How to determine a poker chip breakdown for your game!

Posted by Gene Azevedo on

Being a supplier of poker chips we are often asked what a good breakdown is for a poker game.  Our immediate response is normally, “it depends”.  Is it a cash game or tournament?  How many chips do your players like to have in front of them?  Do you ever see your stakes rising in the future?  How deep do your players get by the end of the night?

There are many factors to consider when figuring out a breakdown of chips for your poker game.  Make sure to consider them all.  Take some time and work out your breakdown in writing so you can visualize the chips being used.

Let’s consider a poker game that is only a tournament.  This is the most common type of game that is being played in home games.

Try to not think about just how many “chips” that a player starts with.  You can have a player start with 100,000 chips but if the blinds are 1000/2000 in the first level they will have shorter stacks compared to a player that starts with 5000 chips with the first blinds being 25/50.  In the first situation the player starts with 50 big blinds while in the second situation the player starts with 100 big blinds.  That is a big difference!

So, try to think about how many big blinds (BB) you want each player to start with.  A good rule of thumb is that most tournaments start with 50-100 BBs but some players prefer deep-stack tournaments that start with 100+ BBs.

Now, consider how many actual physical chips you want each player to start with.  Most players like to have a HUGE stack in front of them, but you have to realize that players need to start with a smaller stack or else you will have to purchase a very large number of chips.  In a normal home game tournament players will start with 20-30 chips.

Tournament

Finally, consider how many players you will have in your tournaments and how long the tournament will normally last.  If there are a lot of players (20+ players) it will mean that there will be a lot of initial chips on the tables.  There will be so many chips that you will have to “color up” the lower denomination chips at some point during the tournament.  So, you will need to have higher denomination chips than the initial starting poker chips.

Let’s look at an example set up:

Total players: 20
Starting blinds:  25/50
Starting stack:  5000 (100 BB)
Number of poker chips to start with:  21
Initial chips that each player has in front of them:

  • 4 – “25” chips = 100
  • 9 – “100” chips = 900
  • 8 – “500” chips = 4000


Total number of physical poker chips to start with:  21 X 20 = 420 poker chips

At some point during the tournament the “25” chips will be useless since the blinds will be in even “100’s”.  At that point you can “color up” the “25” chips.  So, you will need more “100” and possibly more “500” chips.  So, it is suggested that another 20 “100” chips be added.

Extra “100” chips for coloring up during the tournament:

  • 20 – “100” chips


This brings the total chips needed for this game to 440 poker chips.  At this point it is suggested that extra chips are added for a few reasons.  Maybe you will have a game where 22 people show up.  Some chips may get lost over time, etc.

Extra chips for special circumstances:

  • 30 – “25” chips
  • 20 – “100” chips
  • 10 – “500” chips


This brings the total count of chips to:

  • 110 – “25” chips
  • 220 – “100” chips
  • 170 – “500” chips
  • 500 total poker chips


That is a general overview of how to figure out what poker chips to get for a tournament.  Let’s discuss a cash game since this will be a bit different.

Cash Game

It is understood that cash games can vary drastically in stakes.  Therefore, let’s not focus on the actual value of the chips but think in terms of big blinds (BB’s).  I will discuss a $1/2 NL Holdemgame, but will mention BB’s.

The difference with a cash game is that players are often able to rebuy many times.  Also, in many games the buy-in is not capped so a player can typically buy-in for 50 BB’s, 100 BB’s, 200 BB’s, or sometimes much higher.  So, by the end of a game the value of chips can far exceed what you start with.  However, home cash games generally do not involve more than 10 players.

Let’s consider an uncapped $1/2 NL Holdem game that has unlimited rebuys.

On average, the initial buy-in may be 100 BB’s per player ($200). So, let’s figure out the starting chips for each player:

  • 15 - $1 chips = $15
  • 17 - $5 chips = $85
  • 4 - $25 chips = $100
  • Total – 36 chips = $200


This brings the total number of chips starting out on the table to 360 poker chips (36 X 10 players).

As mentioned, players will often rebuy (sometimes many times) and players may be allowed to buy-in for more than 100 BB’s.  This means we have to consider the extra poker chips needed for the game.

The starting value of the chips on the table is $2000 (10 players X $200).

During a typical game, the total value chips at the end of the game will be 2-3X the starting value.  So, let’s figure out the extra chips needed if the value is up to 3X the starting value:

  • 100 - $5 chips = $500
  • 20 - $25 chips = $500
  • 10 - $100 chips = $1000


This brings the total chips needed to (490 = 360 + 130).

As with the tournament, it is best to add extra chips for the situations where the game gets very deep.  You also may want to prepare for if the game grows into a higher stakes game such as $2/5.

Here is a suggestion for extra chips that will cover deep games and slightly higher stakes:

  • 80 - $25 chips = $2000
  • 30 - $100 chips = $3000


Also, consider adding extra poker chips for the occasional lost chip:

  • 50 - $1 chips
  • 50 - $5 chips


As you can see, with the cash game there are more poker chips to purchase.  This is often the case, but you are also prepared for a deep game and for future games when the stakes move up.  For this situation the total poker chips suggested is (490 + 120 + 100 = 700).

There are no rules regarding the poker chips needed for a game.  You may find that your games don’t need as many poker chips or you prefer to have more.  The most important thing is to write out what chips you think you need.  Try to break down your game like the examples above.  It is much better to be prepared before your game starts than to find out that you do not have the poker chips you need to run the game.

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