Multiway Pots in Poker

Multiway pots in poker occur when you have multiple active players engaged in the hand. Positions and strategies are even more important.

If you thought playing against one player was a challenge, playing in a multiway pot can seem quite daunting!

But don’t fear, we’re here to give you the ultimate guide to multiway pots for Texas Hold’em Poker so you can start raking in even bigger pots at the tables!

What Is a Multi-Way Pot in Poker

A preflop multiway hand is when there are three or more players who have voluntarily put in chips to the hand. A post-flop multiway pot is when there are three or more players who have seen the flop.

Pro vs Recreational Poker Players

Multiway pots are notoriously difficult to navigate profitably, there are at least two players’ ranges to consider and twice as many cards to have to bluff out or beat at showdown to take the pot. There tends to be a marked difference between the way professional and recreational players play such multiplayer pots.

Pro Players

Professional players will play a lot more conservatively in multiway pots compared to heads up pots as they’re very aware that there are more people they need to beat to win the hand. They:

Therefore the strength of the hand needed to win goes up. It also means bluffs will work less often as there are two or more people who can call or raise compared to just one in a heads up pot.

Because of this, you will see strong players checking more often in multiway pots. This is to realize as much of their equity as cheaply as possible (see free flops), they don’t want to get blown off their hand by a raise when they can either check back in position or check and call a bet from an opponent.

You will also see that they fold more often when they’re bet into because they realize how much stronger their opponent’s hand has to be for them to bet into multiple opponents. This means their marginal hands will be in bad shape and won’t be worth continuing against a bet. 

Recreational Players

Recreational players tend to splash around more in multiway pots because they’re blinded by the amount of money in the middle compared to heads up pot. They:

  • Call a lot more marginal hands
  • Bet weak hands to ‘see where they’re at’
  • Don’t protect their checking range

Weaker players tend to call more often post-flop with weaker hands because they’re unaware of how much stronger a player’s range needs to be to bet in a multiway compared to a heads up pot.

They also tend to bet more often for ‘information’ or to try and ‘find out where they’re at’ with hands like second or third pair. These kinds of bets bloat the pot with marginal holdings, meaning that if they do decide to call down on later streets, they’re doing so for more money than if they decided to check the flop.

Pro vs Recreational Poker Players in Multiway Pots
How experienced and inexperienced poker players behave in multiway pots.

Pros & Cons of Multiway Pots

Multi-way pots in poker are not all that bad. Here are some clear benefits:

  • Potential to win bigger pots than you can heads-up.
  • You get a better price to call preflop if someone has already called
  • People play more ‘honestly’ in multiway pots so it can be easier to hand read.

Inevitably, having more players taking place in a multi-way pot adds some complexity:

  • More players to beat at showdown/bluff to win the hand
  • Harder define the range of the calling player (depends heavily on the player type)
  • Can potentially be squeezed out of the pot by the player left to act

Playing Multi-Way Pots

The key points when wondering how to play multiway pots in poker are to be aware of the actions all players take in the hand and how our hand stacks up against the combined ranges.

Preflop

At the start of the hand, only the 3rd player onwards into the pot needs to consider the fact that it will be multiway, as the raiser and the first caller won’t know the hand will go multiway when they make their action.

When deciding whether or not to overcall after there’s been a raise and a call it’s important to be aware of your position and your hand. The best position in which to overcall is the big blind as we’re in for a discount and we’re closing the action, however, the downside is we’re going to be out of position.

Another decent position to call in is the button, we’re guaranteed to be in position post-flop so we can use our hand reading skills to make good post-flop decisions. The downside to calling on the button is the chance of getting squeezed by the blinds and having to fold our hand.

Flop

On the flop as the preflop raiser, we’ll want to pay close attention to the texture of the flop and how it interacts with our opponent’s ranges. On boards that are good for us and not so good for our opponents, we can still bluff with a relatively wide range, however, we need to be more cautious on boards that aren’t as good for us.

If we’re one of the pre-flop callers then we should be aware that the preflop raiser is likely to check more strong hands-on flops that are good for our range. For example, it’s reasonable to see people check a hand like AA on a flop of T96 as the value of AA goes down dramatically when it goes multiway on this flop. Therefore while we can still value bet hands like QT/KT we need to be a little more cautious than if we were in a heads-up pot.

