In our lesson on the three main betting variations of poker, we used an example where a player in a no-limit game could bet far more than anyone else at the table, provided the player had such an amount. Poker is always played at table stakes, and this means you can only wager the amount of money you have in front of you when the hand begins. It is quite common for a player to run out of money during a hand. If you have more money than another player, it doesn’t mean you can bet them out of the pot because they can’t afford to call your bet. Otherwise the poker player with the most money would always win if he bet all his chips, and it wouldn’t be a very enjoyable game.
When a player puts all his chips into the pot he is said to be “all-in”. The important thing to know is that a player can never be bet out of a pot because he always has the option to call for all of his chips. For example, a player with $50 goes all-in, and everyone folds apart from a player who only has $30 left:
How to Play Texas Hold'em Poker: learn the most popular of all poker variations step-by-step. All of the marquee tournaments around the world highlight this variation. Texas Hold'em is the most. In limit play, an all-in wager of less than half a bet does not reopen the betting for any player who has already acted and is in the pot for all previous bets. A player who has not yet acted (or had the betting reopened to him by another player’s action), facing an all-in wager of less than half a bet, may fold, call, or complete the wager. There are many types of poker, but one essential part of all of them is the betting process. This page describes poker betting and the subsequent showdown in some detail, and assumes some familiarity with the basics of poker, as provided for example on the poker rules page.
This player cannot match the $50 bet, but he can also go all-in for his last $30. When nobody else is involved, the first player would get back the unmatched $20 bet (i.e. his bet is $30 rather than $50). This is shown in figure 2, below:
Poker Betting Rules of the Road Going all-in. If you don’t have enough to cover the bets and raises. Knowing how to raise. If you want to raise, just say 'Raise.' Then you can go back to your stack. No splashing. Avoid splashing the pot: Don’t toss chips into the center. Protecting your. Nov 25, 2008 Rules for all-in situations in poker. It states that in a poker hand you can only bet whatever money and chips you had on the table when the hand started. You cannot reach for your wallet and get more money. You cannot go to the bank and mortgage your condo.
In this example the shorter-stack wins the pot, but the surplus $20 is returned to player 5.
The whole point of this is that players can take back any extra money when another player is all-in for less, when nobody else has called. The same applies to an extreme no limit example, where a player might bet $10,000 in a $1/$2 game. Here’s an example where it’s folded around to the big blind, who has $10 remaining in his stack.
He has $12 in total and clearly can’t match the $10,000 – but he can go all-in. If he does then the player with $10,000, would take back $9,988. No more betting would take place, as there isn’t anything left to wager. After the flop, turn and river, the player with the best hand would win the $25 pot ($12 from each plus the small blinds $1).
It can be a little more complicated when there’s more than two players involved in a hand. This is when a side pot is created for the other players, and any further bets cannot be won by the all-in player. The all-in player is eligible for the main pot only.
Take a look at figure 4, below, which shows three players remaining in a hand. Two players have $50 each, and another has just $10 remaining. In this example the pot already contains $40 from the previous betting rounds. Player 5 makes a bet of $20:
Player 6 only has $10 but he can call for his last $10 (and would therefore be “all in”) or fold. If player 6 decides to go all-in for his last $10, then the last active player (player 7), who has $50, can call, but must call for $20, which is the original bet, or he can raise. If he calls then a side pot is created, as is shown in figure 5:
The main pot now contains $70, which is made up of the existing $40 in the pot, plus $10 x 3. Player 6 is “all in” and can only win this main pot. A side pot containing the extra $20 is created, and can only be won by the players who contributed to this side pot (players 5 and 7). The next card will be dealt and further betting will take place. Any further bets are added to this side pot, and not the main pot. Players 5 and 7, who contributed to the side pot, can win the side pot and the main pot, if their hand beats the “all in” player. If player 6 has the winning hand after the final betting round, then he will win the $70 pot, but the side pot will be won by either player 5 or player 7.
