I'm just wondering the rationale for preventing folded players from competing in sidepots. My feeling is that once a player has as much in the pot as an all-in player, they should be allowed to compete for the side-pot, even if they later fold.

Any reason why this isn't the case?

  • 3
    Why does your question refer to side pots in particular? The reason folded hands cannot compete for side pots is the same reason that folded hands cannot compete for main pots.
    – Silversana
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 16:18
  • Followup question: the blinds are 5/10, a player bets $100 in no-limit, the small blind goes all in for $7, what happens if the big blind folds? Do they get to play in the main pot for $7 after already having $10 in the pot (which is cut down to $7)?
    – user987
    Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 16:37
  • No. He either has to call that extra $90 or fold and get nothing. It would've been great if you asked this in the comments. Commented Jul 8, 2013 at 17:58
  • 1
    If I had to guess, I would say that one of the reasons that this rule came about was to simplify awarding the pots. This way you don't have to keep track of who folded when in order to determine who wins which side pot. This would be an especially big problem with multiple side pots and people folding at different times.
    – lnafziger
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 1:52

7 Answers 7


I liked your question and will try answer it from a different angle. Basically we all agree that when a player fold his/her hand, he/she cannot win any pot.

BUT, one of the major concepts of the game is that one can only win according to what he/she risks. That's why there are side pots, and I think that's why the question was asked - if a player risk enough chips as an all-in player, he/she should be able to compete for that pot

I think that the rules was defined as they are today, because it gives more options of play and more flexibility to the game. the following are some examples:
1. give advantage to players with big stack by forcing others out of the hand.
2. give a chance to small stacks (when they know there is a chip bully in the table).
3. knockout games (some of the money is given to the a player that eliminate another player). etc...

As I wrote in the beginning, I think the rules are as they are for a good reason, but this theoretical question is quite interesting.


  • 3
    Thanks for the answer. I think it gives too much advantage to short stacks, short stacks already have an advantage beyond their chips. Firstly, a short stack doesn't have the risk of being re-raised, and secondly, in a tournament that pays beyond 1st place, short stacks have an expected return beyond their stack size. To add the ability of being able to win three stacks in a one-on-one contest I think goes too far. Not that it bothers me too much, I'm much stronger in the push/fold stages of a tournament than I am when the stacks are deeper, so this rule helps me chip-up.
    – Clinton
    Commented Dec 5, 2012 at 1:15

If you fold for what ever reason before the hand is finished you forfeit your right to compete for any pot on the table. That is simply one of the rules of the game.

So, that is where strategy comes in to play. If there are three players in a hand with one of them all in, I always try to bet the remaining player out of the hand. That way I am only competing with the player that is all in.

  • 1
    This doesn't really answer my question of "why". All I can see is that it is "one of the rules of the game". I think my question made it clear that I knew that, so this tells me nothing new.
    – Clinton
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 1:26
  • 1
    @Clinton The definition of a fold says that, if you do it (fold), then you forfeit your right to win any pot on the table. That's "why". You can't compete for a sidepot just like an all-in player because... well, he's all in and you folded... Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 8:02
  • Yeah, it really can't get any simpler than that. It is a rule of the game just like any other rule of the game. It is what it is. if you don't like the rules of the game, then play a different game or create your own.
    – Linger
    Commented Dec 1, 2012 at 17:13
  • 1
    @Linger It is probably not a good strategy to always try to bet the remaining player out of the hand, in particular if you have a crappy hand that completely missed the flop. Then you risk the remaining player calling you and you lose additional chips. Sometimes - yes, Always - no.
    – Halvard
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 8:01
  • True, you don't want to be predictable. You obviously have to mix up your approach.
    – Linger
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 12:24

In poker you don't play against a single opponent you play for as much as the biggest stack among all the players that want to play against you or your stack, whatever is smaller.

Folding is interpreted as "forfeiting" your hand and any pot in the table to your opponents (note you can do that even if you have the winning hand and in fact I've seen players fold without realizing they have it or without realizing the better hand was in the table). Therefore folding is always considered as giving up on the built pot, disregarding what previous or future action may happen.

Those are general rules that apply disregarding of side pots or any other considerations, folding is abandoning the hand and forfeiting the pot, and so, obviously, folded hands do not compete in ANY kind of pots.


If a player meets the all in bet, and then folds, BY DEFINITION, s/he was bet out of the side pot by one of the other side pot betters. That's why the player can't win the side pot.

Basically, you have to stay in until YOU'RE all in, not just match another (all-in) player.

  • This is incorrect: You don't have to stay in until you're all in, just as long as you don't fold.
    – Halvard
    Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 8:14

Folded hands can't compete for side pots because of historical reasons. Many experts in the game believe today that that rule is being exploited by professional short stackers (mainly online) and would like to change it. There's very little good reason that folded hands can't compete for side pots, except that it would make managing the game a little harder since it'd require keeping track of who has the right to compete for each side pot.

  • I don't think there is such a thing as a pro short stacker. Just because there are optimal tactics to play a short stack it does not mean short stacking is an optimal way to play poker. Your contention would need prof before I would agree with it as expert opinion.
    – Jon
    Commented Mar 15, 2015 at 16:02

You still need compete for the hand. I would not be fair to the raiser if you got to opt out of the main pot. You need to take the risk to play the hand.

Also it would not be fair to the all in as they have to compete against multiple hands. Consider a small stack goes all in and get 5 calls then they just fold to the first bet. It would be a way to abuse a small stack.

Be ware of the bigger stacks whenever you play a pot. The big stack will often try and get other players off the pot as they know small stack is forced to open with a wider range.


I think the OP asked the question in the wrong way. I think they meant the ORIGINAL pot (I believe that is called the main pot). It is very surprising that this change has not come about for a few reasons.

One is that you put in the NECESSARY risk to win that pot. That should be enough. But there is another reason, which I will call gamesmanship. Now, guile and bluffing and dastardly play is part of poker, but let me give an example of a case where we really should change this rule.

Assume there is some good action preflop, and we have one player all in, and there is 6000 in the side pot, and 50K in the main pot. One player bets the minimum, 4k. The other player almost HAS to call for the main pot no matter what he has. On the turn, again, we have a min bet of 4k, and again, almost HAVING to call (hopefully, everyone understands the context of my word "having"). On the river, the person betting 4k now bets 30K and gets a fold. The bettor won 8k from the other caller KNOWING he HAD to put in those bets on flop and turn, and FIGURING he needed a big hand to call.

In other words, because of these archaic rules (to put it politely), the bettor was in a position to FORCE a call that MAY NOT have necessarily been made. The dynamics have changed from the way normal risk/reward should work.

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