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Color Up and Race

Discussion in 'Poker Chip Advice' started by Matthew, Jan 12, 2007.

  1. Matthew

    Matthew Super Moderator
    Staff Member Lifetime Supporter

    Mar 23, 2005
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    In tournament poker the blinds increase at certain intervals, this helps bring the tournament to a timely end. Otherwise, with low fixed blinds, players would simply wait for the best hands drastically extending the length of the game. With increasing blinds as the tournament progresses, low denomination chips become obsolete and they are not needed in play. For example, once the blinds become multiples of 100, the T25 chip is obsolete. Therefore, to eliminate this chip from play, the color up and race process occurs.

    Color Up

    The color up is straightforward, players trade in their low denomination chips for a higher denomination chips. For example, a stack of four T25 chips is traded for a single T100 chip. In tournaments with a dealer, they will often begin the color up process by exchanging low denomination chips in the pot as players decide their action. This simply quickens the color up process.


    The question remains, what to do if a player has an odd number of low denomination chips. One method is to simply round up. Most home games use this method as it is fast. For example, a player has five T25 chips, they receive two T100 chips, one for the stack of four T25s and one for rounding up the single T25 chip. A player with eight T25 chips would receive two T100 chips. The caveat with this method is there are now more chips in play than the value of the starting stacks.

    The casino tournament method of eliminating the odd chips is termed the race. It fairly eliminates the low denomination chips while keeping the same value or amount of chips in play. The mechanics are relatively simple. Once the even stacks of low denomination chips are colored up, the odd chips remain. Beginning with Seat 1, each player receives one card from a shuffled deck for each remaining chip. The cards are dealt sequentially, meaning a player receives all their cards before the next player receives their cards. The chips are then collected by the dealer, exchanged for the higher denomination chip and awarded to the players by card rank, Ace down to Deuce. The player with the highest rank card receives their chip first followed by the player with the second highest rank. Once a chip is awarded to a player the dealer normally collects their cards as well. Please note the following:

    • A player can not be eliminated during the race, if their last chip or chips are involved in the race, they receive a larger denomination chip first.
    • A player may not receive more than one higher denomination chip in the race.
    • Ties are broken by suit rank; spades, hearts, diamonds, clubs (reverse alphabetical order).

    Confusion can arise in multi-table tournaments where there is an odd number of low denomination chips remaining. This can occur as players are moved around as players bust out and tables are consolidated. After the higher denomination chips are awarded in the normal race procedure, the player with the highest card remaining receives a new chip for the odd low denomination chip if they have half or more of the low denominational chips needed. Otherwise they receive nothing. This is perhaps best addressed with an example.

    Example: The color up and race is occurring for the T100 chip to replaced with T500 chips. The players have colored up their even stacks and the following 16 odd chips remain:

    Seat 1 – two T100
    Seat 2 – zero
    Seat 3 – one T100
    Seat 4 – one T100
    Seat 5 – four T100
    Seat 6 – zero
    Seat 7 – four T100
    Seat 8 – three T100
    Seat 9 – zero
    Seat 10 – one T100

    Cards are dealt beginning with Seat 1 who receives two cards, followed by Seat 3 who receives one card, Seat 4 receives one card, Seat 5 receives four cards, continuing with Seats 7, 8 and 10, who receive four, three and one card respectively.

    Seat 1 – Qd 4d
    Seat 3 – As
    Seat 4 – 5c
    Seat 5 – Kc Js 6d 3s
    Seat 7 – 9c 9h 5h 4c
    Seat 8 – Td 8s 2h
    Seat 10 – Ts

    The sixteen T100 chips are collected and exchanged for three T500 chips, leaving one odd T100. Seat 3 receives the first T500 chip for the As. Seat 5 receives the second T500 chip for the Kc. Seat 1 receives the third T500 chip for the Qd. There is a single T100 chip left, that may be awarded as a T500 chip depending on the player with the next highest card. Seat 5 does have the Js, which is the next highest card, however, that seat already received a new chip and is not eligible to receive another. Looking at Seat 8 and Seat 10 they both have a Ten. Since the Ts outranks the Td, Seat 10 would receive the T500 chip, but since they have less than half of the new denomination, they actually do not receive a chip and the remaining T100 is simply removed. Conversely, had the suits of the tens been reversed Seat 8 wins the race and they would have received a T500 chip since they originally had three T100 chips, more than half of value of the higher denomination T500 chip.