There has been quite a bit of information in this lesson, which to the uninitiated could be confusing. As soon as you start playing poker you’ll quickly become familiar with these betting basics because they occur very frequently. Sometimes there can be lots of different side pots during a hand involving lots of different players – whether it’s limit, pot limit, or no limit poker. This is because not everyone has the same amount of chips – and players who have fewer chips than an opponent cannot win more from a player than they contributed themselves. The important thing to remember is that a player can never be bet out of hand because he doesn’t have enough to call.
By Tim Ryerson
Tim is from London, England and has been playing poker since the late 1990’s. He is the ‘Editor-in-Chief’ at Pokerology.com and is responsible for all the content on the website.
There are many types of poker, but one essential part of all of them is the betting process. This page describes poker betting and the subsequent showdown in some detail, and assumes some familiarity with the basics of poker, as provided for example on the poker rules page. Rules that are specific to particular poker variants are covered on the page for the variant in question.
Poker is sometimes played for cash on the table, but it is far more convenient to use tokens known as poker chips. Traditionally these came in three denominations of different colours, white chips being the cheapest, reds being worth five whites, and blue chips equal to 5 red or 25 white. These ratios could be adjusted according to the requirements of the game. Chip sets nowadays often have a wider range of denominations, for example 1, 5, 10, 25 and 100, each of a different colour. Some sets also have 2, 20 and 50 and larger values. These chips will generally be provided by the host in a private game or the house in a public card room. The cost of 1 unit can be whatever is appropriate for the game being played - for example a 1-chip could be worth $1 or £1 or 1€ or any other convenient amount. Chips are bought from the host by the players as required for playing, and redeemed at the same rate when the player leaves.
Sometimes poker is played in the form of a tournament in which each player starts with an equal value of chips. Players who lose all their chips are eliminated, and play continues until one player has won all the chips. This form of poker is sometimes known as freezeout. If there is a large number of players, the game can begin with several tables, and as players drop out the survivors are consolidated onto fewer tables, taking their chips with them. Towards the end, all the remaining players will compete at a single final table, using all the chips. A potential disadvantage of this type of game is that players who are eliminated have nothing to do while the others complete the game, and it may take a while before only one player remains. Normally the stakes (the size of the blinds or minimum bets) are increased periodically to bring the game to a quicker end. In a large tournament, rather than give all the money paid for the initial chips to the single winner, it is divided into prizes for first, second, third place and so on, given to the players who survived longest.
It is sometimes said that poker is a game that can only be played for money, and certainly a game of poker in which players did not mind who won and how much would be fairly boring and pointless. It is possible, however, to play poker without money if the players care sufficiently about how many chips they win or lose. One way to achieve this is to play a tournament as described above, but in which the initial chips are free, or only a nominal entry fee is paid, and the prizes are objects rather than sums of money. As usual the player who wins all the chips gets the first prize, and there can be smaller prizes for runners up who survive almost to the end. The desire to win a prize may be enough motivation to stay in the tournament as long as possible and treat one's chips as though they are valuable, and the game will work in much the same way as poker played for money, perhaps without the legal and moral problems sometimes associated with gambling.
There are great differences between poker players and what they expect from a game, and these are reflected in the variants and stakes chosen.
At one extreme, there are those who enjoy poker primarily as a social pastime. They like to have a small amount of money at stake, to give the game a slight edge, but well within the amount that any player can easily afford to lose. Often they will be more interested in the excitement of occasionally holding a particularly good hand or experiencing an unexpected turn of events than they are in optimising their play. They like plenty of action, if possible on every deal. On the whole such players prefer to play for limited stakes, and tend to favour exotic variants with wild cards and other innovations, often within the context of a dealer's choice game.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are professional players whose aim is to win money. They get their satisfaction from managing their chips skilfully and outwitting their opponents. If this involves folding most of the time and rarely playing a hand, that is fine so long as it is profitable. They take pride in knowing the odds, analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the other players and using this knowledge to maximum advantage. These players generally like to stick to a single poker variant for a whole session, going for long term profit over a large number of deals. They prefer to play with higher betting limits, which allow the greater scope for skill and bluff.
