Poker: rules for side pots and betting

Side Pot

Poker gives each player the option to only bet what’s in front of them at the table. This means you can only bet the money or chips you had when the hand started. What’s on the table is the only money you can put “all in” – even if it doesn’t match up exactly with the amount your opponent has.

A side pot is created when there are more than two players left in the hand, and one player is all-in while the others continue betting. These additional bets are ‘on the side’, between the remaining players. A player who is all-in and has no more chips is not eligible to win any of these 'side bets’ since they're not risking an equal number of chips.

If there are multiple all-in players, it might create multiple side pots.

Split Pot and Kickers

A kicker is a card or set of cards in a poker hand, which are not part of the hand rank. The kicker is used to break ties between poker hands with the same value.

For example, the hand KK85J is ranked as a pair of Kings. The 8, 5, and J are kickers. If another player has KK85A, they'll win the hand because their kicker A outranks the kicker J.

Split pot is when players have the same hands and kickers (all 5 cards are identical in rank). In that case, all the chips they win, whether in a single pot or more pots, are divided equally between them.

Pot limit betting

In a Pot Limit game, no player can raise more than the size of the total pot, which includes:

  1. Chips collected from previous betting rounds.
  2. Previous action in the current betting round.
  3. The amount you would have to put in to call.

Here is an example. We have $10 in the pot on the flop, and your opponent bets $5.

  1. Chips collected from previous betting rounds = $10
  2. Previous action in the current betting round = $5
  3. The amount you would have to put in to call = $5

After all the calculations, we get $20, which is the amount you can raise. This means you can put $25 in total.

Blinds in Heads-Up play

The dealer posts the small blind, and the other player posts the big blind for any tournaments and cash games where players are Heads-Up. The dealer will then be first to act on pre-flop and second to act in all further betting rounds.

Showing Hand of the Last aggressor

Whenever there’s no action on the river, the showdown starts to the left of the button and proceeds clockwise.

When there's action on the river, the last “aggressor” hand is revealed first.

For example, if John bets and Mary calls, there are two possibilities:

  1. John has the winning hand, his cards are shown and Mary can either show or muck. If there are other players involved, the showdown proceeds clockwise and the remaining players can either show or muck their cards.
  2. Mary has the winning hand. Here, John still has to show his hand first, but Mary’s hand is shown without asking. The reason for this is our software will never allow a winning hand to be mucked. Then, the showdown proceeds clockwise, starting from the winning hand.
No-Limit cannot re-raise small all-in Bet

In No-Limit games, an all-in raise for less than the current bet (or raise) doesn’t count as a raise (or re-raise) and is only action. It can be called but doesn’t re-open the action. Since a small all-in is not officially considered a raise, further action from the player would essentially mean raising himself.

The following rule is commonly accepted in most casinos:

"All raises must be equal to or greater than the size of the previous bet or raise on that betting round, except for an all-in wager.

Example: Player A bets 100 and player B raises to 200. Player C wishing to raise must raise at least 100 more, making the total bet at least 300. A player who has already acted and is not facing a full-size wager may not subsequently raise an all-in bet that is less than the minimum bet or less than the full size of the last bet or raise. (The half-the-size rule for reopening the betting is for limit poker only.)"

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