Splitting poker pots

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In poker it is sometimes necessary to divide the pot among two or more players rather than awarding it all to a single player. This can happen because of ties, and also by playing intentional split-pot poker variants (the most typical of these is High-low split poker, where the high hand and low hand split the pot). Here are some guidelines on how this is done.

To split a pot, use both hands to take chips from the pot and make stacks, placing them side by side to compare height (and therefore value). Separate equal stacks and place aside. If there is more than one denomination of chip in the pot, start with the largest and work down. If there is an odd number of larger chips, use smaller chips from the pot to equalize stacks, or make change as necessary. Always break the pot down to the lowest denomination of chip used in the game. Three-way ties or further splits can also be done this way. (As an aside, this practice of comparing the size of a stack of poker chips is the origin of the phrase to stack up against, as in I like this car, but its performance just doesn't stack up against Joe's Mercedes.)

When you have finished fully dividing a pot, there may be a single odd lowest-denomination chip remaining (or two odd chips if splitting three ways, etc.). Odd chips can be awarded in several ways, and which method you use should be decided ahead of time:

  • If playing a high-low split game and dividing a pot between the high and low hands, always award the odd chip to the high hand.
  • If splitting a pot because of tied hands, award the odd chip to the hand that contains the highest-ranking single card, using suits to break ties if necessary (clubs ranking the lowest, followed by diamonds, hearts, and spades as in bridge).
  • (Variation) Between tied hands, award the odd chip to the first player in clockwise rotation from the dealer. (Note that in a casino stud game with a house dealer and no "buck" this gives an unfair advantage to players on the dealer's left, so the high card by suit method is preferred).
  • (Variation) Leave the odd chip as an extra ante for the next deal. This is common in home games.

Sometimes it is necessary to further split a half pot into quarters, or even smaller portions. This is especially common in community card high-low split games such as Omaha hold'em, where one player has the high hand and two or more players have tied low hands. Unfortunate players receiving such a fractional pot call it being quartered, in reference to the torture technique of being "drawn and quartered". When this happens, an exception to the odd chip rules above can be made: if the high hand wins its half of the pot alone, and the low half is going to be quartered, the odd chip (if any) from the first split should be placed in the low half, rather than being awarded to the high hand.