There are of course all kinds of players with approaches to the game that fall between these two extremes.
The betting process used in poker is known to card game historians as 'vying', although in practice the card game terms 'vie' and 'vying' are obsolete. The players vie with each other by betting on who holds the best hand of cards. The bets are made by moving chips into a central area called the pot, pool or kitty. In most versions of poker there are several betting rounds or betting intervals, during which the deal or other game play is paused while the players take turns to act - that is to choose whether or not to place a bet. Players who wish to stay in must at least match the other players' bets. These are the active players. A player who is unwilling to match the other players' bets can fold, dropping out of the action and abandoning any chance to win the chips in the pot. The betting round normally ends when the total amounts bet by all the active players are equal. If at any stage there is only one active player, that player immediately wins the pot. Otherwise, after the last betting round, the pot is won by the active player who holds the best hand.
During a betting round, the active players act in clockwise order around the table. It is very important that players act only in turn. If you act out of turn you unnecessarily give information to your opponents, and you can be held to that action when your proper turn comes. The possible actions are as follows.
During a betting round it is very helpful to keep each player's bets separate from the chips bet in previous betting rounds and from the bets of the other players. That way it is easy to see how much everyone has bet and how much one has to pay to call. Some particularly well organised poker tables are marked with a betting line about 20cm in front of each player. This line separates the private area where a player's own cards and chips are kept from the common area holding the pot, the discards, and community cards, and so on. Any chips pushed across this line are considered to be in the pot. At the end of each betting round the chips in the pot are amalgamated into a single pile (or more than one pile if there are side pots - see below).
Before joining a poker game, it is wise to have some idea how much one stands to win or lose. This is determined largely by the betting limits - the minimum and maximum amounts that players are allowed to bet. Every game has a minimum amount that can be bet - this may correspond to the value of the smallest chip in use. Some games also have a fixed maximum bet: this is normal in social games for small stakes.
In other games there is no fixed maximum. The maximum bet can be proportional to the size of the pot at the time, which allows the size of the pot to increase exponentially, or one can play without a maximum limit, so that it is possible to bet all your chips at once if you wish. Games with higher limits or without limits give greater scope for bluffing than those with low limits: it may be too expensive to risk calling another player's bet, even if you suspect that it is a bluff.
In most games, bets are limited to the chips you have on the table in front of you. You are not allowed to buy extra chips in the middle of the betting (or simply produce more money from your pocket) in order to continue the betting. This is known as playing for table stakes. The exact consequences when a player runs out of chips are rather complex and are described in the table stakes section below. These details become important when playing without a fixed maximum bet, since the betting can easily reach the point where all a player's chips are in the pot. In games with a relatively small maximum bet, it is less likely that a player will run out of chips completely.
The most usual betting structures are as follows:
Other structures are possible such as half pot limit, in which the maximum bet is half what the pot would contain if you called.
Some online poker rooms provide capped no limit and pot limit games in which there is a maximum amount that a player can bet in one deal. This amount, the cap, is lower than the maximum buy-in: usually it is set at around 20 big blinds. All the betting rules of normal no limit and pot limit games apply, but in the game is played as though players whose chips stack is more than the cap in fact only have the amount of the cap in chips at the start of the deal. Any players whose total bets reach the cap are treated as though they were all-in.
In fixed limit and spread limit games there is usually a limit on the number of raises in a single betting round. One bet followed by three raises is a common limit, in which case the third raise is also known as the cap. In some games the limit is different in earlier and later betting rounds.
The purpose of this rule is to prevent two players from colluding by making a long series of small raises, which a third player wishing to remain in the pot has no option but to call. For this reason, the limit normally does not apply when there are only two active players remaining. In this 'heads-up' situation, either player can end the series of raises simply by calling the latest raise, so the protection of a limit is unnecessary.
In games without a fixed maximum bet there is usually no restriction on the number of raises.
