The All-In bet is one of the most powerful weapons in your no-limit arsenal. It is a Howitzer if you use it correctly. It can also be your Waterloo or your Little Big Horn if you use it incorrectly.
Perfect example was this past Saturday night. One player...let's call her "my wife"...was second in chips with 4 people left. She's 1st to act, and annouces "all in". Button folds, I fold my small blind....big blind (and short stack)....calls. My wife turns over J-J, big blind turns over A-A.
Let's stop here: What if the A-A belonged to the button, who was by far the big stack at the table right then? Do you see the delima of announcing all in in this position? She was #2 in chips, and the big stack was still to play. A simple raise, 4 times the big blind, would have accomplished the same thing without risking all her chips.
Well, it turns out that those things didn't matter, because a Jack hit the flop and she took out the small stack and put us both in the money. But again, the same results would have been gained with a normal raise, and without risking EVERYTHING. She took a chance on the big stack calling her, and the short stack folding. Big stack wins, and the second in chips is now the bubble, and the short stack squeaks into the money. That's the risk you take in using the All-In when you don't have to.
LESSON: KNOW HOW MANY CHIPS THE OTHER PLAYERS HAVE!
This came into play a few hands later. I was the shortest stack fo the three, and on the big blind. The wife shoves all in again from the button, and the big stack calls from the small blind. I have A-10 in my hand.....but I figure.....maybe I can slide into second. Wife turns over K-Q of hearts, and the small blind turns over a pair of 7's. Five cards later, and the wife is collecting third place money, and I move up to second without having to do anything other than fold. Had I called, my 10 would have hit and given me the win, and a monster chip stack. But that's hindsight.
Here's a better way for her to have played it. She raises 3-4 times the big blind. Pocket 7's calls, and with A-10, I call. Flop comes down 10-4-2.....small blind checks OR puts in a continuation bet, small blind calls or folds his 7's, I call or raise, and the game continues.
I really don't think the small blind would shove all in with a raise from my wife in that position. I believe he would have just flat called with 7's. If he shoves all in, then I might have called, because the wife wasn't all in at the time.
So you see two different ways above that the game would have changed if she hadn't have used the All-In so liberally.
Instead of using the All-In all the time....try actually playing poker. You might be shocked at the difference in the results.
But most of all, don't risk everything when you don't have to. Her all in with at BEST a 50/50 chance of winning cost her $110 (the difference between 2nd and 3rd place). Luckily her husband was there to collect it, but it could have gone to a different family if I hadn't still been in the game.