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Poker Chip Advice Selecting your poker chips; sources, types, and breakdowns.

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Old 10-12-2005
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Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

Article Title: How many colors and what breakdown …
Member Article by: Matthew

This article is meant to point out factors for consideration when selecting the amount and color breakdown for a poker chip set. It addresses ring game needs as well as tournament needs. Due to the immense popularity of No Limit Hold-em, the article will focus on that game. This article is meant a guideline, pointing out issues to think about when building your dream set of chips. It cannot and will not address every possible scenario or need.

There are many threads on seeking advice regarding “how many chips and what denominations / breakdown do I need.” Since nice chips are expensive, it is important to consider what will be the primary purpose of the set you are purchasing. Planning your current and future needs will optimize the usability of your investment. By optimizing, I mean getting most of your chips out the case and on to the felt for all to see while having enough to cover your game.

A few factors to take into consideration when determining your breakdown are the number of players, the game you are playing, whether the game is a ring game or tournament, the amount of the buy-in and the starting chips required.

Printing denominations on the chips is another question I will leave up to the individual. Actual denominations give more of a real casino feel. Denominations can also be scaled, for example: $5 used as 5¢, $25 as 25¢, $100 as $1 etc. Non-denominational chips offer more flexibility but you may end up with constant questions like “how much are the blue ones worth again?”

Casinos rarely use a 25¢ chip, will sometimes use a 50¢ chip but will often use coins for those denominations. Most casinos have a $1 chip as their smallest value. The chip values and colors are classically:

50¢ – color varies but generally a plain chip with no edge spots
$1 – blue or white
$5 – red
$10 – blue
$25 – green
$100 – black
$500 – purple
$1,000 – yellow but varies
$5,000 – pink but varies
$10,000 – grey but varies

Please note: my recommendation is to use whatever colors you like for your game. Think of it as your casino with no pesky gaming commission to rule over you.
Ring games – denominations / colors
In general, there should be 3 to 4 chips of different values needed for a ring game depending on the value of the small blind. The 1st chip or the smallest denomination should be equal to the small blind. The 2nd chip or middle denomination will be your work horse. This chip will cover the big blind and minimum bets and should be equal to either 2 times the 1st chip or 4-5x the 1st chip, reference examples below. The higher denominations should be equal to 4 or 5 times the previous chip’s value. Often the only purpose of the smallest denomination chip is to cover the small blind. Another option is to just select your set based on using 1 lowest denomination chip for the small blind and 2 lowest denominational chips for the big blind, you will just need more of them in the set.

Example – In a nickel-dime-quarter home game, the small blind is 5¢ and the big blind is 10¢. The smallest denomination chip should be 5¢, the next value should be 25¢ and the 3rd denomination chip should be 50¢ or even $1, but both are not needed. A jump from 5¢ to 10¢ for chip values is an option but the chip step from 5¢ to 25¢ makes better sense.

Example – In a 50¢ small blind / $1 big blind game, the smallest denomination should equal 50¢ and the next value should be $1. A higher value chip worth $5 should be available and depending on how much money is in play a $25 chip may be useful. In this case, jumping from 50¢ to $5 is too large so the step works better 50¢ to $1.

Example – In a $2/$4 limit game, chip values of $1, $4 and $8 would be useful. Higher denominational chips are not as useful as there are fixed bet amounts and fixed number of raises that are encountered. Bets are most likely placed in stacks or “lots” of the big blind amount. Higher limit games can be scaled up from there.

In summary, 4 denominations at the most will suffice for a ring game. The 1st equal to the small blind, 2nd either equal to the big blind or 4x or 5x the small blind, and the 3rd and the 4th denominations equal 4x or 5x the previous denomination.
Ring game - number of chips
Realistically, the smallest denomination chip is often only needed for the small blind, therefore not many chips are required. As previously stated, the big blind value will be the work horse and should make up the majority of the set. The higher denominations will be used albeit in lesser numbers.

Stacks of 10 chips work well to distribute the buy in for 5¢, 50¢ or $1 small blind games and stacks of 12 or 16 chips for 25¢ small blind games. Giving each player 10 chips equal to the small blind and 20 chips equal to the big blind and 5 higher denomination chips will give 50x the big blind to start. Going forward, there will be enough small blind chips in play so that players needing more chips should be given the 2nd and 3rd denomination chips. If small blind chips are needed, make change from another player.

Take the 10-20-5 number of chips breakdown times the number of players and that will cover the initial buy in for the amount of chips needed. For a player buying more chips at 50x the big blind, a combination of 10 more 2nd denomination and 8 of the 3rd denomination or 10 of the 3rd denomination will suffice. So, basing your small blind chip amount on 10 times the number of players is the place to start. You should then have 2-3 times that amount for your 2nd denomination, a 1-1.5 times the amount of the 3rd denomination chip and 25-50% for the 4th denomination.

Example – A 500 chip set would do nicely for up to ten players in a ring game. A breakdown of 100, 250, 100 and 50 for the 4 denominations would work well.

In summary, the amount of chips needed for a ring game should be based on the small blind chip amount equal to 10 times the number players for 5¢, 50¢, $1 or $5 small blind games and 12 or 16 times the number of players for 25¢ small blind games. Scale your set for the higher denominational chips from there.
Tournament – denominations / colors
For tournaments there should only be 2 or 3 colors in play at any given time and most small home game tournaments will only need 4 or 5 denominations. The denominations should always be 4 or 5 times the previous denomination, with the one exception of T500 to T1000. The step change here is more for functionality, it’s basically resetting to the 1-5-25-100-500 pattern and easier for our brains to process.