In formal games there is generally a rule that a raise cannot be less than the previous bet or raise. So for example in a spread limit $1-$4 game if player A bets $3, player B can put in $3 to call, or $6 to raise $3, or $7 to raise $4. B is not allowed to put in $4 or $5, which would amount to a raise of $1 or $2, as the raise would then be smaller than A's bet. This rule only applies to raises: the first bet of a new betting round can be the minimum for that round, irrespective of the size of the last bet or raise in the previous betting round. This rule appears to be fairly new: I have not seen it mentioned in any 20th century poker book. Perhaps it was introduced during the large, well publicised tournaments in the 1990's, which are largely responsible for the current popularity of poker. This rule is now standard for formal poker and on-line poker, and has been introduced into some private games.
Nevertheless, many private poker games are played without this minimum for raises. Any raise can be any amount from the minimum bet for the round up to the maximum, even if the previous bet was larger. In such a game, if the number of raises is limited, a player may legitimately make a minimum raise of a larger bet in order to consume one of the allowed raises and thereby restrict the potential size of the pot.
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A bet that is at least the minimum is sometimes known as a full bet, and a raise that is as least as large as the largest bet or raise in the current betting round, and not less than a full bet is known as a full raise. Bets and raises that are smaller than this are known as incomplete bets or raises. When playing with table stakes, if one does not have enough chips for a full bet or raise, it is legal to go 'all-in', putting all one's chips in the pot for an incomplete bet or raise - see the table stakes section for details.
A few games - especially fixed and spread limit games, and some low stakes private games - have a rule against the 'check-raise'. With this rule in effect, if you call or check (or pass) during a betting round and some other player after you bets or raises, when the turn comes around to you again you are not allowed to raise: you may only call or fold. To raise in such a situation is sometimes known as sandbagging. You have a good hand, but instead of betting you lie in wait, pretending to have indifferent cards, and when a player bets against you, you launch your ambush by raising back. In some circles this tactic is considered unfair or at least unfriendly and is therefore outlawed. Note however that even with this rule in effect, checking in one betting round does not prevent you from betting or raising in a later betting round, by which time your hand might have improved.
In most formal games and nearly all games without a fixed maximum bet (pot limit and no limit games) the check-raise is permitted and is considered a valid and useful tactic.
Every poker game begins with some kind of compulsory payment to the pot. Without this, the players would have no incentive to bet. If you were to bet chips into an empty pot you would stand to lose them if another player with a good hand bet against you, but if all your opponents had indifferent hands and dropped out you would get back only the same chips that you put in, gaining nothing. If the pot contains some chips to begin with, it is worthwhile for players with moderately good hands to bet in order to win those chips.
The most straightforward way to start the pot is for every player to pay an equal, fixed ante before the deal. A practical problem with this is that quite often someone may forget to pay the ante, and when the shortage of chips in the pot is noticed, it can be difficult to establish who is at fault. A solution is to have the dealer pay a single, larger ante on behalf of all the players. This is fair provided that everyone deals the same number of times during a session. Note that the ante does not count as a bet: even if only a single player pays an ante, the other players do not have to match it. In the first betting round players can simply check to stay in.
In some games, one or more players are forced to make a blind bet before the cards are dealt. Normally the player(s) placing blinds will be immediately to the left of the dealer seat, sometimes including the dealer as well. If the blinds are unequal in size they will increase to the left, the leftmost player placing the largest blind. The largest blind should be equal to the minimum bet for the game. For example a $2-$4 fixed limit game might begin with a small blind of $1 placed by the player to left of the dealer seat plus a big blind of $2 from the player to the left of the small blind. Blinds do count as bets, so players who wish to stay in must at least call the biggest blind. The first betting round starts with the player to the left of the big blind, who may call, raise or fold. The big blind player acts last, and may raise even if no one else has done any more than call. Alternatively, if no one else has raised, the big blind player may simply check to stay in, since the active players' bets are already equal.
