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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?

Dia de los Muertos poker chips
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.
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

Starting stack of our Nevada Jack Skulls poker chips.

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).Color up poker dashboard
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. *Note: For the Word version of this document click here.

How to Set Up a No Limit Hold’em Tournament Home Game.

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Pgs 1-2: The Basics (Hand Rankings and Basic Play)
Pgs 3-4: The Setup (Blinds, Chips, Seating, Payouts and Rules)
Pgs 5 : Extras (Rebuys, Add-ons and Chip Racing)

Hand Rankings:

Royal Flush
A royal flush is a straight flush that has a high card value of Ace (Ex: 10, J, Q, K, A). This is the highest hand in poker.

Straight Flush
A five-card sequence of the same suit (Ex: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

Four of a Kind
All four cards of the same rank (Ex: Q, Q, Q, Q). Four cards of the same value. AKA: Quads

Full House
Three of a kind combined with a pair (Ex: 3, 3, 3, K, K). Ties in a full house are broken by the three of a kind. If both hands share the same three of a kind, ties are broken by the higher pair.

Any five cards of the same suit, but not in sequence. If two people both have a flush in the same suit, the person with the highest card is the winner.

Five cards in sequence, comprised of mixed suits. Note: there is no wrap around (it doesn't work if you have K, A, 2, 3, 4). The straight that has the highest card is the winner. AKA: Run or Sequence

Three of a Kind
Three cards with the same value are considered three of a kind (Ex: 8, 8, 8). The three of a kind of the highest value is the winner. AKA: Trips, Triplets, or Trio

Two Pair
Two sets of equal value cards (Ex: 7, 7, Q, Q). The pair with the higher value is used to determine the winner of a tie.

One Pair
Two cards of equal rank (Ex: J, J).

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High Card
If the hand has no other combination (see above), its worth is determined by the highest value card. If two players have the same high card, the tie is broken by the second highest card.

Basic Play of No Limit Texas Hold'em:

No Limit Texas Hold'em is played with a typical 52 card deck. Regular poker hand rankings apply. During any betting round, any player can go 'all in' (bet all the chips they have).

Hole Cards: The game begins with all the players receiving 2 cards face-down. Each player can only see his or her own cards.

Betting Round 1.

The Flop: The dealer lays 3 community cards face up on the center of the table. These are cards that the players can use with their own hand.

Betting Round 2.

The Turn: The dealer deals a fourth community card on the table.

Betting Round 3.

The River: The dealer puts one final community card on the table.

Betting Round 4.

The Showdown: The players show their hands, and the best hand (which is any 5-card combination of the player's cards and community cards) wins.

Dealer Button:
The dealer button is a white disc-shaped object that moves clockwise around the table each hand, designating one player as sitting in the dealer position.

Blinds, like antes, are used to force action. The player to the left of the button has to post a 'small blind,' (a required bet that is smaller than the “big blind”). The player to the left of the small blind has to post a 'big blind' (a required bet which determines the lowest possible bet for future betting rounds.)

Note: For more on the basic play of No Limit Texas Hold’em, we recommend Celebrity Poker’s link: How to Play No Limit Hold'em.

Blinds and Starting Chips:

Blinds Schedule

Starting Chips = $1000 or $1500

Round Length = 20 or 30 minutes

20min = 2.5-3.5 hours

30min = 3.5-5.5 hours



Small Blind

Big Blind








2 dollar bill value. 25












































Notes on Blinds:
This is a standard blind structure for a tournament consisting of 5-50 players. Each player should begin with $1000 in tournament chips (ex. $50 buy-in equals $1000 in tournament chips). If you would like the tournament to last longer, the starting number of chips can be increased to $1500. If you would like to speed up a tournament, antes can be added during the later rounds.

Notes on Round Length:
The standard length of each round can be varied depending on the desired length of the tournament. As a rule of thumb, the tournament will usually end within one blind of the level of when the big blind equals the starting number of chips for each player. Another rule of thumb is that when the small + the big blind = 7-8% of the total number of chips in play, the tournament will end.

Chips for $1000 Tournament



Starting Amounts:



10 = $50



10 = $250



7 = $700



As the tournament progresses, lower value chips should be raced off and higher value chips added (ex. $5 chips are taken out of play after round 2 and $500 chips should be inserted at or near round 8 when the $25 chips become unnecessary.)

