I was dealing in a live private game...NLHE... Three players were in a hand. One shortstacker (player3) was already all in preflop. So after the flop the other two players took action and built a side pot. On the river player1 bets and player2 folds. A problem begins when player1 throws his hand face down on the middle of the table because he forgot about player3. Are the cards mucked? Who gets the side pot then?

I solved this problem..by declaring hand mucked and side pot goes to player3. Some player disagreed..that I haven't touched the player1 hand so it is still alive?

  • 1
    Terrible decision. The moment player 2 folded, the side pot became the property of player 1, regardless of any future action. The all-in player was not involved in that pot, and cannot win any of it under any circumstances. Dec 1, 2015 at 20:23
  • You gave a player a side pot they had no money in?
    – paparazzo
    Dec 6, 2015 at 9:15

2 Answers 2


No matter the subsequent actions of player 1, as soon as player 2 folds, player 1 should be awarded the side pot, even if his cards are never seen by anyone.

Player 3 should never, ever be awarded the side pot, since he didn't have enough money in the pot to earn that from the other players. He was all in for less than the others had, so he should never be able to win more than his pre-hand stack from any other single player.

Since throwing your cards into the muck is the universal sign for folding, I think player 1's hand should be folded and not eligible for the main pot.

If this was a tournament, the dealer should have, upon player 2's fold, told the remaining two players to show their hands during the all-in. If the cards are shown, the cards speak for themselves. In a cash game, I guess it's a little more gray area as to whether player 1 actually folded his hand.

Either way, the side pot should belong to player 1.


Player 3 isn't in the side pot, so he can't win it. Player 2 has folded so Player 1 wins.

Player 1 has already called Player 3's all in bet, so turn the cards over and play the hand out.

If you're going to be a rules lawyer about what is clearly an oversight, then it's not the sort of friendly private game I want to play in. However, if your game is always a stickler for technicalities, then you might rule it a fold. It's probably most correct to rule in keeping with the spirit you usually play in.

  • I understand your sentiment, but when the rules are ambiguous or loosely interpreted or enforced, that leaves lots more room for angle shooting. Dec 1, 2015 at 6:12
  • There's nothing ambiguous or unclear here at all. Player 2 folded--at that moment in time what was the side pot became Player 1's chips. Period. Then player 1 mucked his hand, forfeiting his right to the main pot, which became the property of the only remaining player. Dec 1, 2015 at 20:22

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