In games with blinds, the player to the left of the big blind may be allowed to straddle, which is to place a voluntary blind bet twice the size of the big blind before the cards are dealt. In some games, if a player straddles, the next player to the left is allowed to re-straddle, placing a blind bet of twice as much again. The first betting round will begin to the left of the player who placed the largest straddle. Normally a straddle also raises the betting limits proportionately: the straddle is twice the big blind, so the minimum bet is doubled, as is the maximum in a fixed or spread limit game. The purpose of straddling is to gain the advantage of acting last in the first betting round. However, this advantage is probably not worth as much as the cost of placing a blind bet which will be wasted if one's cards are poor.
In stud poker, the pot is normally started by a compulsory bet known as the bring-in. There may or may not be an ante as well. Unlike a blind bet, the bring-in is placed after the first part of the deal, and is based on a player's hand - in a stud game the player who must bet is determined by the up-card. The bring-in may be less than the minimum bet - for example $2 in a $5-$10 game, but the player may opt to place a full minimum bet instead ($5 in the example).
Some games are played with a kill. This is a blind bet normally twice the size of the minimum bet, which must be placed by a certain player (the killer) in particular circumstances - for example after a big win or winning twice in a row. If the killer would otherwise have been due to place a blind, the kill replaces the blind. As with a straddle, the minimum and maximum bets are increased in proportion if there is a kill. The first betting round may begin either to the left of the kill or to the left of the big blind according to local rules. Either way, players who wish to stay in must at least call the kill bet. The killer can raise at his or her first turn.
All formal poker games and tournaments in casinos and public card rooms and many private games are played for table stakes. This means that you can only bet using the chips that you have in front of you at the start of the deal. This rule is to prevent a player from suddenly betting a large sum which the other players were unaware of at the start of the deal and which they cannot afford to call. When playing for table stakes:
Normally there is a minimum value of chips that must be bought in order to join a game. This is fixed by the host, and is typically around 10 to 20 times the minimum bet. Some games without a fixed maximum bet may have a maximum buy-in. In this case you are not allowed to buy chips that take you above the maximum. You can however exceed the maximum by virtue of chips won from other players, and while in this situation you cannot buy any more chips.
Table stakes rules are important in games without a fixed maximum bet, in which players may easily run out of chips as the pot size escalates. In fixed limit and spread limit games table stakes are not so important, especially if the limits are low. Players do not often run out of chips and if they do it does little harm to let them buy more any time they are needed, even during the betting if necessary, since the amount that can be bet is restricted by the fixed maximum.
When playing with table stakes you may reach a situation where you do not have enough chips for the action you wish to take. In this case you put all your remaining chips in the pot and you are said to be all-in, or tapped out. There are three cases to consider:
Example: In a $5 betting round with five players, player A checks, player B bets $5, player C calls for $5 and player D goes all-in for $6. Player E has the option to fold, to call for $6 or to complete the raise for $10 (of which $4 goes into a side pot). If E calls or folds, A has the same options. If either E or A completes the bet, B and C have the full range of options, to call, fold or raise. If both E and A call or fold, neither B nor C can raise: their only options are to call for $1 or fold. If E goes all-in for $8, this is enough to re-open the betting, since the total raise since the last full bet is now $3, more than half a full raise. So any of A, B and C are now allowed to raise a further $5.
Example: After the flop in a no limit Texas Hold'em game there is $100 in the pot. Player A checks, player B bets $20, player C calls for $20 and player D goes all-in for $35 (a $15 raise). Player E's options are to fold, to call for $35, or to raise by at least another $20 (putting in at least $55). If player E calls or folds, player A has the same options: player A is allowed to raise even though he checked before, because player B has placed a full bet since player A last acted. If player A also calls or folds, player B can only call (for $15) or fold: B cannot raise because there has been no full raise since B's previous bet. For the same reason, player C can only call or fold. However, if player E or player A had raised, this would have reopened the betting, and players B and C would also be entitled to raise.
Each time a player goes all-in and another player bets more than the all-in player, a new side pot is created. So if more than one player goes all-in in the same deal, there can be several side pots. Each player who is all-in is in contention for the main pot and all side pots in which that player has chips. When a new player goes all-in, the current side pot is capped and a new side pot is created. The capped side pot holds equal numbers of chips from each active player apart from those who were already all-in before the side pot was created.