Turn

On the turn, if the pot is also multiway then the flop action is going to inform how we play. The more aggressive action there has been on the flop, the stronger ranges are going to be on the turn and therefore we need to be tighter with our bluffs and value bets.

If instead the flop checks around and a brick comes on the turn then it will be safer to value bet more of our marginal hands-on dryer boards, because if one of our opponents had a strong hand we would have likely heard about it on the flop. We can also start to bluff more with our misses that checked the flop for the same reasons. On the wet/dynamic flops we’ll still want to check most of our marginal hands.

River

If there are still two or more opponents when we get to the river then ranges will be even more defined by the action on the previous streets. If there’s been a lot of action on these streets then it’s likely that they either have a strong value hand or have been chasing a draw. Against these ranges, we need to be tight when it comes to our value betting and we’ll need a strong read to be able to bluff profitably.

If there has been very little action on the flop or turn then it’s likely that they have a weak/marginal hand with a small amount of showdown value. A good-sized bluff may be able to take the pot down in these scenarios.

Multi-Way Pot Strategies

There are several pillars we need to consider when planning out our multiway pot strategy.

Player Profiles

The type of players you’re facing in multiway pots will impact the amount you can bluff and the strength of hands you can value bet.

New Players

New players love multiway pots, they love all the action and the speed at which the pot grows. To them, the type of hand they need to get involved in the hand doesn’t matter as they just want to splash around.

Against these players, our multiway pot strategy should be to value bet thinner than usual as they’ll be unaware that they need to play tighter in multiway pots and will call us more often with worse hands. 

Experienced Players

Playing against experienced players will be much tougher in multiway pots as they’ll be more aware of how ranges should change in multiway pots. When these players are in the pot we need to be wary when we face a bet from them as this is likely to be a much stronger range than a new player’s would be.

Against these players we may find opportunities to bluff on boards that are good for our range, exploiting the fact that they know we shouldn’t be betting as often which will cause them to fold more often to our bets.

Calling Stations

One of the classic bits of poker advice is “Don’t bluff the calling station!” – for the simple reason being that they’re not going to fold. If you’re lucky enough to have one or even two of these calling stations in your multiway pot then you’re going to want to do a lot of value betting and not much bluffing.

Nits

These players will only put money in post-flop with a strong hand and are therefore prime candidates to bluff if they show little interest in the pot. If we do face resistance from these players after we’ve started bluffing then it’s best to save those second and third bullets for another day as we’re likely to be called down.

risks of multiway pots
Multiway pots are mathematically more difficult and riskier. But the payout can be that greater, too.

Betting Frequency

We know that the players we’re playing against will change our multiway pot strategy but there are other things we need to consider as well such as whether we were the preflop aggressor, our hand, and the board texture.

As The Original Raiser

When we’re the preflop raiser we’re going to have a stronger preflop range than the two callers, however, because we’re up against two ranges our total equity is a lot lower than it would be in a heads-up pot. Therefore we won’t be betting as often as in heads-up pots but we can still have a high betting frequency on boards that are good for our range.

On flops such as AK2, our opponents are going to have a ‘capped’ range, meaning that we know because they only called preflop that they don’t have AA, KK, or AK, whereas we can have all of those combos. Because of this, we can put a lot of pressure on their weak-medium strength hands with our bluffs so boards like these are good candidates to bluff even multiway.

As The Preflop Caller

When we’re the caller we have to look for boards that favor our range more than they do the preflop aggressor. This requires you to have a good understanding of all the hands you would call in a certain spot – there’s no point being very aggressive on a board like 554 if your preflop range doesn’t include any hands with a 5 in it!

On boards that are good for us, we can expect the preflop raiser to do a lot of checking if they’re a competent player. If we think that they aren’t a competent player and are betting too frequently on these boards then we can attack these bets with a raise.

Protecting Your Equity

Hands that we are likely to bet whether or not we’re the preflop aggressor are weak-medium top pair hands. These hands are likely to be the best hand on the flop but are also vulnerable against two or more other players.

Another type of hand we’ll be betting often will be strong draws that have little showdown value. These hands have a decent chance of becoming the best hand by the river but if unimproved are very unlikely to win at showdown. By betting them we give ourselves a chance to win the pot before showdown, as well potentially avoiding the scenario where our opponent bets and we have to fold.