Each table should seat a maximum of 10 players (9 is preferred and 11 is possible if you must). The easiest method is to use decks of cards with one card for each seat at each table. For instance, if you have four tables of nine, use a deck consisting of the A-9 of diamonds (Table 1), the A-9 of hearts (Table 2), the A-9 of clubs (Table 3), and the A-9 of spades (Table 4). The ace is designated as the button, the 2 is seated as the small blind, the 3 is seated as the big blind, and so on around the table.

Note: As players are busted out, the tables may become uneven by more than one person. Multiple tables should remain balanced within one person. When tables are uneven wait until the end of the hand in progress at the larger table and then move the person in the upcoming BB to the short-handed table.

Payout Structures:

Standard Payout for 30-40 Person Tournament















Standard Payout for 8-10 Person Tournament







Note: Payouts can easily be modified to reward more or less players. It is also sometimes a nice idea to include a little something for the first person to bust out (maybe one of our “pinche rio” shirts?)

Basic Rules:
1. Cards and chips must be visible on the table at all times. Large chips out front.
2. Players have the right to request your chip count at any time.
3. If the dealer accidentally flips over a card, that card will become the first burn card. The player cannot keep it. If the dealer flips two cards while dealing, a misdeal is declared.
4. No string-bets. Announce that you are betting or raising before you do so. Any other action is considered a call.
5. The cards speak for themselves. Highest cards win.
6. No one ever gets to miss their big blind and no one ever has to pay the small blind twice in a row. If the small blind busts out, then the blinds post their money as usual and the button remains where it is. If the big blind busts out, the next big blind posts his money as usual and there is a dead small blind.
7. The Minimum bet/raise is equal to the BB. Any re-raise must be equal or greater than the previous raise.

8. When it gets down to heads up, the small blind is the button.
Basic Etiquette:
1. Don’t splash the pot. People should be able to see the number of chips bet or called.
2. Commentary on board cards or possibilities is generally annoying.
3. Don’t discuss your hand until after the hand has been completed. If someone is trying to represent that they are holding 7/6, it becomes much more difficult to do so when you announce that you folded it.
4. Don’t rabbit-hunt excessively (looking at what fourth or fifth street would have been.)
5. Once eliminated, it is nice if that player becomes the dealer until another player has been eliminated.

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Add-Ons and Rebuys:
A rebuy allows someone to buy back into a tournament after he or she has been eliminated. There is often a restriction on the number of rebuys a player may use (1 or 2) and a restriction on the rebuy time period (usually the first hour of play). Add-ons are often used in casino play. It allows a player to make a single rebuy at the end of the rebuy period. Since the player has not yet been eliminated, it is not a rebuy and is referred to as an add-on.

Coloring Up/ Chip Racing:
“Coloring up” is the process whereby smaller chips are taken out of circulation because the blinds have reached a point which renders them useless. Coloring up makes it easier to count bets and speeds up the game. However, coloring up can be a confusing process the first couple of times you try it, and for this reason, home tournaments often do not color up at all.

Rules of Coloring Up: When it is time to color-up, they should be raced off with a maximum of one higher-denomination chip going to any single player. A player cannot be raced out of a tournament.

Example: $100 chips are being taken out of circulation. Each player exchanges his remaining $100 chips for as many $500 chips as possible. Lets say that at a nine person table, three players hold multiples of $100 chips that cannot be exchanged for a $500 chip. Player A has two $100 chips; Player B has four $100 chips; Player C has one $100 chip.

The dealer gives two cards face-up to Player A (one for each remaining $100 chip). Four cards to Player B, and one card to Player C. The dealer collects all $100 chips, which total $700. This number is rounded up to $1000, making for two $500 chips that will be raced off.

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The dealer gives one $500 chip to the player with the highest card (this player cannot win any more chips). The dealer gives the second $500 chip to a different player with the next highest card. If it should occur that Player C loses the chip race and is left with $0 in total tournament chips, he will be given an extra $500 chip.

Final Thoughts:
The best way to learn how to properly run a No Limit Hold’em tournament is to play in one at a casino. There is no substitute for this. However, if that isn’t a possibility, the next best thing is playing in an online NLH tournament (doesn’t matter if it’s real or play money). We recommend Full Tilt Poker for this.

Also, if you really start to get serious about hosting your own games, or if you ever need official tournament rules, we recommend this excellent website: Home Poker Tourney.

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For less experienced poker players, starting off playing free poker online is probably the best start. It can help you learn the different types of poker game and you can practice before playing for cash!