Example: There is $50 in the pot. Player A bets $20. Player B has only $5 and calls with that, going all-in. The main pot should now contain $60 including $5 of A's bet and the whole of B's call. The first side pot has the remaining $15 of A's bet. Player C raises $20. Of the $40 that C puts in $5 goes in the main pot to equal B's call and $35 goes into the side pot. It now costs $40 for D to call, but D has only $35 so calls for that amount. A second side pot is now needed. The main pot should by now contain $70 - the original $50 plus $5 each from A, B, C and D. The first side pot should have $75: that is $15 from A, $30 of C's bet and D's last $30. The second side pot has just $5, the remainder of C's bet. The other players fold. In order to call, A would now have to put in $20, matching C's raise. Of this $15 would go into the first side pot for a total of $90 and $5 in the second side pot for a total of $10.
A player who folds cannot win any part of any pot. Suppose that at the end of the example above, A decides to fold. The side pots are allocated in reverse order of creation. C automatically wins the second side pot and gets his $5 back. The first side pot ($75) is won by whichever of C and D has the better hand. The main pot ($70) is won by the best of B, C and D. Player A, who has folded, cannot win the main pot, even though he has contributed the same amount to this pot as B, C and D.
When the action is complete, all active players' cards are turned face up. When there are at least two active players, and all but one of them are all-in, there will be no more betting since the one active player who has chips to bet has no one to bet against. At this point, the normal rule is that all the active players' cards must be revealed, and any further cards are dealt face up (even those that would normally be dealt face down). The same rule naturally applies in the unusual case where there are at least two active players and all of them are all-in.
In some versions of poker, the pot is split between two winners - for example the holders of the highest and lowest hands. In some games this is done automatically: the players simply show their hands and the pot is divided equally between the best hand in each category. In other games players have to declare which part of the pot they are playing for. In this case there are three possible declarations. In a high-low game you can declare 'high' to compete for highest hand, 'low' to compete for lowest hand, or 'both' (also known as 'pig'), to win the whole pot if and only if you have both the highest and the lowest hand.
Players who fold place their cards face down in a discard pile known as the 'muck'. If the poker game being played includes a 'draw', in which players may discard cards and obtain replacements from the dealer, these discards are also placed in the muck. No one is allowed to look at any of these discarded cards. If at any point during the betting only one active player remains, all others having folded, this last surviving player automatically wins the pot. In this case there is no showdown, and no one is entitled to see the winner's cards.
Exceptions. There are two exceptions to the above rule.
If there are two or more active players, then after the last round of betting (and after the declarations on a split pot game with declaration) there is a showdown to decide who has won the pot. Players are encouraged to show their cards promptly to avoid delaying the game, but if there is any reluctance, they are required to show them in clockwise order, beginning with the last player who bet or raised in the last betting round, or with the player who began the last betting round if everyone checked.
When showing hands, players must show all their cards - not only those required to make the best hand or to prove they have beaten another player, and not only those that make the best five-card hand, but all the cards they were dealt.
It is normal practice that only players who consider they have a chance of winning need show their cards - others discard their cards into the muck at this stage without showing them, thereby forfeiting their right to win any part of the pot. Contrary to this practice, there is a rule in most formal games that any player who was dealt a hand - even a player who folded - is entitled on request to see the cards of any player involved in the showdown. The purpose of this rule is to protect players against collusion: a player who appears to be co-operating with another can be forced to show his cards to demonstrate that his betting actions were based only on his own interests and not to help another player. However, it is considered rude to demand to see a losing player's hand, and this right should be used sparingly. It normally comes with a condition that it can be revoked if abused or over-used. Abuse would include asking to see a losing hand in order to embarrass or irritate another player.
In some games, especially high-low games and games with wild cards when the players have more than five cards to choose from, it can be easy to overlook what is the best hand that a player can make. There are two possible rules for this.
If there is a single best hand and a single pot, this is easy. The owner of the best hand wins the whole pot.