Managing Good & Bad Top Pairs

While any top pair can be classed as a good hand, we can all agree that some are better than others. The easiest way to see this is to look at the kicker that goes with it – the higher it is the better it is compared to other top pair hands. However, another way to gauge the value of your top pair hands is to look at the backdoor equity.

On different boards, some of your top pair hands will have backdoor straight or flush draws which gives them a little boost of equity. It also means they’re less vulnerable to board changes as they have that little bit of protection. A good multiway pot tip is to bet your top pair hands that are more vulnerable to board changes and check the ones that have backdoor draws.

Let’s look at an example. You raise the button with J6 and both blinds call. The flop comes J57 and both blinds check. This is a good spot to check as while we have top pair, our kicker isn’t great and we have a backdoor flush draw in hearts as well as a backdoor straight draw. If instead of J6 we have QJ, we no longer have those backdoor draws and our hand could become more vulnerable on board changing turns.

Hand Reading With Many Players

When you’re playing against two opponents in the same pot, it can be hard to effectively hand read both opponents and keep track of both ranges. One thing that will help us is that players tend to play more “honestly” in multiway pots. Meaning, they bet more often when they have a good hand and check when they’re weak. This makes it easier to hand read accurately and do the right maths in your head.

A helpful multiway pot tip is to identify where you think the preflop ranges overlap and only focus on the differences. So instead of thinking in terms of two separate ranges, think in terms of one big range that encompasses both players. This makes it easier to visualize how your hand does against both ranges, but remember to make sure you keep track of the differences of each player so you can react to whoever bets.

Top 5 Multi-Way Pot Tips

If you find yourself stuck for what to do in a multiway pot here are some tips to help you out:

  1. Don’t bluff as often in multiway poker pots – When you are in multiway pots, there are more people that need to fold for your bluff to work. Therefore you should be bluffing less often and when you do choose to do so you should have a decent amount of equity as a backup.
  2. Downsize your continuation bets – When your bet represents strength it doesn’t need to be as big to be effective, c-betting smaller will allow our bluffs to be more efficient as we’ll only get slightly fewer folds than if we used a much bigger sizing.
  3. Avoid thin value betting ranges – If you are facing multiple opponents the chances of someone having a strong hand on the flop increases. This means that some of our thin value bets are no longer profitable, we should look to value-bet the stronger parts of our range.
  4. Tighten up with the more players involved – The more players there are in a hand, the more likely someone has a very strong hand, meaning we have to be tighter when it comes to both betting and calling bets.
  5. Call tighter against bets – When our opponents bet in multiway pots we need to be aware of how much stronger their betting range is compared to a heads-up pot and react accordingly. We should be calling tighter than usual against a bet and tighter still if there’s been a bet and a call.

Muli-Way Pot – FAQ

Here are the answers to commonly asked questions about multiway pots.

Should you avoid multiway pots in Texas Holdem poker?

No, we shouldn’t be overfolding to avoid playing heads-up pots but we should be cautious id we decide to enter one.

Are multiway pots riskier than heads-up pots?

They are riskier, in that it’s harder to win a multiway pot than a heads-up pot as there are more people we need to beat in order to win.

How to win a multiway pot in poker?

There is no trick to winning multiway pots, the best way to improve your win-rate in multiway pots is to practice them.

How to train myself at solving multiway pots?

The best way to improve is to practice playing in multiway pots. There is also a piece of software called Monker Solver which can give a GTO solution to multiway pots. And use a poker odds calculator to calculate your chances of winning in a specific configuration.

What hands play well in multiway pots?

The hands that play the best in multiway pots are hands that make nut straights or nut flushes – these hands can win massive pots against second-best hands.

What poker playing style is best suited for multiway pots?

Your specific playing style isn’t the most important thing when playing multiway pots – you should be trying your best to counter your opponents. I.e. value betting wider against calling stations and bluffing flops against people who overfold.

The most important thing to remember when playing Texas Hold’em multi-way pots is to realize how ranges change based on the actions of the other players in the hand. If you can accurately identify these changes you’ll have no trouble mastering playing multiway pots.