Typically, when you are playing smaller, live no limit games buy-ins are capped or are for a fixed amount. In southern California you can run into some really ridiculous structures sometimes restricting your buy-in to only forty big blinds. But even in more common one hundred big blind cap games, because live players tend to raise larger preflop and multiway action is common, you often will get into tough spots because the pots are inflated. Smaller stacked no limit is supposed to be easier than deeper stack play, right? Well, not in these all-in or fold situations.
The problem arises when you have less than two pot size bets left and are value betting a hand where your opponent is likely to be on a draw. Sometimes if you do not bet big enough on the flop or turn you actually price your opponent in giving them the correct implied odds because you will always pay off a small river bet. Let us take a look at an example. Say in a $2-$5 game everyone has $300 stacks. We raise over three limpers with A♠ K♦ to $30 and two people call. The flop comes out K♣ 9♣ 6♠. Everyone checks to us and we bet $70. One person calls. The pot is now $235 and we have $200 left. The turn is the 2♠ and our opponent checks to us. What is our proper sizing?
This situation is extremely difficult because we always want to get value from worse (draws and weaker kings) but the pot size is awkward. What if we bet now, say $125? If our opponent once again check calls the pot will now be $485 and we will only have $75 left in our stacks. If he now shoves when a third club comes are we going to fold a $560 pot for $75? Probably not. In fact when we do not fold we actually give our opponent a great price on a draw because he knows we will pay off on the river. I make big calls on draws with one card to come for exactly this reason. Say our opponent had A♣ J♣. If we bet that smaller amount on the turn he is calling $125 to win $360 immediately in the pot but also will be guaranteed to get the rest of our stack. So he is actually calling $125 to win $435. If he thinks that his ace may be good and that you are never going to fold when he hits he can call your bet.
So how can we combat this? Unfortunately in these spots it is better for us just to move all-in—even if it may be over a pot size bet—if we are never going to fold to a river bet. We need to deny our opponents the extra money that he can make from our stack on the river. We also want to gain full value from his draw on the turn. It is really a disastrous scenario if we allow him to call a smaller amount on an earlier street when he would have called an all-in. By not betting all-in he saves his last bit of money and if he hits we pay him off. You can see why we do not want to get into this situation.