I like to call a "lose/lose situation" for us. If we go all in or raise on the flop here we are only going to get called by the hands above that have us crushed.

And he will simply fold all of his bluffs. So as you can see, there is no benefit at all for us in being aggressive in this situation. We lose every time we do this.

We need to be looking for win/wins instead if we want to get ahead in poker.

This is a fundamental concept that I discuss in much more detail by the way in my best selling poker book Crushing the Microstakes.

5. When Do the Pros Go All In Preflop?

Alright, let's talk about when the pros go all in preflop. Because this is where I often find there to be a vast difference.

Poker pros typically play their hands one way and the amateurs play their hands another. As a 10+ year poker pro myself, I will tell you that I go all in preflop a lot less than most amateurs do.

When Should You Go All In Preflop?

And this is something that Daniel Negreanu even discusses in his new advanced poker training program.

Daniel is famous for his "small ball" poker strategy for example.

And basically this is an attempt to control the size of the pot in marginal situations in order to exercise his considerable skill advantage after the flop especially.

And the reason why this is important is because when you just shove all of your chips in the middle preflop with a hand like AK for example you will often just be in a coinflip situation when called.

For example, hands like QQ, JJ, TT and 99 have roughly about 50% equity versus AK when you go all in preflop.

But obviously the pros don't win at poker by flipping coins like this. They win instead by controlling the size of the pot preflop, seeing a flop and using their large skill advantage from there.

This means that they will be able to win more pots after the flop, whether they hit the board or not, because they are able to hand read better.

This allows them to make well timed bluffs and thin value bets. And they are also better able to detect when they are beat compared to most amateurs. So they can simply fold their hand and cut their losses.

The bottom line is that most poker pros do not go all in preflop very often unless they have an extremely strong hand.

They would rather control the size of the pot and outplay their opponents after the flop instead.

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Final Thoughts

So when should you go all in preflop?

Well, it depends a lot on what type of player you are up against, what hand you have and the stack sizes. It is also very different depending on if you play cash games or tournaments.

So it is difficult to create a "one size fits all" answer for this question. Isn't that the beauty of poker though?

In general you should only be looking to get all of your chips in the middle preflop with a very strong premium hand. This means stuff like AA, KK, QQ, AK and sometimes JJ or AQ.

And postflop on the flop, turn and river, you should usually only be willing to go all in if you have a very strong hand as well like trips, a straight, a flush or better.

But in certain situations like the late stages of a poker tournament, you will need to loosen up your ranges both preflop and postflop considerably.

Lastly, most poker pros actually tend to play a lot more defensive with their chips than most amateurs do. This means that they actually do not go all in very often (despite what you might see on TV).

And this is because they realize the value of exercising their large postflop skill advantage by keeping more chips in play. This allows them to bluff more, make thin value bets and get away cheaply when it is clear that they do not have the best hand.

Let me know in the comments below how often you go all in preflop. How about postflop?


Lastly, if you want to know the strategy I use to consistently make $1000+ per month in low stakes poker games, make sure you grab a copy of my free poker cheat sheet.

When Should You Go All In Preflop?


  1. If you are a poker god like Mike Postle (or know your opponents hole cards), you should also go all in with 54 offsuit, when its 3-ways, and both your opponents have AK LOL.

    1. If you are in the postlezone god mode you can shove any 2 cards fot value

    2. Hi, yes the last 20+ comments on my blog articles are all about this guy!

      But I know that Mike Postle has taken over the poker world in the past few days and I have even found myself binge watching all of his god mode cheating.

      It's clearly the #1 poker story of this year. Sad that it has to be another black eye on this beautiful game. But also great how the community rallied together to catch this guy!

      I am sure there will be a Netfix movie about it coming out soon: "Postlegate: The Downfall of a Poker God!"

    3. Its obviously not great for poker with another cheating scandal. And its especially sad, that it was cheating in a streamed cash games, because these have been a great way to promote poker. But now a lot of rec players will surely think twice, before they take a seat in front of the camera and the RFID reader.

      That being said poker will survive this one, as it did the online super user scandals back in the day. As it seem right now, this was just one particular casino with a laissez-faire attitude to security, so its pretty similar to, what happened at Ultimate Poker.