Poker Chips: Finding the Perfect Setup for Your Home Game
- Written by the CardsChat Editorial Team
To ensure you’ve got the right quantity, quality, and collection of poker chips to host a poker game at home, we’ve compiled the ultimate poker chip guide.
Poker Chip Calculator
Fill in the details of your home game to generate recommended tournament payouts, chip distribution and blind structure.
Finding the Best Poker Chip Sets for You
The market for poker chips is a varied place, but there is a set to suit everyone’s budget and needs. To find the best poker chips for you, there are three things you need to consider: chip quality, chip quantity and poker chip values.
The Types of Chips Available
One of the first questions you need to ask is: what’s the level of competition? For example, if it’s a quick home game, you wouldn’t need the most expensive chips on the market. Similarly, if you’re inviting round some pros, you wouldn’t give them the thinnest chips you could find.
Based on this, there are three common scenarios you should consider:
Casual Home Games
For games where you’re just interested in having fun and not taking things too seriously, the best option is plastic chips. To an experienced player, the featherlight feel of these discs might be a little off-putting, but the aim here is to host a game as cheaply as possible. Your best bet in these situations is to buy a complete poker set that contains around 300 chips, a carry case and a deck of cards for around $25.
If you’re planning to host a regular game with a mixture of skill levels, composite poker chips are perfect. With weights ranging from 11-15 grams, you’ll find a set that feels solid but won’t be too expensive. Unmarked composites are the most common and usually come in packs of 25 for ease, which means you have the flexibility to set your own denominations.
High Stakes Affairs
If you’re playing for big money, it’s probably a good idea to buy some professional-grade poker chips. As clay chips are often used in high stakes cash games, we’d suggest something like a 9-gram Super Diamond chip. Available in 10 colors, these chips aren’t marked and have a solid feel to them. For something a little weightier, the 14-gram Monte Carlo poker set is great for cash games as it has dollar amounts printed on each face. However, it’s important to remember that the better the quality, the more expensive a poker chip set will be.
How Many Poker Chips Do You Start With?
The next thing you need to focus on is chip quantity. Having enough chips to cover all eventualities is crucial, which is why it’s a good idea to use a poker chip calculator. Just as you’d use a poker odds calculator to better understand your odds in a given hand, you can use a poker chip calculator to work out the perfect ratio of tokens to players.
Download our free poker chip calculator sheet and use it to organize all your home games.
You’ll need to think about the type of game you’re going to host to determine how many chips you need. In general, stacks of poker chips are sold in the following batches:
- 1 chip
- 25 chips
- 50 chips
- 100 chips
- 300 chips
- 500 chips
Additionally, you can buy a readymade poker chip collection that typically gives you 300 chips. For the average poker game with five+ players, anywhere from 500 to 1,000 chips should be enough. However, for a more accurate figure, think about how many people will be in action and then the type of game you’re running.
If you’re hosting a single table tournament, you’ll usually start with six to 10 players. Assuming you start with a standard $1,500 stack made up of high and low value poker chips, you can get away with using around 10-15 chips per person. Similarly, if you were running a multi-table tournament, you could start with a stack worth $3,000 and give each player 20-30 chips.
If you’re hosting a cash game, you’re going to need more chips with smaller values. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, players will often start 100 big blinds deep (at least). Secondly, players like to change bigger chips into smaller denominations to make their stack look more imposing. So, even if you were hosting a $200 buy-in game, don’t be surprised if most players want at least $50 in $1 chips.
Of course, cash games can often go on indefinitely, an
Poker Chip Values and Colors
In cash games, the number of colors you’ll require will be limited. As the blinds will never change and you don’t have to ‘color up’, it’s possible to get away with using between three and five colors.
In tournaments you’ll need a lot more. As mentioned, the increasing blinds means that players will be forced to use higher value chips as the action progresses.
For example, if everyone starts with $1,500 and the blinds begin at $10/$20, it’s fine to use $10 and $25 chips. However, by the time the blinds get to $500/$1,000, the smaller value chips will be less important, so you’ll need to cover as many bases as possible with your poker chip collection.
Of course, the quantity of each color will differ depending on your circumstances. Generally, though, you’ll want more of the low and middle value chips than the highest value tokens. Beyond this, you’ll need to think about your chip distribution, which we’ll discuss in the following section.
