Today we’re going to learn about what has to be one of the most misunderstood no-limit hold-em (NLHE) poker rules: what happens when someone goes all-in for an amount that is more than the current bet, but is not enough to be a full legal raise.
Example 1: Blinds are 100/200. UTG goes all-in for 325. UTG+1 wants to raise. What is the minimum UTG can bet (as a raise)?
The answer, except possibly in some European jurisdictions, is: 525.
You don’t have to take my word for it, you can get an answer from Matt Savage – one of the founders of the TDA (Tournament Directors Association) and a well-known WPT event runner (e.g., Bay101 Shooting Star). Here’s his answer:
@RobertLipkin: 100-200 blinds NL utg is allin for 325. folds to cutoff n he makes it 425. Is this a valid raise? Or must it be 525?<~525
Ok so how does this work?
In NLHE a legal raise must be equal to or greater than the previous RAISE amount (except in some European card rooms, more about this later). And, of course, it must be at least equal to the big blind amount. So at blinds 100/200 if UTG makes it 450, that is a raise of 250. The next legal raise would be 250 more than the current bet. In that case the next legal raise would be 450+250 = 700.
In our all-in example the UTG all-in is not a legal raise because it is only 125. The minimum raise amount in that spot is 200 – the big blind. An all-in is the only time such an incomplete-raise is legal in NLHE. The best way to understand how this incomplete raise works is to treat it as “a call, plus extra”. The all-in of 325 in this case is a call of the 200 big blind, plus 125 “extra”. That extra amount has no effect on game-play, except that it must be included (added into) all subsequent bets. So to arrive at the correct answer first ignore the extra, then compute the legal raise amount, then add the “extra” on to that.
Back to our example: Blinds 100/200, UTG goes all-in for 325. The “call plus extra” rule tells us that this is a call of 200 plus 125 extra. We can compute the next legal raise by pretending the all-in player simply called 200 and then figuring out the next legal minimum raise – which would be a raise of 200 to a total of 400 – and then adding the extra back in. 400 + 125 = 525. That is the next legal minimum raise.
This “call plus extra” rule also helps you understand whether or not betting is reopened by an incomplete all-in raise. Here’s another example. Blinds 100/200. UTG makes it 500. That is a raise of 300. UTG+1 goes all-in for 750, which of course is only 250 more than the 500. Button calls 750. Folds back to UTG. Can UTG raise?
Use the “call plus extra” rule. The UTG+1 all-in of 750 is a call of the 500 bet with 250 extra. It’s not a legal raise because the minimum raise at that point would have been 300 over the 500 (800 total).
Therefore when it gets back to UTG, UTG is NOT facing a raise. All that has happened by the “call plus extra” rule is two calls: UTG+1 called and the button called. And there is the 250 “extra” which is ignored as far as the game-play rules but of course must always be added into the final bets. Since no one has raised UTG’s original bet, UTG cannot reraise at this point. All he can do is call the extra 250 or fold.
Anytime you are confused by an incomplete partial-raise all-in, figure out what the answer would be if the all-in player had only called. That will give you the correct answer as to how the game play rules work (i.e., can other players raise), and don’t forget to add the “extra” back in after you arrive at your “what if he just called” answer.
Note of course that anyone after UTG+1 can still raise (except for UTG). The incomplete all-in raise certainly does not take away any subsequent player’s innate right to raise. If UTG+1 simply called 500, certainly the button could raise. When UTG+1 goes all-in for 750 (still just a “call, plus 250 extra”) this doesn’t somehow magically cap the button’s inherent options (sometimes you’ll find rooms where they make this terrible mistake too). The button can still raise at that point. Homework: compute what the button’s minimum raise would be at that point. Use the “call plus extra” rule to handle the UTG+1 bet of 750.
If you remember nothing else from this note, just remember: “call plus extra” and you’ll always get the right answer.
One place that players and sometimes tournament directors get confused is the 50% rule. You’ll hear this a lot: “UTG can raise (after the 750 all in) because the incomplete raise (250) is more than half of a legal raise” (300, or half being 150). This is wrong. This is always, unconditionally, wrong. There is no “half the raise” rule in NLHE except for when people make mistakes. What does that mean? Here’s an example.
Blinds 100/200. UTG throws out three 100 chips without saying anything, attempting to raise to 300 (in this example UTG is not all-in). Perhaps the blinds just went up and UTG forgot, and so his raise to 300 is illegal now. This is the only type of situation where the 50% rule applies. UTG’s illegal bet is 50% of a legal raise. It’s 100 more than the BB, but it needed to be at least 200 more. In this case, UTG will be forced to make a minimum raise – to 400 – because his illegal action is 50% of a legal raise.
That 50% rule only applies in this illegal raise situation. It’s how we decide what you will be forced to do (call or raise) when you make an in-between illegal action. The 50% rule has no bearing on legal all-in bets.
Loose ends: the answer to the homework question is 1050. UTG made it 500, which is a raise of 300. Without the incomplete all-in raise to 750, the next legal raise would be 800 (another 300 over the 500). But we have that pesky all-in of 750, which is a call of 500 plus 250 “extra”. So for subsequent players the next legal raise has to include that extra amount. Therefore the next legal raise is 1050: 800 plus the 250 extra.
Finally Europe. I’m told that in France (I think; I’m not sure specifically where this applies) they use different rules entirely for minimum bet sizes, forcing all bets to be at least double the previous bet. So, blinds 100/200, UTG makes it 500. The next player in those type of card rooms has to make it at least 1000 (vs 800 everywhere else on the planet). I have no idea how those card rooms treat the incomplete all-in raise situation. But any place in the US that plays by “standard” rules (and especially TDA rules) will operate as described in this note. Or should operate that way, if the Floor knows the actual rules (which, sadly, isn’t always the case).