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While playing online, in a lot of situations side pots are built. This happens if one or more players goes all-in but I can't figure out the rules on which these side pots are built.

The only thing I could figure out is this: 3 players, one of them goes all-in, the other 2 both call. The pot is just a main pot. If those other 2 players continue betting on one of the following streets, a side pot is built using only those chips (a.k.a. the main pot remains the same).

  • What percentage from each player's stack goes into which side pot? Why?
  • What if there are x players going all-in ? How many side pots will there be? Is it x - 1?
  • What rules apply that say which player wins which pot? What if 2 of those players have identical hands? What if 2 of those players have similar but not identical hands (one has 2 pair: Aces and Sixes, the other has also 2 pair: Queens and Sixes)?
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Can you clarify what you mean with your first bullet about rules/percentages? –  Jeffrey Blake Feb 16 '12 at 14:16
    
Aces and Sixes will always beat Queens and sixes. –  Eduardo Sep 17 '12 at 20:47
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5 Answers 5

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Side pots develop from the fact that players can only win a maximum of the amount that they wagered from each of the players who call them. Thus any wagers above that amount are placed in a separate pot which is competed for by everyone except for the all-in player.

As to your specific questions:

  1. The amounts in the main pot or in the sidepot are not based on percentages, but amounts of the wager and of the chips available for the player. For each player who calls, the main pot will contain the amount of the smallest-stacked all-in player. If there is only one sidepot, it will contain the rest. If there are multiple sidepots, they are split according to amounts each player has available. See the examples in 2. for clarification...
  2. The only way for x players to be all-in is for there to be x+1 players in the hand, or for at least two of them to have exactly the same amount of chips. Thus there will be a maximum of x-1 side pots (if all players each have a different amount of chips), in addition to the main pot. If any players have the same amount of chips, then there will be one less side pot for each time this occurs.

    • For example: Player A with $100 goes all-in and the following players call - B with $75, C with $50, D with $25, and E with $125. Players A through D are all-in and there are a total of 3 side pots and the main pot:
    • The mainpot contains $125 ($25 from each player) and all players can win this money.
    • Sidepot #1 contains $100 ($25 each from players A, B, C, and E) and only players A, B, C, and E can win this. If someone wins between these 4 but does not beat player D, then D will get the main pot and the winner here will get this $100.
    • Sidepot #2 contains $75 ($25 each from players A, B, and E) and only players A, B, and E can win this. As above, winning this is separate from the other pots.
    • Sidepot #3 contains $50 ($25 each from players A and E) and only players A and E can win this. Winning is separate from other pots.
    • If we adjust things and say that players B, C, and D all have $75, then the mainpot has $375 ($75 from all five players) and there is only one sidepot, between A and E for $50.
  3. Rules for winning follow standard rules for determining the winner of a hand. The difference is that someone can win a sidepot while losing the mainpot. If players in competition for a sidepot have the same hand then they will split the sidepot evenly.
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Thank you for all of these clarifications. I have a much better understanding now about this subject (it's been a mistery for some time :D ). Regarding my first bullet there, you already answered it. What I meant was something like "What percentage from each player's stack goes into which side pot ?". I edited my question. –  Radu Murzea Feb 16 '12 at 14:38
    
The player E is left with $25. Is this amount returned to him as no one can win it? In other words, player E stays in game with $25 even if loses the hand, right? –  Libor Sep 1 '13 at 3:59
    
When player E calls, he calls a bet of $100. He still has $25 in his stack. It is not returned to him, because it never left his stack in the first place. –  Jeffrey Blake Sep 2 '13 at 4:36
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how side pots work

  • you can only win a pot that you are in
  • you cannot win anything if you fold before the showdown
  • the player in each pot with the best hand wins that pot
  • if a pot is tied that pot is split between the tied players
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+1. Very nice/explicit/intuitive diagram, thank you. –  Radu Murzea Feb 20 '12 at 15:48
    
A picture is worth a thousand words. –  Chris Marasti-Georg Feb 20 '12 at 20:59
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I agree with the other fine answers, but I want to add something regarding the "uncalled bet".

As far as I know the rules states that uncalled bet aren't part of any pot. But in practice, players may be surprised should they open the hand histories from some sites...

First I'd like to point out that, in the end, the results are exactly the same (so I'm not disagreeing in any way with what others wrote).

There's however a related "uncalled bet" issue and, depending on the sites, the uncalled bet is either returned immediately or not (to the player who put more in the pot than any other).

  1. on some online poker sites (like PokerStars), the "uncalled bet amount" is immediately returned to player A (and that's written in the hand history).

