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Understanding Side Pots

While playing poker, you must have noticed two separate virtual piles of chips in the middle of the table. You must have also seen an All-in situation where one player clearly wins the hand, but two (or more) players receive chips after the showdown. The explanation is “Side Pots”.

It is the rule of Texas Holdem Poker that allows a player to continue playing in a hand even if he runs out of chips. Although minimum and maximum buy-ins are already known in most poker games, after a player sits in, the size or his stack is not limited. Still, an individual player can only risk what he has in front of him. If the betting and raising of a particular hand means that the player will run out of chips before calling the bet, they are permitted to go All-in with only their remaining chips. The other players are not limited in their betting by this; they may continue to bet and raise as long as the rules of the game allow. In such a situation, a side pot is created for the other players with chips remaining.

All-ins are relatively common in No-Limit Texas Holdem Games. A good player should have the maximum allowable buy-in at all times. Side Pots are also quite common in poker tournaments. If a small stack goes all-in for a small amount of chips, two larger stacks might then build up for a side pot that might be much larger than the main pot. Even if you think the small stack will win the main pot, it may still be advantageous to attack the side pot aggressively.

Let’s take an example to understand how to calculate side pots.

If there are four players in the hand and Player 1 is all-in with his last INR 100, the most he could win is 4 X INR 100. So at the end of the betting round, take INR 400 and put it aside as "Player 1's Pot". He can win that pot, and that pot alone. Then play continues as usual with everyone else competing for both pots. Suppose later in that hand Player 2 is faced with a INR 600 bet, and puts in his last INR 200, going all-in. At the end of the betting round, Player 2 and everyone else puts INR 200 into their pot. Now that pot is "Player 2's Pot". The change goes into a third pot, and play proceeds as usual. After all the cards are dealt and the showdown takes place, the pots are awarded in reverse order. The last two players who stayed in till the end show their cards and the winner takes the third pot. Then Player 2 gets to show his hand against those two, and the winner takes "Player 2's pot" then Player 1 gets to show his hand against all three opponents, and the winner gets "Player 1's pot".

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