A Look at House Rules: Split Pots and Odd Chips
If you have been playing regularly in a card room, you’ve probably witnessed hands in which two or more players share the same winning hand and the pot is split between them. If your favorite game is a poker variant of hi-lo split games, you’re also undoubtedly familiar with the pot being divided between the high and the low hand. If, however, on your journey through poker you haven’t encountered a split pot before, we’ll give you the basics regarding how it works, including what happens when the chips don’t divide evenly.
If you’re playing a button game that doesn’t have a hi-lo split format and the pot is split between two or more players leaving an odd chip or two, how those odd chips are disbursed may vary with different houses.
In some card rooms, the odd chip(s) will go to the player left of the button who was in action. If there are two or more odd chips, they are awarded beginning with the player to the left of the button first and the next player(s) afterwards.
The odd chip(s) can be awarded according to who has the high card in the hand. If two or more players have the same high card, the chip(s) are awarded by suit, with the suits ranked high-to-low with spades the highest, hearts next, then diamonds, and clubs the lowest.
If you’re playing in a stud-based game, the odd chip(s) are awarded according to high card in the winning player’s hand. If two or more players hold the same high card, the chip(s) are awarded by suit orders as listed above.
Hi-Lo Split Games
When it comes to hi-lo split games, in both button games and stud-based games the odd chip is always awarded to the high hand.
In button games: The odd chip(s) are given to the first winning player(s) to the left of the button. If the high half of the pot is split between one or more players, in the event of odd chip(s) the chips would be disbursed as listed above to the player(s) to the left of the button.
In stud based games: The odd chip(s) are given to the winning player(s) who have the highest card in their hand. If the low half of the pot is split between one or more players, any odd chips would be disbursed to the winning players according to high card by suit as listed above.
In all games when an odd chip remains after the pot has been split, the lowest denomination of chip used in that game will be used in splitting the pot, meaning a bigger, odd chip will be broken down and disbursed according to the rules listed above.
For example, in a $20/$40 fixed-limit hold’em game, one-dollar chips are used for the rake. That means if a pot is split down to a $5 chip and two $1 chips (after three $1 chips have been taken for the rake), the $5 chip will be broken down to five $1 chips and then the seven $1 chips are disbursed in the split.
Fouled Hands and Splitting Chips
In “A Look at House Rules: The Fouled Deck,” we talked about a player participating in the action while knowingly playing with a fouled hand. In that event, the player would forfeit all chips and rights to the pot and everyone in the action would be refunded their chips.
In that case, the player with the fouled hand would find his or her chips split between the players in action and any odd chips would go to the first players left of the button.
As we’ve discussed before, home game rules are defined by the host. If you play in an established home game, check with the host on the ruling for how odd chips are handled in split pots. If you’re setting up your own home game, follow the rules above to help establish your own routine for dealing with the situation, then get the cards in the air.
While putting the energy into awarding a single, odd chip may seem a bit trivial, keep in mind that history shows us that even a single chip can prove crucially important. Jack “Treetop” Straus won the 1982 World Series of Poker after being down to just one chip earlier in the event. Awesome comebacks from one chip have been noted throughout poker’s history — hence the well known saying, “a chip and a chair!”
Split pot rules apply at all online poker sites, too, as are provisions for when the pots do not divide evenly. For example, here is how 888 Poker describes the procedure followed with split pots and odd chips:
“In the event that two or more players hold equal ranking hands at the showdown, the pot is divided equally between those players. In the event that an equal split is not possible, the odd chip(s) will be awarded to the first winning player(s) seated closest to the left of the dealer button. In Omaha hi-lo games where there is a split between the high hand and low hand, any odd chip will go to the player holding the high hand.”
Online poker games play so fast, if you blink, you’ll miss seeing where the odd chips go in a split pot. Rest assured, though, that the pots are broken down according to each individual online poker site’s rule. If you have any questions on a split pot, be sure to contact their online support team.