Coloring-up Chips (or Tournament Race Off) -- with Pictures
The purpose of this article to explain the basic procedure for "coloring up" (or "racing off") chips at the end of a blind level. This is done when the smaller chips will no longer be needed for blinds or antes at any higher blind levels.
Why Color Up?
At this point in a tournament, some players have busted out and it is usually desirable to remove the smaller chips from the table so the remaining players have manageable-sized chips stacks.
For example, if your blinds are:
Level 1: 5/10
Level 2: 10/20
Level 3: 15/30
Level 4: 20/40 <-- color up $5s
Level 5: 25/50
Level 6: 50/100
then you would want to color-up all the $5 chips at the end of Level 4.
How to Color Up
There are many options for coloring-up chips, including letting one player buy everyone else's chips, or rounding up. But the procedure described below is the standard way it is done.
Step 1: Each player stacks their small chips.
The example below shows a game that is down to 4 players when you are ready to color up all the $5 chips and replace them with $25s.
1A. Each player should stack all the $5 chips in stacks of 5 (or $25)
1B. Each player takes their "odd" (left over) $5 chips and places them individually in front of their stacks.
Notice that there is a total of $300 worth of $5 chips on the table. So you can calculate that you will need a total of 12 of the $25 chips (also $300) for your color up. Get out those 12 chips and proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Exchange all the full stacks.
2A. Go around to each stack of $5s, and place 1 of the $25 chips in front of each full stack.
2B. Take all those full stacks of $5 chips off the table.
Now your table looks like this next picture. Notice that you have 2 leftover $25 chips (at the bottom) that have not been given out yet. And that there are 10 leftover single $5 chips waiting to be colored up.
Step 3: Deal cards to determine who gets the remaining large chips.
Once you have only the odd $5 chips left, then you need to figure out how to distribute your remaining 2 of the $25 chips. If you want the total amount of chips in play to remain constant for your tournament, then you can do a chip race. You do this by dealing cards from a deck that's been cut.
[Instead of a chip race, some people just round up -- for example, give a $25 chip to players A and D and give nothing to players B and C. Other people also just give one $25 chip to anyone who has any amount of $5 chips, players A, B, C, and D. Rounding adds a few more $100s to the table.]
3A. Starting with the button, deal one card face up in front of each individual small chip. Deal all the cards to each player before moving on to the next player (that is, do NOT go around the table multiple times).
Step 4: Distribute the large chips.
At this point, you give out the remaining $25 chips to the players who were dealt the highest cards.
4A. Player B with the Ace gets one chip, and Player D with the Q gets the other chip.
4B. Then remove all the $5 chips from the table and "shuffle up and deal!"
Notice that there is still a total of $300 in play, but it's been redistributed somewhat differently among the players. See the last picture below.
A few special items:
4C. A player may not be eliminated
from the tournament by the color-up process. If a player only has a few of the smaller chips (less than a full stack) and does not receive one of the high cards from the race, that player receives one of the higher chip, in addition to the other big chips given out the normal way.
4D. One player may only receive a maximum of one higher chip
for the odd smaller chips. Once he's received his bigger chip, the rest of his cards are dead. For example, if one player has an Ace and a King, you would give him the first chip and go on to the player with a Queen for the second chip.
4E. If 2 players receive the same high card (like if two players each were dealt a King in this example), we just deal another card to each of them, and the higher of these two tie-breaker cards would get the second chip. [The official race procedures call for breaking a tie by suits, in reverse alphabetical order -- spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs. But as long as we're dealing cards we just keep dealing for ties.]
It's very simple once you get the hang of it. It's also pretty easy to explain to other players if you go through the steps and tell what's going on in each step. However, the guy who had 4 $5 chips but didn't get a $25 because he got low cards may still be upset with you . . . but that's poker.
Have fun with your race-offs!