    The color up and race removes the low denomination chips from play as they become obsolete. Simple rounding up for odd chips is acceptable, but to get that true casino tournament feel, try the race component at your next home game.
  2. qubits

    qubits Member

    Mar 27, 2007
    Likes Received:
    One aspect of this method that bothered me and my poker buddies is that players with two chips going into the race have less than twice the chance of winning a higher demonination over someone with just one small chip (and similar for three chips, etc.) Consider the following example:

    Seat 1 - zero
    Seat 2 - one T100 (desired chance 20%)
    Seat 3 - two T100 (desired chance 40%)
    Seat 4 - three T100 (desired chance 60%)
    Seat 5 - four T100 (desired chance 80%)

    Two T500 chips are to be awarded. Initially Seat 2 has a 20% chance of getting one of the top two cards. However, there is a 22% chance that Seat 3, 4, or 5 might get both high cards. When this happens, Seat 2 gets an additional chance at a T500 chip, beyond the target of 20%. Going through all the possible cases, the actual probabilities of receiving a T500 chip are:

    Seat 1: 0%
    Seat 2: 23.5% (+3.5%)
    Seat 3: 44.1% (+4.1%)
    Seat 4: 60.8% (+0.8%)
    Seat 5: 71.6% (-8.4%)

    Seats 2, 3, and 4 get extra benefit at the expense of seat 5. The difference grows as more chips are raced off. Example 2:

    Seats 1 and 6: 0
    Seats 2 and 7: one T100
    Seats 3 and 8: two T100
    Seats 4 and 9: three T100
    Seats 5 and 10: four T100

    And corresponding chances of getting a T500 chip:

    Seats 2 and 7: 24.9% (+4.9%)
    Seats 3 and 8: 44.8% (+4.8%)
    Seats 4 and 9: 59.8% (-0.2%)
    Seats 5 and 10: 70.5% (-9.5%)

    To address this, we've tried two methods that are slight variants of the "official" race-off procedure:

    Method #1 - Raffle
    Shuffle and deal out cards as you work normally. However, allow a player to win multiple higher denomination chips if they are lucky enough to draw multiple top-ranked cards. It will be uncommon for a player to win two or more higher denomination chips in this manner. It will occur just often enough for the payouts to be "fair."

    Method #2 - Stack the deck
    Carefully stack a pile of cards so that the highest-ranked cards are as spread out as possible. For example, if four T500 chips are to be distributed in exchange for twenty T100 chips, arrange the pile like: AxxxxAxxxxAxxxxAxxxx, where "A" is an ace and "x" is any spot card. Then without shuffling the deck to disturb the order, have someone cut the stack. Finally, deal out the cards in order. If done correctly, no player should ever receive more than one ace, yet the payouts will be "fair."
  3. BigBlue

    BigBlue Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2007
    Likes Received:
    I've always thought that the higher chips should be awarded first to those with the most extra/odd chips. If I've got 3 chips, and you have 1 chip, I should get the extra chip each time.

    If we've got the same number, then race for it.

    I'm also comfortable with rounding everyone properly. I have 3 T100 chips, I get rounded up to a T500. 2 T25s get rounded up to T100.

    Yes, I understand folks can "manipulate" the chip amounts as color up gets closer. If I want to bet/raise T1325 to take care of the extra T25, so be it.

    We've also colored up most of the chips, and allowed the smaller chips to play on all-ins. That can get funky, and we no longer do that.
  4. TBonesPoker

    TBonesPoker Well-Known Member

    Sep 2, 2006
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    I tried to race for the color-up one time and one time only. It so completely confused the players in my home game I gave it up. A discussion of the average mental capacity of my buddies will be saved for a later post. However, when we round-up, we require a player have at least half the value of the bigger chip or they get nothing. Is that a bad way to do it?

    "If it ain't naked, deep-fried or poker-related, I ain't interested".
  5. jdunford

    jdunford Donkey hunter
    Lifetime Supporter

    Jul 12, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Thanks for this article, Matthew. I will refer confused CTers and players in my game to it in the future. You've made it very clear.

    I played in a free-roll satellite tournament online (> 4000 players going for a shot at a seat at the WSOP) and was completely appalled by the "race" method they employed. I had 2 odd chips (I don't recall which denomination we were colouring up) and there were 4 higher valued chips up for grabs. After all the cards had been dealt out (1 for each odd chip, as usual) I was lucky enough to get the 2nd highest card at the table and was looking forward to acquiring a higher chip. To my surprise, the player with the highest card was awarded all 4 higher chips :!: and the tournament continued...

    I haven't been back to that site.
  6. jdunford

    jdunford Donkey hunter
    Lifetime Supporter

    Jul 12, 2006
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    It works, so long as you don't care how many chips are in play (and if that number changes).

    Consider an example of colouring up T100 chips. If 5 players all have 2 odd T100s, you would round them all down to 0, removing T1000-worth of chips from play. It's "fair" to the players colouring up (or down, in this case), but it changes the number in play - which might give a slight advantage to the big stacks (more pressure on the small stacks).
  7. 4ceps

    4ceps Well-Known Member

    Nov 2, 2006
    Likes Received:
    Toronto, ON, Canada
    what poker site colours up their chips? i've never heard of that?!
  8. Jovan

    Jovan New Member

    Jul 10, 2013
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    Great poker chip advice. Love this guide and the best thing it's the same today as well as yesterday.

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