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How Many Chips Are Needed for a Poker Tournament?

A player grabs a large pot after winning a big hand in a poker tournament.

TL;DR: Setting Up a Poker Tournament Chip Distribution

  • Player Count: Have enough chips for equal starting stacks. 
  • Blinds: Chips should facilitate easy payment of blinds and bets. 
  • Coloring Up: Necessary for simplicity as blinds increase. 
  • Chip Balance: More low-value chips initially, fewer high-value ones. 
  • Recommended Amount: Start with 20-30 chips given to each player and 75 chips total per player. 
  • Tips: Use clearly valued chips and have a dealer button. 

A poker tournament is a great way to bring friends, family, colleagues, and all kinds of fellow players together. With just a few payouts for the top finishers and everyone locked in until all of their poker chips are gone, tournaments can feel special compared to cash games, too. 

So, if you’re planning to set up and run your own poker tournament, how many chips do you need? What’s the right poker tournament chip distribution? Keep reading for some helpful guidance. 

How Many Chips for a Poker Tournament? 

Every poker tournament is different. Of course, certain factors like regularly increasing blinds and the inability to cash out mid-game help to distinguish a tournament. Pokerology takes a closer look at the elements of structure and play that separate cash games from tournaments

However, there’s no single, universal rule for the size of a starting stack of chips or total chip distribution. Whether you’re hosting a tournament with friends or a tournament pro series, poker chip distribution is ultimately up to you. The best way to figure out how many chips you need is to consider the specifics of your tournament.  

Look at factors like:

  • The number of players. This is the most important aspect to keep in mind. You need to have enough chips to give every player the same stack at the beginning of a tournament. 
  • Starting big and small blinds and blind increases. An efficient tournament requires that players have chips that make it easy to pay the big and small blinds, and to call bets based on the big blind. That’s true as the game starts and as the blinds rise over time. 
  • Coloring up. As players exit the tournament and the blinds rise, players need to color up (exchange their current chips for fewer higher-value chips) to make betting easier. 
  • The balance of chips. In general, you want to give players more low-value chips at the beginning of the tournament. This is when low-value chips will be used most frequently. At the same time, you should provide a few high-value chips. 

With all of these factors in mind, and based on our extensive poker tournament experience, we recommend starting with 20-30 chips per player and 7-8 different colors and denominations.  

You’ll need more chips in the bank so remaining players can color up as the blinds increase and betting tends to rise overall. For a 10-player game, that means about 750 chips total. That’s 75 total chips per player for your tournament, whether you have 4, 40, or 400 players. 

A Few Quick Tips for a Great Poker Tournament 

Here are a few more pieces of advice to keep your tournament running smoothly:

  • Have a dealer button for every table to make it easy to track the blinds. 
  • Use chips that have their dollar value shown on them to avoid any confusion. That’s especially important when the tournament includes players who haven’t all regularly played together before. 
  • Buy complete poker chip sets from Chips and Games to get everything you need for your next tournament. Get high-quality chips with denominations, dealer buttons, blind buttons, and cards, all in one package! We offer custom poker chips with denominations, too! 
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