Understanding Poker Side Pots

Side pots can be a little tricky to understand, but once you get the hang of it, you can easily see how two pots are created in one hand.

How a Side Pot is Created

When a player wants to stay in the hand but their chips don't add up to the current bet, they put all the chips in the main pot and the balance begins a side pot. The amount of money lacking in the player's bet is removed from the main pot and a side pot is started. Now there is a main pot and a side pot in the same hand. Play will continue with all additional bets going into the side pot once the player who needed to "borrow" the rest of the bet has been matched.

Calling and Pot Awards

If a players "calls", they put half the current bet in the main pot and half in the side pot. The player who was short on chips but still wanted to bet, can't get more out of each player at the table than they put in if a win occurs. Also, this player is out of chips, so there is no more playing for him until the cards are revealed. This player is not eligible to win the side pot, only the main pot. Should this player's cards be better than anyone else at the table, he can take his winnings from the main pot.

The side pot is a tricky concept when a player chooses to go all in and is short of money, or someone else at the table immediately raises, as a side pot would also be created in this case. More than one side pot can develop in a single hand.

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