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Suppose you play NLH with deep stacks, first round of betting, no raises yet.

Should you ever go all-in with your first bet?

If someone else goes all-in with their first bet, how should you react?

I'm mainly interested when you play an online (real) cash game, and this happens in an early round of the game, when you don't know your opponents.

  • The answer to all such questions is "it depends". There's far too little information here to give meaningful advice. What are your stack sizes? What is your position? How have the other players acted in the recent past? ...and 100 other things. Yes, there are absolutely situations in which you might go all in as your first bet--too many to name. – Lee Daniel Crocker Oct 8 at 22:06
  • @Lee I wrote that stacks are deep and the opponents are unknown. – domotorp Oct 9 at 8:00
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assuming we know nothing about our opponent and this is the first hand we are playing against them, I would fold almost everything due to a lack of information on my opponent. I would probably call with QQ+ but that is about it. With no information on the opponent it seems like a gamble to call an all-in like this because of the extremely bad pot-odds.

for example, lets assume our opponent open shoves $10 (all-in) in a $0.05/$0.10 game online. we are in the big blind and it folds to us and we have AKs. If they have a random hand, our equity is 67% so it is a good call. Unfortunately, most sane opponents would not open shove 100bb with a random hand. say we are up against a range like AQo+ JJ+ our equity lowers to 52.53%. our equity is even lower if we are up against a super premium range like QQ+ (34.59% equity).

With no information on our opponent, we are essentially guessing that they would shove with non-premium hands. In my opinion, it would be better to fold everything except for QQ+ (with QQ being borderline) and gather some more information on the opponent so that we can make more informed decisions in the future. A fold is very cheap but making a bad call is not.

  • I've added cash game to the question to make it more clear. Also, note that we don't know anything about the opponent. What are the hands with which you would call an opponent's all-in? Only AA or other things as well? – domotorp Oct 8 at 20:52
  • updated my answer for specifically cash games. As a side note I have seen players shove randomly with premium hands trying to get fish at the table to call before. That may be what happened when someone randomly shoved into you but it is hard to say since we dont have information on the opponent. – Clarko Oct 8 at 21:37
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Should you ever go all-in with your first bet? No. You are risking way too much money when you are bluffing and you waste a lot of value with your good hands.

If someone new at the table goes all-in I immediately assume he/she is a very bad player. It is really hard to say what kind of hands he/she is shoving, but in my experience these players can show up with anything and they usually don't have AA or KK. Since it is a cash game you can call fairly wide, but you should be careful if there are players behind you left to act.

Say you play a 6-handed game and unkown UTG shoves. If you are in the big blind closing the action I'd say call with 99+, AJ+. When you are UTG+1 call with JJ+, AK. In the other positions go somewhere in between.

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With deep stacks, absolutely not! Assuming your opponent is playing a somewhat decent strategy, most hands will do better by folding than by going all-in as the amount you lose on average when you are called is much bigger than the blinds you steal when the opponents fold.

Let's take heads-up as a reference. Most people will play a push-or-fold strategy below 7-8BB (it's not the game theoretically optimal, but still a decent approximation). I'd recommend some strong hands with not much postflop playability like A2-A7 to be shoved until about 17BB stacks. Above that, a minraise will be more profitable

  • So when would you call if you opponent starts with an all-in? – domotorp Oct 9 at 8:02
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    With 25BB stacks, If I am heads-up and it's the first hand I ever play with that opponent, I'll probably go for A9+, 88+. With deeper stacks, I'd probably remove some of the weaker hands since it's quite unlikely my opponent is pushing weak aces that deep – David Oct 9 at 8:38

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