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by Bill Burton

Bill Burton is an advantage blackjack player and skilled poker player. He is the author of the best-selling book, "Get the Edge at Texas Low Limit Hold’em", available at 10% discount from the BJI online store, and the guide at



I receive many e-mails each month asking me questions about Texas Hold’em. The majority of them come from new players, who want me to decide the winning hand, or settle a dispute they had while playing. Since several readers have asked the same question about split pots and tie breakers, I thought I would answer two similar questions in this article.

Question 1

I have a question for you about a tiebreaker in Texas Hold’em.  In this situation, two players are left.  The 5 communal cards are a 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of mixed suits.  Player One has a 3 and a 4.  Player Two has a King and a Queen.  Obviously, the best hand is the straight on the board.  My question is who wins?  I'm assuming there are 3 possible answers:

1.  Player One wins because he has 2 pair, and Player Two only has King high.  I don't think this is right, because Player Two's best hand (the straight on the board,) is better than the 2 pair.
2.  Player Two wins because he has the higher kicker (the King beating the 4.)  I think if there IS a winner, it's because of this. 
3.  The hand is a draw and the 2 players split the pot

The Answer

The correct answer is number 3. It is a split pot. In Texas Hold’em the winning hand is the highest five card hand. It can be made from any combination of the two personal cards held by the players, and the five community cards. In some cases the highest five card hand is made by using the five community cards, as in our example above. A sixth or seventh card is never used to break a tie.

In this example, if there was a third or fourth player still active in the hand and they did not have a hand that could beat the straight on the board, then the pot would be split amongst all the active players. (If they held a 7 in their hand they would have the higher straight and win the pot, if they were the only ones with a 7). If two players had a seven, it would be a split pot between those two players.

Beware of the Raise

Sometimes when it appears that the best hand is on the board, a player will raise in hopes that one of the other players will fold. Then they can win the pot out right, or cut down on the number of players splitting the pot. For example:

The board cards are: King diamonds – Queen spades - Jack hearts - Ten clubs – 9 hearts

The best possible hand that can be made is an Ace high straight. One of the players may bet or raise to try and make you think they have an Ace for a higher straight. In this case, you are forced to call the bet in case it is a bluff. The worst that can happen if you call is that you lose a bet. If you fold and there is a spit pot, you have cost yourself a portion of the pot.

Question 2

Some friends and I were playing the other night and we had an argument regarding the winner of this hand: the board showed 7-  8 - A – Q - K all mixed suits. One player thought it should be a split pot because the ace is high.

Player #1 had   J - 9

Player #2 had  4 - 6

Player #3 had  3- 5

Who is the winner?

Answer 2

Since nobody has a pair, the winning hand is made of the five highest cards using a combination of the cards in the players hand and the cards on the board. In this case, the five highest cards are: A K Q J 9. Player 1 is the winner.

When Kickers Play

Situations will arise when there is a winning hand, such as a flush, on the board. If two or more active players have a suited card higher than the lowest card on the board, then the player with the higher card will win. For example:

The board cards are: Ace spades - King spades – Ten spades – 9 spades – 6 spades

Player One has Queen spades and Jack hearts.

Player Two has 8 spades and 7 hearts.

Player 1 wins because their Queen of spades makes a higher flush than the player with the 8 of spades.

There would, however, be a split pot if both players had a spade that was lower than the 6 spades. For instance, if Player One had the 5 of spades, and Player Two had the 3 of spades, then the 6 on the board makes a higher flush than either of the players can make with their cards.

There you have it. Now you know how to determine a split pot. Just remember that only five cards can be used to make the best hand. If they happen to be the five community cards on the board, then it is a split pot and will be divided by all the players still active in the hand. But if a player has a higher kicker they will win.

Until Next time remember:

Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.

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