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How to Determine Whether or Not to Call an All-in Bet

A type of question that continually arises on poker forums deals with whether or not it is advisable to call an all-in bet.  Often the question will be something like this:

I was dealt XX and raised; someone then moved all-in on me; should I have called or folded?

In this post, I am going to show you how to make that determination.

As an example to give us actual numbers to work with, I am going to use a hand I played in a tournament about a year ago.  I will then go through a step by step process of determining whether or not to call an all-in.

Here’s the example hand:

Full Tilt Poker Game #25596028319: $30,000 Guarantee (195996200), Table 39 – 600/1200 Ante 150 – No Limit Hold’em – 02:51:28 ET – 2010/11/16
Seat 1: IBetANickel (41,940)
Seat 2: coinflip07 (23,788)
Seat 3: chardrian (77,564)
Seat 4: seiwertsystem (28,285)
Seat 5: Beta Leonis (44,113)
Seat 6: The_Panooch (51,390)
IBetANickel antes 150
coinflip07 antes 150
chardrian antes 150
seiwertsystem antes 150
Beta Leonis antes 150
The_Panooch antes 150
seiwertsystem posts the small blind of 600
Beta Leonis posts the big blind of 1,200
The button is in seat #3
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to chardrian [Ad 9h]
The_Panooch folds
IBetANickel folds
coinflip07 folds
chardrian raises to 3,600
seiwertsystem raises to 28,135, and is all in
Beta Leonis folds
chardrian has 15 seconds left to act
chardrian ??

Step 1 – Determine Your Pot Odds (or the equity you need to make the call)

I had raised on the button  with A9o, and an opponent with just under 25 BBs shoved over the top of me.  To determine your pot odds, you take the amount you need to call and divide it by the current pot PLUS the amount you need to call.

(Amount you need to call)/(Current Total Pot)+(Amount you need to call) = Pot odds

Using my hand as an example, after I made my raise and seiwert shoved the pot had 33,835 chips (the antes, blinds, my raise, and his shove).  I had to call 24,535 more chips if I wanted to play the pot.  So…


What this means is that I needed 42% equity to breakeven on this hand in the long run.  If my hand had more than 42% equity against my opponent’s range, then I should call.  If it had less, I should fold.

Step 2 – Use PokerStove to Determine my Hand’s Equity

At this point we need to make an educated guess as to what range of cards my opponent could have.  The more information you have on your opponent, the better you can define his or her range.  In this case, the only information I have comes from stack sizes and positions.  My opponent had just under 25 Bbs and shoved over the top of my button raise which was likely perceived to be pretty wide.  Since I don’t have that much information, I am going to guesstimate that my opponent would have done this with any pair and any broadway.

So I go to PokerStove and punch in the range versus my A9o and am told that my hand has 43.3% equity versus a range of any pair and any broadway.  Since my hand has more equity than the 42% that I need to make the call, I should have called (if that range was correct).

The other thing we can use PokerStove to do is determine the approximate range against which we would break even against.  If we think our opponent’s range was wider than that range, we call; if we think our opponent’s range was tighter, we fold.

In my example, A9o has 42.4% equity versus pokerstove’s top 15% of hands, which is { 77+, A7s+, K9s+, QTs+, JTs, ATo+, KTo+, QJo }.

So if I thought my opponent was wider than that range, I should have called with my A9o.  If I thought his range was tighter than that, I should have folded.

Obviously we can’t be making these kinds of number calculations while we are playing, but analyzing your play after sessions is a great way to improve.  The more you play, and the more you use poker software and the more analyses you make, the better you will get at determining your opponents’ ranges and determining whether or not you should be making all-in calls.

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