In, poker for every winner there has to be a loser. However, with split pot poker variants there can be more than one winner. Let’s find out how.
Poker is a zero-sum game, meaning for every winner there has to be a loser. However, that’s not to say there can’t be more than one winner, which is especially true in split pot poker variations and situations.
To split a pot is simply to divide the chips among the winners.
For example, imagine it’s No-Limit Texas Hold’em game and you have an ace-high straight. The board isn’t paired, and there are no flush possibilities, so you have the nuts. As it turns out, your opponent has the same hand so you two would split the pot. That means you’ll either break even or possibly make a little in those instances where multiple players were in the pot.
When Kickers are Kings!
Often split poker pots come down to kickers, which are cards in a poker hand that do not determine the rank of the hand, but that may be used to break ties between hands of the same rank.
Player A: 10x8x
Player B: 10x9x
Player A Hand:10x10x6x6x8x
Player B Hand: 10x10x6x6x9x
Here’s an example where the kicker comes from the board and results in a split pot:
Player A: 10x8x
Player B: 10x9x
Player A Hand:10x10x6x6xAx
Player B Hand: 10x10x6x6xAx
Awarding Leftover Chips
Often a pot cannot be equally split as there could be a single odd chip leftover (possibly two odds chips if split three ways). It’s always the lowest denomination chip remaining in play, and there are rules on how it should be awarded.
In a high-low split game, such as Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better, the odd chip always goes to the high hand. In other games where players have the same hand, many venues award the odd chip to the closest player left of the dealer button, while others will give it to the player whose hand contains the highest-ranking single card using suits to break ties if necessary (clubs lowest then diamonds, hearts, and spades, at the top).
The Art of the Chop
Other terms for splitting something up in poker are “chop” and “chopping.” That means to divide the chips among the winning players equally.
“Chop it up” is a common saying in poker circles, and whenever you hear it, you can be sure pots are being split. It could be that two players are tied in a hand, but it could also be used in two other contexts.
- Chopping the Blinds
In cash games, players are allowed to chop the blinds, meaning if action folds to the player in the small blind he or she can ask the player in the big if they want to chop. If so, they take their blinds back and move on to the next hand. It’s a common practice to avoid feeding the rake. Chopping the blinds is not allowed in tournament play.
- Chopping the Tournament
At the final table of a tournament, you might hear someone ask, “Want to chop?” In this context, they are referring to the remaining prize pool and asking if the players still in would be interested in dividing it equally amongst themselves. Not all venues allow for chops, but the vast majority do. All players remaining in the tournament must agree to a chop.
Split Poker Variants
There’s a long list of different poker games that offer split pots by design. The most prominent is Omaha Hi-Lo Eight or Better, where pots are often divided between the best high hand and the best low (it’s possible for the same player to hold both – like an A-2-3-4-5 straight – to win both and “scoop” the pot).
Other split-pot poker games include Seven Card Stud Hi-Lo Eight or Better, Crazy Pineapple Hi-Lo, Low Chicago, and 5-Card Draw Hi-Lo. In these games and others like it, the game is fundamentally different as players are often playing for half the pot. It changes the maths, so the cost of betting and the price to call are perpetually in flux.
In split-pot games, general wisdom dictates that you should never play a hand that is only likely to win half the pot. Instead, you want to play hands that increase the likelihood of scooping and decrease the odds of splitting with another player.