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All-in is double or nothin'

19 January 2004

Dear Mark,
I need further clarification on how "all-in" works in Texas Hold'em. This happened on television the other night while I was watching a poker tournament: Player "A" with a massive amount of chips bet a substantial amount of money, and player "B," with far fewer chips, consequently went all-in. Do I understand that if player B had won he would only have received the portion of the pot that he could cover? If so what happens to the rest of the pot? Maribeth K.

To go "all-in," Maribeth, is to bet all the money you personally have on the table. A player who is all-in cannot be forced out of the pot, but can win only that portion of the pot that he or she is eligible for.
In your example, player B did not have enough table stakes to cover future raises, so he went all-in. He was simply contesting that portion of the pot that his money would cover.
Had other players still been active in the hand, wagers could still have been made, but those bets would then comprise a side pot. At the end of the hand, the side pot is decided first, then the main pot. Player B would not be eligible to win the side pot since he had no money invested in it, and it would therefore be distributed among the surviving players as though there had been no Player B.

Dear Mark,
Where I play, they just introduced single-deck blackjack. As a trade-off, you do not get a full payoff for a blackjack. The dealer said you make up for it with the single deck. Was he right? Jim B.

The dealer dealt you erroneous information, a bad deal, one might say. On these single-deck games, blackjacks are paid at 6 to 5 odds ($6 for $5 bet) instead of the usual 3 to 2 odds ($7.50 for $5 wagered). This one rule change, making for a 12-to-10 payoff in place of the customary 15-to-10, raises the casino edge around 1.5%. Two thumbs down!

Dear Mark,
I was playing Texas Hold'em with my wife and got a pair of kings. Nothing that followed, the flop, fourth or fifth street, helped either of us. As this was the final hand of the evening, we decided to bet dinner at our favorite restaurant on the outcome. Wouldn't you know it, she had aces. What were the odds of her having aces? Clay B.

You'd think, Clay, with a starting hand of kings, dinner would be on your spouse, but against your wife's pocket rockets (aces), you only had a 17.82% chance of winning.
As to the odds of your wife having aces, there are 1,326 two-card combinations that can be made from a 52 card deck, with six combinations for each pocket pair. 1,326 divided by 6 equals 221, therefore, the odds of your wife being dealt pocket aces, or any other pocket pair (your Cowboys for that matter), are 220 to 1. In some happy marriages, the wife always wins on the last hand.

Dear Mark,
What are your thoughts on machines that constantly shuffle cards? Jay P.

No fan here, Jay. My hang-up is that continuous shuffle machines have a negative effect on the typical blackjack player, primarily because the casino gets 20% more hands dealt per hour by using them. With more hands per hour, the player's hourly loss increases, since the casino already holds an edge over the average player.

Gambling quote of the week: "How long does it take to learn poker, Dad?" "All your life, Son."-Michael Pertwee

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Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.