It can happen that two or more players have equally good hands. This is common in games where there are community cards shared by all players. In this case the pot is split equally between the holders of the best hands. If the chips in the pot cannot by divided equally, the odd chip(s) are given to the player(s) nearest to the dealer's left.
In a high-low game where the pot is to be divided between the highest hand and the lowest hand, if the amount in the pot is an odd multiple of the smallest chip, the odd chip goes to the winner of the high hand. Example: the players in clockwise order are A, B, C, D, E and F (the dealer). B, D and F have equal highest hands and C has the lowest hand. There is $69 in the pot and $1 is the smallest chip in use. First the pot is divided between high ($35) and low ($34), and then the high part is divided between B, D and F. Player C gets $34, B and D get $12 each and E gets $11.
Exception. In some stud games played in casinos and public card rooms there is a non-playing dealer and no dealer button. In this case when a pot is split suits are used to decide who gets the odd chip. If the split pot is for the highest hand the odd chip goes to the owner of the highest card with ties for highest broken by suit, using the order spades (high), hearts, diamonds, clubs (low). If the split pot is for the lowest hand the odd chip goes to the lowest card, using suit to break ties. For this purpose only, all the cards dealt to the player are considered, not only those used to form the winning hand. Note that suit ranking and cards outside the five-card hand are used only to award the odd chip of smallest denomination when a pot is split, never to decide which players have won. If the best five-card hands are equal apart from suit, the pot is split as evenly as possible between them.
In a high-low (or other split pot) game with declare, when one or more players have declared 'both', it is first necessary to check whether any of these have won the whole pot. In order to win 'both' in high-low, it is necessary to have the highest hand among those who declared 'both' or 'high' and the lowest hand among those who declared 'both' or 'low'. If either is beaten or tied with another player the player who called 'both' cannot win any part of the pot, and is eliminated from the comparison of hands. If no 'both' player wins, the pot is split between whoever has the highest hand of those who declared high, and the lowest of those who declared low. Thus it is possible, for example, for a player who declared 'high' to win the high pot even if another player who unsuccessfully declared 'both' had a higher hand.
If (after eliminating players who declared 'both' unsuccessfully) everyone has declared 'high' then the highest hand wins the whole pot, and if everyone declared 'low' then the lowest hand wins the whole pot. This is most likely to happen with simultaneous declaration: with sequential declaration, if all but one players have declared 'high', for example, the last player will usually take the easy route of declaring 'low' and taking half the pot unopposed.
In the unlikely event that everyone declares 'both' it is possible that there will be no winner. In this case the contents of the pot are carried forward to the next deal.
Variations. Some players do not allow the 'second best' hand to win when a player unsuccessfully declares 'both'. For example, to win 'high' you must have the highest hand of all the players who declared 'high' or 'both'. So for example if a player declares 'both' and beats a 'high' player but is beaten for lowest by a 'low' player, the 'low' player wins the whole pot and the 'high' player gets nothing. Some players allow the high or low part of the pot to be split if a 'both' player ties with a 'high' or 'low' player. The page on high-low declare from the rec.gambling.poker FAQ gives some examples of how showdowns are resolved differently according to the rules used.
If you are the only person in competition for a particular part of the pot, everyone else having declared for the other part, then you automatically win the part you declared for. This is sometimes known as walking. There is some controversy over whether you have to show your cards in this case. Normal practice is that in this case the player does not need to show his or her cards unless the variant played has some minimum qualification for winning hands - such as 'trips to win' in a high poker game or '8 or better' is a low game, or the requirement to show a spade to win a share of the pot that goes to the holder of the highest spade.
It may be desirable, as a deterrent to collusion, to give any player who was dealt a hand the right to demand to see the cards of a player who has 'walked' in a split pot game. If so, this right should only be exercised as a last resort, for example if two players can reasonably be suspected of having an agreement to bet against each other until all the other players have been driven out and then share the pot between them, even if their hands would not normally justify this action. I would be interested to hear from any experienced home poker players who have views on this.
