Side Bets Available at PokerStars Poker Tables
Poker is gambling. We like to say that it is a game of skill – and it is – but it is also gambling. And that’s fine. It can be both! And though I have been in this industry for 15 years, I am not much of a gambler at all. When I spent the better part of two summers at the Rio covering the World Series of Poker, the only non-poker gambling I did was when I played a few minutes of nickel video poker during the occasional break from the tournaments or when my boss dragged me to the Four Queens to play blackjack switch. Hell, I only played in maybe three low buy-in poker tourneys when I was there. I sure as hell wasn’t about to throw down side bets during those poker games. I lost enough money as it was. But people playing on PokerStars can do that now, as the online poker room has officially launched side bets after testing them out in January.
So if you are the type of person who likes to play online poker, but for some reason also thinks it’s boring and you want to blow more money, side bets are for you.
Place your bets – how side bets work
The side bet window can be found in the lower-left corner of the table window, but the chat box. It is not enabled by default – you have to go into the options to activate it.
Once the side bet window is activated, you can get to crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. One type of side bet that can be placed is a pre-flop bet. This is a bet on your hole cards. For example, you can bet that your hole cards are going to be pocket Aces (I mean, don’t we all bet that? I’d place an emotional hedge bet that my hole cards would be garbage). If your hole cards match whatever your bet was, you win! Yay!
You can also make a post-flop, betting on what the texture of the flop will be. Think flush flop, trips flop, etc.
All side bets are taken from the funds you have on deposit, not from the chips you have on the table. It would be pretty funny, though, if you placed a side bet that you would have pocket Aces and then lose because you were dealt pocket Kings, resulting in you not having enough chips left to actually raise.
Side bets are effectively a casino game. The bets are made from your account balance and you are competing against the house.
PokerStars cancels side bets if the events on which they are dependent don’t happen:
If you place a side bet on the outcome of a flop and the hand never gets to the flop, the side bet is cancelled and the money is put back into your account.
If you place a side bet on the next hand, but your table breaks before that hand is dealt, the side bet is cancelled and the money is refunded.
If you are sitting out or are disconnected and therefore are not dealt into a hand on which you placed a side bet, your bet is cancelled and you get your money back. Basically, you have to be dealt into a hand to put down your side bet on it.
Poker players not in love with it
The reactions to PokerStars side bets in the poker community have been largely negative. Side bets are seen as a pure money grab, which really, they are. While poker is gambling, the fact that it requires a high degree of skill to succeed makes it different than the normal casino games. But side bets are basically like putting down a craps or roulette bet. There is absolutely no skill involved and they will only serve to drain players’ poker accounts.
And sure, it is my prerogative and your prerogative and his prerogative and her prerogative to plunk down a side bet or throw some virtual coins in a slot machine if we want, and it’s our problem if we lose, but side bets can also have negative effect on the poker economy as a whole.
If I’m a good poker player (SHUTUP), I believe I can win money from the other players at the table. I won’t every day – we all have losing sessions – but more often than not, I’ll be profitable. If my opponents are placing side bets, they are going to lose money to PokerStars in the long run. That money leaves the poker economy and goes right into PokerStars’ coffers. I don’t get a chance to win it.
Going further, if players burn through their poker funds on side bets or other at-table casino games, they might not redeposit and that’s it, they’re gone.