Understanding side pots is very simple once youíve studied examples. Here
is an example of a side pot:
Player 1: 800
Player 2: 10,000
Player 3: 15,000
Player 4: 20,000
The blinds are 500/1000, with an ante of 50. With ten players at the
table, there are 500 in antes in the pot, plus the blinds. Player one
decides to call (but he doesnít have enough chips for the big blind, so he
is all-in with his remaining 750).
Player two raises to 3000, and players three and four call the 3000.
Everyone else folds, so the total pot is 11750, but player one canít win
all of that. He started the hand with only 800 chips, so that is the
maximum he can win from each other player.
Each player put a 50-chip ante in, so player one can win those. The small
blind put in 500 more, and player one has enough chips to cover that, so
he can win those. The big blind put in 1000 besides the ante, but player
one only had 750 after the ante, so he can only win 750 out of the 1000.
Players two, three, and four each put in 3000 besides the ante. Player one
can win 750 from each of them. Player one can win a total of 4000 chips,
plus get his own 750 back, so the main pot is 4750. Right now, the side
pot is the remainder, or 7000 chips (the 2250 remaining from 2, 3, and 4,
plus the extra 250 from the big blind that player one canít win). At this
point, the situation is:
Main pot: 4750
Side pot: 7000
Player one: all-in
Player two: 7,000 chips left
Player three: 12,000 chips left
Player four: 17,000 chips left
After the flop, player two goes all-in for 7000 more. Player three calls,
and player four raises all-in. Player fourís raise was for 10,000 more,
but player three only has 5,000 left, and calls all-in. The extra 5,000
bet by player four is returned to her and is out of the play. She will
have at least 5,000 at the end of this hand no matter what happens.
The pots now are:
Main pot: 4750 (for all four players)
Side pot: 28,000 (for players two, three, and four)
Side pot: 10,000 (for players three and four).
If player four has the best hand of all, she wins all the pots and the
other three are down to zero. If player three has the best hand of all, he
wins all the pots (42,750), player four is down to 5,000, and players one
and two are at zero.
If player two has the best overall hand, player one is down to zero.
Player two wins the main pot and the first side pot (32,750 total).
Players three and four then compare hands to see who gets the 10,000-chip
If player one has the best overall hand, he wins only the main pot. The
other three then compare hands to find the winner of the first side pot.
Players three and four then compete for the second side pot.
The Fourth Pot
Some online poker sites handle the above situation somewhat differently.
Party Poker, for example, actually creates a fourth pot in the situation
above. Since player four bet all her chips, those chips would go into a
separate side pot of 5,000, which only she would be eligible to win. Since
she had all three opponents covered, she was guaranteed to finish this
hand with at least 5,000 chips. This is simply a software difference. It
is more accurate to return the chips to the player first, as if they had
never been bet, but the net effect is the same.
The Dry Side Pot
When a player goes all-in, and two or more players simply call, there is a
main pot with all the chips, and a side pot containing zero chips. The
side pot is said to be dry. Any further betting is made to build a side
pot, or to knock out the other caller, who might draw to a better hand. If
you call an all-in raise with A K and see a flop of A A 8, you might
bet at the dry side pot in an attempt to knock out the other caller so
they canít draw to a flush. The all-in player might be holding A 8, in
which case youíre drawing to three outs for a better full house, but
youíre not taking any further risk against that opponent, since the main
pot is set. If you donít bet the flop with a dry side pot, you are risking
a heart (like the 3 on the turn that may come to beat your trips (you
would still have outs to the king, eight, or three to give you a full