What is a ‘Side Pot’?
A side pot is a term in poker when one player goes “all in” but remaining players at the table continue to bet. The “all in” player is not allowed to win more than he has staked, so any additional betting from other players goes into a separate pot, referred to as the side pot.
‘Side Pot’ Explained
A player who announces he is “all-in” is not able to win an amount above their “all-in” bet. If there is only one other player still active, the other player simply matches that all-in bet and retracts any overage. The hand is then dealt to a finish. However, if more than two players remain in the hand and the bets rise above the amount of the stake of the all-in player, the additional bets form a side pot. Only active players who have bet into this side pot have the chance to win the side pot along with the main pot. If there were multiple all-in bets there can be multiple side pots. If a player chooses to fold rather than match the bets in a side pot, that player also foregoes the right to win the main pot too.
Take the following example:
Player 1 begins the betting round with a bet of $20 but Player 2 only has $10. They call the $10 with Player 2 now “all in”. Player 3 has $30, and can either call $20, re-raise to $30, or fold. Player 3 opts to re-raise and bets all of their remaining stake and going “all-in” and so now the bet is a further $10 to Player 1, who opts to call. Player 1 is the only active player with a remaining stake and so no-one can make further bets in this hand.
Because Player 2 can only win the proceeds of the $10 he has staked, $10 is taken from each of the players’ bets and the $30 total constitutes the main pot. The $40 remaining that Players 1 and 3 are playing for, forms the side pot. The hand is then dealt to a finish and Player 2 emerges with the best hand of all 3 players, and so wins the main pot. Player 1’s hand is the next-best hand, and so wins the side pot consisting of Player 1 & 3’s bets. Player 3 loses the hand and receives nothing from any pot.