Chopping the Pot in Texas Hold’em
In poker, there is no “tied for first.” At the end of a hand, someone has to be declared a winner, even if two players are even in every way.
Before joining a Sit-n-Go tournament or sitting down for some live action, it helps to know the concept of how ties are awarded.
Assume there are two players left in a pot. The five tabled cards appearing on the board are 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, with two diamonds, two hearts and a spade.
Player 1 reveals his hole cards, showing a 7 and an 8. At this point, he’s sitting on two pair, earned on the river, but the board is showing a straight.
His opponent reveals his card to reveal a King and a Queen of diamonds. He missed the flush, but both picked up the straight, so it’s now time to determine who wins.
The highest combination of any five cards takes the pot in Texas Hold’em. In this case, independent of the two pair held by Player 1, the straight on the board is the highest combination. Since the tabled cards – the community cards – are available for all players to use, neither of the players has a better hand with their hole cards.
As a result, the pot would have to be split. This is, of course, unless one of the players decides to bluff a win before the final bets are placed and cause his opponent to fold.
To use another example, a hand has action from three players, all of whom call preflop. When the flop is laid out, the cards are 2-2-4, with a 2 and a 4 of hearts. Player 1 has pocket Kings and leads the betting and Player 2, holding A-K of hearts and the possibility of a flush, calls.
Player 3 flopped a straight draw, holding 3 and 6, and also decides to take a chance. The turn reveals another 2, putting pressure on all of the players – Player 1 has a full house (Twos over Kings) and leads out strong. Player 2 still hopes to hit the flush and stays in, but Player 3 decides that it’s time to cut his losses and exits the hand.
The river gives another 2, leading to a board of 2-2-4-2-2. Both players in the game have four of a kind and, even though he started with a better hand, Player 1’s full house is now completely irrelevant. If Player 3 had stayed in, he would have at least recuperated his investment, but Players 1 and 2 ended up splitting the pot and taking his chips.
In the last model, the two players utilized their kicker (both had a King) to guarantee a split of the pot. On other occasions, kickers can be cause considerable confusion, as in the example of a board with K-Q-6-5-4, all diamonds.
Player 1 has two diamonds in his hole cards, a 10 and a 6. Player 2 has a pair of Jacks, of which one is a diamond. Since Player 2 has the Jack of diamonds, he would take the hand with the higher kicker. On the other hand, if the highest diamond held by Player 1 were a 2 and by Player 2 were a 3, they would have tied and split the pot, looking at a board with the lowest diamond being a 4.
To help clear the air on settling ties, there’s one more example that can be presented. Two players are in a battle to the death, both having gone all in preflop. Player 1 has pocket Jacks and Player 2 has pocket 9s.
The river shows A-K-J and Player 1 likes what he sees. He is the current leader, but knows that two more cards are still waiting to be revealed. The turn shows another King, giving Player 1 two pair, but Player 2 is now sitting on a straight draw, only needing the 10 to complete his run.
The last card is dealt and it’s an Ace, resulting in a board of A-K-J-K-A. Player 2 was saved by a single card, as the board’s two pair – AA and KK – is better than either of the two pair held by the players.