How to Calculate Poker Side Pots

Side pots occur when a person involved in a poker hand bets all of their remaining chips but don’t have enough chips left to match the current bet. So if you have $75 left, and the bet is $100, you can bet all your chips, but not be eligible for the full pot which is based on $100 bets. As a result, two pots are created: A main pot and a side pot. You see this happen all the time during online poker games, but if you’re new to poker maybe you didn’t catch it, or noticed it but didn’t understand what just happened. This article will explain how side pots work.

The best way to understand how side pots work is by using an example. Let’s keep things simple here and pretend that we have 4 players at our poker table. Three of them have $1000 in chips, and the fourth has only $200 left. The blinds are at $25 and $50. Let’s get our poker game started shall we?

On the first betting round, prior to the flop, player 1 bets $50, players two and three call and player four, our short stack, checks. Now we have $200 in the pot and the flop is laid. The second betting round begins. Here’s where we will end up with a side pot. Player one raises to $100, player 2 calls, player 3 raises by another $100. The bet to player four is now $200, but he only has $150 left. He decides to go all in. Now how does this work out?

Player four has met everyone’s bet except for player 3 who had reraised. Player 4 is short by $50, so what we do is we take $50 out of the main pot, and we begin a side pot. From this point on, once player four’s bet is matched, all additional chips will go in the side pot. Let’s continue our round to illustrate. We are back at player one, who faces a $100 dollar raise. He decides to call, so he’ll put $50 in the main pot (to match the total bet of player four), and he’ll put the other $50 in the side pot. Player two will fold in this example.

Now we have a main pot of $750, and a side pot of $100. Let’s recap how we got to those amounts: Everyone paid $50 on round one, making it $200. On round two, player one paid $100 when he raised, player two paid $100 when he called. Player three paid $200 when he raised. Player four paid $150 by going all in. Up to this point, we have $750 in the pot ($50 x 4 players on round 1. Round 2 was + $100 +$100 +$200 +$150). At that point the side pot was created, so $50 was subtracted from the main pot and went into the side pot. The raise to Player one is $100 and he wants to call it so he pays $50 in the main pot, and the extra $50 in the side pot. Remember, that “extra” is based on the person who went all in. They can’t get more than a total of $200 from each player because that’s all they put in themselves. You cannot get more than what you put in per opponent. Player 2 folded so new money is added from him. The end result: We have a $750 main pot and a $100 side pot.

I know this is a little confusing, so let me break it down in a way that is more visual:

1st Round
P1 bets 50
P2 calls 50
P3 calls 50
P4 calls 50
Main Pot 200
2nd Round
P1 raises to 100
P2 calls 100
P3 raises to 200
P4 goes all in for 150
P1 calls 200
P2 fold
Main Pot 200 + 100 + 3*150 = 750
Side Pot 50 + 50 = 100

Now, player four is out of chips so all he can do is sit and wait while player one and player three finish. So the subsequent betting rounds go on and only player one and three participate. All additional funds go in the side pot, which player four cannot win. This goes on until the end of the hand which will conclude when player one or three folds, or when they call each other at the end of the final betting round. Let’s say that no one folded and they kept betting and calling each other to the end. Pretend that the side pot grew to $800 and all betting rounds are over. Here’s what can happen next:

Who ever got called between player one and three must start by showing their hand. Let’s say player one shows two pairs. If player three is beat, he can just muck his cards. However, if he beats two pairs, he needs to show his cards to prove it. Player three shows 3 of a kind. That settles who won the side pot. Now the main pot can only be won by either player four or player three. Player one can’t win it because his two pairs are already beat. Player four shows a straight and wins the main pot. Had player four mucked because he couldn’t beat three of a kind, then player three would have won both the main pot and the side pot.

That is essentially how side pots work. They only happen when someone runs out of money while betting and can’t cover the bet. Side pots can also happen when an all in bet does cover the current bet (a call for all your money essentially), but following that action, someone else raises. Doing so starts a side pot as well. Occasionally, you’ll even end up having multiple side pots, when two or more people go all in but can’t cover the bets. The idea is the same, where potential winnings each player is based on their own wagers. It doesn’t happen that frequently, but it’s not rare to see this happen either.