Disambiguation: This page is about the strategical concept referred to as "all-in". To see information about the last mission of the Wings of Liberty campaign click here.
The term all-in has its roots in Poker. A player who puts all of their money/chips into the pot on a single hand is going "all-in". Similarly in StarCraft, a player is considered all-in when he executes a strategy, usually a large attack that commits all their units, that has no planned follow-up. If the strategy fails he will typically tap out, concede defeat and the game will end.
This term is relative to the state of the game being played. A player will often go all-in if he feels like he is has no other options but to attempt to end the game quickly from his current position. This indicates a feeling of being behind in an unrecoverable way.
All-in strategies generally have the aim of overwhelming an opponent who has gone for a standard strategy. By cutting economics and focusing entirely on unit production for a sustained attack, players can have vastly superior armies at points not previously attainable. Due to the loss in economy players will live or die based on whether the attack is successful or not. What is all-in for a player depends somewhat on the player's skill on both sides of the fight. A weaker player may not be able to capitalise on what would be considered an all-in attack and therefore the attack would be safer.
Many viewers are quick to call all-in in cases that aren't necessarily all-ins. Being all-in is context reliant and cannot usually be pin-pointed without sufficient information. For example:
- If a Zerg player begins producing Roaches off one base this suggests an all-in as they aren't going for an economic opening, but the zerg player may choose to play passively and work towards a later economy.
- A Terran player could bring a portion of his SCVs with an early game attack. If the attack fails, the Terran may still be in a survivable position due to usage of MULEs or a wall-in.
- A 4 Gate is an all-in, because it cuts probes at 20 or 21. However, if probes are built constantly and an expansion is built at a reasonable time, this strategy puts more pressure on an opponent than 1Gate-FE, but you have to deal damage or you will be behind in tech and worker count. It might be called a "Semi-All-In", but like #2 the Protoss might be in a survivable position after the attack.
One base, or low-econ strategies are often incorrectly referred to as all-in. If a one-basing player cuts economic growth to execute his strategy, and his opponent cuts military production to execute their strategy, both players are vying for a different type of advantage. Each has the potential to lose the game, but neither is necessarily an all-in.
Since the Meta-Game changed from 1Base-Play to strategies with a fast expansion, some people call a "3 Gate Robo" an all-in. 1Base-Play cannot produce as much workers as a player with two bases, but an early attack may deal damage (e.g. kill workers).
Negative Connotation & Cheese
Because the term is used so loosely, and has become so common, many players will simply use the term to classify an offensive strategy that they were unprepared to defend and hence lost the game to. Example: "Oh, yeah, I lost. He roach all-in'd me," or "he did the raven banshee all-in." Players will crutch their losses by referring to their opponent's strategy as all-in, oftentimes incorrectly, and has thus the term has begun to develop a negative connotation similar to the term Cheese.