Tournament Distribution: Establish the Right Colors & Blinds
The distribution of poker chips you’ll require is dependent on how many players are playing and whether it’s a freezeout or rebuy. For example, if you want to play a quick freezeout with a few friends, you can get away with using a small number of chips and not worry about coloring up. In contrast, if you’re hosting a rebuy with a slow clock and 20+ players, you’ll need more chips and, importantly, you’ll need to color up.
Of course, if you want a quick and easy answer to your chip conundrum, you can simply use the cheat sheets below and determine your perfect stack sizes. Doing this will not only show you how many chips players should start with, but the blinds sheet will allow you to note when it might be necessary to color up.
In a poker tournament, blinds increase at set intervals. In a live game, a 20-minute clock in a multi-table tournament is considered swift (but usually works well for a home game tourney), while one-hour levels are standard for longer tournaments. Anything over one hour would be a slow clock. Online, however, a 12-minute level is usually considered standard.
Because the blinds are gradually increasing, it means that smaller value chips become less significant as things move on. So, it’s important to have a wide distribution of poker chip values so that you can color up at certain intervals.
‘Coloring up’ is where you exchange a large number of poker chips for a smaller number of chips of a higher denomination, while keeping the total value of the chips on the table the same.
The aim of coloring up is to exchange an even number of smaller denomination chips for equivalent value larger denominations. However, in situations where there is an odd number left, players can race for an extra chip. The dealer collects the leftover chips and swaps them for higher value chips. For example, if there are 10 $5 chips in the middle, the organizer would swap them for two $25 chips.
Once the chips have been set, the players that contributed to the pot will be dealt cards equal to the number of chips they put into the pot e.g. three $5 chips = three cards, four $5 chips = four cards etc. After the deal is complete, the player(s) with the highest value card(s) win the chips in the middle and normal play resumes.
Rounding up requires the organizer to round-up a player’s small chips. For example, if they had $20 and the chips being introduced were worth $25, the
Cash Game Distribution: Poker Chips in Ring Games
As cash games usually involve deep stacks, static blinds and rebuys, you’ll need a large number of chips. However, because the blinds don’t increase (unless the players agree to a change), you don’t need to worry about coloring up. The benefit of this is that you won’t need a rainbow of colors on the table.
The main thing you need to worry about in a cash game is change. Players will bring cash to the table, use large chips to call small bets and generally like to have a lot of small value chips in play. So, it’s a good idea to have a lot more lower denomination chips than higher value tokens. We’d suggest the following set-up for a standard cash game:
- Starting stacks of at least 100 big blinds deep.
- Players start with 40% low value, 40% medium value and 20% high value chips.
Poker Chip Cheat Sheets
The next time you need to calculate poker chip distributions, Texas Hold’em poker chip values or a blinds schedule, use the following downloadable cheat sheets:
That’s all you need to know about poker chips. If you keep in mind what we’ve said and use the tools outlined in this guide, you should be well on your way to having a well-stocked and enjoyable home poker game.
Want to spice things up beyond Texas Hold’em? From Omaha to Five-Card Draw and Razz, you can learn more about the poker rules of these variations and other poker guides at CardsChat.
Poker Chips FAQ
What are the different types of poker chips?
Poker chips are available in a wide variety of materials, from plastic to clay and other composites, with prices varying according to the overall quality. Cheaper chips tend to feel lighter in the hand, but will do the same job as more expensive chip sets.
What poker chips do you start with?
The size of your starting stack in any poker game depends on the stakes you are playing and whether you are playing a cash game or a tournament. In a tournament it’s customary for all players to start with the same amount of chips. It’s always a good idea to make sure there are enough lower denomination chips on the table for people to post the blinds without regularly asking for change.
Can you learn how to play poker without chips?
In poker cash games chips are simply units used to represent money. It’s not strictly necessary to play using chips: you can use money itself, or anything else that can stand in for money such as matchsticks or anything else you have handy (but you will need a good amount of them). Chips are an ideal solution, though, as you can easily control how many are at the table (players can’t sneakily add their own into their piles as they might be able to do with matchsticks), it’s easy to quickly count them in stacks, and different colored chips allow you to use different denominations.
What are poker chips called?
Poker chips often pick up nicknames based on their colors. In Las Vegas casinos it’s not uncommon to hear chips referred to as ‘Redbirds’ (red $5 chips), ‘Greenbirds’ (green $25 chips), ‘Blackbirds’ (black $100 chips), ‘Barneys’ (purple $500 chips), ‘Pumpkins’ or ‘Bananas’ (orange or yellow $1,000 chips), or ‘Chocolates’ (brown $5,000 chips).