How do you play at a table where everybody always goes all in?

Playing online texas hold em, sometimes I sit at a table where it seems like almost every hand, everyone goes all in right from the beginning. If I don't have that kind of risk appetite, how should I play at that table? Do I just fold every hand until I get a pair of aces?

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you simply don't – RayofCommand Aug 6 '14 at 7:35
where do you play? I've never played at a table (Internet or live) where everybody goes all in... – segfault Sep 5 '14 at 20:17

Longer answer: The more hands the average player on a table plays, the less hands you should play (except you play way better than your opponents and can even outplay them with worse hands). You can widen your calling range depending on your willingness to take risks. For example you can also call with hands like AT+ or KQ, since those hands are favorite against the wide ranges of you opponents, so you will make money in the long run. But widening your calling-range also leads to higher variance, since you will lose all ins more frequently.

It also depends on certain other facts, such as

• the number of players that sit on your table (More players means playing less hands because there are more good hands around)
• how many big blinds the average stack is (The bigger the blinds the more hands your should play because it becomes more expensive to wait for good hands)
• do the blinds raise? If yes, how fast? (The faster the blinds raise, the more hands you should play as well)

If you have 40 bigs or more, you should be comfortable with waiting for strong hands and hope that they hold. But don't freak out if they crack your aces with J4o after a long wait, this happens from time to time ;) you'll make the money in the longrun. Good luck

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Thanks, but what's a J4o ? When you say 40 bigs or more, does that mean the ratio of the average bet to the minimum bet? – CaptainCodeman Jul 29 '14 at 17:23
J4o is the short form of Jack and 4 in a different suit (offsuited), which is an example of a bad hand. But those bad hands sometimes also win against premium hands. 40 bigs just means 40 times the big blind. – Martin Sheen Jul 29 '14 at 17:30
Thanks for the explanation! – CaptainCodeman Jul 30 '14 at 15:17

It depends on the context... If you are playing a freeroll online for example, obviously the (let's say) 20 first hands there will be a lot of all-in, because people simply don't want to waste their time winning 2€ for 4 hours of tournament. So if you are the kind of people that want to play a regular tournament, just wait for this frenzy to end by folding everything that is not AA, KK, QQ. And afterwards, start playing as you usually play!

But if this happens at the end of a tournament, then everything depends on your stack. I recommend you to read THIS article on this topic.

Finally, the worst scenario for you is that you are in a tournament with a certain buy-in. In this case, the probability that players go all-in right in the beginning decrease exponentially with the amount of the buy-in, and usually, players become more and more regular. But it can happens that some people touch AA in their first hand in a 100\$ buy-in MTT, and so they will limp it. That's why I always recommend you to fold everything under QQ for the first 20 hands in an MTT, so that you enter in your game and judge your opponents in a really calm way. :)

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Sorry but I'm a newbie.. what's MTT? – CaptainCodeman Jul 29 '14 at 16:39
It's ok :) MTT is Multi-Table Tournament – Flugueubluck Jul 30 '14 at 6:32

Push along with premium hands. If you know you will be ahead, just push it in. I would do this all day if I could. This is simple math. Even if you lose 10 times in a row, in the long run, it will be EV+. EV+ basically means you would earn money out of it :).

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What does EV+ mean? – CaptainCodeman Jul 30 '14 at 14:51
It means positive Expected Value. So basically when you have EV+, it would be a good play. Let's say someone bets 100 in a 200 pot. These odds would be 1/4 for you to call. If you have more than 25% chance to win at that point, you will make an EV+ call. – Valentin Grégoire Jul 30 '14 at 14:53
Cool, thanks :) – CaptainCodeman Jul 30 '14 at 15:30

According to Sklansky, in this situation, you should play only with AA, KK, QQ, and AK suited.

I might add a couple more; AK off, and AQ suited. The reason is (in limit), AA and KK only cover the "blinds." Your (marginal) wins (under Sklansky) come from AK suited and QQ. Hence, I would extend the hands to AK off, and AQ suited, whose expectation is nearly as high as the first two.

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In my opinion, the accepted answer is not correct. The question is what a player should do if "almost every hand, everyone goes all in right from the beginning", a very hypothetical situation that almost never happens in reality. The answer depends on whether it's a cash game or a tournament.

In a cash game, following the strategy described will be profitable, but the player won't be capturing all the profits. To capture all profits (assuming no rake), the player should shove when the hole cards are better than 50% of all possible combinations, and fold otherwise. Player should play more tightly if there's rake. This situation is very simple and can easily be simulated.

In a tournament, the playing criteria needs to be tightened if there's no re-buy and the player is not deep stacked. But only playing QQ+ will leave a lot of money on the table.

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That's true actually, good point. (Although I was slightly exaggerating when I said "every hand".) – CaptainCodeman Sep 13 '14 at 11:18