When playing poker, it’s difficult not to notice two separate piles of chips that sometimes appear in the middle of the table. This can be confusing, especially if you’re just starting to learn the game.
This is because, even in all-in situations in which one player has the best hand, two or more players at the table can receive chips after the hand is finished.
The reason for this is simple and goes by the name side pot. If you don’t know what a poker side pot is or how it works in Texas Hold’em (and poker in general), make sure to read this page.
We’ll go through everything you need to know about side pot poker rules and help you master the basics through some simple examples of this game mechanic.
Side Pot Rules
As the name gives it away, a side pot sits on the main pot’s side, and it is separate from it. The side pot is created if one player goes all-in and the others at the table continue betting.
The all-in player is only in play for the main pot, while the players who still have chips in their stack are playing for the side pot, in addition to the main pot.
To understand side pot rules, you first need to know how all-in rules work.
With just two players in a hand, this is simple to calculate. Things can get more complicated if there are three or more players in the pot.
As they likely won’t have the same stack, side pots are necessary to keep the game in check and make it easier to keep track of how much each player has bet and, in line with that, how much the player can potentially win.
The main takeaway from all of this is that you only match each opponent’s bet in the amount you have left in your stack. You can’t be eligible to win anything more than that, no matter how strong your poker hand is compared to that of your opponent.
This is pretty straightforward, but let’s look at it through concrete examples to make it even easier to understand.
How to Calculate a Poker Side Pot?
With the things we’ve already covered in mind, you can quickly calculate side pots in every poker game you play.
For instance, let’s say that there are three players left in the pot, including yourself. But, each player has a different stack. For example:
- Player A has $100
- Player B has $150
- You have $200
With each player having a different stack, to begin with, determining the pot sizes if all of them go all in is a bit more complicated but certainly not impossible.
In an all-in situation, the main pot would total $300. This is because Player A can put in the maximum of $100, so you and the other player can match up only to this amount. The $300 pot is also the amount Player A can win if he has the best hand.
The remaining $50 worth of poker chips Player B has matched up with your bet will go to the side pot. In this case, your all-in bet requires you to put only an additional $50, and the remaining $50 is returned to you.
This side pot, which is now valued at $100, is only available to you and Player B. In addition to the side pot, you and Player B will also be in play for the $300 main pot.
Let’s now take it a step further by taking a closer look at different scenarios at showdown.
If Player A has the best hand, he will win the entire $300 main pot, and only this amount. You and Player B compare your hands to determine who wins the $100 available in the side pot.
If you or Player B have the best hand at showdown, the one with the winning hand will take both the $300 main pot and the $100 side pot in this example.
This is a formula that applies across the board for every poker side pot. So, no matter if there are three, four, five, or more players at the table, you’ll always calculate the side pot value and determine how much each player can win using the methods we’ve thoroughly explained through the example above.
Some players use the side pot mechanic as a part of their strategy to enhance their winnings. For instance, if Player A goes all-in and you and Player B call the bet, you can try to bluff into the side pot to get Player B out of the hand.
This can help increase your chances and eliminate the opponent from the main pot by forcing them to fold. However, this is a dangerous strategy if you don’t have good winning odds, as you’ll still have to face Player A in the showdown for the main pot.
Can You Have Multiple Side Pots?
Yes, there’s no limit on how many side pots there can be, as long as there are active players who are willing to bet and can back it up with their stack. There is nothing in Texas Hold’em side pot rules limiting the number of side pots in a hand.
That said, while there can potentially be multiple side pots created during every hand, this is not a very common occurrence. One to two side pots are relatively common to see, but anything more than that seldom happens.
Side Pots in Poker – A Brief Summary
Side pots are not complicated to understand but are something you should know about when playing poker. Figuring out side pot poker rules is crucial if you want to increase your chances of winning in the long run.
But don’t worry about it too much, as you’ll be able to pick up all of the basics we’ve talked about as soon as you start playing the game.
The most important thing to remember from this page is that you shouldn’t be intimidated by this mechanic. It’s just another aspect of the game that happens from time to time, and as long as you have a basic understanding of it, you’ll be just fine.
And, if you play online poker, you don’t have to worry about any of this, as it’s all calculated for you automatically!