Typical home game tournaments will start with T5 or T25 as the small blind with starting chips ranging from T1000 to T10,000 or 50x to 100x the 1st round big blind amount. If you’re starting with T5 for blinds the likelihood of needing a T5000 or even a T1000 chip is remote. A setup of T5, T25, T100 and T500 will work nicely. Starting with T25 for a small blind, you should have the T25, T100, T500 and T1000 chip in your set, a T5000 may be useful. Scaling up to a T100 small blind, a set should contain the T100, T500, T1000 and T5000. A T10,000 might come into play depending on the number of players, re-buys and add-ons. Remember, the tourneys we see on TV have hundreds if not thousands of players which is why chip counts hit the millions when they get down to heads-up play.

As blinds increase you will get to point where the small blind is equal to your 2nd denomination chip and your smallest chip will not be needed. At this point the color up and race occurs. It should eliminate all the lowest denomination chips from play. If your chips are limited, you can always re-introduce this chip as a larger denomination later in the game, or these chips can be used for ring games that develop on the side.

In summary, 4 or 5 colors are sufficient for most home game tournaments. A pattern of T5, T25, T100, T500 and T1000 or T25, T100, T500, T1000 and T5000 will likely cover most situations.
Tournament – number of chips
You really only need enough smallest denomination chips to cover the original buy-in for your number of players. Re-buys and add-ons can be done with the larger denomination chips. As with the cash game, a good starting point is 10 small blind denomination chips per player. For the T25 blind, the starting chips need to be multiples of 4. Remember, these chips will only be in play for the first few rounds as blinds increase. The 2nd and 3rd denomination chips will be the work horses in the tournaments. A ratio of 2-3 times the amount of small blind chip is in order for both. The higher denominations will not be as frequently used; therefore, 25-50% of the small blind amount of chips should work.

Looking at a 10 person tournament with a starting small blind of T25 and T5000 (8, 12 or 16 T25, 18, 17 or 16 T100 and 6 T500) in starting chips, the required amount of chips is:

T25 chips = 80, 120 or 160 / T100 chips = 180, 170 or 160 / T500 chips = 60 which is 320, 350 or 380 chips to start plus re-buys and add-ons.

In summary, 4 or 5 denominations will work for most home game tournaments, if there is a need for a larger denomination the colored up chips can be reused if the chips are of the non-denominational variety. Additionally, the lower denominational chips that are colored up can be used is ring games that develop once players are eliminated from the tournaments.
Many people talk about their cash game set and their tournament set. Of course the more chips you have the easier it is to have any type or size of game. Use these guidelines to maximize the flexibility of your chip set. One last thing regarding storage, most chip cases offer storage in groups of 50, while racks offer storage in groups of 20 or 25. Think about the breakdown in multiples of your storage capabilities.

Using the above guidelines, I have found the following to be flexible enough for ring games and tournaments.

300 chip set – 4 colors broken down to (100, 150, 40, 10) or (80, 120, 80, 20)

400 chip set – 4 colors (100, 200, 80, 20)

500 chip set – 4 colors (100, 250, 100, 50) or 5 colors (100, 200, 100, 75, 25)

Thanks to our member Matthew for this great article. For another perspective on chip breakdowns visit Home Poker Tourney's page.

Another great tool was provided by our member CaptLego:

Use the above spreadsheets to calculate your chips once you buy them.

- TenPercenter

Last edited by X-Files; 01-25-2006 at 10:36 PM.
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Old 10-14-2005
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Thumbs up Re: Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

wow. having played cash games exclusively but wanting the ability to be able to do tournaments with my first real set of chips i am about to buy (pharaohs), i really have been agonizing over this without a lot of knowledge. this article really helped me and made more sense to me than the advice. in particular i like the emphasis on needing more of the second denomination chips (blacks in my case) than the first (green).
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Old 11-10-2005
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Re: Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

extremely helpful..thanks...
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Old 11-11-2005
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Re: Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

Originally Posted by spamproxy
Ditto spamproxy's compliments of this article. I'm contemplating chip selection for the set of Egyptians that I am purchasing and this article is incredibly timely for me. Thanks so much for taking the time to prepare, write and post it.

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Old 11-12-2005
World Series Champ
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Re: Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

Long overdue article. Very informative.
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Old 01-17-2006
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Re: Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

Excellent article thanks.
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Old 01-25-2006
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Thumbs up Re: Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

Very helpful, thanks.
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Old 06-20-2006
Chip and a Chair
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4
Re: Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

Helpfull information indeed! But I started a thread at the breakdown section about homegames with about 5 players and a buy in of 2$. There, everybody recommended me a 300 chip set with only 3 colors ?

When I only play for 2$ I guess a small blind of $0.05 is to high... So I should start counting from the white chips and play with $0.01 SB ?

This is maybe a bit off topic but a few replies would be great !
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Old 09-16-2006
In the Money
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 236
Re: Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

Atlantic City (or NJ) actually has a regulation color for each denomination. Nevada does not.

The New Jersey Casino Control Commission heavily regulates casinos to make things consistent among the properties. Because of CCC regulations:
Chips are standard colors and size for all casinos:
$1 White
$2.50 Pink - used for BJ, not actively at dice
$5 Red
$10 Blue - commemorative chips
$20 Yellow - used for Baccarat & Pai Gow Poker, not actively at dice
$25 Green
$100 Black
$500 Purple
$1,000 Orange - oversized
$5,000 Gray - oversized
$10,000 Numbered plaque - never(?) used at craps table
Unlike in Vegas, there are no special oversized chips from the Baccarat tables; one size fits all.

Last edited by ace-in-space; 09-17-2006 at 01:34 AM.
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Old 01-02-2007
On the Bubble
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Florida
Posts: 166
Re: Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

Thanks for the info. This was a small but really good read !!
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