Split-game strategies

Apr 22, 2003 5:09 AM

While split pot poker is not favored in Las Vegas, round the country it is the most popular form of poker. Split pots offer a wider spectrum of starting hands, which creates action and alleviates boredom.

Many home poker games revolve around the "bet, declare, bet" format, so split games are familiar to players. Las Vegas casinos do not offer many split pot games for several reasons. Fewer games are dealt do to the time lost in reading hands and chip division.

Also, starting games requires a larger number of players and Las Vegas players, spoiled by the ready action, are unwilling to wait for players to arrive.

One of the recurring questions in split pots is: "Who gets the extra chip?" I’m sure the dealer would be more than happy to settle any arguments by removing the chip from contention but he has not participated in the pot and there should be an arbitrarily defined system for the distribution.

Tradition grants the high hand the extra chip but what makes the high hand more worthy than the low hand? History shows that low poker is relatively new so high hands have seniority. Probably, early split players regarded anyone stealing half a pot from a good high hand undeserving of any bonuses.

Now that we can view the rules with equality in mind, there should be a better system. Before I get off this topic, let me illustrate some other random methods I espouse for odd chips.

In a pot where two high hands have the same holding, there are two methods that I like. The first is applicable to button games. Simply award the closest person left of the button the extra chip. Note that this system works in the event of a quartered pot where the closest quarter hand get the chip.

Where the problem sets in is a pot with an extra chip after dividing high and low. Does the sole high get the chip when the low is split in half or should that chip go into the low for distribution. Technically, each person contributed 33 percent of that chip but the high owns 50 percent of the pot and should not have to relinquish 17 percent to make low come out more evenly. In this instance, we are back to the question of the extra chip. If there is more than one extra chip as in a three way split, first award the nearest left of the button followed by the next nearest, etc.

Games without buttons need another distribution method because left of the dealer would give persons sitting in the early seats the benefit of more extra chips. My method is to award the chip to the highest suited card in matching high hands or the lowest suited card in low hands.

The award must be based upon the best five cards and not the other side cards because only five cards constitute a hand and money should not be decided by cards not used to win. If there is more than one extra chip as in a three-way division (extremely rare), the highest or lowest card followed by the next highest or lowest card depending on whether the split is among low hands or high hands.

As you can see, the odd chip distributions described above are relatively random. Choosing a flush in one suit over another or catching a high spade in a straight would make little difference to the betting or decision to play one hand over another.

In button games, suited cards might cause problems because the board might be the best hand or hold the highest card, making distribution by suit difficult. But, why should high hand get a chip over a low hand?

If the award is predicated upon last bet or raise, then awarding the aggressor would eliminate favoritism. What we need is a rule that makes sense. It should be dependent on only the cards that comprise the winning hand or some randomly determined system that is not dependent on only the cards or favoritism in seating.