  2. on some other sites, a side pot is created and it is both unraked and uncontested and, of course, "won" by the player who has the most. This can clearly be seen in the hand histories of these sites (all the sites from the iPoker network are using such an hand history format if I'm not mistaken).

For example if we have this:

player A (who has say $150) raises to $100, player B calls $30 and is all-in

There's only one player all-in and yet, on some sites, you'll have two pots appearing in the hand history:

Main pot: $60.  Side-pot: $70.

One could say it's a "fake" side-pot in that it's unraked and uncontested but the fact stays: there are sites that writes "X players all-in" and "X side pots" (not X-1).

I don't like it when it's done this way. I think writing an "uncalled bet returned to ..." is much cleaner than creating an unraked side-pot but I wanted to point this out because it certainly may look confusing to anyone opening such hand histories.

As a last side note, in addition to some sites having these unraked and uncontested side-pots, you can also have a (raked or not) uncontested side pot.

For example:

player I raise to $12 and is all-in, player J raises to $36, player K raises to $72, player J folds

In this case there's a main pot of $36 ($12 * 3) and there's also a side-pot. Depending on the rules used by the poker sites that side pot shall contain either $48 (($36-$12) * 2) or $84.

In any case that side pot shall be uncontested (it shall always be won by player K) and the rake shall only be taken on $48.

To get back to the uncalled bet issue, on some sites the hand summary shall look like:

"Main pot $36.  Side-pot $48"

while on others it shall look like:

"Main pot $36.  Side-pot $84"
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Very very interesting answer (+1 :) ). This is indeed an issue and, if you play on multiple poker platforms, you notice it. Right now, I have accounts (and am active) only on PokerStars and on PartyPoker. There is a very clear difference in the way these uncalled bets are handled and it would be very interesting to see how the rake is calculated for each of these platforms. –  Radu Murzea Feb 17 '12 at 18:18
    
@SoboLAN: uncalled bets are never raked. However there are differences from site to site as to how the rake (and the rakeback or equivalent bonuses/gifts are calculated)... But this isn't related to the uncalled bet. If an uncalled bet sin't returned", it become part of a "special side-pot" (don't know how to call it) on which there's zero rake. : ) –  TacticalCoder Feb 17 '12 at 22:58
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Me (140$) You (100$) Jon Doe(33$)

First what need to be said is that you can't win more then you bet times the number of players who call you. That being said let see what happens if we all go all-in.

Jon Doe has 33$ and can get "only" 33 from each of us. This forms the MAIN POT of 3 * 33 = 99$

Now you have 67$ left and I have 107$.

Because we are all in there is another pot of 67$ (because this is what you have left) for each of us - 2 * 67 = 134$

Now comes the fun part. First the two of us look at our cards... Who wins gets the 134$... After that all of us are looking our cards. Who now is the best wins the remaining 99$.

In short.

If someone is all in and gets more then one caller then the players who are still in and have money left can keep playing (with the money they have left) this money goes into the "side pot"

Hope this helps :)

Edit:

Seeing who wins which pot goes in reverse order of the all-ins... Because we had more money then Jon Doe we can compete for this pot as well as the other pot we put money in. Only the pots you contributed to you can win at the end

Edit2:

If players have identical hands (ie Pair of Aces) then the main/side pot is split to the same amount to each of them

if one has a pair of aces and sixes and the other has queens and sixes the first one will win because he has the stronger hand :)

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Like you say it's important that one or more players is all-in (AI) for a side pot to be possible.

How many side pots depends on how many all-in players there are and how many players put in bets/raises that cover the all-ins of the preceding players.

e.g. Four players (A,B,C,D). Player A goes AI for $1; Player B goes AI for $2; Player 3 goes AI for $3; Player D covers the $3 AI.

Thus, there is one main pot of $4 (A,B,C,D), and 2 side pots ([B,C,D, of Main Pot + $3-Side Pot] & [C,D, of Main Pot + $3-Side pot + $2-Side Pot]).

When a player goes all-in, any side pot is calculated as the current main pot plus each call up to the amount of the all-in. Any raises (or calls) which total more than the current all-in will create a new side pot between players that contribute more than the effective all-in amount.

Who wins each pot is just down to who has the best hand at showdown when each players hand is considered for the pot that they are contesting.

If a split occurs. i.e. 2 or more players have the same value hand, then the relevant pot is split between those players that contest that particular pot. If the chip amount is uneven they extra chips usually go to the player with worse positon (i.e. closest to the left of the button), although that can be changed.

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