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Advice on Chip Colors and Breakdowns for Home Games

Discussion in 'Poker Chip Advice' started by Matthew, Oct 12, 2005.

  1. Matthew

    Matthew Super Moderator
    Staff Member Lifetime Supporter

    Mar 23, 2005
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    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 chiptalk.net 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 :1blue: or white :1white:
    $5 – red
    $10 – blue
    $25 – green
    $100 – black
    $500 – purple
    $1,000 – yellow but varies
    $5,000 – pink but varies
    $10,000 – [color=#00e0]grey[/color] 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 a moderator: Jan 25, 2006
    NiceShot likes this.
  2. spamproxy

    spamproxy Creativity Alliance

    Oct 8, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Lexington, MA
    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 homepokertourney.com advice. in particular i like the emphasis on needing more of the second denomination chips (blacks in my case) than the first (green).
  3. SingleMaltFan

    SingleMaltFan Well-Known Member

    Oct 20, 2005
    Likes Received:
    western connecticut
    extremely helpful..thanks...
  4. jamby

    jamby Creativity Alliance

    Oct 9, 2005
    Likes Received:
    high, low & in between
    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.

  5. dad604

    dad604 Well-Known Member

    Apr 9, 2005
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    Long overdue article. Very informative.
  6. *acesandfaces*

    *acesandfaces* Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Excellent article thanks.
  7. Slagar

    Slagar Well-Known Member

    Jan 24, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Ames, IA
    Very helpful, thanks.
  8. JJ 7

    JJ 7 New Member

    Jun 9, 2006
    Likes Received:
    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 !
  9. ace-in-space

    ace-in-space Well-Known Member

    May 19, 2006
    Likes Received:
    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: Sep 16, 2006
  10. jmac2233

    jmac2233 Well-Known Member

    Dec 7, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for the info. This was a small but really good read !!
  11. AcHiStr8

    AcHiStr8 Member

    Jan 14, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Oklahoma City
    Hi Matthew. Really good advice on the chip color/amount breakdown! I'm going to purchase a 400 pc. ASM set soon. (Looking forward to it!) I'll probably go with the A-Mold, one color edge spots & hot stamped...."BUDGET" limited!!! Thanks again.
  12. jamby

    jamby Creativity Alliance

    Oct 9, 2005
    Likes Received:
    high, low & in between
    Thanks for posting these A.C. color standards. I was just searching here for exactly this information and ran across your post. Funny how you can visit a site as frequently as I do and be 4 months late seeing a post. :wink:

    Great info.

  13. wolf_hunt1

    wolf_hunt1 Member

    Jan 30, 2007
    Likes Received:
    Yuma, AZ
    Hi my name is mike and im trrying to figure my chips out I want to buy. I am planning to get the "Lucky Bee's" by NEXGEN. the 1000 count my breakdown would go as follows. 300/white 1, 200/red 5. 350/green 25, 75/blk 100, 75/purple 500

    Buy in would be for 2000 @ $20.00 for up to 10 players max w/ at least 1 but in.
    my chip buy in count would go like this
    20-1, 11-5, 13-25, 6-100, 2-500 = 2000

    Question is will this work ? Do you have a better idea for me?

    Thank you for your help.
    mike c.
  14. JessterCPA

    JessterCPA Faux Clay Nation

    Sep 27, 2005
    Likes Received:
    New Jersey
    I am going through a very similar debate in my mind. The problem I see is that you are using white chips as a $1 denom, with a starting chip stack of $2000. If your first blineds are 5/10 or 10/20, then the $1 chips are un-necessary. I went out & got 300 white chips (FC's :laugh: ) and now I plan on only using them for my cash game set. I will be using only green, black, purple, orange and grey, with a 25 chip being my smallest denom and a 4000-5000 starting stack.

    maxim_666666 likes this.
  15. stardust

    stardust Well-Known Member

    Feb 12, 2007
    Likes Received:

    this article is definitely worth a read. However, I don't really agree on the tournament setup. Say you are hosting a T1000 Tournament with T5, T25, T100, T500 chips. The big blind of the very first round would then be 10 or 20. Now if you only have 10 x T5 per player, you can call exactly five or two big blinds until you need to make a change from another player. And this is only the first blind level, you'll have another 2-3 levels where you need T5 chips! Using a 4/3/2/1 or 3/3/2/1 schema would be way more appropriate here ... or do I miss something? :huh:
  16. ChicagoBen

    ChicagoBen New Member

    Aug 26, 2007
    Likes Received:
    This article provided alot answers for the questions I wanted to find answers to. So it seemed appropriate for my first post here. Thanks:cigar:
  17. hewshews

    hewshews New Member

    Jun 10, 2014
    Likes Received:

    Thank you very much for this great article.
    I understand your recommendations regarding chip stacks for a 5¢/10¢ ring game.
    But I dont understand your example ablut how many chips to use of each denomination.

    You say:

    "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 in your example you recommend the following amount of chips:

    "10-20-5 number of chips breakdown"

    For me this does not fit. Your examples refer to denominations only where you have denomination for exact amount of BB and SB.

    I would like to buy some paulsons. These chips are available at 5, 25 and 100. That would fit perfectly to.
    But I have no idea how many chips of each denomination to buy.
    I think that we are up to six players.

    Could you please give me some advise.
    Sorry for my bad english :wink:

  18. BGinGA

    BGinGA Banned

    Nov 23, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Atlanta, GA
    By "10-20-5 number of chips breakdown", I believe that he means to purchase this amount of chips per person (using your "paulsons...available at 5, 25 and 100):

    10 x 5 chips
    20 x 25 chips
    5 x 100 chips

    or for six players, a minimum of:

    60 x 5 chips
    120 x 25 chips
    30 x 100 chips
    210 total chips

    However, I'd probably bump up those numbers to accommodate a full talble of 10 players, in case your group increases in size:

    100 x 5 chips
    200 x 25 chips
    50 x 100 chips
    350 total chips

    This would work well for a 10-player game with 5/10 blinds (or .05/.10 blinds, etc.).

    Hope this helps!
  19. hewshews

    hewshews New Member

    Jun 10, 2014
    Likes Received:
    Hi bginga,

    Thank you very much for your advise.
    I just ordered your recommended setup for 6 players :)
    This weekend we will check it out playing with 4 people with these chips.
    I will tell here if it worked well for us.

    thank you, Ben

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