If there are side pots they are each dealt with separately, starting with the one that was created last and working backwards to the main pot. For each pot, the hands of the active players who have chips in that pot are compared to determine who wins it. It is helpful if players who are not involved in the later side pots wait to showing their cards until the pots in which they have chips are due to be dealt with.
The rake is a small amount taken from each pot and given to the host. In a casino this tax pays for the facilities provided - the table, the cards, the professional dealer and so on. Online poker rooms also collect a rake to pay for the service they provide. Home games are sometimes played with a rake to pay for refreshments or to save for an occasional celebration. Normally the rake is a percentage of the pot with a maximum - for example 5% but not more than $3. For practical reasons the rake may go up in steps as the pot size increases - for example $0.25 for each $5 is the pot would result in a rate of 25 cents from a $4 pot but 50 cents from a $5 pot.
The most popular online games, especially low stakes Texas Hold'em, involve playing a large number of deals rather quickly, and many of them are won with little or no betting, so that the pot rarely reaches the level at which the maximum rake applies. The exact rake rules for small pots can therefore have have a significant effect on a player's winnings in the long term. There is an analysis of rake at low stakes at FirstTimePokerPlayer.com.
Some casinos instead of collecting a rake from the pot charge for their service by means of a 'time collection' - a rental of a certain amount per player per half hour.
This structure is sometimes used in games which would otherwise have quite small pots - for example fixed limit draw poker. The winner does not take the pot but is given a marker, such as a bottle top, and the pot stays for the next deal. When a player wins a second time, as shown by the fact that the player already has a marker, the player takes the whole pot that has accumulated and all players give up their markers. If two players tie with winning hands at the showdown and neither has a marker yet they get one each, if just one has a marker that player wins the whole pot, and if they already have a marker each they split the pot.
This betting structure does not work well with table stakes and side pots. A player who runs out of chips in a two-to-win game just has to buy more chips if he or she wishes to continue betting. This should not cause a problem since two-to-win is normally only used in fixed limit games with a cap on the number of raises, so that the pot size is limited.
This system is entirely different from normal poker betting. It is described here because it is used in some showdown games that often allowed as variants in dealer's choice poker, notably Guts. However it is also found in other types of card game, such as the trick-taking game Bouré.
If the pot is empty everyone contributes an equal amount. Then the cards are dealt and there is a declaration round in which the players decide whether they want to stay in and take part or to drop out. Those who drop out cannot win the pot, but cannot lose any more than they have already put in. Those who stay in have a chance to win the pot, but will have to pay more if they lose. There are three possible methods of declaring:
The winner is then determined, either by comparing the hands of the players who stayed in or whatever other method is used in the game being played. The winner collects the pot - if there are two or more winners they share the pot between them. Anyone who stayed in and lost has to match the pot - that is, they have to pay an amount equal to the whole contents of the pot, which goes into the pot for the next deal. For each new deal, everyone participates, including those who dropped out of the previous deal.
Using either of the simultaneous methods 1 or 2, it is possible that everyone will drop out. In that case the pot simply remains for the next deal.
Note that this game can be dangerous. Even if the initial stake is small the pot can get large very quickly. Example:
So the pot is now nearly 400 times the size of the initial stake after only four deals. The only way it can reduce again is if only one player has the courage to stay in and thereby scoops the whole pot (or is all the players who stayed in tied to win the pot).
There are some variants that limit the growth of the pot.
Some play these games with a kitty or ghost player. An extra hand is dealt for the ghost and no one sees this hand until the showdown. To win the pot you have to beat not only all the other players but also the kitty. If the kitty wins, then everyone who stayed in has to match the pot. This variant makes life a little harder for the dealer when sequential declare is used: if all the other players are out the dealer cannot get an automatic win, but runs the risk of being beaten by the kitty.
Some play with legs, which are the equivalent for match pot games of the 'two to win' system for normal poker betting. If only one player stays in, that player does not take the pot but is given a 'leg', represented by some kind of token. If all the players who stayed in tie, they each get a leg. The first player who collects an agreed number of legs, usually three, collects the pot. (If two or more players acquire three legs simultaneously as a result of a tied win the split the pot between them.)